Sunday at the Smeltery

There is a cool and arty place to eat your Sunday lunch in town now but most importantly of all the food is just the Sunday best.

smeltery-actionThe Smeltery is the name for the former mima café that has been given a major makeover as well as takeover from the nice people of the Waiting Room, Eaglescliffe.

From the outside the red neon glow of the Smeltery letters beckon you across the wide open spaces of Centre Square to the snug and cosy art gallery restaurant, where the furniture and furnishings have been designed in community workshops making thismeltery-soups truly a community café.

Unlike the Waiting Room the menu is not exclusively vegetarian so as well as the sumptuous sounding green options I could also tuck into a Sunday roast when I managed to get myself on the list of the first Sunday serving last weekend. The meat is organic and free range. Like the fish it is carefully sourced. My lamb was farmed in Upper Teesdale.

The service was very good. I was greeted at the entrance and was well looked after throughout as was everyone. The staff were friendly, courteous and very helpful.

The menu options all looked so good. I was facing away from most of the diners so wasn’t swayed by the sight and indeed smells of anyone else’s orders. I started with a beautiful roast squash, tomato and thyme soup with some tasty wholemeal bread. “Lashings” of Fentimans Lemonade was the perfect accompaniment.

smeltery1Next time I must try North Sea Fish pancake with thermidor sauce. It was a hard choice. The soup would set you back £4.50.

Then it was the lamb, pink, tender and so succulent. A crisp Yorkshire pud, potatoes and the vegetables. Well, there were plenty and they were cooked so the tastes oozed out into the thick gravy. No hint of over cooking. I think it was around £12 or so that was the kind of mark for main meals.

You can watch the hive of activity in front of you in the kitchen if you park yourself in that direction. Or else look out of the window over towards the town hall and dancing fountains.

What else could I have sampled? Top of the main meals list was Waiting Room field mushroom and smoked cheddar cashew plait with red wine sauce and horse radish creamed turnip. The boss Luke was particularly proud of his home made horse radish I was told.

smeltery-kitchen-againAfter allowing myself the luxury of a few minutes recuperation time I was prepared to tackle a pudding. Apple, plum and ginger poached pears crumble. Wow what isn’t to like about that? Especially, when I selected the ice cream. Wait for this. Honey and heather! Now, come on, how good can it get?

smeltery-kitchenThey are opening now for dinners on Thursdays as well as being open all daytimes, except Monday when mima is closed.

smeltery-lukeDon’t forget you are inside mima here so as a final treat why not walk off any feeling of excess by taking to the galleries of art. The current exhibitions include works by an artist collected by the late great David Bowie, namely, Winifred Nicholson. Liberation of Colour is an exhibition, of the great British colourist, that explores work from throughout Winifred’s long and distinguished artistic career.

So, there you are Sunday dinners and art. Oh and exercise for the body and mind. In Middlesbrough. There is a car park outside, free for 2 hours. But best of all as I said earlier the food is exceptional. Get out and explore this Sunday.

Ring 01642 245679 and look out for a Smeltery facebook page with menu that might just pop up this weekend.





Gengahr at the Westgarth

Bringing their spectral indie pop to the Westgarth tonight – GENGAHR – announce their return to the live stage with a slew of intimate UK shows, where is more intimate and atmospheric than our very own Westgarth Social Club.

The Westgarth venue has recently brought you some musical giants in Pete Wylie and Jim Bob of Carter USM and also rising stars Shame. It will be busy again on Saturday with the third Riverside Rebellion punk and post punk all dayer headlined by The Vibrators.

Local promoters Pay For The Piano and The Kids Are Solid Gold are promoting this show. Whenever these guys are involved there invariably a stamp of quality. When they come together then you know it is something not to be missed.

But for tonight. A great gig and a very special show from a band that you would normally have to travel to see in a far bigger auditorium. Looming from the shadows with a clutch of new songs, the four piece Gengahr will be previewing new material penned for their highly anticipated follow-up album at some of the country’s finest small venues on this new run of dates.

gengahrGengahr kicked off the tour at Sheffield’s Bungalow & Bears on 16th November they will wind up at Manchester’s The Deaf Institute on the 8th December, stopping off at a total of 19 town and cities in-between.

The North London band have spent the latter part of 2016 with their heads down, writing and recording album #2.

