Guest Blog: Emily Whitehead – Fabulous Feasting & Community Cohesion

A light of positivity was spotlighted on Stoke-on-Trent and Hanley recently.

Andi Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts from BBC2 (find on iPlayer) showcased the Portland Inn Project (PIP for short), celebrating the power of community to breathe new creative life into an often overlooked and under valued part of Stoke on Trent. It was a joyous. Why? So many reasons.

The Portland Inn Project CIC (Community Interest Company) is ‘a creative arts project for a community in Stoke on Trent with the aim to achieve community cohesion, economic, social and cultural development by involving the community in the development of a pioneering community space, cultural hub and social enterprise.’

Designed to be an exemplar of people led change in an under represented part of the city of Stoke, it’s already achieved so much. From its first ACE (Arts Council England) funded Summer programme testing future uses of the old Portland Inn pub, PIP has been delivering exceptional community experiences from gardening clubs to their S.M.U.T group (Singles, Mothers and Others Unite Together) ever since. In November 2023, they announced that the renovation of the old pub had finally begun. The much loved ‘Pippin’ has been designed and shaped by the residents of the surrounding streets and already hosts community meetings and the all important gardening club. This inspirational journey has been driven by co directors Anna Francis and Rebecca Davies who lead a team of inspirational humans all dedicated to making a difference in this corner of Stoke on Trent.

It’s no wonder then, that Andi Oliver saw this joy and potential to host one of their episodes at PIP. Andi was on hand to put on a festival for the arts project with a fabulous feast at its centre as they delved into the area’s history and ‘channels its boundless artistic energy’. Andi Oliver also drew in the expertise of local chef Cris Cohen and his team from Feasted who developed a delicious Staffordshire oatcake taco for the party.

In addition to all the exciting achievements above, there’s no denying that seeing Stoke on Trent on the telly in a positive light is a pretty new experience for most of 1 us. Although the episode explores the challenges of the neighbourhood, it is uplifting to see the energy, creativity and hope which we can expect from the episode. As PIP says, ‘we hope you are watching the whole series of delicious food, heartwarming stories & really brilliant people ding great things in their communities…’ What can we take away from a positive story being shared on national television about our city? That it’s possible to make something from very little through community work, positivity and mutual support. We can learn that art and design plays a huge part lifting up the aspiration and hope for people in communities and this can be done on tight budgets & from the ground up. We can also learn that creativity and positivity isn’t dead in Stoke on Trent, a message that is so often lost. What can you do to support PIP or find out more?

• Watch Andi Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts to be inspired and excited. Aired on April 17th at 8pm or on BBC iPlayer.

• Share the episode with all you know to spread the positivity created far and wide.

• Check out Stoke on Trent’s BID socials and website to find more positive stories about what’s happening in Stoke City Centre.

• Head to Airspace in Hanley to purchase one of their ‘Portland Inn Pigeons’. Ceramic pigeons of distinction to raise funds for the Pippin. Alternatively shop online at