Art Cinema at Mima #2 and #3

The first Sunday afternoon of every month is art cinema time at MIMA, “a selection of weird and wonderful short films and videos, from the early years of surreal cinema to digital dreamscapes.” The March showing promises something special with mini epic B-17 and this month certainly hit all the spots.

Art is Beautiful and 3D Man are two shorts from USA director Tim Maloney’s Naked Rabbit World Power Foundation. Thanks to the strange cartoon muscleman character in 3D Man I now know one of the first rules in film making, framing a shot. Art is Beautiful expounds that art in the eye of the beholder even in an art gallery but perhaps the art lover and the philistine are in unlikely garbs. The voices are straight from mainstream cartoons. The art could have easily been hanging on MIMAs own walls.

Scorpio Rising, directed by Kenneth Anger in 1963, focuses on gay biker sub-culture with a rock’n’roll soundtrack to die for from the Shangri-Las to Blue Velvet. There is no dialogue in this highly voyeuristic film. The first to come with a warning about brief nudity. I don’t think anyone was unduly shocked.

Simon of the Desert is a powerful mid 60s film directed by the great Luis Bunuel, whose infamous Salvadore Dali collaboration was shown in the first Art Cinema screening. The character Simon is based on the early ascetic Christians who would spend a lifetime on the top of pillar in the desert contemplating their faith and communing with God. Bunuel gives a modern interpretation and increasingly surreal interpretation to all the temptations that try entice Simon down from his lofty pillar. I wonder what the reaction to this film was back in Bunuel’s native Spain still under Franco fascism. It was probably not favourable.

Film afternoon curator, AJ Garrett has been busy helping to organise this weekend’s screening, Sunday March 5th at 2pm. “There will be usual diverse mixture of old and new films,” he explains but he sounds a bit excited about B-17: A Mini Epic by Arturo Cubacub and the artist Sarah Weis.

AJ says that, “B-17 is one of my personal favourites. The first of several collaborations between Cubacub and Weis, it combines a innovative hyper-real film making style, an amazing gaudy lo-fi setting, intense political satire, and a larger than life performance by Weis, who is also a great Theremin player.”

So there you are if you like your film on the experimental side and maybe harking back to the vintage then MIMA’s Art Cinema is the place for you. You will be in plenty of company. Get along before hand as the café is now open on a Sunday and then afterwards we all retire to somewhere else to wet our whistle and talk films.

Sunday March 3rd 2pm-3.30pm



Communication for business: Giving charity strategically

Sponsorship, charitable giving and volunteering as a business can be very rewarding. These philanthropic activities can help to market your business, enhancing its image in the community, and these activities can boost employee morale as you contribute to the community as a team.

This post is not about saying yes to these activities – it is about how to say no with conviction, with good reason and without feeling guilty.

Charity Rant on FacebookThis post was inspired by a rant on Facebook. A member of staff from a small business on the Middlesbrough High Street was feeling frustrated by the number of and manner of people coming into the shop soliciting charitable donations.

Their rant included some suggestions for those seeking donations and good advice, as apparently this good practice was not followed by all those coming to the shop, 1. Manners 2. Have official documentation 3. Give the business an incentive, like advertising

But, even if a charity does all of these things you may have to say no sometimes. Some local business owners receive requests near-daily.

Charitable giving should be something you consider strategically in accordance with your finances.

Decide on your amount of monthly/annual giving in advance

  • This can be a percentage of your total revenue
  • This can be a percentage of your net profits
  • This can be an allocation of staff time
  • A fixed amount will help you allocate gifts throughout the year

Choose which organisations you want to support

  • Pick one or two main charities
  • Choose a percentage of your fixed amount to go to your main charity and what you have left for equally good causes and events that may come up

 Calculate the values of your donations

  • Cash
  • Merchandise
  • Time
  • All of these should be factored in to your fixed amount

Let staff have a say and contribute as a team

  • Let staff nominate main causes or have a vote
  • Consider supporting staff challenges/ team volunteering as part of your fixed quota.
  • This can boost staff morale and be potential marketing opportunities

Ask for official documentation and/or requests in writing

  • Official letterhead & documents allow you to research a charity before agreeing to a request

Put your policy in writing

  • This can help to inform staff
  • This can help you say yes or no in a strategic way

If a request for charity or other support is properly directed, professional, polite and from a legitimate source, but you have reached your fixed quota for the month or year, respond courteously in the manner of the request.

