A Night at the Theatre – Blithe Spirit

Escape into another world with Noel Coward’s comedy classic, Blithe Spirit running this week at Middlesbrough Theatre. Enter the country house set of the early twentieth century, a world of faltering servants, clipped accents, cocktails and it is formal dress code for dinner parties. It is all frightfully correct but there are frightening things bubbling beneath the surface. This particular dinner party thrown by socialite and novelist Charles and his wife Ruth serves up far, far more than the hosts bargained for with hilarious consequences.

Charles is researching for his latest book and decides to invite the marvellously over the top medium Madame Arcati over to conduct a séance. Maybe he ought to have thought twice before the flamboyant spiritualist asked if there was anyone there. Charles’ troublesome first wife Elvira seemed only too keen to return and cause all sorts of trouble and mayhem between Charles and second wife Ruth.

We are so lucky to have Middlesbrough Theatre. The unassuming post-war theatre sits amongst the foliage of leafy Linthorpe. The theatre has so many pluses, from the ample car parking right outside to the attentive staff. There are the home comforts of proper theatre seats and the rake affords superb viewing. Yet it has that intimacy of a small theatre but with a stage big enough to allow the elaborate country house set. In fact the last time I attended a play here we were all actually seated in the round on the stage itself.

Blithe Spirit is regarded as one of Noel Coward’s masterpieces, breaking all records for a West End run with nearly 2000 performances through the 1940s, records then smashed by The Mousetrap. Yet Coward went out of fashion, his plays about upper class England were something of an anathema to the aspiring post war generations. Latterly we fell in love with Noel Coward all over again as he made notable appearances on the screen, who can forget him as the criminal godfather, Mr Bridger, in The Italian Job.

This show is co-presented with Less is More Productions. They are a local company aiming to create theatre in Tees Valley area. Less is More like to work with and nurture emerging artists from Middlesbrough and the north east. That is certainly the case with the actress fulfilling the role of the ghostly presence of Elvira. South Shields Natasha Haws still known to many as the ridiculously talented teenage singer songwriter. She is also a ridiculously talented actor on the stage.

Only Charles can see Natasha/Elvira’s ghostly presence but while the results are hilarious for us they are certainly no laughing matter for the hen pecked husband. He is suddenly trapped between his high maintenance first wife Elvira and equally domineering second spouse, Ruth. Charles doesn’t know which way to turn. Maybe he could enjoy the best of both worlds. Yet secretly and certainly not silently Elvira is plotting, plotting, plotting.

Really funny, superb acting and a great opportunity to revel in a real treasure of 20th century theatre.

You can see Blithe Spirit – Friday and Saturday evening 7.30pm

£14/ Concessions £12

Middlesbrough Theatre, The Avenue, Middlesbrough, TS5 6SA.
T. 01642 81 51 81 | Website: www.middlesbroughtheatre.co.uk

Blithe Spirit poster

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My Come Back on Fairy Dell Trim Trail

It was back in July a day after my birthday that I felt a sudden tug in my calf whilst running Stewart Park run. It was my 249th parkrun. Everything should have been set fair on that sunny summer’s morning. I was pretty much in sight of the finishing line so I skipped and hopped the remaining couple of hundred yards to the line, against the sage advice of seasoned volunteer Kenny Salkeld standing close to the finish. Little was I to know that it was an injury that would sideline me totally for a couple of months and still be causing me grief for the remainder of the year.

This is the story of how I got back on the road to recovery thanks to the expert advice and treatment of physio Tracey Arnell and my recuperation on Fairy Dell Trim Trail. Fairy Dell has a trail of outdoor gym equipment that is totally free to use in a delightful park in south Middlesbrough.

trim-trail-signI don’t know as much as I should about how the body all works but what I did know back in July was that I could hardly walk afterwards. I limped very, very slowly to Teesside Sports Injury Centre, on University of Teesside campus. By that time I realised all too well that the calf is connected to the Achilles. About five years earlier I was diagnosed with a slight tear in my Achilles and following physio and lengthy rehab I changed my running footwear for ever before getting back to running park runs. I knew it was my Achilles heel again.

