A Time for Reflection on the Stoke-on-Trent – Lidice Link

The 27th of January was #HolocaustMemorialDay, when we reflect on one of the darkest times in history. We honour the millions who were murdered and the extraordinary survivors who work tirelessly to educate people today.

I thought it presented us with an appropriate time to take stock on the Lidice – Stoke-on-Trent twinning project and the results achieved over the last decade or so. If good can emerge from the human travesties caused by the Second World War, surely the Lidice Shall Live campaign stands tall among the list of examples. Let’s hope that the respective communities continue to build on ties at an official level, long into the future.

This is a statement from the Lidice Memory association, founded on the 29th of July 2020:

Hana Pokorná, Former Mayor of Lidice, Chair Lidice Memory

The horrible act of the German Nazis committed in the village of Lidice in June 1942 can be evaluated as a crime against humanity. The tragic obliteration of Lidice on the 10th of June 1942 came as a shock to the whole world. It is for this reason that Lidice Memory takes care of Lidice’s heritage and from the long-term perspective especially, commemorates and spreads the historical legacy of Lidice.

Only in this way can we preserve the name of Lidice as an international symbol of defiance and solidarity in the fight for freedom and democracy. To our goals belongs also the focus on revering the truth of the interpretation of the history of Lidice.

We welcome as members of our association all people who revere the commemoration of the Lidice victims. The members of Lidice Memory can be not only Lidice survivors and their offspring but also other Czech people and people from abroad.

We are also very proud of the long-term friendship and cooperation which exists between today’s Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent in the UK.

A Selection of Projects

In most cases, these projects took place following the commitment to a reciprocal relationship between the two communities with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on the 7th of September 2012 at the Civic Centre in Stoke. See what you think. They are included here because we see the point of Sir Barnett Stross’s work in encouraging camaraderie between international communities.


2022 was the 50th anniversary of the annual International Children’s Exhibition of Fine Arts, organised by the Lidice Memorial. The event now attracts over 25,000 entries from young people across seventy countries, on average. The Lidice memorial selects the theme in cooperation with UNESCO and the standard and quality of entries is outstanding. Each entry is a statement by the child that they wish to see a future free of war and conflict, and with a greater degree of cultural understanding across borders. Paintings, drawings, lino and wood printing, photography, ceramics, glass, film and both individual and whole school/class entries are accepted, and the opportunity is open to all children.

Since our first visit to Lidice in 2010, Cheryl and I have encouraged children to take part in the ICEFA as part of our school presentations. The art exhibition is a positive way for children to celebrate the Lidice Shall Live movement. Teachers and their students are inspired by its spirit, they gain a sense of place and like the idea of taking part in a global peace project. So far, Theartbay Gallery, has shipped hundreds of entries over to Lidice. And many British children and schools have been recognised and awarded with ‘Honourable Mentions’ and medals by the panel of professional judges appointed by the Lidice Memorial. We have also held prize giving events for the UK and international awards in theatres, art galleries, museums, and schools.


LIDICE: Readers know that the tragedy which befell Lidice has been commemorated on site since 1945. But since 2011, once more, at the invitation of the Lidice Memorial and Lidice Mayoral office, the people of Stoke-on-Trent have been represented at the annual Lidice commemoration, held on the nearest Saturday to the 10th of June. During a most effecting, reverent part of the event, Czech soldiers escort delegates to lay their wreath at the site of the mass grave where the 173 Lidice men lay buried. It seems apt, for Stoke-on-Trent at least, that to help pay for the cost of this, funds are normally raised via crowd funders and donations, equivalently to the original Lidice Shall Live movement. FENTON: The first memorial service in modern history in Stoke-on-Trent was held in Fenton’s Albert Square on the 10th of June 2011 and included children from local schools reciting the poetry they had written with poet and storyteller Alan Barrett, a trustee of Lidice Lives; school and Methodist Church Choirs; and dance performances. Stoke-on-Trent’s Lord Mayor, Cllr Terry Follows, was also in attendance. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL: On the 27th of January 2012, at the invitation of Staffordshire University, we presented the history of Lidice and Lidice Shall Live Campaign. Included was a display of international children’s artwork, together with a pop-up exhibition telling the story of Lidice. STOKE MINSTER: The 70th anniversary of the Lidice atrocity was marked on the 10th of June, with a full Civic Service at Stoke Minster. Organised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the service included a performance by the High Schools Community Choir, and Abbey Hill School and Performing Arts College. Nick Hancock, Stoke-on-Trent TV presenter, shared the story of the tragedy of Lidice. Stoke-on-Trent’s Young Poet Laureate recited a Lidice poem. Ceramic roses were made at Gladstone Pottery Museum to represent Lidice’s Rose Garden and distributed to guests at the service. FLAG RAISING: In October 2021, Stoke-on-Trent City Council raised the Czech flag from its public buildings three times a year, marking the anniversaries of the Lidice atrocity; the launch of the Lidice Shall Live campaign; and the birth of the Czech nation.


