International Exchanges:Modern Art and St Ives 1915-1965

Whisper it quietly there are some very big names amongst the artwork being exhibited in mima at the moment. Patrick Heron, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Wassily Kandinsky and Mark Rothko are all included in the exhibition on display until January. The work of the famous St Ives school of artists is viewed from a fresh perspective. Not from the point of view of their isolation in the tiny Cornish fishing village but as interacting in art movements that swept across Europe and the Atlantic in the wake of political, economic and wartime upheaval.

Juan Gris, Overlooking the Bay, 1921. Oil paint on canvas, 63.5 x 96.5 cm. Tate

International exchanges reflects on how in a pre-internet age old fashioned letters and gallery visits could influence the artists settling in the small fishing village of St Ives to rise to the top as an international hub for art. The exhibition is a national collaboration between mima and the Tate St Ives bringing some incredible modern artwork up to Middlesbrough.

It is always inspiring to view the smooth lines of sculptures by Henry Moore. Put some of his work next to the angular sculpted portrait of Modigliani or works from mima’s own collection and you start to see trends and influences. No man is an island even in St Ives.

You have to wonder what it was like to be in St Ives in the early 20th century with artists of the calibre of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson working here. Peter Lanyon’s glider influenced paintings are also represented in an ambitious long distance loan from the Tate Gallery in the far south west of Cornwall. Maybe they hark back to a genuine former St Ives fisherman and later revered primitive painter Alfred Wallis whose works are represented here. Wallis died in the workhouse but after his death his paintings and ceramics would sell for substantial sums.

Photo above by Tracy Hyman

There are actually some works whose scale is too big to get through the gallery doors in Cornwall, so maybe there will be tourists making a journey north east to view them for the first time.

Many influences are discussed and showcased here. Artists were in the forefront of very political times responding to fascism on canvas before the Second World War. After that conflict the materials themselves began to be an important element in textural sculpture or the explosive paintings of Jackson Pollock.

They were big times and the artistic response was very bold indeed. Amazing to think that a sleepy fishing village could become such a hive of international activity. But then again 100 years ago the first successful trans-Alantic wireless signals were sent from Cornwall by Marconi, so maybe it should not come as much of a surprise to us.

I would urge you to explore the artwork and read up about these momentous times as you sweep through the galleries. This was art that carried profound messages that would resonate right down the twentieth century. Do take a look.
Mima is free to visit – opening Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat 10-4.30pm. Late on Thursday’s 10am – 7pm. Sunday is noon to 4pm. Closed Mondays. There is a cafe and free car parking for 2 hours. Though it is a popular spot being so close to the town centre.

Situated next to the Middlesbrough Library and Town Hall. Look out for the brown mima signposts.



The Boro Is The Best Club in World – John Hickton Ayresome Memories

It is very nearly 20 years now since John Hendrie scored the final league goal at AyresomePark. It would be a goal that would ultimately clinch promotion to the top flight. A promotion that would be celebrated in a brand spanking new gleaming white state of the art ground. The Riverside was like our own mini Wembley. The great Gillandi described the scene on our first game v Chelsea as everyone swan necking, hardly able to believe the view. It was a brave new age we were embarking upon. Yet football and following a club is based upon tradition and collective memories and 20 years on those memories of Ayresome Park absolutely refuse to fade away.

A whole generation never experienced standing on The Holgate, after perhaps peeing in the open top bogs and queuing for half an hour right down Addison Road, barking at the club for being tight and not opening all the turnstiles again. Of course the decision to have that last pint in the Yella or the Red Rose was neither here nor there.

There were some incredible, heady times. The devastation of a few relegations, the ecstasy of promotions. Great players, Mannion, Hardwick, Camsell and Clough. There was Fenton, Williamson, Spuhler and Ugolini. And then from my generation Charlton’s Champions and later Bruce’s babes, rising from the Ashes of liquidation. Big stories. Our stories.

Ayresome Park was of course a World Cup venue, hosting one of the greatest shocks ever to ripple the status quo of international football, North Korea defeating the mighty Italy. It was famed for its fantastic pitch. And woe betide anyone who tried to tread on the turf between matches, groundsman Wilf Atkinson would have your card marked.

So many Ayresome Park Memories are contained within this volume. The times and testimony of players and of course the supporters. Many of the great games over the years are recreated in words and pictures. There is even an update about life after football and the sculpture trail that commemorates past Ayresome glories.

If you haven’t got this book in your collection already you really do need it. If you bought the first version then it must be very nearly worn out now after 20 years of furious thumbing. You need a replacement. There are some new features in any case with a foreword by the final scorer, Johnny Hendrie.

To many eyes this is THE definitive book for Boro fans. The story of old Ayresome, our home for nearly a century. Rightly described as “a peerless book that takes Boro fans on a fascinating and nostalgic journey back through the history of their club in the 20th century.”

