Pencil and Paper

Jam Grantham and Becki Harper – exhibition at Dorman Museum Open Gallery, 1st floor.

Do go along to the Dorman Museum and see a joint exhibition by two exciting young local illustrators.

Jam Grantham and Becki Harper are both ex Cleveland School of Art and Design students specialising in pencil drawings and illustration. Their work has a refreshingly playful tone. This is a selling exhibition and a chance to invest in bright, young, local artists.

Q: I know that you used to come to the Dorman Museum when you were a child living in Linthorpe.

B: Yes I did I grew up just around the corner so I visited here many times

Q: So it must be nice for you to exhibit here.

B: It is lovely, it is not something I ever would have imagined when I was younger. As I have grown up and gone on to focus on my art, this is such a good exhibition space, it is brilliant, I am very excited about it.

Q: With this being a museum I guess you will get a broader mix of people coming in too.

B: It’s good because it is very much a community museum and everyone comes here there are so many things on offer and I think it is nice to mix all the educational activities with art and the space is great because people pass through here to get to the other galleries, so a lot of people will get to see our work.

Q: You mention educational activities but you are actually going to give pointers as to how you produce the illustrations aren’t you?

J: Yes we have a little cabinet to show how we work. We have sketchbooks, pencils and bits of media that we use. We started at Cleveland College of Art and Design just around the corner, so this will show how we found our feet, found our way of how we work.

B: It is good to show people the process, from ideas to the final piece of work. And also we have got some colouring in sheets for the kids so it makes things more interactive as well.

Q: Definitely. And with it being in the Dorman it is picking up on how you started to be inspired Becki.

B: Yes a lot of work is very children orientated especially Jam’s work. It is nice to make things that appeal to everybody. A lot of art is more grown up based so it is good to appeal to families.

J: We are both quite heavily into books an aspect that we try and get across in our work is that it is for the children but the parents buy the books so it has to appeal to them as well as the child. I work from what I know, childhood events. Things that make me laugh.

Q: I picked up from the pre publicity that you like to put together unlikely juxtapositions.

J: Yes I just like unusual pairings for example like my granddad, he is big man with a big, bushy beard and tattoos I thought it was funny as a little boy.

B: You used to think he was a sailor.

J: Oh yes when I was a little boy I thought he was a bit of a pirate with his own ship but it was only maybe five years ago that my elder sister told me that he was a bus driver. It was simply because he went fishing all the time and his tattoos and with his beard as well. So he was very inspiring for a lot of stories.

Q: You both live in York now?

B: We do yes. We went away to study in Bristol because the University was good for art and we fancied a change but living down there we it was missed our families and missed the way of life up here. So we moved to York it was somewhere we visited before we left and its nice place to settle and it is easy to get to all the other major northern cities

Q: Are you going to coming up quite a bit while this exhibition is on?

B: Probably yes. We do come back quite a lot. I run events here such as the Switch Off  event in the Dundas Arcade later this week. It is nice that we have gone away and made new relationships and still have old ones as well. It is like we have done a full circle really from moving away we have got friends all over the country now. Networking.

Q: I have looked at a couple of pieces of your work and there seems to be a sense of real nostalgia in what you do.

B: Yes and especially your work Jam you look at things that you enjoyed when you were growing up.

J: I am an 80s child and I am heavily influenced by old television shows and old toys. I am strongly inspired by what I was like when I was a child. Looking back. I had messy hair. I was very accident prone. I later on developed this into my art showing me getting into mischief.

B: A lot of my work I really am inspired by vintage graphic. I love the look, the hand made feel and the colours as well especially. So that is something that I try to do bring a lot into my work. I really enjoy creating things by hand. So it is a homage to that era where most things were painted. I really admire the skills that artists back then used to have.



No one let the rain get them down last Saturday as a big musical night out at The Crown was the place to be, seven live acts coming together to play at Oxjam Teesside.

Oxjam is Oxfam’s month-long music festival running throughout October it encompasses hundreds of live events right round the UK. All the organisers love their local music scenes and want to raise awareness and funds for the important work of Oxfam.

Coming in out of the cold and the rain the moody, instrumentals of Light Vessel Automatc soon had everyone warmed up and tuned in. Building to a crescendo of jackhammer guitars and sledgehammer drums we were inducted into Oxjam with a bang not a whimper.

The deep, deep vocals and dark matter of Dead New Blood continued the guitar blasting energetic start to the evening. Playing in front of the big pink Oxjam posters, the Saltburn band showed exactly why they are building a reputation as the invigorating new kids on the block.

No School Reunion“We All Make Mistakes,” sang Phil Saunders of No School Reunion and then admitted their school boy error was to eat far too big a tea. It should be only Special K on gig day added the bass player. The kebab overload did not prevent Phil from surging through the crowd, shrieking “Death Breath” about an ex girlfriend before switching tack to a critique of vampire fiction on the wonderfully titled, “Bleeding from the Start.”

