Love Middlesbrough Lasses read!

This summer, we’re hosting a very special takeover on the Love Middlesbrough blog as part of Boro Reads.

What is Boro Reads?
Middlesbrough’s 100 best children’s reads have been chosen by schools across the town, and throughout the summer Love Middlesbrough will be asking children to vote on which of the chosen books are their favourites!

As avid readers, your Love Middlesbrough Lasses are super excited to be involved, so we’ll be posting regularly about Boro Reads all summer, starting today! Sadly the Boro Reads vote is only open to children, so we decided to talk about our own favourite books instead…


Claire

My top 5 books are below. They are in no way, shape or form in any order, because hello?! Don’t make me choose like that!

1. ⭐️ Any Human Heart ⭐️ by William Boyd
I always, always struggle to say why I love this book so much. I’ve never been so completely absorbed by any other book before, and honestly? It took me ages to read it again in case I didn’t love it as much as I did the first time. I always feel completely bereft when I’ve finished it as I don’t get to spend time with the characters any more. So. Good.

2. ⭐️ To Kill a Mockingbird ⭐️ by Harper Lee
I’ve read this book every single year, without fail, since I was 16 and studied it for my final project in English GCSE. Even now, waaaaaay too many years past GCSEs to count, I still love it, and I still get something new from it with each read…

3. ⭐️ Dogger ⭐️ by Shirley Hughes
I’ve got so many memories associated with reading this book but my favourite is that I used to read it with my grandad, sat on his knee, and sadly that grandad is not around any more … you have my permission to have all the feels now… ❤️

4. ⭐️ The Tales of the City series ⭐️ by Armistead Maupin
Reading this amazing series set in San Francisco made me want to go sooooo much! So I saved up and went and it was one of the BEST holidays I’ve ever been on! And yep, we totally found as many places as we could from the books in real life! (luckily my friend I travelled with is also a massive fan of the series!) Each book (6 in total) is completely battered, yellowed in age and dog-eared from being read over and over again…

5. ⭐️ The Go Between ⭐️ by L.P. Hartley
I’m starting to realise I’m not that good at book reviewing ☺️ Can I just say that I love it again…?

Emma

My age is really going to show here, because I’m all about the YA books (I’m a young adult – this is normal). The more action, the better. So, here’s my Top 5 books (in absolutely no order):

1. ⭐️ An Abundance of Katherines ⭐️ by John Green
Unpopular opinion, but The Fault in Our Stars is not John Green’s best book as far as I’m concerned. An Abundance of Katherines is a lot more relatable and a lot funnier, hence why it made my list.

2. ⭐️ Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror ⭐️ by Chris Priestly
This is more of a children’s book but I really enjoyed this book – so much so that I ended up with two copies of the book. Not as scary as it sounds btw.

3. ⭐️ Glass Houses ⭐️ by Rachel Caine
So, I completely forgot this book exists until this blog post, so now I’m re-reading it (and halfway through after only a few hours). It’s part of a series that I’m pretty sure I haven’t finished (book shopping trip anyone?). I mean, vampires, ghosts and smart 16 year olds, I’m in.

4. ⭐️ ⚡️ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ⚡️ ⭐️ by JK Rowling
If I could, this entire list would be Harry Potter. I love the Harry Potter series and JK Rowling is an amazing author who puts so much thought into her characters. If I had to choose a favourite – which you have made me do- it would be Half Blood Prince. It was by far the funniest book and the movie was the best at capturing Harry’s sass.

5. ⭐️ I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You ⭐️ by Ally Carter
I’m really into spy movies so when I discovered a book series about a young spy, still in spy school, I just had to read it. It is the gripping first instalment of the series which empowers women everywhere. Something any Love Middlesbrough Lass can get on board with I’m sure.

Rachel

I’ve also avoided trying to put these into order, because I love them all too much to say I prefer one over the other.

