“GO ON BORO” Helping Teessiders Get Online


A project to help people on Teesside get online was launched at the Riverside Stadium last week with the help of MFC Foundation. With the advent of the Universal Credit and the push for this to be almost exclusively online there is an urgent need for the less resourced of the population to have access to the skills and facilities.

Former Boro star and BBC Tees expert analyst Craig Hignett was host of the “Go on Boro” event, which featured guest speakers including Andy McDonald Middlesbrough’s new MP, Iain Sim, Chief Executive Officer of Coast & Country Housing, and Mike Hopkins, Principal of Middlesbrough College.

The project, which is also supported by the Professional Footballers Association and Unionlearn, is designed to increase digital training and extend the number of places at which people can obtain online support, such as libraries and shops.

Attendees were asked to become “digital champions” alongside Craig and former Boro goalkeeping great, Jim Platt. Also speaking at the event was Stockton’s own Osher Williams, a former Boro apprentice who went to Man U and then Stockport County and is now Assistant Education Officer at the Professional Footballers Association. It was Osher that Jim Platt had to turn to when he needed to learn how to use a PC and log on for his work with the MFC Former Players Association. Jim had to be shown where the On/Off button was in his first lesson. He can now tweet and skype and knows all the jargon and maintained if he can learn this then everyone can.

More than 32,000 adults in Middlesbrough alone have never used the internet, and in Stockton more than 5,000 children do not have internet access at home.

As Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald pointed out increasingly government benefits will be paid out online only and with almost 80 per cent of jobs requiring basic IT skills and almost 90 per cent of vacancies now advertised online, this is a problem that Go on Boro is attempting to overcome.


Spring Is Here With Sly Digs and To Kill a King


Spring is in the air and the gigs are springing forth from venues right across Teesside at the moment. This is a review of two gigs that contrast in all ways apart from quality, both in the same week in central Middlesbrough. To Kill A King dropped in on the way between a gig in Glasgow and their homes in London to provide a wonderful Sunday afternoon of rich harmonies amongst the fragrant odours of exotic teas and delicious looking cakes at the Olde Young Tea House. The Thursday before it was more riotously uplifting entertainment at Dr Browns 4Play as a mix of young up and coming acts and high powered rock’n’roll from Flicknife record darlings Sly Digs.

Local 4-piece The Stations got the show on the road at 4Play with their intense indie guitars and hooky melodies. Ones to note down and watch out for in future. I was surprised to see Gavin Bongi of The Smiles still standing next to me as the band took to the stage. It looks like there must have been a coup, sad not to see the contributions of the former lead singer and songwriter. The new vocal points are gritty and earthy. The energy and enthusiasm of their teenage drummer is infectious as he rolls around his kit.

Alistair Sheerin has been with Grass Routes, the 4Play promoter, from the very start. The sharply dressed mod influenced singer guitarist is a natural entertainer and got the crowd on their feet. With rocket fuelled rockers, mod-pop and incendiary indie the weekend had started early on a Thursday night as party time descended on Dr Browns with Alistair Sheerin Band.

Sly Digs have exploded out of the north west and wowed audiences all over Britain with the kind of high energy guitar indie rock that has also seen them wow the NME with their debut single, ‘Electric Love.’ In Dr Browns they soon had everyone leaping around as they ripped through a set of big blasting guitar lines and infectious choruses. They have the hairstyles and the songs to strike  gold.

Over at The Olde Young Tea House on Sunday the almost whispered voices of To Kill A King  silenced any crackle of conversation. Earlier young Fran Muriel had captured our hearts with her lilting voice and gentle plinky plonk of the ukelele. Her songs of Zombie revenge and white trash chav heaven entertained and indeed informed. To Kill A King, with just an acoustic, hand claps and a home made shaker, relied on their golden harmonies. Wonderful they were too. Having just finished a headline tour for their new album To Kill A King were now performing without microphones and amplification and casting a spell over all in this intimate setting.

Until next week.

Words:Robert Nichols

Photos: Tracy Hyman @pinkpopple


Be Quiet Shout Loud Mix It Up


Be Quiet Shout Loud piled on the double keyboard attack when they took on a bouyant Mixtape in Middlesbrough recently. As everyone’s feet caught the beat it was midweek party time courtesy of Middlesbrough’s finest electro-disco-indie band bar none.

The ever extrovert singer Jake Radio stomped around the stage, never quiet, always loud in attire as well as extrovert vocals. In fact he plunged far beyond the stage and roamed out into the crowd regaling us with a new song, an emotional tearjerker, inspired by the plight of the homeless in this endless winter of discontent.

The drummer bobbed and weaved about his kit as the two keyboard players picked out their notes with studious concentration. The big men on the guitars got on with the job, disco bass added to driving drumming, with soaring guitar providing high flying melody and elevating chorus line.

Dave Bass

Mr Radio sung of the despair of being stuck in a hole of a town, where there is nothing left for you. But Be Quiet Shout Loud are not the kind of band to settle for a week of Mondays they make things happen with electrifying performances or individually and collectively put on shows for others to light up the Boro.

Be Quiet Shout Loud

There was one final fling of willing audience participation, as the band cried “Be Quiet,” we replied “Shout Loud” followed by a storming cover version of Disco Inferno. Down on the John Travolta Night Fever dance floor the band blasted through Burn Baby Burn… and though it was freezing cold outside the heat was on and Be Quiet Shout Loud were rising to the top.