Over the years, trustees, and friends of the Lidice Lives organisation, including Stephen Dyster, Alan Barrett, Cheryl, and I have visited many schools to tell the story of Lidice and how the people of Stoke-on-Trent helped others during those war years – it is an inspirational account, one which we should share. And as a former teacher myself, I can assure those in my profession that the topic of the Lidice Shall Live campaign is highly expressive, cross curricular subject matter, most conducive to poetry, art, role play and creative writing workshops. Illustrated talks and presentations have also been given to a substantial number of professional, business, social groups, and community organisations across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, such as the Rotary Clubs, U3A, History Clubs, trade unions, and other groups. We have worked with the YMCA North Staffordshire and their young people on many activities to raise awareness of the Lidice and its links with Stoke-on-Trent: one of the National Citizen Service groups based at YMCA chose this as their project and created a social media campaign targeting younger people.


Locally based artists have painted several original pieces of artwork. Three of these paintings have been accepted into official collections in Lidice. The late Sid Kirkham’s watercolour ‘Lidice’ (2010) conveys the camaraderie shown by Stoke-on-Trent’s mining community. Harry Davies (Aitch) produced a powerful watercolour piece “Document 379” (2012), whose title was derived from the document number given to the film showing the destruction of Lidice when used as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi German leaders in 1945. The artist, Steve Shaw, has painted a series of moving pieces in watercolour paint, pencil and lino cuts depicting various elements of the Lidice atrocity (2010 -). One of his pieces relating to the Pear Tree has been accepted into the Lidice Pear Tree Art Collection organised by Antonin Nešpor. The late Sue Law-Webb used oils to produce two canvasses, one painted ‘live’ during the Fenton service in 2011 and the other featuring St Martin’s church (2012), reflecting the peaceful beauty of the village before the Nazi invasion. Angela Mason more recently produced a large mixed media piece showing the Pear Tree in bloom (2020). She was deeply moved following a visit to Lidice, which was the inspiration for her artwork.


2012 brought with it the 70th anniversary of the launch of the Lidice Shall Live campaign and it was important that this was commemorated in a distinct way, to recognise our communities’ friendship. We wanted to reciprocate the enthusiasm and warmth the city had received from the people of Lidice and so set up meetings with Stoke-on-Trent City Council representatives to put forward our suggestions and our willingness to act in partnership. Thanks to our persistence, many events and activities were organised during this year.


At the end of May 2012, we facilitated a week-long visit to Stoke-on-Trent of some schoolchildren from Buštěhrad, the school which serves Lidice, and which we visited. They stayed at Copeland Cottage Brownie and Guide Camp site in Maer, owned by Guiding Divisions in Stoke, Longton and Newcastle. Working in partnership with Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy and Blurton Primary School, and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, we put together a varied programme and arranged for children of the same age to be buddied up together to encourage friendship.

Highlights of the week included a visit to Staffordshire University, working with media students to set up a virtual meeting with parents and teachers back in Lidice and Buštěhrad – we encouraged the Czech children to speak in English about their adventures; an evening musical performance by the Czech children held at Blurton Primary School—a packed hall saw the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent open the proceedings, which included dancing, songs and poetry; taking part in Stoke-on-Trent’s Olympic Torch Rally. Other activities during the week included visits to the Wedgwood Visitor Centre, Gladstone Pottery Museum, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, wall climbing and football at YMCA. By the end of the week, the young people learned a significant amount about each other’s culture and it was inspiring to see how children went from being shy and tongue tied at the beginning of the week to chatting like old friends by the end.