Also suffering was North Yorkshire singer songwriter Pip Mountjoy. One too many drinks in Sheffield the night before apparently but it did nothing to tarnish the quality of either her set or  stitching around the home made CD covers to singles, “Your Skeleton.” The 19 year old played the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury this year and the clever word play as well as delightful tunes certainly sets Pip apart.

There was the promise of “Ruby Red Kisses” from Davey Bandyman as the crowds started to gather on the circus ring shaped dancefloor of The Crown. Cellar Door are yet another promising up and coming young band. Tremulous guitars, rapier vocals and a driving beat blaze a trail that final band Abel Raise The Cain had to follow. ARTC is a band with the ambition and audacity to really go for it in every song. A flood of guitar upon guitar and keyboards rise to the challenge set by a vocalist reaching out to the top of the ghostly circle in this former cinema. Recently played on Hollyoaks, tonight they bring the house down with an epic headlining performance.

Look out for a second Oxjam event in Middlesbrough at the Westgarth Social Club on Saturday 26th October featuring the Broken Broadcast, Alistair Sheerin, Dressed Like Wolves and General Sherman.

Robert Nichols


William Tillyer – From Hardware to mima

Described as “the most inventive artist of his generation” by the esteemed American poet and critic John Yau, William Tillyer is better known worldwide than here on his own doorstep but this major Tillyer Fest in October should change all that

William Tillyer launches two exhibitions simultaneously today at mima and Platform A. It is like a homecoming for the Middlesbrough born artist, a big name in international art circles but probably not so well known in his own back yard.

I was lucky enough to meet up with the artist in his studio that occupies a unit in the industrial estate that lies between Stokesley and the Cleveland Hills.

The mima retrospective will chart a long and distinguished 50 year career through more than 100 oil paintings, watercolours, sculptures and drawings. The colours and textures of the compositions are stunning visually and the scale of some of the works breath taking.

There will be new work included, the mighty waterfall High Force will be captured by a towering depiction, the first thing you will see on entering the exhibition space at mima.

Many of William Tillyer’s abstracted landscapes and seascapes are inspired by the north east and Cleveland Hills. They are bound to attract much attention. The way the artist works is very unusual. He is a landscape painter with an unusual and fascinating method in applying paint to the surface by pushing it through a metal mesh. It could be an exploration of tension between man and nature. Is the mesh controlling and ordering or has it’s authority and jurisdiction been swamped?

This will be a celebration of the work of an astonishingly talented local artist admired by artists, critics and collectors worldwide including David Bowie.

Q: Looking at the grids you use for your work reminds me of Middlesbrough and the fact that our streets are built on a grid.

WT: That’s true Middlesbrough does have a very strict grid plan. In that way it does remind me of other grids and plans in America. New York is an obvious example. But many American towns are like that. Middlesbrough has a history of having a very strict street plan,particularly around the old town, which is always called Over the Border, when you go under the railway arch. But this is nothing to do with that except in the sense that grids are a part of our everyday life and appear in street plans. Even the pixilation on our tv screens. So it much broader than being connected with Middlesbrough.

Q: It must be great for you to having these two exhibitions and be recognised in your home town?

WT: Well that is one thing about a show here I am not recognised in my home town.

Q: You might be soon..

WT: I am not known terribly well in this region. Obviously with the kind of activity we are talking about now I may be known a bit more which would be nice. But I don’t think my work will be well bought by local people simply because it is priced on a national or international basis. Nevertheless, I would be very happy if it was.

Q: You must be pleased about having three exhibitions simultaneously (Danby Lodge National Park Visitor Centre, Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough Station and mima).

WT: Oh yes absolutely. I don’t know whether I mentioned there was going to be a fourth at Harewood House but unfortunately that got cancelled due to their problems. Some have referred to this as a sort of Tillyer Fest. So, jokingly my gallery are calling it a Tillyer Fest.

Q: You were born in Middlesbrough?

WT: I was, I was born in Acklam and then many years later my parents moved to Newport (Middlesbrough). They ran hardware stores in Middlesbrough. The most well known one was right opposite the Cenotaph and Albert Park, what is now Central Park was my father’s hardware store.

Q: Oh most people will know Central Park and many might remember the hardware store. In those days we were from Yorkshire, weren’t we?

WT: Yes we are Yorkshiremen, absolutely. A lot of people forget that about Middlesbrough.

Q: You have an exhibition at Danby in the heart of the North Yorks national park.

WT: Yes and they have a great connection to the Middlesbrough conurbation. Basically it is where people go when they go out for the day to the countryside.

That has always been incredibly important for me, all that countryside, particularly to the south of Teesside, the national park area, the moors and the beaches, which are vast spaces, certainly in an English sense. But the moors are huge spaces, it is very exciting.

Q: And very accessible.

WT: Absolutely. So that is a very good reason to be here.