1. ⭐ Rebecca ⭐ by Daphne du Maurier
I love this book! (I also love the 1940 Hitchcock film, and the 1997 TV adaptation, the 2015 Kneehigh Theatre play, and the 2012 musical, which I travelled all the way to Germany to see (in German!)). You could say I’m a bit obsessed with Rebecca. It’s totally iconic – the beautiful ancestral home, the creepy housekeeper, the brooding secrets…all the yeses!

2. ⭐ The Observations ⭐ by Jane Harris
I love books with a very strong and humerous narrative voice, and The Observations has this in absolute bucketloads. Plus, being a history geek (I know, I kept that one quiet!), the fact that it’s set in the Victorian era makes my inner fangirl very happy. (And, a Rebecca-esque house full of a secrets…)

3. ⭐ Carrie ⭐ by Stephen King
I love the way this book is written – the story is told in a normal chronological way, but it’s interspersed with ‘factual’ articles from some time after the story has taken place, which partly explain the ending. So rather than being shocked by what ultimately happens, you know it’s coming and you watch as the characters, completely unaware, make decisions which contribute directly to their fate. (Plus, a great musical – yes, really!)

4. ⭐ Great Expectations ⭐ by Charles Dickens
For me, one of the marks of a favourite book is that I can pick it up, turn to any page, start reading, and know exactly what’s going on and what’s already happened. It’s like being with an old friend. I love this book because you can take whatever message you want from it, whether it’s about love, family, entitlement, work, selfishness…I could go on. Plus I felt like there had to be at least one classic in our list, and I don’t really know many others!

5. ⭐ From a Railway Carriage ⭐ by Robert Louis Stevenson
Like Claire, I’ve gone with one that’s going to give you all the feels (my reason, not the book). My mum used to read this to me at night when I was little, so it definitely has a special place in my heart.

Honourable mentions go to: Dracula (Bram Stoker), Daphne (Justine Picardie), The Distant Hours (Kate Morton), Chinese Cinderella (Adeline Yen Mah), and Catch That Hat (Emma Chichester Clark)…plus more that I’ve forgotten.

Having flowers laid on your book looks highly impractical for ease of reading… 😅

Oh, and you won’t be surprised to know that our beloved Very Hungry Caterpillar is getting an honourary mention as the Lasses’ joint favourite book! 🐛❤️

We’re also working very hard on getting the Boro Reads page live on the Love Middlesbrough website for you to get voting, so watch out for the link on our Facebook page very soon!

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar fangirling day!

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, we just wanted to mention: we love the Very Hungry Caterpillar! 🐛❤️ (We’ve been subtle about it, right?!)

Finally, after months of waiting, the joyous day came yesterday when we got to see the Very Hungry Caterpillar show at Middlesbrough Theatre. Two very excited Lasses we were! 😍 But before that, a little recap…

First there was the video…


Spot the Love Middlesbrough Lasses!

Then there was the behind the scenes blog post!

And now, the Love Middlesbrough Lasses finally got to see their hero in the flesh (well, fuzz)!

 
Can you believe our luck? We found a lolly which looked just like the Very Hungry Caterpillar!

The show itself was just magical – as engaging for adults as it was for children, and it brought the stories to life in a way which made it look like the characters really had just leapt off the page. It didn’t matter whether you knew the stories or not, they were still easy to follow and totally enchanting.

Of course, the highlight of the show was the story of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and from the second he popped out of his egg to the moment when the last glimpse of the beautiful butterfly’s wings disappeared, the audience was completely enthralled.

  
(Excuse the slightly blurry photos, we were trying not to disturb anyone while taking them)

The puppeteers had absolutely limitless energy, and I can’t deny that I had all the feels when every child in the theatre joined in shouting ‘but he was still hungry!’

As someone who’s seen a lot of good theatre, I can definitely say this is one of the best shows I’ve seen, and not only that but it’s a genuine West-End quality show which you can see right here from the comfort of your own town. Thank you Middlesbrough Theatre!

So was the show worth waiting six months for? Absolutely! Now how soon can we see it again?? ❤️🐛❤️

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Captain Cook Birthplace Museum reopens!