Tracey was superb in the Sports Injury Centre for getting me back on my feet again, giving me good advice for cross training to stay fit and keeping my feet on the ground. She also was not a scary physio. She didn’t inflict pain during treatment. She did however cast doubt on whether running the Great North Run. Even then it was possibly not on the cards any longer.

trim-trail-1I was out of action for a fair while but slowly the treatments and especially the exercises Tracey set me to do started to have a positive effect. Several times a week I would drive along to Fairy Dell and go on the Health Walker, ideal because there is no contact with the ground and so my tendons would not be subjected to any extra stress. After a few goes I could move on to the Mini Ski and watch the wildlife in the wooded ravine below. Then in later sessions I could try out the Handle Boat and finally Ski Stepper would come into play.

Unfortunately when I tried to step up beyond even a 15 minute session I had a set back of a couple of weeks and had to start from scratch again. It felt like one step forward and two steps back, quite literally.

trim-trail-2But gradually I started to win. It was gradual enough for me to actually start to see squirrels gathering their stores for the winter and leaves begin to change colour and even fall. Things you cannot see inside a gym.

Tracey gave me the green light to run Middlesbrough 10k at the start of September but not to push it and to apply the ice straight afterwards. I was well strapped and taped up. It was excellent I felt like a proper footballer or athlete with loads of bandaging and luminous green tape. Tracey said that if I was still feeling OK maybe I could try to run a little faster over the last kilometer or so. And I did. That was real progress.

A month later and I decided to try and risk the Redcar half marathon. I was very much short of race fitness and had still only managed a couple of training sessions with my running clubs Swift Tees and Billingham Marsh House Harriers. By the second half of the race I was completely running on empty so I was glad of the support from a few people cheering the runners along the Esplanade. I tried to hang on to Swift Tee Alison Tapper as she sped past. Meanwhile, my Billingham running mate Jill Maddren raced past well ahead in the other direction but still found the energy and compassion to say “come on.” My harriers coach Ian Harris also urged me on. I could hardly quit and let everyone down. Anyway, I had a date with the sea. I limped into the North Sea straight after limping over the finish line.

trim-trail-me

Then I finally completed my 250th parkrun and the cakes that were baked in my honour and the card I received from Swift Tees were splendid. To cut a long recovery story short I gradually got back to running if not at full speed then near it. Much to my astonishment I actually ended up breaking my personal best for 10k at Scarborough in November. I couldn’t believe that.

Then in December I was shocked once more to find I had won the Swift-Tees summer league trophy. That was unbelievable and I suppose a reward for all the hours spent on the Trim Trail in Fairy Dell park. The shield and trophy were both presented to me by legendary runner/official Sid Rudd and the inspirational Swift-tees founder, Rosanne Lightfoot.

I still have to battle with my Achilles but it is much better. I still use the trim trail and would trim-swift-tees-shieldrecommend it. I think I prefer to do gym stuff outside watching the seasons change. There can be no better setting for my money. And of course it is free.

I have to thank expert physio Tracey Arnell at Teesside Sports Injury Centre. Also my patient coaches, Craig Lightfoot at Swift-Tees, Ian Harris and Louise Dykes at Billingham March House Harriers and all those that have to put up with me moaning and lagging behind holding them up in last place in training for the past half year or more. Am so thankful for the support of those running and non running friends.