At the beginning of September, Stoke-on-Trent was honoured to receive the children of Lidice together with the Mayor of Lidice, Director of the ICEFA, and historians from the Lidice Memorial. Stoke-on-Trent City Council organised a number of civic functions. These included the unveiling of a plaque celebrating Sir Barnett Stross, donated by the Lidice community; a special evening concert at the Victoria Hall on the 6th of September 2012; an exhibition and documentary film presentation together with a question-and-answer session at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Hanley; and heritage activities, such as visits to Wedgwood and the Gladstone Pottery Museum. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery augmented the visit by putting up: the 2010 Barnett Stross exhibition; vibrant displays from the ICEFA; and educational panels describing the Lidice atrocity, Lidice Shall Live Campaign, the Rose Garden of Peace and Friendship, and Lidice today.

Cheryl and I arranged for our friends to talk with children from the Stoke-on-Trent schools we had previously visited and told the story of Lidice. One of the most emotive parts of the visit was visiting OSSMA, Blurton Primary and Our Lady’s Primary Schools. Here, small groups of children sat transfixed in circles and heard first-hand accounts of the savagery of the Nazis from the children of Lidice, who were, of course, then in their 70s and 80s. It was a triumph of inter-generational communication. The impact on the schoolchildren was palpable as they realised the elderly people sitting with them had experienced unspeakable horror at ages equal to themselves. It was a valuable, humbling experience for all.


Friday the 7th of September 2012, and the city’s friends from Lidice attended Stoke-on-Trent’s Civic Offices. As is tradition, we hosted the group in the Lord Mayor’s parlour prior to being escorted through to the ‘Chambers. It was here that a Memorandum of Understanding was then signed by the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Cllr Terry Crowe; the Mayor of Lidice, Veronika Kellerová; and representative from the Lidice Memorial, Ivona Kasalická. Though not the full twinning agreement that we had hoped for, this was a way forward, a recognition of how important the links were between Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent.

The document created an official partnership, with a commitment from all parties to continue developing cultural and friendship links for years to come.


Unearthed is a conceptual sculpture to be found outside Victoria Hall in Hanley and unveiled in 2013 by the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Cllr Sheila Pitt; and Luba Hédlová, curator of the Lidice Art Gallery. Stoke-on-Trent City Council commissioned it as part of its 70th anniversary commemorations. Besides celebrating and raising awareness of the Lidice Shall Live campaign, the work serves a practical purpose by cladding an electrical substation next to Hanley’s Bus Station. Locally based artist collaboration, Dashyline won the commission to create the sculpture, which comprises 3,000 metallic discs, each representing a miner’s tag and inscribed with the initials and date of birth of the person who took part in the project.

75th ANNIVERSARY – 2017


House 116 is a wonderful renovation of one of the original new Lidice houses built after the war and opened in 1949. Situated just below the Lidice Gallery, the house had fallen into disrepair over several years. The Lidice Memorial bought the property with plans to incorporate the house as part of the Museum experience, by re-fitting the space with fixtures, fittings, and furnishings in keeping with the original specifications for the building project, as created by the Society for the Restoration of Lidice. Original furniture was sourced and some rooms are now displayed to give the visitor a flavour of Czechoslovak contemporary tastes and fashions, the interior design of the original Lidice houses, and everyday life in mid-20th century Lidice.

Sliding panels form part of a permanent exhibition titled ‘Building the new Lidice,’ which includes detailed information about the construction of the new village; background to Sir Barnett Stross and the Lidice Shall Live campaign; and highlights how the campaign contributed to the building of the new Lidice after the war. A significant contribution towards the set-up costs of House 116 was received from Stoke-on-Trent’s Lidice Lives organisation; made up of grassroots donations and City Councillor ward budget contributions, and from a fund-raising concert that was staged by our organisation.