As vocalist Felix Bushe from Gengahr reveals:

“Since touring the UK last year we’ve been writing and recording our next album. We’ve broken things up a little by performing at a few festivals and touring Europe with Wolf Alice but by and large we’ve been focused on making LP 2.”

Whilst the release date of the new album still very much to-be-confirmed, the tonight’s show will offer a tantalising first taste of the new material to come.

Giving insight into what to expect from forthcoming shows Felix adds:

“After finishing the record we wanted to get out on the road and start to get our heads around the new songs as soon as possible and begin to get our heads around the new songs and see how they translate live. It’s also going to be a great opportunity to play in some of the cities we didn’t make it out to last year. A lot of these shows are going to be in fairly intimate settings so we are going to take this opportunity to give a glimpse at what’s to come next from us. We will playing a lot of new material at these shows and we are very excited to see how everyone will react!”

Gengahr’s much anticipated new album will follow their 2015 debut release: ‘A Dream Outside’.

Featuring the singles ‘She’s A Witch’, ‘Heroine’ and ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’  – each of which gained heavy radio rotation on BBC 6 Music and XFM – the band’s debut album was released via independent super-label Transgressive to critical acclaim.

Garnering positive reviews across the board in the UK press from the likes of NME, Clash, The Guardian, Line Of Best Fit and DIY who hailed the record as ‘A remarkable debut’ (5/5), and sparking a similar chain reaction in Europe and beyond; demand for ‘A Dream Outside’ catapulted the four piece headlong into an intense touring schedule across the globe.

Selling out their own 2015 headline tour (including a huge show at the London Scala), Gengahr established their thrilling live reputation with festival-winning performances Reading and Leeds, Latitude and Glastonbury.

Propelled by their success on home turf, Gengahr’s surreal indie sound has been lapped up far and wide. From scoring invitations to some of Europe’s best annual bashes (Frequency in Austria, Pukkelpop and Best Kept Secret in Holland, Hurricane + Southside in Germany), a headline tour of Down Under, and world-wide tours with Wolf Alice, Ezra Furman and Alt-J; Gengahr are quickly becoming a global phenomenon.

With new material ready and waiting, Gengahr are preparing to open an all-new and exciting chapter in 2017….

Here is sneak preview – LISTEN TO ‘SHE’S A WITCH‘ – it sounds to me like something that could have been on the Wickerman soundtrack.

‘Peaceful Melodies you’ll want to wallow in for hours’ NME

‘Gengahr are a summer romance set to last.’ Line Of Best Fit

‘A joy to listen to. This is savvy, intelligent music.’ Clash

See Genghar this evening supported by Hartlepool melodic guitar brands Para Alta and Plaza.

Doors 7.70pm Curfew 11pm. Tickets £11.





Memories of Middlesbrough Exhibition

Memories of Middlesbrough facebook (closed) group has been an absolutely phenomenal success since the page was set up in 2012 by Sue Martin. It is now bulging at the seams with over 12000 members and a staggering 20 000 likes. They are very active members too, posting photos and stirring up memories of Middlesbrough’s streets, buildings and people. Memories shared are almost given new life again.

Memories of Middlesbrough have been given some exhibition space at the town’s free museum Dorman Museum where a number of photos taken by the members are now on display. The exhibition was launched last month as part of Discover Middlesbrough. The display will be re-jigged with some different photos after Christmas.

momdorman1Just to underline what a phenomenon it is there have been MoM calendars, there was an exhibition at mima in association with Araf Chohan and a book is in the pipeline of photos taken by the facebook community group members.

In the meantime do go along upstairs and have a wander down Memories of Middlesbrough lane. Ride the roundabout in Albert Park or play out in the Linthorpe streets. Remember when there was a bustling market on Sussex Street. Remember when there was a Sussex Street!

Hugh Bell school may be long gone but the Winners photo lives on. Talking of celebrations get the bunting out again for a Middlesbrough V.E. street party.

Dorman Museum – Open Tues to Sunday 9.30am to 4.30pm (Closed Mondays)



Richard Milward’s Rebirth Pool

It is not only your bookshelf that demands a presence from Richard Milward but your walls as well. The Teesside novelist rose to fame and acclaim with his first book Apples is now making his mark with a paint brush. You can buy limited prints of paintings that can be every bit as edgy and engaging as his novels. The prices should be affordable for most.