You can find Tracey Arnell and the Sports Injury team at www.teessidesportsinjury.co.uk

Fairy Dell Trim Trail info is www.thefriendsoffairydell.co.uk/fitness.html

 

 

 

 

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d-FORMED: A Personal Journey by Kev Howard

d-FORMED is the startling autobiographical exhibition of Kev Howard. It is an incredibly hard hitting yet at the same time sensitive photographic record of the physical challenges and the constant surgical procedures Kev has faced over the years.

kev-howardKev Howard is an instantly recognisable figure, often to be seen clicking away with his camera at local gigs and events. He is surely the only expert didgeridoo player on Teesside and often performs live with his array of instruments. Both skills he has mastered with his mechanical hand. But I had absolutely no idea about the medical history, the painful decisions and indeed pain he has endured to get to this point. To say that the exhibition has been an eye opener would be a gross understatement. But also it underlines once again what a wonderful photographer and a great artist Kev undoubtedly is.

The exhibition starts as we confront a representation of the mask that Kev would have worn as he was anaesthetised before going down to surgery as a young lad. The emotions of fear were gradually superseded as he grew older and more experienced. But it is still a very stark gateway for us to the photo representations of the operations and outcomes as his growing body was realigned.

kev-my-left-footIt isn’t something I have ever really thought about before the decisions as to whether to increase function or even sacrifice a limb. I guess I have a tiny insight in that I was born with an extra digit and have been left with a thumb that only half works but that is absolutely nothing whatsoever compared to Kev growing facing so many physical challenges. These are challenges he still has to live and cope with throughout his life.

I found there was real beauty in the photography. When Kev replaces his limbs with coloured sculptured forms he forces us to think about why we often see beauty as skin deep or not.

kev-howard-formsThe final blood spattered image confronts the present system of appeals people must now leap through for disability benefits and all the trauma people are being put through. After Kev’s exhibition we are better placed to realise the back history and the physical and emotional ordeals some being reassessed for benefits have been through already.

kev-howard-bloodThis is such a brave exhibition for Kev to undertake. He has put his body on the line for surgery and now once again through his lens. It is a powerful statement brilliantly presented. For the viewer you will go on a real journey and I think be much enriched and rewarded for taking it.

D-Formed is displayed until 23 April at Dorman Museum that is open Tuesday to Sunday every week.

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Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

wildlife-trustThere were some tough times for Tees Valley Wildlife Trust last year when there vans and valuable equipment were ransacked during a break in. The damage totalled a whopping £1400 in all, a big set back. Middlesbrough FC rallied round to help the trust out with a signed Boro shirt. Development Officer Jenny Hagan contacted me for any advice to do with the signed shirt and I decided a meet up was in order and so set off for their Margrove Park HQ to find out all about their operation. I already knew that the Trust works with children on matchdays in the Generation Red Family Zone of the Riverside, hence the signed shirt. I wanted to know more about this and where and what the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust was about and how we could buy tickets for the prize draw to help make up for the criminal damage

tees-valley-van-damage-1Q: Can you tell us your names for the tape please.

Tees Valley: Amy Carrick River Tees Officer; Jenny Hagan Development Manager

Q: We are from Tees Valley Wildlife Trust one of 47 wildlife trusts in the country, we are second or third smallest.

Jenny: The other two are islands.

We have 9000 members and we have been going since 1979 we used to be Cleveland Nature Trust.

Amy: We have 15 nature reserves spreading from Hartlepool, down to Stockton and Middlesbrough all the way down the coast to Skinningrove and Loftus.

Q: What are your responsibilities in the reserves?

A: We own some of them and then others we manage on long term leases on behalf of other companies eg Coatham Marsh was owned by Tata and we manage it on a longterm lease.

Q: Do you have volunteers helping you to manage the reserves.

J: Yes we have 125 volunteers.

A: They do several things. We have three different groups. Dan, our reserves officer has two groups out doing practical things. Matt has two groups at the moment doing practical things. I have got three groups doing practical things. There are a lot of groups out there doing tree planting, tree cutting, ditch clearing, path making, anything goes, it is all managed by our volunteers. Then there are the admin volunteers as well who help deliver magazines, invoices etc. Then we have surveyors as well, bat surveyors, otter surveyors, water vole surveyors as well. And education volunteers too, mainly retired teachers or people that used to be in the profession will come in and give us a helping hand. So volunteers not just practical but all over the spectrum.

tees-valley-swanQ: So how do you go out and speak to people? Do you go into schools for instance?