Sample text below:

Dear ____________,

We are a business that loves supporting charities.  Thanks for getting in touch.

We support ____________ and additional charities throughout the year.

Due to the high volume of requests we get, we need to set aside a monthly budget for giveaways.

Unfortunately, we have already used our budget for donations this month.

Please don’t let this stop you from getting in touch in the future.

[If you have a policy or method for people to submit requests, or a deadline for requests include that information here.]

Best of luck with your charity/event.

Many thanks,


There are opportunities for sponsorship and advertising  – see this page on the Business section of the Middlesbrough council website.

Note: The above post is geared toward businesses that get frequent, direct requests needing some guidance on how to manage.

If your company would like assistance with the creation of a broader Corporate Social Responsibility policy the Tees Valley Community Foundation may be able to help.

Written by Yaffa Phillips. Also published in the Middlesbrough Council Economic Development Team’s Blog


Scott McDonald Advises the Sports Leaders

Boro striker Scott McDonald dropped in to check on the progress of students undertaking The Prince’s Trust’s “Get Started with Football” Sports Leaders Award course this week.
The Australia international visited the group during their session on “Communication in Sport”. The young people have come from difficult backgrounds and were attending to gain a qualification and improve their skills.
McDonald was delighted to give them some tips, explaining about the importance of communication in football and then taking part in a question-and-answer session with the students, before posing for photographs and signing autographs.
“They did a really good job and I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a case of emphasising that this wasn’t just about football, it was about life skills as well.
“I spoke to them about communication and how it works and football aspects as well. But I was also trying to tell them it’s not just about football, it’s about everyday life, about how you can communicate, how you bring it across and how you have respect for others while doing it.”
The Prince’s Trust has a long history of harnessing the power and passion of football to bring about positive change.
Through its partnership with the Premier League and Professional Footballers’ Association, it has helped more than 20,000 young people through football since 1997.
It has worked with more than 65 Premier League and Football League clubs to deliver programmes that have helped three in four people into work, education and training.