Richard’s first book Apples was published by Faber and Faber in 2007, he followed this with Ten Storey Love Song and, most recently, Kimberly’s Capital Punishment. Set on a Middlesbrough housing estate Apples plots, school, night life and dislocated families from the dark and stuffed underbelly up. The characters that populate his paintings are just as shocking and in your face as those from the novels.

Apples has since been performed on stage and Richard has written essays, articles and all things in between from magazines ranging from Dazed and Confused to Fly Me To The Moon. Richard’s impact was recognised with an honorary degree from University of Teesside in 2013.

Here is a short interview with the Middlesbrough born writer and painter.

Q: You are well known for your writing Richard but tell us a little about your art background?

RM: I was writing constantly through my teens, but by the time I left sixth-form college I wanted to study Art rather than English Language/Literature, and managed to get into Cleveland College of Art & Design then Byam Shaw at Central St Martins in London. It makes a lot more sense to me how Art is taught compared to English or other subjects, since you’re encouraged to be fully experimental, take risks, and not feel straitjacketed by rules (grammar, spelling, certain formulas etc). Art colleges give you free reign to explore all kinds of different ideas in different ways, and it’s a blessing you don’t even really have to be able to draw to get into one. You just need an open brain.

rm-the-rebirth-pool_pink-printQ: Having seen you perform live reading from your work I have seen you wear elaborate props – that was my first introduction to your art work I think? Does it all tie together for you like that, the art and literature? Are you drawn towards characters in both?

RM: Yeah, there’s definitely similarities. My paintings are quite cartoonlike, like aspects of some of my books, and populated by characters that seem half grotesque, half wide-eyed and innocent. Painting almost works as an antidote to novel-writing for me though. Painting is more physical, especially when it’s properly expressive, and you’ve always got the full picture in front of you: you can adjust it all in just a few strokes. Writing a novel is a lot more slippery: you can get tangled in all the loose ends, all the different strands of the story, but then it’s a lot more satisfying once it all comes together.

Q: You had an exhibition not that long ago at House of Blah Blah, was that a big step exhibiting live? It is a great venue by the way, so atmospheric.

RM: Yeah The House of Blah Blah is really special. Good on them for getting their hands on that building and holding genuinely unique and obscure events there, from fashion shows to raves to exhibitions. It was nice of them to trust me enough to produce whatever I wanted. I don’t think they’d even seen what I was up to until the day of setting up for the opening night. I feel like other institutions can be a lot more cagey nowadays about giving artists free reign, and as a result the work can end up a lot more sterile or benign. Like Malcolm McLaren says: ‘Better to be a spectacular failure than a benign success.’ Too right.

Q: Can you tell us something about the paintings that you are selling prints of, a bit of background to the subjects and what kinds of things you were expressing? Are they limited editions too?

RM: Over the years a fair few folk have come up to me asking if I ‘d ever thought about selling prints, so I finally decided to take the plunge, especially now my pockets are more threadbare than usual. There’s a mix of prints I’m selling: four of them come from The Rebirth Pool series I did for The Tunnel Gallery under Middlesbrough train station (and also exhibited at The House of Blah Blah, and The Social, London). These are swirling retina-burning illustrations based on the hypnotic ‘mandalas’ of India and beyond, with all sorts of cryptic symbols. Also, there’s a print of a painting I did in 2007 called ‘Frisky Disco’, a splashback snapshot of Eve from Apples surrounded by a pack of thirsty creatures in a dreamlike or nightmarish nightspot. The prints are limited to 250 copies – and they’re all signed and hand-numbered.

Q: You have recently had an essay published alongside Natalie Hardwick in Stripped Tees can you tell us something about the idea behind that project?

RM: Natalie got in touch out of the blue a couple of years back, asking if I fancied writing 10,000 words on any aspect of Teesside I wanted, for a publisher she knows called Influx Press. Natalie hails from Stockton – she’s a great writer, a journalist for the BBC and Guardian among many others, and she wrote the other essay in the Stripped Tees book. Influx’s output tends to hone in on often overlooked areas of the UK. I feel like I’ve written a lot about the Boro in my fiction, but again it was great to be given free reign to write something non-fiction about the area.