A: Yes we do newsletters. They go out to schools where we can offer sessions for a price or free, depending on what projects are going on. We also recruit volunteers via social media and our website. Also by word of mouth as well.

J: We also have a presence at events such as when Middlesbrough College has an event or World Health Day in Middlesbrough last year that was a big event that attracts lots of people.

There are only 20 staff and 125 volunteers, they are regular volunteers as well, not just one off volunteers.

A: Yes, they come out every week or some ad hoc we call them when we need them. A lot of the practical reserve volunteers can come out every week.

J: Most of what we do is depending upon them being there.

A: We would be scuppered without them. It is their skills as well. On my team for example I have got people that can do carpentry, welding, joinery etc. It is stuff that I can only know in limited amounts so it is good to be able to pick their brains. We have some of them designing benches or frames for signs. So it is not just they are going out and doing a path they are actually designing stuff for us as well. That is what my River Tees Rediscovered project is about and Jenny’s mental health projects, it is people that have all these skills and getting them to actually design things and come up with management plans as well, they are heavily involved. Especially with all the cuts in the steel industry we are hoping to leap on that to give those people a chance to show off their skills, get back out there and boost their self esteem.

J: I don’t think they always realise how much they help each other because some of them have amazing skills but really low confidence. And some have amazing communication skills and they are really good at welcoming new people who might be really nervous coming to a group. Especially something like this where they might not have previously gone out doors and it might be in the middle of nowhere. Everyone is the same. We don’t have super skilled volunteers in one group, everyone is the same.

A: It is all inclusive. Jenny and Dan from early on have all pushed the inclusive volunteers, so we don’t have separate groups.

We do work a lot with people with varying mental or physical health issues. We will tailor activities so that everyone is involved.

All the staff have been on courses and have spoken to each other and helped each other out to understand people’s needs a bit more.

J: Matt’s life skills project – we wanted an open approach so anybody can ring me up and say I have been out of work for 3 years, I am really not very confident, I don’t go out any more, I would like to come out and try something. Then at the other end of the scale, it could be someone that might be an in patient at Roseberry Park and come out with a support worker. But the support worker would volunteer as well. So, everyone comes out and pitches in and they all learn a bit from each other and benefit where they probably wouldn’t elsewhere.

We do some pretty strange and wonderful things. We do blacksmithing workshops and drystone wall workshops. There is wildlife gardening. There is green woodwork, decorative things etc. They are all things that we don’t think they would get a chance to do anywhere else.

They come twice a week, a workshop one day then match it up with volunteering once a week. They get to work on a project of their own choice. They go and visit different reserves and they choose a reserve and figure out a way to improve it. They get a John Muir award for doing that. It is a trust up in Scotland that offer free conservation awards for people. That is 12 weeks long, we have 12 people every 12 weeks until June next year.

Q: In Middlesbrough you manage Maze Park don’t you, between Newport and the A19 bridges.

tees-valley-maze-parkA: Yes it has 3 mounds which were the spoil from the building of Teesside Park. We have let nature take its course and then we have managed it. Maze Park is really good for butterflies. It has one of the rarest butterflies in the country or especially in the region, called the grayling. They lay their eggs on the marshalling yards behind and then once they are hatched out they come into Maze Park itself. We have been managing special habitat corridors, to make sure that they have a way in because some butterflies are quite particular in how long they want their grass. There are a lot of different wildflowers in there as well for them. We manage it, we make sure we cut all the meadows and we rake them as well. We make special basking areas for them as well because once they have hatched out they like to basically sunbathe. So all the gravely paths have been increased into proper basking areas so the butterflies can have a sunbathe. They can feed on all the wild flowers and then sunbathe.

Q: That must be a great opportunity to see them as well.

A: Yes, exactly that is how you see them. You keep quiet for a bit and then have a look at the butterflies. So that reserve is brilliant and that is how it is managed for the butterflies and also bees. It is a nice little reserve.

