How to: Escape the Poverty Trap

Showing the world what good really looks like

This week I was treated to a viewing of the Burslem Market Hall. I took a short video to show you the inside.

At this point I need to take my hat off to Annette Cartlidge and June Cartwright for arranging access. It was a pleasure to meet ‘the Mothertown Mothers’!

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m a little bit mad. For those that don’t — I’m a little bit mad.

I once had a dream that informed me of the need to “show the world what good looks like” and ever since then, some 14 years ago, I’ve been doing my best to do so.

And what I’ve realised is that whilst you can do it alone, it’s much better fun to involve other people on that journey.

And if you can get a whole town / community involved, then so much the better. It really is a fact: The More The Merrier.

Hence why I ended up in Burslem with Fee, Annette, June and Sam from the Council (thanks Sam!) to look round the Burslem Market Hall.

Everywhere in the Western world, our town centres are dead. Hollowed out by the excavators of capital. Value and values expropriated to Wall Street, the Square Mile and Silicon Valley. Leaving behind the stuff they don’t value.

E.g. Burslem.

A beautiful town centre where you can’t buy any fresh, healthy, affordable, nutritious food. You can’t withdraw cash from a cashpoint because it doesn’t have a hole in the wall or a bank, and you can’t go see a show because the Theatre’s all boarded up.

No market, bank or theatre.

Which for a mad man like me, makes it ripe for regeneration!

Regeneration without gentrification — now there’s the challenge.

The process is what we call“Communification”.

Via Burslem, we’re going to show you how that process takes place. Step by bloody step, we’ll walk you through it. Create the playbook, the blueprint and the code needed to unlock the stored value that exists in our towns and communities.

Then we’re going to bottle it, and then we’re going to sell it. And in the process, Burslem and its people are going to thrive and prosper and above all, escape the Poverty Trap.

First — the market hall. We’re thinking that an international street-food dining hall where the street food stall holders are asylum seekers and refugees looking to showcase the foods of their homeland, is a great good-news story, particularly as Stoke is known as the Brexit Capital of the UK. Cooking and serving food is a job most people can do, and we’re going to make sure that local people get the opportunity to work there. Hosting a fabulous guest experience is something we hope our local schools and colleges can put on the curriculum (as is Destination Management).

(Credit for the idea needs to be given to the amazing Mother that is the Reverend Sally Smith, who so very sadly and very recently lost her daughter to Covid. Sally runs Sanctus St Mark's: Supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees who along with the Amazing Asha provide a safe space for vulnerable people from all over the globe.)

So for those of you who aren’t familiar with Burslem, it’s the “Mothertown” of Stoke on Trent. Let’s be honest, what we need right now is less blokes in charge, and more mothers in charge.

Less insanity and stupid decision-making, and a more common sense approach that joins dots and gets things moving. So the ‘show’ is in essence a show about Mothers who use common sense and kindness to make decisions about how to fix the shit-show left behind by people like Bezos and Musk who’d rather rocket to Mars, than fix planet earth. In other words, we’re going to put the Mothers in charge of putting food on the table for those who need it.

(We’re also creating ‘the Bank of Mum & Dad’ but that’s another story!)

So the Market Hall is going to become the Souk of Stoke. A bazaar of wonderment, spices, smells, colours, theatrics, performances, dancing, tasting. The food will be affordable. More on that another time.

Burslem Market Hall: The Souk of Stoke

So I spoke to my old mate Dave Skidmore who’s an architect that specialises in urban regeneration. I was hoping that he’d do the plans for the food hall but when I spoke to him, he wants to do the plans for the entire regeneration of Burslem!

Now this guy is a seriously good regeneration practitioner. He’s not in the game of theory, chat or waffle. He and I have worked together for years and I can honestly say I’ve never found a better planner/architect/regeneration practitioner than him. I’m so chuffed that a) he said ‘more than yes’ and b) we’re going to be working again together on a fabulous project.

Not so mad now is it? When he puts pen to paper, I will share with you his ideas. You will find it hard not to believe that what he proposes will become a reality.

It’s the story you see.

If you love heritage, and culture, and beautiful buildings….and if you’ve studied why they were put there in the first place…then you’d be amazed at how a town like Burslem could become so under-invested in. For people like me who love to see real transformation take place — visible transformation- then Burslem is a dream waiting to happen.

And the best bit about it, is that the people of Burslem want it to happen.

Boy, do they love their hometown.

I thought Annette was going to cry as showed me Burslem’s beauties. What a woman. June as well. If it wasn’t for people like her who champion and protect and cherish and ‘mother’ their hometown as if it was their child, that child would get neglected and battered and robbed and beaten.

And Crestfallen.

Burslem: Where the Currency is Hope (photo Credit: Fee Woods)

Bless Annette and bless June and bless these Mothers.

These Mothers are what the world needs right now. Mothers don’t seem to get all angsty or angry. Not like loads of other angsty, shouty, rowdy people do. Turn on your telly and you’ve got media-trained-type ‘experts’ giving us their polarising and divisive opinion on this that and the other (Brexit, Trump, Megan….).


To communify is to simply #Bekind. To show the world what good really looks like is a simple act: #Bekind.

Being kind transcends politics…media….

It transcends division.

It’s what Mothers are best at. Just being kind.

And so, with this philosophy, and the fact we’ve acquired the rights to the #bekind trademark for all things retail (yes, seriously), we can begin planning the process of making kind, packaging kind and selling kind (this website is a mock up only!).

How hard is it?

And by making the job of being kind a job that anyone can do — no matter their experience or inexperience, we will regenerate our economy. By making a song and dance about it we will generate some giggles and have some boogies.

“Let us entertain you”

(Robbie Williams is from Burslem!)

Which is why we need to begin getting ourselves organised to receive guests and visitors.

It’s going to be a spectacular performance. A bit like you used to go to Buxton Spa back in the day, to “take the waters’ or to Blackpool to ‘take the air’.

Come to Burslem and ‘cure the soul’.

And be entertained. Be welcomed. Be Valued. And thanked. And appreciated.

And to make sure we get it right, we’ll find the money to take our students to Disney where they’ll be able to absorb the visitor and guest experience first hand. We’ll fly them around the world to learn from the world’s best.

And we’ll ship in the experts from around the world in order to teach ourselves how to be the best hosts in the world.

We’ll learn how to manage and lay on an unforgettable experience that “cures the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul” (Oscar Wilde).

Escaping the poverty trap is simple. We’re making it a game of joining the dots:

If you are an organisation that is interested in helping ordinary people show the world what good looks like, then do get in touch.

We’ll pay you in kind.

Mike x

P.S. “Don’t act like you care. Show it. Get inside the problem and look out. Embrace for a moment empathy. Be that teenager: alone, confused, alienated, bullied. The phone is toxic, due to cyber bullying. Parents absent, unaware, disconnected, distracted, or other, but not connecting.To numb pain, inflict more: cut the skin, can connect with physical pain to counteract emotional turmoil, see the blood ooze. Blood justifies pain. Day in, day out, a sense of worthlessness. Alone .These lost souls we want to reach out to. They hide themselves away; we seriously don’t want them to become the next set of figures on suicide reports.” by Jenn Spice.

I’m a regeneration practitioner working in Stoke and North Staffs. People, place, tech — it’s all in the mix!