In May 2017, Stoke-on-Trent was honoured to be awarded the Key to Lidice. At an official ceremony, the Mayor of Lidice, Veronika Kellerová, expressed sincere thanks and gratitude for contributions made by the Czechoslovak people; and by Britain, the United States and Russia. She presented symbolic keys to their nations’ official representatives in recognition of friendship and for commitments to rebuild the village of Lidice.

Back in the Potteries, on the 2nd of December, the city of Stoke-on-Trent hosted a visit from the Czech Ambassador at the Bet365 stadium. There at pitch side, during the half-time break of Stoke City’s match against Swansea City, in front of thousands of fans, Libor Sečka presented the key to the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Cllr Ross Irving. The Key to Lidice can now be seen at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.


When the village was invaded and razed to the ground by the Nazis, the only living thing remaining in Lidice was a small pear tree sapling. The Czech government gave that Mother tree,” now 80 years old, protection.

For many years, this highly symbolic tree has been nurtured by Antonin Nešpor, a resident of Lidice, whose mother survived the tragedy. After securing permission from the Ministry of Culture to take grafts from its branches, Antonin began sending 2-year-old saplings to communities of special significance. It was during our visit to Lidice in June 2017 that Stoke-on-Trent was honoured to receive its pear tree sapling from Antonin Nešpor, on behalf of the Citizens Association of Lidice; a gift to the people of North Staffordshire in recognition of the international fundraising campaign Lidice Shall Live.

Gardening novices, Cheryl and I were astonished to see the sapling was in fact 5 feet tall! Though packaged well for the flight back, we still had a degree of explaining to do at Prague airport, as wrapped it looked like a heavy machine gun. At one point, we were not sure security would allow us to bring it through customs. However, the Lidice Shall Live account is compelling and before we knew it, the Pear Tree was on its way back to North Staffordshire!

On the 20th of February 2018, following eight months nurturing, with the help of an acquaintance of ours, Zdeněk Valkoun-Walker, a Czech national who was Head Gardener at Dorothy Clive Gardens, we arranged for the tree to be moved to its permanent, and most appropriate home – outside the Victoria Hall in Hanley. The then Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Cllr Ross Irving helped with the planting, and it is hoped as it blooms and fruits—the Stoke-on-Trent Pear Tree will play a crucial role in raising aspirations in everyone who learns of its history, spreading a message of positivity and ‘hope.’


In August 2017, we worked alongside the organisers of the annual Jazz and Blues Festival held in Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent. The first day was a celebration of the Lidice Shall Live Campaign. The Czech Cultural Attaché from the Embassy in London attended, together with the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent where a special Flag of Peace and Friendship, designed by school children, was raised, and a presentation of the Key to Lidice was made by a representative from the Czech embassy in London. Activities and stalls on the day included a mix of relevant international dance & drama groups, ceramic & art workshops, musicians, choirs, poets, storytellers, artwork displays, exhibition, films, specialist food providers.




The 28th of October 2018 marked the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Czech nation. At Lidice Lives, we wanted to make a statement of Anglo-Czech solidarity at this special time. Collaborating with renowned artist Philip Hardaker, we commissioned two large circular ceramic mosaics, one for installation in Lidice and the other in Stoke-on-Trent. These impressive, circular pieces were deftly created by Phil, who interpreted the story of Lidice with the help of the young people of Stoke-on-Trent, employing century old fragments of china and earthenware retrieved from the heyday of pottery manufacture in Stoke-on-Trent. The artworks show how lightness has emanated from the terribly dark days of Lidice, and how people from all over the world showed defiance against Hitler’s order that Lidice Shall Die Forever.

Funding for the Lidice mosaic was received from individuals and organisations via crowdfunding, ward budget contributions from some city councillors, while Stoke-on-Trent City Council funded the shipping costs. The mosaic was installed in the new park area of Lidice and the unveiling ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Lidice, Veronika Kellerová; the Director of Lidice Memorial, Martina Lehmannová; Cheryl & I; and British Ambassador to Czechia, Nick Archer.