As I said in my last post, the last few weeks have been a total treat for lovers of history and museums, with the reopening of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum after its renovation, and the launch of the Tokyo to the Tees: Middlesbrough and Japan 1877-1939 exhibition at the Dorman Museum. So, having covered the new Dorman exhibition in my last post, today I’m going to talk about the Cook!

After a period of renovation during the winter, the museum reopened on 1st June with its new exhibition Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Natural history collecting on Captain Cook’s voyages.

A lot of the renovation work has involved the education facilities, so it’s not something that everyday visitors will notice, but it’s no less important – the museum provides fabulous education opportunities for local schools, and the new ‘mess deck’ area will really improve the experience that children get.

Plus, with the education area newly refurbished and increased in size, it also now includes last year’s super popular Walkabout exhibition.

Education sessions are now fully booked, with the first school group having visited this past week, and we’re sure they’ll all have a Cook-tastic time! (Cook-tastic is a word, honest… 😌 #cheese)

Now onto the new exhibition…

With the internet at our fingertips, it’s almost impossible to imagine a situation in which we might see an animal we don’t recognise and know nothing about, but that was the reality for the crew on Cook’s voyages – no checking Wikipedia or Snapchatting a photo and asking for help! Because of that, it was important to have people recording all of the plants and animals they saw, both in words and by creating detailed drawings. Imagine being an explorer and coming across this strange-looking creature (a Flying Fox), with no idea what it was or whether it could bite and poison you… 😱

Not only that, but explorers also bought unusual and exotic specimens home with them, sparking a craze for collecting animals which continues today (as the exhibition name suggests, just look at Pokémon Go!)

The exhibition also includes a breathtaking replica of the type of cabin which would have been used for the examining and recording of specimens collected by the scientists aboard the Endeavour. We don’t want to give too much away, so we’re not showing you the inside of the cabin, but here’s the outside – even that is stunning, and is based on historical references of ships from the time.

Last but not least, you all know that it’s (almost) impossible for a Love Middlesbrough Lass to write a post without some mention of food and/or cake, so here it is! We were extremely excited to hear about the newly opened Cook’s Cafe, and of course had to try it out when we visited.

 

We weren’t disappointed, especially with the ice cream (salted caramel 😍😍). There’s a mega range of sandwich and panini fillings, plus breakfasts (you can never go wrong with a cooked breakfast), sausage rolls (gotta love a good sausage roll), and cake (goes without saying that the presence of cake makes us very happy).

We can definitely vouch for the deliciousness of the quiche, and Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire, who is a connoisseur of sweet potato fries, was very impressed with the bowl we shared (plus you get an absolute heap of them so great for very hungry people like us!)

The pricing is really good too, fab if you’re taking a family there.

We’d definitely recommend it – a perfect end to a fantastic morning or afternoon exploring the museum ❤️

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Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison

Natalie Scott is all set to create convincing poetic voices for historical figures and she wants to help you do the same.

Join Natalie on Saturday (10th June) at Middlesbrough Central Library (1.30pm) as she introduces the form of dramatic monologue and then guides participants in using factual materials to voice a person from the past. Then on the evening of Tuesday 20th June, Natalie will be presenting her collection of dramatic monologues to creatively retell the story of Holloway, the notorious London prison from 1852 (when it first opened its gates) to 1955 (when the last woman to be hanged in Britain was executed within its walls).

That performance is at Acklam Community Hub and Library when Natalie will also share some of the fascinating documents she has discovered on her visits to the archives in London and will do a script-in-hand performance of selected poems.

Next weekend sees the start of the 2017 Crossing the Tees book festival. The library services for Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Darlington and Redcar & Cleveland have combined to put the printed word and spoken word top of the agenda throughout the Tees Valley. There are some fabulous opportunities to hear from authors and even join them in workshops.

Locally based poet Natalie Scott will be leading a workshop entitled Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison: Poetry Workshop. She will use examples from her Arts Council funded poetry collection in progress Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison. Participants will be encouraged to create their own convincing voices and there will be an opportunity to receive feedback on their work. Book your tickets below.