J: Also in Middlesbrough there will be work at Linthorpe Cemetery through the Wild Green Places project which is working with twenty community groups right across the Tees Valley.  Not working on our own sites but Friends sites etc and improving them for wildlife. Doing anything from getting a food hygiene certificate to run an event to doing a bat survey etc.

A: Also Maelor’s Wood in Stainton, there is a rubbings trail designed by kids, where they can rub pictures of ladybirds etc that is new and being launched and opened.

J: This project is working with community groups but not just to get them involved but to build them up so they have the capacity to do things on their own in the future. It is foundation depending on what they need.

A: There are a lot of Friends groups in Middlesbrough from Fairy Dell, Maelor’s Wood to the old Boro Becks project. They are still going and still need volunteers. The small patches around Middlesbrough always need helpers. A lot of them might be run by older people who cannot go out and build a path for example and are now doing more of the management side. They always need people to actually go out, even for a few hours.

Q: The green ribbons in a town are very important aren’t they?

A: Yes definitely because we are losing them all the time. It is again part of what we do in general, saving space for wildlife and working with those Friends groups to keep those little patches open.

Q: You are showing people that there is wildlife even in a town.

A: When you go out and look there is a lot there.

J: We want to go out and do more in the town centre as well, working with younger people as well. We did a great project last year in Middlesbrough with Talent Match, that was with people that had been unemployed or out of training for two years. We worked with a group of guys of which two have apprenticeships with One Planet Pioneers. They did a 12 week programme. They got to do their own project. They made a video with a gopro camera. They stayed over night in the roundhouse on the Nature Reserve in February and they were sponsored. We are hoping to do a repeat of the project again. We got four lovely young people last time.

Q: Tell me about your involvement at the Boro, in the Generation Red Family Zone.

A: Yes, we were there last season and we have been invited back this season. We have had three stalls (at different matches) already this season. Each one has a different theme. The first one this season was birds so we made log bird feeders. You make a lard and seed mixture and put it into a log feeder that has holes drilled in. So the kids get to make their own and take them home and we speak to them about how you can help birds in your garden and what birds we have in the region.

tees-valley-grfzOur second theme was bats, we had our bat officer, Sarah Barry came along. We made loo roll bats. So, they could make their own little bats and then hang them up around the house. We did a bat trail, so the kids followed a sticker collection of different animals the bats eat, like flies and moths for example. Each child had to find the missing sticker, so basically they had to interact with all the other kids and also Roary the Lion and try to get stickers from Roary and the seal and the bee to see if they could get a full collection of stickers for their bat. Once they did that they got a prize from us that contained a banana and a chocolate bar and information about bats. The banana and chocolate was because bats help the pollination of plantations.

Q: Did the kids find the bats exciting or scary?

A: Most found them exciting I think. A lot knew about vampire bats so we dispelling myths that bats don’t just go around sucking your blood. They are actually quite nice animals and they do pollinate a lot of plants. They do eat a lot of midgies.

They do have bats down at the Riverside. You have to go to a late game in about September and you can actually see them fly around the actual stadium and I have seen one actually land on the goal net during a game which is cool. So there are actually bats at the Riverside Stadium which is why we wanted to link it in a bit more. You would normally go out with a bat detector which detects their calls but obviously it is too loud but you can see them flying around. I think they will be most likely the common pipistrelle bats. It is brilliant having them around the stadium itself.

tees-valley-batsIt was national squirrel awareness day on Saturday 21st January so we were dispelling myths that grey squirrels are our native squirrels when it is actually the reds and that they kill them but they don’t they eat their food. We are getting the kids to create their own squirrel tales and we make nature mobiles out of twigs, leaves and bits of wood they can decorate and take home.