In 2018, the Lidice Lives organisation was gifted a plot of land in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, by Tesco. Its location is a prime spot in the City-Centre. An exciting, colourful garden with sculptures, artworks, plantings, and seating is proposed for the site. People and communities from Britain and around the world are invited to take part in the project, so that it will truly represent international fraternity. Places that have suffered similar atrocities to Lidice; communities that have contributed to movements like the Lidice Shall Live campaign; or communities who have showed camaraderie in other ways, by re-naming their towns Lidice; or people who named their baby girls Lidice; – all in defiance of Hitler’s order that Lidice Shall Die! – all will be invited to contribute!

Talented Stoke-on-Trent fine art sculptor Carl Payne designed an impressive centrepiece for the garden. A magnificent bronze sculpture comprising four life-size figures combining to create a commanding presence in the space; the figures being Sir Barnett Stross, a miner, a woman, and a young child. Tragically, Carl lost his life in December 2021 while this book was being produced. It has not yet been decided how the sculpture centrepiece will be progressed. Perhaps you have ideas…


BBC INSIDE OUT: series produced by Hannah Smith was aired in March 2011, following our approach to them. The Inside Out Series were 10-minute programmes highlighting little known issues, projects, and campaigns within the West Midlands region. Through Theartbay gallery we had a contact with local TV presenter and celebrity, Nick Hancock. He was intrigued by the Lidice Shall Live campaign and the role Stoke-on-Trent played in it and agreed to narrate the short film to create more awareness. LIDICE LIVES: is a mini documentary film produced by journalist James Truswell, created during his visit to Lidice with us in October 2010. ‘Lidice Lives’ can be viewed on YouTube and has had almost 100,000 views. ROSES FROM ASHES: In 2012, Stoke-on-Trent City Council commissioned the well-known Stoke-on-Trent historian, Fred Hughes, to produce a booklet about Sir Barnett Stross for the 70th anniversary commemorations year. We were pleased to help Fred with his research, supplying photographs, background information and contact details in Lidice. A RAY OF LIGHT: Russell Phillips is an author specialising in military history. After becoming aware of the Lidice Shall Live campaign and how the people of Stoke-on-Trent helped to rebuild the village after the war, he was inspired to author a short book on the episode. We helped Russell with some of his research, and his book was published in 2016. THE EUROPEAN FOLKLORIC FESTIVAL: was held over two years at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Hanley. It was an inclusive event for all communities to celebrate cultures and traditions across European countries. Lidice Lives put together an exhibition which included a mix of information panels about the Lidice atrocity and the Lidice Shall Live Campaign, children’s artwork, photographs, and leaflets. FUSION PERFORMANCE ARTS: the youth group led by Artistic Director Justine Cope created a drama piece by considering actual testimonies, historical research sources, and poetry and creative writing output. Their emotional performance was staged at several youth events in 2012, including the All-England Festival. LIDICE SHALL LIVE FESTIVAL: in 2015, two locally based performance artists, Natalie Bangs and Laura Stacey, worked with the Youth Creative Drama Group based at Victoria Hall. They put together a 2-day event bringing together drama and dance groups who staged moving and powerful performances at the ‘Hall, interpreting the Lidice atrocity and Lidice Shall Live campaign within the movement’s home. A BIKE ACROSS THE SEA: Stephen Dyster is a trustee of the Lidice Lives (not for profit) organisation, teacher, writer, and editor. He is also a very keen cyclist and in 2016, cycled from Stoke-on-Trent to Lidice with a friend to raise awareness and celebrate international friendship. A Bike Across the Sea tells the story not only of Lidice but their amazing journey across Europe. A LIGHT ACROSS THE SEA: As part of the 70th anniversary year commemorations a local film company called Inspored Film and Video produced a budget documentary film about the Lidice Shall Live Campaign. At that time, the incumbent MP for Sir Barnett Stross’s old constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central was Tristram Hunt. The film-makers needed our help, and we gave them all the free assistance we could, supporting them throughout the planning and production process, particularly in enabling smooth contact with our colleagues in Lidice with details of the commemorative event in June, and introducing them to Hunt as an ideal narrator.

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