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North Staffordshire CRP marks important local history anniversary

North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership (CRP) has celebrated a busy year of delivering community engagement projects to mark an important local history anniversary.  

The Knotty100 festival involved a series of activities and events held throughout North Staffordshire in 2023 to commemorate 100 years since the North Staffordshire Railway (‘The Knotty’) was absorbed into the national rail network on 1 July 1923.

Thanks to an East Midlands Railway community grant, the partnership supported the Foxfield Railway in hosting five special events to attract diverse audiences to the railway. The Rainbow event on 18 June was aimed at LGBTQ+ rail enthusiasts and attended by 189 visitors who enjoyed the steam trains and live music. In early July, 204 pupils from local primary schools also attended the Foxfield Railway, riding the steam train, listening to a talk from the local wildlife centre and meeting miniature ponies from a local animal sanctuary.  

North Staffordshire CRP also collaborated with local community arts organisation B-Arts to deliver an interactive, Knotty-themed family event at Stoke Station in November, funded by Avanti West Coast. Four guided tours were delivered to 173 participants over a weekend, including 51 children and 15 people with disabilities or additional needs. Throughout the tour, participants met many characters who would have been found working on the station from the early 1800s onwards.

One attendee said of the event: “It was great fun! We hadn’t heard of the Knotty until we saw the flyer. We’ve been to B-Arts events before and know how welcoming they are, so we thought we’d give it a go and I’m glad we did. I was happy it was accessible too – it’s great to be able to come to something a bit different as a family.”

As part of the celebrations, the CRP also worked with A-Level Art students from Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College to produce artwork on the themes of railway history, the local environment and green travel. With National Lottery Heritage funding via the North Staffordshire Railway Study Group, 15 pieces of the students’ artwork were made into posters now on display at Longton Station, as well as at eight other stations along the Crewe to Derby line.

Student Charlotte Homes was inspired by her research into the Knotty Line’s history, creating a piece titled ‘The Waiting Crowd’. She said: “It has been a great opportunity to complete work for a live brief, and it has given me the confidence to use water colour for the first time on a large scale.”

Mark Davies, Teacher of Art at the college, expressed his pride in the students’ accomplishments. He said: “It has been such a wonderful experience for the students to be a part of this project. I travel via train to the college and seeing my students’ work in such a prominent position at the stations, on display for all to see, make me incredibly proud of what they have achieved.”

Of the year of celebrations, Claire Sandys, North Staffordshire CRP Officer, said: “As a result of these activities, North Staffordshire CRP has developed relationships with Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, B-Arts and the Foxfield Railway, and people in our local community have learnt a lot about the Knotty.

“We’re so pleased to see it has enabled many more people to learn about our local railway history and raise awareness of the many attractions to visit by rail in the area.”

Keep up to date with future news, projects, and events from the North Staffordshire CRP via their website.