All of our activities involve making something to take home. It is about them having a Wildlife Trust experience at the football ground and taking something home and looking back and thinking I remember that and hopefully remember all the little facts we have told them.

tees-valley-squirelThe last event is World Book Day, March 11th, the Sunderland game. We are making little pen holders and also wildlife book marks. Again we will be promoting what we do and also different wildlife books as well as ID books and how simple it is to go out with them and ID wildlife.

Q: Sadly you had some very bad news about your vans didn’t you?

A: We park the vans in a locked up compound. People broke a lot of the metal fencing to get in and they took 4 wheels. They tried to break into a locked box, they couldn’t but it was so damaged that we had to weld it off and destroy it to get back into it. The blue van had a window broken and a chain saw taken and some tools. The mini bus was also broken into and tools taken.

They left a message Thanks for stuff #stickybandits. Apparently the burglars from Home Alone.

It totalled £1400 of damage.

tees-valley-van-damageJ: They don’t realise that for a place like this that is £1400 that comes out of paying for clothes for volunteers or tools for doing activities etc.

A: So it is a lot of money and the vehicles were off the road for a few weeks so we couldn’t do anything. There are some volunteers who only go out anywhere a few times a week in general and we are their means of getting out and they are missing out on that for a couple of weeks. So it was a bit gutting for us all. Everyone was very down about it for a while.

Q: But you now have a plan to try and raise some money.

tees-valley-roary-birdsA: Yes Middlesbrough Football Club have kindly donated a signed shirt for us to have a prize draw to raise some money. Crathorne Hall have donated an afternoon tea. They are the two top prizes. We rallied around the staff for runners up prizes. There is a year’s Wildlife Trust Family membership as a second prize. We also have a wildlife garden makeover kit, that is bird feeders, nest boxes, seeds etc. Also there are signed wildlife and foody books by award winning poet Sean Borodale. He kindly gave us the books.

tees-wildlife-prze-drawQ: How do people enter?

J: We have a suggested donation for tickets, a pound each or five for £3 or ten for £5.

We have an e-newsletter that people can sign up to from the website or check the website for our next events and buy the tickets from the events. Or buy them at our Margrove Park centre in person if local.

We will draw it on February 10th. We will arrange for them to have the prizes in time for Valentine’s Day.

Margrove Heritage Centre, Margrove Park, Boosbeck, Saltburn-by-the-Sea TS12 3BZ Phone: 01287 636382  Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

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TOWN HISTORY TIMELINE DISPLAY UNVEILED IN MIDDLESBROUGH

Visitors to Middlesbrough can enjoy a whistle-stop tour of its history through a new timeline hoarding unveiled around the Town Hall.The Town Hall recently celebrated its 128 year anniversary since officially opening (23rd January 1889) and now residents can discover more about the history of the venue and the town.

The hoardings have been erected as part of the Middlesbrough Town Hall Refurbishment and Restoration Project. The ‘My Town Hall’ hoardings stand at 2.3 metres tall and 29.5 metres long and tell the story of modern Middlesbrough’s expansion from a small hamlet in 1801 through to the refurbishment works of the Town Hall.

The temporary display forms part of the perimeter of the contractor site on the corner of Albert Road and Corporation Road whilst renovation work is ongoing at the Grade II* Listed venue.

The hoardings have been developed by project staff and Town Hall volunteers and chart historical events in the town and venue’s history including the story of rapid Victorian expansion, iron manufacturing, opening of the Transporter Bridge and David Bowie’s performance as Ziggy Stardust at Middlesbrough Town Hall 1972.

town-hall-trail-time-lineThe timeline also features artist impressions of the completed works alongside reproductions of unique historic plans, photographs and newspaper snippets from the collections of Middlesbrough Libraries, Teesside Archives and The Gazette.

Cllr Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “We hope the hoardings whet the appetite of passers-by for the Town Hall restoration project which is now underway. They present a whistle-stop through the ages tour of where Middlesbrough has come from and ends with the question ‘What’s Next?’.