Be Quiet Shout Loud Mixtape The Keys, Middlesbrough

Photos by Lauren Close


Bob Log III/Witch Hands – Green Room

Wow what a phenomenon. Last week Bob Log blasted into town all the way from Tucson, Arizona like some sonic whirlwind. Dressed in his cannonball outfit, singing through a telephone taped to a golden space helmet and twanging his old battered guitars he also had two drum machines on the end of his feet. He produced the noise of several guitars and the roar of a whole row of drummers. Unique and as I say a total phenomenon. And he was magnificent. Goddamit.

Witch HandsWitch Hands is our own one woman band. Dressed in a golden dress and a broad brimmed hat Witch Hands plucked her echoey guitar and pounded the percussion. But don’t get too close to that theremin Witch Hands. Woooooooww. “Why Don’t You Get Your Body Next To Mine?” Witch Hands cast her spell over the sell out Green Room audience and everyone crowded round under her musical vibe. You can listen to one of Witch Hands songs on the current NARC compilation CD.

Surfing across the top of the audience in a luminous lime green rubber dinghy is just about the best entrance ever in the Green Room’s one year history. “I Think I just blew my own mind,” announced Mr Bob Log III in his glorious Midwest American accent before punching the air in triumph.

Bob Log had made an opening statement of intent and sitting astride his drum stool launched straight into a set of stripped back, stripped down party blues. “Cos that’s all I do, there ain’t no choice in the matter.”

Each twiddly blues song ended with him jumping to his feet and punching the air, whipping up a storm of approval from the crowd. The stage could have been made for him he added because his clenched fist salute touched the ceiling.

Bob Log asked us to imagine we were back 100 years and joining him in his cabin for a banjo recital. Goddamit. The man in the blue jump suit beckoned two lovelies to come down and ride on his drum machine legs as he serenaded them with a love song to the back of their necks. Veronica and Priscilla answered the call (“You don’t have to say your real name,” he whispered loudly). No sooner had the ladies departed than Bob Log decided to leave the confines of the stage, setting his drum machines to pound away as he wandered through the crowd and outside into the streets of Stockton.

He was soon back in from the cold and enticing us to get “wiggling.” Soon the whole place was indeed wiggling. A writhing mass of wiggling bodies at the Green Door as he re-christened it. He swapped over instruments after gently waking up his sleeping spare guitar, which had been having “guitar dreams,” back stage.

Bob Log kick started his drum machines one more time and played furiously. Riotously, even. If we all danced or “wiggled” then Bob Log maintained that the world might move and eventually the Green Door walls would be forced apart and the intimate venue would get bigger. That would mean on his return more people would be able to enjoy and be inspired by the greatness that is Bob Log III. Goddamit that would be amazing.

But for now the 60 or so lucky souls had shared a mind blowing experience with Bob Log III. Goddamit.

All photos by Karen Aitchison




The Lake Poets Pride in April


Sometimes an event is so special it requires you to break all the usual rules and conventions. For me The Lake Poets capture the very essence of being brought up in a post industrial north east town. The band that assembles around singer/songwriter Martin Longstaff is drawn from the other end of the A19 and very proud of it too. But when Martin sings you know he is voicing the thoughts, emotions and hopes of all of us. When it was announced that a new The Lake Poets single, April, was going to be launched at the Mining Institute in Newcastle, I had to be there. Only eight pounds for an intimate show in one of the most incredible, historic and atmospheric buildings in the whole region is a bargain. Three acts that might all be from north of here but all have made a significant impact around the Tees.

This Little Bird, Rebecca Young, is from Seaham, on the CountyDurham coast. She sings songs about the people she has grown with and lost loves but her final word is upbeat, that romance is not dead. When she sings a number called Tattoo it is a metaphor for a person, rather than a description. She gets far closer to her subject than skin deep.

Lilliput deliver the kind of harmonies that stop you in your tracks. Favourites of Boro striker Lukas Jutkiewicz this Sunderland alternative folk band stunned the crowd when supporting Ethan Johns at the Georgian Theatre and also wowed a packed Green Room at Stockton Calling. “What a room,” whispered one of the singers and all the marble statues, stained glass windows and the ornate barrel vaulted ceiling certainly does hush you into respect. In The Dreams their voices glide and shimmer like the gilded wooden panels far above our heads.

Martin starts his gig solo, watching the world from his window sill but there are no fears and doubts from the audience who are stilled to pindrop silence. His guitar dampened, the golden voice is allowed to take centre stage. Gradually Martin is joined on stage by musicians as the performance builds. By the wonderful new single, April, there is a full string section, pedal steel guitar as well as the harmonica, guitars and drums that normally make up The Lake Poets band. From pin drops to tear drops as Martin introduces North View dedicated to his nana so stricken with dementia she has to be told that her husband has slipped away some months back.

Martin finished with a rousing version of his first single, City By The Sea. He then returned solo again for an emotional encore of Shipyards including a line for his granddad, if you could see me now I hope that I am making you proud. Wouldn’t he just. The LakePoets pride of the north east.

Photos – Tracy Hyman www.tracyhymanphotography.co.uk    twitter @pinkpopple

The Lake Poets Lecture