Q: You have written about Grove Hill, somewhere that all too often gets a bad press. You live in that part of the town, do you find hope or hopelessness lurking there?

rm-frisky-disco-printRM: With a heavy heart I’ve got to admit I live in London now – but when I was writing the essay I was in a flat just behind Palladium Shops, so for seven or eight years I’d seen first-hand what was going on with the redevelopment of the area. Mainly in the piece I’m talking about how, despite the onslaught of bad press Grove Hill’s received, it’s only a small minority of people who caused problems there, and it’s a shame the whole area had to suffer, and subsequently be half-demolished because of it. By the time I’d finished the writing it was still difficult to draw any conclusions – the economy collapsed just after Ray Mallon vowed to ‘get it right’ with the estate, so most probably that’s the major reason the upheaval and airbrushing’s been stalled. I go into it a lot more deeply in the essay, but in a nutshell I’m not convinced you can just dislocate half an estate’s residents, disinfect their shadows, then rebuild shiny new abodes and expect the place’s reputation to be ‘cured’. The estate’s (and the region’s) problems are more deeper-rooted than that, and now undeniably exacerbated by the current government’s policies…

Q: Can I expand that a bit. You are a passionate Teessider and have also experienced living away. Do you still find home pride here?

RM: Absolutely. I miss the place a lot. My last couple of years in the Boro were slightly marred by a dire money situation, which a lot of others in the town suffer too, but I reckon it’s difficult to feel completely lonely in the Boro. We plough on…

Q: What are you working on at the moment, writing wise?

RM: I’m juggling a few ideas at the minute. I’m hoping there’ll be some news of my next novel, as well as a collection of short stories soon.

Q: Are there any plans for another exhibition?

rm-degreeRM: Yeah. This year I’ve been working on a new series of paintings called ‘Luddites’ Nightmares’. It’s been 200 years since the original Luddites smashed up machinery in protest at their quality of life being strangled by the powers that be – so I’ve created ten modern-day paintings that aim to expose and/or poke fun at the way technology distorts and disrupts life nowadays. Looks like I’ll be showing them in London earlyish next year, then hoping to bring them back North after that.

Q: And finally how are you enjoying the Boro’s return to the Premier League?

RM: I’m buzzing we’re back up there. It’s a tough league of course and there’ll be plenty of nerve-shredding twists to come, but I feel confident we’ll stay up, and that’s all I want. I had a feeling before the start of the season we’d avoid many 3+ goal drubbings, and Aitor’s proven good to that so far…

Q: How can people buy your prints, Richard?

RM: I’ve just set up an online shop here:

There’s 5 prints up for sale there at the minute, £45 apiece. Depending on how well these go down, there’ll be more prints to come, as well as some signed books and other bits and pieces. I’d appreciate it massively if people have a look and buy something…



7 Hours With Cattle and Cane

I didn’t quite spend 7 hours in the company of Cattle and Cane singer and songwriter, Joe Hammill but after listening to the latest single I messaged him with a few questions for the band. With a big Christmas concert in the offing and the single taster for a new album next year I wondered how the band looked back on the last twelve months and how they were looking forward to big times ahead. Oh and you know me I couldn’t resist dropping a Boro question in there as well.

Led by siblings Joe and Helen Hammill, Cattle & Cane’s new single 7 Hours is the first taste of what’s to come from the band’s brand new album, which is all set for release in early Spring 2017. You can place a pre-order here via PledgeMusic:

The second album has been produced and mixed by Luuk Cox at ICP Studios in Brussels and mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios in London.

7 Hours showcases Helen and Joe’s finely crafted indie-pop and provides the perfect platform for the kind of soaring harmonies which are truly synonymous with family.

In between studio sessions, Cattle & Cane have spent the past few months performing at acclaimed tastemaker events such as Reeperbahn Festival, Live At Leeds and Evolution Emerging, as well as at some of the UK’s finest boutique festivals including Cornbury, Deer Shed and Lindisfarne. 2016 has also seen the band tour abroad for the first time, with shows in Germany, Malta and Belgium.

The band’s final gig of the year is also their biggest headline show to date – at the 1200 capacity Middlesbrough Empire on Thursday 22nd December. Support comes from Cape Cub and tickets are on-sale now from See Tickets:

cattle-and-cane-16Q: It is a great strident pop sound to the new single 7 Hours – you have moved a long way from the early folk roots – but you have kept the energy and invention – are we seeing a glimpse of a new direction here?