“The town is undoubtedly enjoying a huge upturn with new cultural, retail and leisure opportunities arriving all the time and the Town Hall when it reopens, restored to its former glory, will be the jewel in the crown of a hugely re-energised Middlesbrough centre so that is just one answer to the question.”

my-town-hallTosh Warwick, Middlesbrough Council’s Heritage Development Officer, said:  “The new hoardings capture key moments in both the story of Middlesbrough and the Town Hall spanning over two centuries and highlight the important part the venue has played in the history of the area.

“We have already had very positive feedback on the timeline and hope it generates further interest in Middlesbrough’s heritage, the history of the Town Hall and the fantastic renovation of one of the region’s leading landmarks.”

I chatted with Tosh about the illuminating time trail on the hoardings.

Q: Tosh tell me about the new town timeline outside the Town Hall.

T: The new timeline is there to celebrate key points in the town’s history. It has been produced as part of the Heriage Lottery Fund Town Hall Refurbishment project. It is going to be there during the course of the renovation work which is currently ongoing.

Q: It is very attention grabbing. I notice people are stopping to look as they walk past.

T: Yes it is very exciting. We have had the volunteers that work on the project, the project staff and I did a lot of the history research on it. It is great when you see kids walking by having a look at it and their parents pointing it out. Even people having a bit of a glimpse when they are stopping at the traffic lights. It is good and it is a way of celebrating not just the Town Hall’s history but the wider history of the Boro/borough.

Q: It starts at the beginning of modern Middlesbrough as Port Darlington and then we see the present Town Hall being built 50 years on. So I guess it puts the building in context.

T: We are aware that Middlesbrough dates back further than that but it is there to capture the modern Middlesbrough that led to the building of the Town Hall, the churches, the Transporter, Dorman Museum and the main library, just over the road.

So we have tried to capture that a bit more and show how the Town Hall reflects the wider heritage of the town. We have included things such as the opening of the Transporter Bridge and how they had the celebration at the Town Hall. How they had celebrations for other landmark events such as the end of the War and announcing of the Armistice at the Town Hall. So, how the Town Hall is part of the wider story of Middlesbrough.

We have also got information of where the town and Town Hall has been in the national spotlight as well. So I managed to get my reference to David Bowie in there, the Ziggy Stardust tour.

Q: There are two different sides to the Town Hall, as well as council offices most people will know the other side, going for gigs, such as Bowie, comedy and classical concerts.

town-hall-trail-rob-tosh-lizT: As far as I am aware my first time in the Town Hall was either my graduation from Teesside Uni or I went to see Morrissey a few years ago. Yes it is venue but it is also part of the wider town so it has got multiple uses and I hope the time-line captures that.

Q: You touched upon the War and there is a map on the time-line with an X marks the spot. Could you tell us about that.

T: There was a bomb dropped. The people at Teesside Archives have given us the Air Raid plan no, 4 and it shows where the bombs were dropped. So the night the Transporter Bridge was bombed during 1940 there was also a bomb dropped at the gas works, roughly where the new Transporter Park is now. But also on the corner near the town hall of Corporation Road/Albert Road, opposite where Hintons would have been. The bomb caused a bit of damage. I think it captures how the Town Hall was part of the wider story. Stuff like that is interesting and it is perhaps stuff that people don’t know.

Yes we have tied into information from Middlesbrough Reference Library collections. The Gazette as well has been very supportive. It is trying to showcase some of the historical parts of the town and some of the heritage resources and materials that we have that perhaps we don’t get out there as much as we might do.

Q: I love that illustration of Locomotion no.1 steaming past the early port. That takes us right back to Stockton and Darlington railway and I imagine a lot of people won’t know about the significance of that first railway to Middlesbrough’s founding. Locomotion no.1 is steaming past Middlesbrough farm house with the original Eston Nab (Napoleonic Signal Station) in the background. It is an incredibly evocative illustration is it not?

T: It shows the place before the iron and steel came in. The sketch dates from when Middlesbrough was a coal export town rather than this booming iron and steel town. It shows the Tees and the coal staithes and the farm house. People are perhaps not familiar with those images.

