Towards the end of 2021 we were approached by Stoke-on-Trent City Council to produce a mural in one of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent – Longton. 

Ahh Longton, Long town, formerly Lane End aka Neck End. Birthplace to many, including me. 

The conversation that the council had opened up with us wasn’t something new to me or T. Infact I’d say it was a 3 year old conversation that had begun with a community group in Longton who’d hoped to commission us to do the very same thing, unfortunately however their bids for funding hadn’t been successful and so the project had somewhat stalled until the council intervened and converted the space ready for public use.

Taking into consideration I felt that whatever we produced needed to be not only something wowing for others but as the town is so deeply personal to me I felt obliged to create something that I felt had a personal slant on, something that was timeless in its approach and interested me from the design stage.

But why? 

I could (and given the chance will) go on about how the Midlands and the North has been decimated culturally and financially since the end of the 80’s but this isn’t new news to anyone who lives in places such as my home. Areas such as Stoke-on-Trent are literally shells of what they once were, I’m not being a doom merchant, you only have to drive through to see this yet through all of it’s shabbiness there lies pockets of hope. Despite the city being used as the literal backdrop to dystopian horror movies (see ‘The Girl with all of the gifts’ filmed in 2016) due to its neglected appearance, there exist groups and individuals here that continually inspire me to champion the place. And why not? Doesn’t it deserve it? I remember D early days instagram repeatedly using the hashtag LOVEYOURCITY and rightly so, there’s so much that’s happened around us historically and so much scope for further change that if we as sons and daughters of the area can’t look to the future and consider what we could be then who will? We should all want for change and be willing to walk the walk not just talk the talk! 

Given this unique opportunity to inject some much needed vibrancy into my hometown I wanted to design a mural that explored the towns past, but more so a design that really got down into the finer details of the towns social and economic history. Who were the main players at the turn of the last century? How did the town look and feel? What lengths did local people go to survive and prosper?


Despite the fairly open brief given to us, the themes were the City and its varying history, but what had narrowed it down was the specifics of the area. The ground workers had relocated a large custom cast iron archway of one of the unknown soldiers from near to Longton train platform into the area and then created a jagged pathway out of red tarmac suggesting the peril filled journey many soldiers took during the Great War. A dirty rendered wall spanning 200sqm was to be our canvas thereafter. 

I won’t waffle on about process here as a) chances are if you’re reading this you aren’t a child and b) it often changes project to project depending on the parameters of the work – however at the heart of any creative there lies a body of research, It’s key to any successful project. Unlike being at university where you seem to be granted literal weeks searching for things to justify your responses, on live briefs research could take the form of watching a documentary, attending an exhibition, scouring Pinterest for trends or simple searches via Google (some use their own creative processes as research and work up a body of visuals to help walk into a better direction of understanding, somewhere that may suggest toward how the end visuals may take shape).

I however have realised that I tend to make a site visit as close to the canvas/area as possible to assist my thinking. It’s from here that I’ve realised I’m able to really immerse myself in the subject matter more comfortably. Being from Longton though, I just went back home. Wandered around the streets with my camera for a little while and then we took a trip to Gladstone Pottery Museum to kick start some visuals, read about Longton life way back when and chatted to some workers whilst they threw pots etc. Nostalgic as fuck. Following this, several weeks of in-depth reading and studying began, until we had collected enough data to develop a direction and form a story thereafter.

We chose to explore WW1 in more detail. The distance travelled for those who went to the frontlines to fight and those who stayed locally creating pieces of them that would travel distances they would never be able to comprehend. I really wanted to create a narrative of Longton life at that time. The letters to and from loved ones, the lengths Longtonians (like many others) went to for greatness and pride.

As part of the research for the commission I read a book on the North Staffordshire Railwaymen (NSR) and how a lot were drafted to fight as the North Staffordshire Regiment. A lot of these men, (trying not to sound like Donald Trump here) were large, strong guys. A line that read something to the effect that they were built for war. Robust and reliable. As part of keeping records on their workers the NSR would make a note next to the names of their employees with ‘Gone to War’. It is noted that this was typically written in red ink for it to stand out. I found this point incredibly poignant, particularly to this project and so I wanted to title the entire mural around this term.