Rare Birds

I was so drawn to this concept that I had to ask Natalie to tell me more. So I sent her a few questions by email, I hope you enjoy reading her answers.

Q: Natalie could you first tell us a little about your own story and the kind of poetry that you like reading as well as writing?

NS: I’ve been writing poetry for about twenty years now but have enjoyed it as a reader for even longer than that. Poems that inspire me show an unfamiliar view of the world, a fresh perspective on the familiar and the everyday. They have a sensitive approach to the subject matter and use form not as a way to constrict the subject but to let it say more as a poem than it might as a short story or other longer text. I’m particularly drawn to the dramatic monologue. In fact my recent PhD research centres on the characteristics of this form. I’ve also explored polyphony – multiple voices – and how to use them in longer works. In my first pamphlet ‘Brushed’ (Mudfog, 2009) I created dramatic monologues from the point of view of figures in famous works of art. My first full collection ‘Berth – Voices of the Titanic’ (Bradshaw Books, 2012) retells the story of the tragedy through a range of voices and perspectives. I have also used the form in my most recent pamphlet ‘Frayed’ (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and of course it will take centre stage in my latest project ‘Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison’.

Q: You live locally and it seems to me that there has been a very strong poetry and literary “scene” if I can call it that, for some time now. Would that be a fair assessment do you think?

NS: In the ten years that I lived in the Tees Valley (I’m originally from Durham but have lived in Lancaster, Wakefield and Hexham too!) I have experienced its thriving poetry scene. Over the years I have attended local poetry evenings such as the Black Light Engine Room, the Electric Kool-Aid Cabaret, Writers’ Block and Darlington for Culture’s open mic. I’ve always felt valued and welcome at these events. I am also a member of the Tees Women Poets, a collective which has attracted some of the best female poets in the region to participate in poetry events organised by the group. These networks all have a presence on Facebook which makes it easier to connect with other writers.

Q: I suppose writing can be a solitary thing do you enjoy live events and particularly engaging with people in workshops like this?

NS: I’ve always enjoyed working with people and using creative writing as a participatory tool. I’m a qualified teacher, having completed my PGCE training in Creative Writing at undergraduate level, and I think that this has helped me to find ways of engaging people through poetry. I facilitate many sessions locally with an aim to bring people together and connect through writing. I am currently completing a practice-based qualification offered by the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy and am being supervised by Victoria Field, one of the only registered poetry therapists in Europe. Last year I established my own initiative Pen Power™ which offers a range of group sessions for people who wish to maintain their levels of mental fitness through expressive writing. I facilitate these sessions in the Teesside area but am hoping to widen the reach over the coming months.

Q: I am intrigued by this workshop Natalie – is this something you have worked on for a long time shedding light on people’s stories through poetry?

NS: It’s a concept I used in my first collection ‘Berth’ which took three years to write and research. As I’m interested in retelling familiar stories in less familiar ways, Holloway Prison as a subject was for me an engaging choice for the next large project. I’ll also be doing a presentation and reading for the festival on June 20th. I’ll be sharing the research I have completed so far and doing a script-in-hand performance of selected poems.

Q: Do you use much actual historical data as well to build up your word pictures?

NS: I am taking care to ensure that any factual information is accurately represented in the collection. I was awarded Arts Council funding to research and write the collection so the research stages are crucial to the project’s success. In addition to the dramatic monologue form, I will be using a wide variety of other poetic forms in the collection such as found and list poems which will use actual documented material sourced from the prison archives to shed light on the topic from a new angle. I will be sharing some of the historical data at the workshop on June 10th and at the Presentation on June 20th.

Q: Do you see it as giving people back a voice that may have slipped off the page?

NS: I hope so yes. Although I have chosen to voice some of the more famous figures from Holloway’s past, the majority of the collection aims to capture the voices of those who have not been as firmly stamped in the history books. The dramatic monologue is a ‘double-poem’ which means that the voice of the poet blends with that of the speaker. I have to take care that my own voice does not dominate; this is one of the challenges for the collection.