Fly: Did you enjoy the session working on communication skills?
SM: Yes I did. I quite enjoy working with people outside of the football club. People look up to you and listen to you so it is important that you take that on board and respect that and obviously give a good account of yourself and show them. Especially with what we were talking about today, communication. It is not just about on a football pitch it is in and around and in other walks of life, how you talk and how you respect people. And obviously the kids today come from troubled backgrounds for whatever reason. I think it is important that they learn that if you respect others then you’ll gain respect. And I think that is a massive thing even within football. On a football pitch and even with your team mates off the pitch if you give them respect and earn it then they will give you it back and that makes for a better team spirit.
Fly: It is not just individuals it is working together as a team.
SM: And I think that is what the manager has tried to install since he has come into the football club.
Fly: I do think that comes across.
SM: Yes definitely. That is what he wants from his players and from Middlesbrough Football Club as a whole and I think he has voiced that on a few occasions through the media as well.
Fly: And the manager is trying to put an ethos on the way he wants the team to play as well.
SM: That’s right and I think he has done that this year. I think we have seen a vast improvement in the way we are playing. There are so many comparisons to last year and people will keep making them but I and other players will say we are a better side and better equipped than we were last year to go on and to push on. So, hopefully we can stop talking about it and do our talking on the pitch and let everyone see that.
Fly: The down side is our away form.
SM: It has been a complete flip round from last year, hasn’t it? I think the home form is like what the away form was this time last year. We really need to start picking up a lot more points away from home again like we were earlier on in the season if we are going to have a chance of getting automatically promoted. And when you are looking at it if you want to put pressure on the rest you can only afford to lose a handful of games until the end of the season if you want to get that second or first spot.
Fly: With us progressing so well in the cup we have an awful lot of fixtures to squeeze in.
SM: Yes I know. The cups are nice to have there but it is building up a lot more games that can take its toll. We have a big enough squad, like I say much better equipped than we were last year for that but even so when you’ve got to play big games especially like v Chelsea and give your all and then have a hard game a couple of days after.
Fly: We play Cardiff after.
SM: Well, there you go and even the one before it. Every game is important in the Championship and then you have got a big one like that in between. It is going to be tough to juggle it. It is totally up to the manager’s discretion on what he is going to do with that. He has got a lot of respect for FA Cup as do the players. There’s no getting away from it, it would be wonderful to play at Wembley in an FA Cup Final but if you are asking me to chose if it was that or promotion I think there is only one thing on my mind this year. There are 46 games you play a season for this. This is what you work for from day one in pre-season. It is the only thing on my mind but don’t get me wrong when we play Chelsea I will be out there to win.
Fly: Talking of cups we had a really good run in the Capital One Cup only going out to the eventual finalists, Swansea.
SM: That was a great experience playing against Sunderland and playing against Swansea, testing yourself against teams like that. We made very good accounts of ourself. It would be great if we were playing at that level every week. I believe the squad could do that but we’ve got to earn that by winning games in the Championship and getting promoted this year and then you can enjoy it and say you are a Premiership player which everyone at this football club would love to say.
Fly: We have that enormous spread of goalscorers this season but the manager has said one or two need to come out of the pack and grab far more. You and Lukas have done that over recent games but you have to keep it going don’t we?
SM: More and more. I want more goals and so does Lukas. And we have been guilty of missing quite a few chances between us as well. The important thing is we haven’t lost confidence in our abilities in front of goal and we will be always looking to get in the right positions and go again and try and score. I think if we can add a few more goals from other areas as well then it is only going to help our promotion push and I think that is where the manager is probably coming from in that.
Fly: You have sometimes been starting in a position on the left and getting into the box later maybe unmarked. Does that work well for you in terms of getting goals?
SM: Yes it works well. I’ve got no problem or issue playing out there. Preference always play up front, you are a striker, first and foremost. I’ll do anything that I’m asked to do and play the best I can for the team. To say I haven’t enjoyed it out there would be lying because I have.
Fly: You like to battle I think.
SM: Yes it has brought different things on in my game as well and you learn different things playing in a different position. I’ve enjoyed it so I can’t complain. Obviously there are times when you would want to play upfront but at the same time the manager makes the choices and I’ll just keep playing and trying as hard as I can to get in those positions no matter where I am.
Fly: For the team it is a case of being consistent and stringing wins together.
SM: Yes. It is important that you start getting a few wins back to back and that grows confidence also. If we can do that then I think there is a possibility that we can go on a nice little run again.
Fly: As we saw unfortunately from Leicester and Watford, lately.
SM: It has sort of been like that. We’ll go and then dip and then Leicester will go and then dip and Crystal Palace and Hull. Everyone has done it. It’s not just us and that what’s kept us in the race. The only ones that have stayed up there in the race are Cardiff and that’s why they are where they are. I think if someone was to get on a really, really good run then it possibly could take you away from the rest. So, hopefully that will be us.
Fly: Be the Reading of this season.
SM: Yes that would be nice.

(Photos – Tracy Hyman)


I wish every Sunday could be a Stornoway show.

When Stornoway come to Teesside you know that you will experience a very special night. A couple of years ago at the Westgarth they silenced the crowd as they switched off the amplification and played a couple of songs totally unplugged. It was hairs standing up on the back of your neck time and probably encouraged them to take this a step further and play a gig with almost no amplification at all at the Georgian Theatre last year. Stornoway came out of hibernation for that one off show, that’s how much they enjoy playing here and the respect is mutual. You can hear a pin drop at a Stornoway gig, as I say it is special.