Joe: Cheers Rob. We made the decision to make a different sounding album. It came about by a lot of co-writing with people over the last year or so, which has changed how I approach and write songs. Sometimes I get sent backing tracks from DJ’s or artists that need a top-line writing for it. That really helps open up the whole process for me as writer. So I’ve been learning many different approaches to writing songs rather than just sitting down with an acoustic guitar (which still works by the way).

Q: I love the harmony/fusion between your voices on this single – is this something you arrived at in the studio?

Joe: It’s definitely a mixture. Helen has a great knack of being able to follow my melody lines (even if it’s the first time she’s heard the song) – some weird sibling telepathy thing! But in the studio, working with Luuk, we will come up with harmonies too.

Q: You record in Belgium now and mix in Malta I think – it must have been amazing expanding your musical outlook like that?

Joe: Yeah, we signed a publishing deal in Belgium which has put us in touch with a lot of great writers and producers out here. It’s nice to base yourself in a different country for a while. It definitely helps the creative process!

Q: 7 Hours is really catchy but has a tension in the sound and lyrics – instant then but also leaves an after taste, so to speak. Are you pleased by just how well it has been received critically and by the listeners?

Joe: Yeah we’re really pleased with the reception for the track. I suppose it’s a very different sounding song than our previous stuff. Dermot O’Leary and Janice Long at Radio 2 are supporting it, which is always good! And there’s been a lot of good blog coverage for it too which is nice.

Q: UK tour, Festivals and European tours and recording – 2016 has been a big year for Cattle and Cane hasn’t it?

Joe: I’ve loved 2016 (apart from the referendums/elections and the passing of loads of legends). We’ve played some great festivals, some shows in Belgium and Germany, and a UK tour. I suppose that’s helped gain new fans. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the writing and recording most of all – that’s what I enjoy most. The new album sees Helen singing 4 or 5 lead songs, and 2 of them are going to be singles. Writing songs knowing other people are going to sing them is a much more relaxing process I find!

cattle-and-cane-7-hoursQ: Crowd funding your music releases must really allow you to get closer to your fans as well as so importantly providing the money upfront?

Joe: Yeah absolutely. Lots of bands are doing it – and I think it’s kind of necessary in the music industry today for a lot of bands and artists. I think survival is so heavily centred on a good fan-base. It’s the crux of it all really – if you can you get people out the house and come to a gig then you’re winning.

Pledge has helped us so much with our second album. Bloody legends.

Q: When are you looking at for the 2nd album release?

Joe: TBC but sometime in the spring I’d imagine!

Q: Are you looking forward to the Christmas show at the Empire – should be a great atmosphere – you enjoy those special shows don’t you?

Joe: Can’t wait for the Christmas show. I think the Empire is the best venue in Teesside. When I was going out on Saturday nights a few years ago I never really appreciated that it’s actually a really beautiful place. The sound in there is great and I love that it’s tiered. I’m sure we’ll have some Christmas themes up our sleeves!

Q: How about Boro? – it was dodgy for a while but some great results at Arsenal and Bournemouth – are you enjoying the season so far?

Joe: I think it’s mad how many ups and downs there have been already. After the Watford game people are talking about relegation then all of a sudden we’ve gained 2 points from arguably the two hardest games you’ll face all season.

Personally, I’m absolutely loving this Boro era. I was too young to appreciate the Juninho years properly so grew up with Boro as an established Prem team. You take it for granted then all of a sudden you’re in the Championship and it’s such a slog to get out of. You realise there are loads of clubs who can argue they ‘should’ be in the Prem that currently aren’t. So I think we’ve done great to be here, we’re not in the relegation zone and we’ve played some really hard games. So I’m a happy and optimistic Boro fan. I think we’ll be okay.

Q: What new music are you in to and would recommend at present?

Joe: I’m listening to a Norwegian artist called Paal Flaata at the moment. His voice is like a cross between Richard Hawley and Roy Orbison and his song-writing is brilliant. Michael Kiwanaku’s latest album is also brilliant.

Listen to the new single 7 Hours through their Soundcloud

Many thanks to Joe Hammill and best of luck to Cattle and Cane. Everyone go out buy the single, pledge for the album and whatever your plans this festive season make sure you do not miss the big Cattle and Cane Christmas show at the Empire, Middlesbrough on Thursday 22nd December.