Q: Am fascinated by the processes you might use, can it be everything from the vocabulary, to the way the words are delivered that can be used to capture the character of an individual?

NS: The dramatic monologue is a hybrid form because it needs to realistically capture character voice in a way that would sound convincing when performed, but it also needs to be a poem on the page. Therefore many elements have to be combined to achieve the desired result. For example, I am currently working on a poem informed by one of the personal accounts written in autobiography form. From reading this I can get an idea of any little idiosyncrasies with speech and vocabulary so that these can be accurately represented in the poem. The poetic form lends itself well to this, as any repetitions within speech all help to structure the format and give it shape.

Q: Everyone will have heard of Holloway Prison, it was the most famous or infamous women’s prison in the country up to its very recent closure. Is the intention of your own project to shed light on forgotten histories through verse?

NS: Essentially ‘Rare Birds’ aims to retell the story of Holloway Prison’s beginnings and development between 1852 and 1955 in a distinctive and engaging way. My poems will adopt a range of interesting first-person perspectives, including the voices of actual prisoners, staff and other influential people involved in the prison’s history to create a polyphonic retelling. It will also include voices for inanimate objects such as the Black Maria (the vehicle used to transport prisoners) and the two griffin statues above the main entrance gates. In offering such a range of perspectives I intend the collection to have multiple narrators; so rather than having one person telling it from distance (as is often the case with historical texts), I will enable my characters to speak for themselves. Although Holloway Prison is so well-known I still hope that my audience will learn something new about the topic through the way I am approaching it. For instance, not many people know that it was originally a mixed prison, with inmates as young as eight years old serving sentences for crimes such as pickpocketing.

Q: There must have been some notorious women held in this prison over the years, would you say you are drawn to the darker side, people that didn’t necessarily stick to the straight and narrow?

NS: I have a fascination with human behaviour and the psyche in different contexts, so any subject-matter which sheds light on this topic is of interest to me. The collection certainly does not intend to glorify some of the heinous crimes committed by the women imprisoned at Holloway but rather shed light on the backstory of such women. For example I’ve written a poem from the point of view of a woman who was imprisoned for neglecting her children (two of her children died as a result). Whilst we can’t in anyway condone this act, at the time it was committed conditions such as post-natal depression were not fully acknowledged. This particular woman had given birth to three children before turning twenty and had been abandoned by her husband, so my interest lies in how these circumstances might have affected her behaviour.

Q: Suffragettes including Emily Wilding Davies were held at Holloway and force fed, it must have been extremely brutal and quite terrifying for the women being held in prison.

NS: One of the first poems I wrote for this collection was for Emily Wilding Davison. I was drawn to her story and role as a suffragist, particularly because of her levels of strength and spirit which never seemed to wane even though she suffered the ordeal of forcible feeding 49 times. I wanted to draw attention to this because many people remember her for ‘throwing herself under the king’s horse’ at the Epsom Derby (again there is conjecture around this event) but not as many know about the forcible feeding itself. However, I also want to voice the women who did not achieve celebrity status but contributed significantly to the cause. For instance, Katie Gliddon, who was the only suffragist to write a diary whilst in prison (writing materials were not allowed at the time). She penned her thoughts into the margins of a copy of Shelley’s Poetical Works using pencils smuggled into the prison. Her diary offers one of the most accurate views of prison life in the early 1900s. I had the privilege of being able to hold the original artefact when I visited the Women’s Library in London.

So, at Middlesbrough Library can people try and give voice to any historical character?

NS: In the workshop I will be introducing the characteristics of the dramatic monologue first, enabling participants the opportunity to try out the form. They will then be invited to voice a historical character from a selection I will bring to the session.

Q: Do you think it could be good to do some preparation and have somebody and their achievements in mind?

NS: I would suggest coming into the workshop with an open mind ready to try something new. I will provide all the stimulus material required so no need to prepare in advance, unless participants particularly wish to!

Q: I suppose with wikipedia we can all walk around with people’s biographies in their pockets but can poetry bring us closer to their life and times and voice?