War, France – If you didn’t know what it was, it could sound like a nice place, somewhere that’s often romanticised. Not to sound in any way dismissive, but somewhere to get excited prior to arriving but after two weeks you can’t wait to return to home comforts. 

The past few years I’ve warmed more and more to the surreal nature of collage and how it can create a multifunctional tone of voice. So much can be suggested at. Scale is flipped on its head, type rules are often brushed to the side. It’s havoc for most designers but a relief to not be so restricted by the wider design ‘rules’. It felt natural with so much to say about the once bustling town of Longton to try and create a visual that covered so much ground.

[ side note: If you’re interested in collage be sure to follow Stoke native @contemporarycollagemagazine on IG]


We knew who we wanted to work with from early on. I’m incredibly lucky as TL Addis is one of my favourite artists and friends, it worked to our advantage that he had returned from several months of travelling between Spain & Canada with his family so it coincided really well with the project taking shape. It’s important to stress that, for me, creating the correct team is imperative to the job. You don’t just want people that are willing to work hard and often, look for the best or someone at least aiming to excel in a given area and try to swerve the folk that are just going to ‘bollock it out’. Remember the general rule of thumb that quick work isn’t good, and good work isn’t quick. Find the right people, get the right results, end of.

Overall production was smooth, in places it felt somewhat stop-start but this was due to other working commitments and some family plans. Apart from the odd rain spells where the Disneyland ponchos came out, the weather was typically brutal this summer. To date I’ve never worked in heat like it, It was punishing. There was literally no way of hiding from the sun as bounced off of the lightly based walls with no shelter at all we were in it from when we clocked on each morning until late afternoon – a very different experience for working in Longton.

I’d say that at least 95% of this mural was painted by brush. As a graffiti writer I’d fully converted to spray paint pretty much full time so it was extremely satisfying to return to small brushes after so many years. I’m converted once again!

Spanning 9 weeks in total, I learnt quite a few things: 

  • I think Craig Charles’s radio 6 show starts well and ends poor – give it a miss. 
  • I’m definitely getting closer to being 40, being the bald, ginger man I am, I’m gaining quite the sun hat collection 
  • Costa coffee grew on me. The drive through worker in Longton has THE best ordering voice in the country – not a clue!
  • My head for heights still sucks.
  • I need to work a lot harder on portraits. I was missing quite a lot of details, particularly shadows under the nose area etc
  • Taking a portable fridge for food and drinks was a game changer.
  • One inch flat head brushes are also a game changer. Will be in my brush arsenal for the foreseeable.
  • Collage work – there were times when I wasn’t sure if the process was working for me. Once we were in a rhythm my mind changed. 
  • Don’t leave the outriggers on your scaffolding tower out overnight – they’ll get robbed.
  • Wrights pies are insanely expensive these days.
  • I sense change in the area.
  • Longton folk are incredibly proud people. Amongst the coffees, cold drinks, school visits and extended chats, we received so many positive comments it was overwhelming. 
  • It may seem obvious but people just want to live in a place that breeds positivity. Somewhere that accepts its past, but is now future focused and champions hope most of all. 
  • I am proud of where I’m from. It’s had a tough life. That’s why I love it.

Official press release lines –

G O N E   T O   W A R

We’re beyond proud to present the final images of our latest mural in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. We have been commissioned by Stoke on Trent City Council to create a mural for the public space behind RD Cresswell Ltd, something that accompanies the memorial already in place .

From Anchor Road to Armentieres, This mural explores Stoke-on-Trent life during World War One – The Great War from 1914 – 1918. We wanted to shine a spotlight on as much local iconography as possible from The watchman – The North Staffs regiments trusty ‘Staffy’ Bull Terrier mascot, to the delicate ceramic patterns that hail from the beginnings of the Fine Bone China era and the bold signage and typography seen emblazoned across the towns factories from Tuscan to Sutherland Works. By juxtaposing imagery found during our research stages we hoped to depict the great lengths our creative and passionate citizens have strived towards for success whilst both home on the factory floors and away on the front line. From our outbound wares to the inbound letters back wom – we shall not forget!

Hope & Glory – Thrift & Industry.

Click here for a concise annotation of the mural.

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