Backed by The Gazette and lovingly compiled by Mr Memorabilia himself Long John Wilson the old Boro scribe Eric Paylor  – a mere £14.99 – has to be top of everyone’s list for Christmas.

I joined the queues in WH Smiths, Middlesbrough as Ayresome Park Memories 20th Anniversary edition was launched. Queues that snaked around and outside the shop. At the head of the queue sat John Wilson, Eric Paylor and mine and I’ll bet nearly everyone from my generation’s favourite player, Big John Hickton.

John had just celebrated his 70th birthday and as he tells us in the interview that entailed a family gathering with some golf thrown in. John is still playing off a handicap of 10. This is so typical of a quiet, humble, family man off the pitch but a fierce competitor on it. Just pause for a moment to look at John Hickton’s vital Boro statistics.

Third highest appearances for Boro – 458 (24 sub) in total and 395 starts in the league. Loyalty.

Fourth highest goalscorer in our history 159 in the League and 185 in all competitions – consistency. He scored 6 hat tricks for us. He was top scorer for an amazing 6 seasons in a row. He then topped the charts again for us in the top flight in 1975-76 with 13 goals. No wonder every schoolboy wanted to be John Hickton in playground games. No wonder they were still queuing up round the block over 35 years after he left the club. Truly a Boro legend. And chock full of Ayresome Park Memories.


Fly: You celebrated your 70th birthday recently I believe.

JH: Yes, it was very nice. I had a long birthday, 3 days golfing at Slaley Hall, Northumberland with about 20 others. I went out with daughter and son for the actual day. Also I had a game of golf down near Derby which we won; we came first in a competition. So it was quite a nice birthday.

Fly: It must be nice to come back and meet so many people here who remember you well.

JH:  It is like my home, Middlesbrough, I actually love it. My daughter was born here. There is a reason to come back. The fans treat me fantastic when I do come back. I have got some very happy memories of AyresomePark. That is why we are here Ayresome Park Memories book launch and it is appropriate because I had great time there, 13 great years.

Fly: It is amazing to think it is 20 years now since AyresomePark was the home of the Boro.

JH: Yes it has gone pretty quick. They picked a new ground, the Riverside it is a good stadium. But for me you will never beat AyresomePark. The pitch was fantastic and the atmosphere you used to get there was brilliant.

Fly: What sort of memories to people have of you at Ayresome?

JH: They remember certain goals. When I scored in the FA Cup against Man United. They say it was the best goal you ever scored. And people say you were one of the best players that ever played for Middlesbrough. Which is nice to hear all those years later. It is a long time since I have been away and people still remember which is nice.

Fly: People must recall with you the two penalties…

JH: Against Sunderland? They all remember penalties I get that a lot.

Fly: You took an incredibly long run up but you told me that you actually kicked it with your instep when you reached the ball. Is that right?

JH: Oh yes. What I tried to do was to build up tension by taking a long run. It did work. There was nothing wrong with it. I basically tried to intimidate the goalkeeper. Make him think about it.

Fly: He had a lot of time to think about it as you were on that long run in. But for a lot of forwards they can suffer with too much time to think about it when on a one on one with the keeper. You were turning the tables there, then and putting the pressure on the goalkeeper.

JH: Oh yes I would like the goalkeeper to think about and wonder where I was going to put it. I picked a corner. It could be either side and I just side footed into that corner.

Fly: Is that the important thing not changing your mind.

JH: Yes, sticking with it. Even if he went the right way he never really stopped it. I put it really in the corner with power.

Fly: You were strong in the air as well and brave.

JH: I could do most things. I wasn’t intimidated. I had a good header and I have got two good feet as well, left and right.

Fly: It must have been a great feeling for you having played all those games and scored so many goals in the old Second Division to finally get promotion under Jack Charlton into the top flight.

JH: When I was at Sheffield Wednesday we were in the First Division when I came here they were in the old Third Division. It took me eight years to get back in the old First Division but it was worth it in the end. I think the supporters appreciated as well.

Fly: It was a very good team that went up.

JH: It was, yes. Excellent.

JH: But it was a hotbed of football in the north east and that is the reason I came to Middlesbrough. For me they were the best club in the world, still are and always will be and that is really why I came.



Chris Tomlinson is Moving Forward For Middlesbrough

I met up with Olympic Long jumper Chris Tomlinson at Teesside University where he was helping to launch the Extra Life.

Extra Life is a new preventative approach which will see four of Teesside’s largest employers working in collaboration for the first time to improve work environments and boost the health and wellbeing of staff, students and the local community.

Chris took the stage to speak out passionately for his hometown and how Extra Life could make such a big difference to the town and people he clearly loves so dearly.

Afterwards Chris continued to speak out from the heart appealing for people to give Middlesbrough centre a chance and like himself really back the town.

Q: You seem to be very passionate about Middlesbrough.