I have also managed to put a plan in of the old Town Hall and the grid plan of the original Middlesbrough. It all ties in to the story of why we have the Town Hall we have today.

Q: Of course this all leads to the future of the Town Hall and there are panels showing the new developments from the HLF project. It looks as if there will be more of the Town Hall opened up to more of the public.

town-hall-trail-mine-1T: On the hoardings we state ‘Find out more about the Town Hall’s history’ but we also ask the question what’s next? We have some of the computer generated images of how we expect the Town Hall will look once we have finished the work.

It is going to be fantastic. The old police cells will be opened up so people can learn about the criminal aspect of the Town Hall. The old court room where people were tried, it was later a refectory. That is going to be renovated so kids can go in there and learn about law and order in Middlesbrough and visitors too and even TV crews will be able to use it. It is brilliant. That is a fantastic resource for the town.

We are also doing some work on the main hall itself and making it a much more attractive, visitor friendly, venue. Making it a real hub for not only the town but also the region. It will be really exciting and in doing so as well we will get people interested in the area’s heritage and the stories and links to the Town Hall. Maybe people will even discover their links to the Town Hall that they weren’t aware of. So it is exciting.

Q: I believe that part of the project is to collect people’s memories. So people might have been to that Bowie/Ziggy gig or 1988 when we had the victory parade and reception for Bruce Rioch’s top flight promotion team.

T: You might have been standing in the crowd when Bruce Rioch came out onto the Town Hall steps with two arms aloft with the lads that had got us promoted.

Q: In their blazers.

T: Yes, in their Boro blazers. You might have been there for Ziggy, or for Oasis or Stone Roses, all of which are referenced on the hoardings. So it is about getting those memories. The My Town Hall strand of the project is trying to capture those memories, the photos, even the ticket stubs. Any of the ephemera people might still retain. We would love to hear from people at townhallvolunteers@middlesbrough.gov.uk

And we also have the Middlesbrough Town Hall facebook, instagram and twitter accounts too.

But it is all about bringing the Town Hall back into the community rather than it just being a building that sits in the centre of the town open occasionally for concerts. It is about making it a venue that people relate to on a daily basis and feel a sense of ownership and place.

Q: As you say daily. It will have been far more a night time venue.

T: We do open for education sessions already and we have been doing this for years daytime as we have things like Classical Cafe, we have tea dances and all kinds of events but perhaps not as high profile as what we are doing now. We are going to make it an education destination for example. We will have provision where the kids can learn about and read about and engage with digital and interactive interpretation about the story of the town and the Town Hall.

There will be similarities with what we did at the Transporter Bridge even dating back to 2000 and the more recent works. Rather than being just a functional venue or crossing in the case of the Transporter we have made it a Visitor Centre, a Visitor Experience. We are making it a place where you can actually do something and it can serve multiple functions and that will be across generations and not just for people from Middlesbrough but anyone. Which is great. END

town-hall-trail-whats-nextThe Middlesbrough Town Hall Refurbishment and Restoration Project is supported by a £3.7m Heritage Lottery Fund award, a further £3.6m from Middlesbrough Council and £500,000 awarded by Arts Council England (ACE).

Once complete it will result in the Town Hall being restore the iconic Grade II* listed building back to its full 19th Century glory.

It will see parts of the building, currently inaccessible to the public, being opened up, including the Victorian courtroom, cells and fire station which would be made into heritage attractions in their own right.

The plans also include the restoration of the carriage driveway with original glass roof which will become the main box office and circulation area, an external lighting scheme, the development of new café and bar facilities, and a new community space.

town-hall-trail-lewisFurther information on Middlesbrough Town Hall, including details on ways to get involved in the project, can be found at www.mytownhall.co.uk, on the official Facebook page www.facebook.com/MiddlesbroughTownHall, Twitter @mbro_townhall and Instagram at www.instagram.com/middlesbrough_townhall/

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