On Sunday at the Westgarth Social Club it was another long ago sold out event and Liverpool one-woman-band Laura J Martin revelled in the atmosphere and the silence. An amazing musician Laura wields a flute as her lead instrument but also takes on keyboards and mandolin as well as duetting with Stornoway bass player on double bass. She loops her music and sometimes applies backing beats. It is music that spans folk, nu folk, classical, jazz and with her story telling vocals almost nursery rhyme and fantasy. She is definitely one to watch.

Laura introduced one song as being loosely about cockfighting an unlikely theme that would be repeated from Stornoway who it appears may have played in an old cockfighting pit the night before. There were to be many references to ghosts and sleep walking as humorous asides thrown in between the often heart rending or acutely observational songs of Stornoway. Starting with a beautiful violin solo Stornoway soon took the audience away on a wing and a long player into an evening of musical magic. Mixing songs from their forthcoming album with 2010 release Beachcomber’s Windowsill the Oxford indie folk band brought frequent whoops of delight from the crowd. They appear to be cultivating a fuller sound but still find room for such idiosyncrasies as incorporating a saw through wood, an axe and tearing paper, all as percussion.

From a big sound to almost complete calm and quiet, the instruments were unplugged and singer/guitarist Brian Briggs launched into a solo song. The band would later gather round for a tender four-part harmony that held everyone absolutely spell bound.  Then up went the mood again for some riotous feel-good moments. There must have been half the entire crowd singing along to Zorbing, “Lying in your attic, I can feel the static.” Wonderful.

I wish every Sunday could be a Stornoway show.

Robert Nichols


Photos – Tracy Hyman



Cafe Infinity and Beyond

There was an inspirational weekend by the Tees on offer when GNT Promotions compiled a programme of music and art in Stockton riverside’s Cafe Infinity. Hundreds of people joined the Mayor and Chief Executive of Stockton in viewing an art exhibition designed to Inspire Tees Valley. Next to the picture postcard windows overlooking the illuminated banks of the Tees musicians and poets performed cheek by jowl with fabulous paintings selected from artists from all over Teesside.

Chris Stewart took us downstream along the Black Path, Bob Beagrie through the mists of time around ancient tumuli and investigating the essence of the English. We were close by the replica of the Endeavour, a bad link I know to a people that view our Captain James Cook as the bringer of oppression. Playing the aboriginal didgeridoo in an entirely different way was James Worthington who combines the deep sounds with that of a beat box, you’ve never heard the like before. The night was closed by Originz, Dean Kitching playing a Hang Hang, an incredible ringing steel drum and Kev Howard on more traditional didgeridoo. A real mix then but isn’t Teesside?

Sarah Proctor

Great to hear Sarah Proctor delivering new material, Let Me Go, Only Way is Down and No Me and You were striking new compositions to start off Saturday in style from this most accomplished young singer/songwriter. Next a rare treat, the long established and prolific Carl Eaton. I would place Carl in the Elvis Costello and Roddy Frame bracket and it is always a joy to see/hear him perform. Carl mixed up old and new and mellow and faster paced material. Right on cue the green lights along theTeesswitched to a band of blue as Carl launched into the brand new Ocean Blue which followed hot on the heels of the gentle and enticing Only For You.

Final performer was John Harrison, with his croaky bluesy voice, he is instantly recognisable, instantly charming. Vocalist with Ragman’s Jukebox, John played the requested, “Love Song” in a set that mixed originals with stylised covers. The audience clapped along to Set My Soul On Fire which John revisited for an encore. His stripped back version of Trouble So Hard is as emotional as the sampled Moby rendition.

John Harrison

The weekend was a big success with money raised for Daisy Chain and A Way Out charities. In all eight pieces of artwork were sold including gold medallist Kat Copeland’s collage which fetched £250. A great tribute to the vision of young Lauren Duncan and Stephen Downey at GNT Media and an inspiration for the Tees music and art world. Look out for future art promotions by both GNT and Café Infinity.

Next exhibition is – Friday 1st March – Tomorrow Is Yesterday’s Today – A Solo Exhibition by IrvingART
(aka Stephen Irving)

(Photos above Tracy Hyman)