Q: Entering your studio I was struck by the scale and the way the colour works. I think people will certainly be very impressed at mima.

WT: Oh well I like big. I love colour. So, perhaps we will get some fans on Teesside.

Exhibitions details:

mima William Tillyer: Major Retrospective – 25 October 2013  – 9 February 2014 (launch event Thurs 24th)

Platform A Middlesbrough Railway Station –  Fri 25th Oct -5th December 2013 (launch event Thurs 24th)

‘The Tyranny of the Picture Plane and Other Pressure Tools’ William Tillyer.

An exhibition of new works by the well respected artist William Tillyer coinciding with his retrospective at mima.


The Moors National Park Centre, Danby.


Thursday 26 September to Sunday 3 November

Watercolour drawings and works on paper by William Tillyer.

(Photos Tracy Hyman)



Rediscover Hemlington Lake

At first glance it might appear like a backwater in Middlesbrough’s southern estates but look a little closer and Hemlington Lake is a hive of activity.

The shoreline that is today ringed by wooden fishing piers has been around for a good few years now. I used to swim in it after school on occasional warm summer evenings in the 1970s. That was before there was an outbreak of tadpoles in the water.

On Wednesdays I run around the perimeter in my pale blue Swift-Tees shirt along with up to a hundred others looking for our midweek fitness fix. There are dog walkers, kids on bikes, and young footballers on their way to the adjacent football pitch. Every now and then as I sprint round a corner of the lake I catch a glance of a heron on the far bank.

Last week Tracy and I had a few minutes to spare after wandering around nearby Larchfield on a Discover Middlesbrough open day. This time there was no running to be done. We had followed the brown Hemlington Lake traffic signs to a car park overlooking the water. The leaden sky was threatening rain but just before it turned into a mini deluge we had a chance to wander over and glance at the ducks bobbing about on the water. There was big splash as a fish leaped from the drink. Maybe a Tench? One of the many wildlife information boards around the lake told me that tench are amongst the fish lurking here.

When I said ducks I did of course also mean swans, Canadian geese and coots with their delightful, almost plastic looking white faces a perfect contrast to the black feathers. On a small man-made raft (I know the lake is all man made) were three cormorants stretching their wings. Well, at least they were every time we put our camera phones down.

The surrounding shrubbery was beginning to turn autumnal russet colours. It was a splendid place to wander in October.

I will be back there this Wednesday evening lapping the lake with Swift-tees. Please feel free to come down and join us. No money needed. After 6pm, run, jog or walk around the lake. If you do bring 20p you can have a warming cup of tea afterwards. If you are lucky someone might have brought in home made cakes.

A week on Wednesday, 30th October Swift-Tees are inviting everyone to take part in a special fancy dress Halloween 5k handicap run with a spooky party afterwards. See you down by the lake.

Cameraphone snaps – Tracy Hyman


Discover Larchfield

I’ve driven past hundreds of times but this week was the first time I have ever visited Larchfield Community and what a warm welcome I found waiting for me there.

Situated on the outskirts of old Hemlington on what we have always called the back road to Stokesley, the signs to Larchfield Community welcome everyone to visit the Wheelhouse Café and shop.

Founded in the mid 1980s the farm is under the stewardship of the Camphill Village Trust, they have been managing Botton Village in the moors for 70 years now. Larchfield offers a wonderfully enriching environment for adults with disabilities.

On Tuesday Discover Middlesbrough there was an open invite to wander around paths over the 180 acres of farmland. Sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens were munching in the fields. Whilst boxes of apples freshly picked from the orchard were bound for the shop, well stocked with fresh farm produce as well as eco-friendly detergents and washing liquids. Larchfield is very much a practising green community.

After the wander we were in need of a delicious warming bowl of butternut squash soup and warm freshly baked bread. We then set off to explore the source of the impressive craft items also on sale at the shop. At the craft workshop Sarah showed us round, Bruce was keen to demonstrate his skills in working with felt. The finished item would be a really fetching Christmas stocking.

The workshop was a hive of industry, with jewellery making in one corner and what looked like clippie mats being assembled in another. Larchfield uses wool from the farm’s own sheep dyed naturally to make many of their craft items.

In a second room Mike was being assisted by Ian in screen printing bags that are selling like the hot cakes they are near to in the shop.

Both Sarah and Mike were keen to involve the Larchfield residents in every part of the process. They are also determined to produce a very high quality finished product. Something they are achieving without doubt. The craft workshops recently won an award for their excellence allowing them to amongst other things upgrade their display in the shop.

Bruce, Ian and co were concentrating hard on their tasks and finding obvious enjoyment and fulfilment from putting their new skills into action. Everything stopped for tea break though. Too right it looks like thirsty work to me.

You can visit the café and shop between 9 to 4pm Monday to Friday. There is a Christmas fayre at Larchfield on Saturday 30th November.

For more information about Larchfield and the Camphill Visit Trust please visit

 Photos – Tracy Hyman