NS: Yes, we now have access to a wealth of biographical information – seemingly too much at times! But through poetry, and specifically dramatic monologue, there is a chance to retell this information with sensitivity and thoughtful crafting. In this collection, I have to think carefully about how the form and structure will support the subject matter. For example, I’ve been working on a found poem made from a list of the items some of the first prisoners would have had at their disposal in Holloway. A book called The Criminal Prisons of London by Mayhew and Binny (1862) has been helpful for this as it clearly outlines the specifics of each cell. I let the triadic pattern of the shelves inform the structure of the poem itself, using a three-stanza list form to convey the items kept on the three-tiered shelf. It is in this way that the poetic form can illuminate a topic in a way that other genres cannot.

I would like to thank Natalie for giving that fascinating interview. It really does whet the appetite for the poetry workshop at Middlesbrough Central Library next Saturday (10th June) at 1.30pm. Cost just £3. You can also hear more from Natalie when she is the after 2pm guest on Bob Fischer BBC Tees show on Tuesday 13th June.

Book your tickets for the Saturday workshop here

You can pre-book tickets for Natalie Scott’s Rare Birds – Voices Of Holloway Prison: Presentation And Script-In-Hand Performance at Acklam Community Hub and Library on Tuesday 20th June at 7 – 8.30pm. Cost just £3.

Book Tickets Here

Please click below for information and all the listings for Crossing the Tees book festival, a fortnight of events at libraries across the Tees Valley.

www.crossingthetees.org

You can find more information about Natalie Scott websites, publications, performances, project in progress:

www.nataliescott.co.uk

www.penpower.org.uk

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Hopeless Romantics – a world premiere in Middlesbrough!

It’s not often that we get a world premiere of a play in Middlesbrough, but this week at Middlesbrough Theatre you can see just that – the world premiere of Hopeless Romantics! Written by Nick Lane and Fiona Wass and presented by Reform Theatre (in association with Harrogate Theatre and Middlesbrough Theatre) we were delighted to be invited along to see what it was all about.

I should probably start with a confession or two: the first, which will become obvious pretty quickly, is that I’m no theatre critic – I’ve never written a theatre review before in my life so look upon this more as a recommendation for a night out that just happens to take place in the theatre. The second is that I don’t really go to the theatre very much at all…but now that I have been, it’s definitely going to be something that happens more regularly!

Hopeless Romantics at Middlesbrough Theatre

Now you know all my secrets, let’s get going with the review. Hopeless Romantics – what’s it all about then? Well, there’s Alan, Zoe and a broken down car. There’s also the fact that Zoe is pretending to be Alan’s girlfriend at a big family dinner…it might not sound like much of a scenario but trust me, there’s real chemistry between the two actors, who are both totally brilliant by the way, and the first half flies by before you even know where you are! It’s funny and sweet and you can’t help but keep everything crossed that it will be a happy ending for them both.

Hopeless Romantics 3

It wouldn’t be a Love Middlesbrough Lass blog without some mention of a sweet treat, and lucky for me there’s a whole heap of them to choose from in the interval! Sweets, crisps and ice-cream are all available from the kiosk, and lots of flavour choices too. I opted for mint choc chip in a tub (so basically the BEST flavour) and Mr Love Middlesbrough Lass went for honey and ginger. Both were given a tip-top rating. There’s also a bar available upstairs if you would prefer to enjoy a fizzy tipple in the interval break.

Back to the show. More laughs, more great tunes, more touching moments. As it reached its end I was completely involved and without giving too much away, I might have done a little happy dance inside at the end result. Funny, touching and sweet, both actors truly did an excellent job and I would absolutely recommend it as a great night out!

Hopeless Romantics

There’s still plenty time for you to catch the show as it’s playing until Saturday 10th June, including an afternoon matinee. Tickets are £14.50, concessions £12.50, matinee £10.50 and can be booked by calling the theatre on 01642 81 51 81 or online www.middlesbroughtheatre.co.uk

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