Chris Tomlinson: Yes, it is as simple as that really. I did move away. I moved to London, I moved up to Newcastle originally and then I lived in a nice part of London, to say the least and now I have moved back to Linthorpe and a few people have asked me the question, why have you come back there? But it is nice. Everyone is friendly. I have great family living round the corner. The house itself is very nice, it is a hundred year old with period features.

The town is on the up. I get fed up with it always having a bad reputation. Why is it, if we do come back to Teesside why does everyone have to live in Yarm, Eaglescliffe or Hutton Rudby etc. I’ve chosen to come back and live in Linthorpe. I still have my place in London, fortunately but I do live my life in Middlesbrough.

Q: The event we have come along to today, Extra Life must be not just for your generation but for the next generation too.

CT: Yes. My kids go to a local nursery and they will hopefully be going to St Edward’s School for a few years. I have had this conversation a number of times, why do people feel that they have to move away. We have great primary schools in the town and also better primary than senior schools and we need to try and improve that. Why is it that when my kids get to 9 and 10 do I have to feel that I am going to move out to Yarm or Eaglescliffe? We have got to improve the senior schools. We have to come together as a town because we have got some great stuff, we have got a great University, we have got a great NHS, James Cook Hospital and we have got a great (Middlesbrough) College. There are a lot of opportunities here. And I am passionate about the town, the people are hard working and they’re friendly and everyone has support for one another and let’s move forwards. Let’s not be where everyone that does something leaves the town and says I’m not coming back or if they do come back move further out. Let’s try to come together and move the town forwards.

Q: I have met you before at other initiatives for the town. I remember you launching the Golden Mile for kids.

CT: Yes that was about a year and half ago wasn’t it? It was a great idea. That was another initiative trying to support the town. It was basically encouraging all children to run, swim, cycle, walk a mile whatever. It was about getting children out being healthy. People sometimes say it is all right for him he is an international long jumper, an Olympic athlete but there is much more to it than that. It is about living a healthy lifestyle. At Clairville there were hundreds and hundreds of kids there on a weekly basis. Not everybody is necessarily going to be the next Usain Bolt but what they can do is that they can learn some good key life skills there. You can learn about nutrition, you can learn about friendship, you can learn about being hard working. Those life skills at a young age are very important. It is not all winning. It is about what you gain from it.

Q: And you come together as a community and look out for each other.

CT: Yes exactly. I think it is important that we do that in this town and we do come together as a community and we do look out for one another because sometimes you Again I am fortunate enough to go away and travel the world and I have lived in some nice places and why is it you gets some stick about it and why do you have to say oh the outskirts are nice? Or you want to go to the hills. Why can’t we see we have got some gorgeous houses in Linthorpe. There’s a great community, there’s a lot of diversity there. Get yourself down Linthorpe Road and you will get one of the best curries in the country. Why don’t we start to publicise it a bit more.

Q: Absolutely. And Extra Life today the four big employers coming together to help make a real difference to peoples lives. These are agents in the sectors that touch nearly everyone’s lives. They can make a difference surely?

CT: Yes, exactly, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that these are the big four employers in the town. And to repeat myself we have got a great university and college and we’ve got a great hospital. It is a unique opportunity where the employers have come together and they are trying to work together to move forward. It has got to be a positive thing for the town and now it is up to the people of the town to come together and move forwards as well.

Let’s be proud of where we are. The town is up and coming now. I walked down Baker Street and it is nice there. I went for a nice meal in central Middlesbrough, it is coming on. Let’s make this the start of something.


To Boro From Belgium With Love

Two weeks ago I was privileged to be given the job of taking a Belgian tv and media crew on a brief guided tour around Middlesbrough. The trip was organised by Yaffa Phillips at Middlesbrough Council with Lesley Williamson Regional Manager Northern Europe for VisitEngland for the media crew to interview Boro striker Jelle Vossen. Pronounced Yell-a, they told me. After the interview my instructions were to give them a flavour of the town that their man was coming to play for. I am pleased to report back that the guys and Lesley were mightily impressed.

“I think he is probably the nicest man in football,” that was TV Limburg frontman Dave Peters summing up of Jelle Vossen. So a top, top guy by all accounts. Apparently Jelle’s father was also a professional footballer and Dave and the crew described him as so down to earth he is almost underground. Incidentally the guys from the film crew whispered to me that interviewer Dave Peters is as much a star name in Belguim as international footballer Jelle Vossen.

It is for this reason that it could take the Belgian international a little while to find his feet in a new country, culture and football league. Yet he will be given time and with the team playing so well there is not the pressure or urgency from the fans or club. Imagine how important and perhaps decisive it could be for our promotion chances should Jelle really click in the New Year. To get a goalscorer of his undoubted calibre scoring goal after goal could be the final ingredient to push us over the promotion finishing line.

I’m getting ahead of myself here but we can all dream. Probably it is because this visit by the Belgian TV Limburg crew had overtones of the good old days when media would seek us out to find out how Geremi had settled in. I am not even going to mention the Juninho media circus. But it is so nice to feel that we are back on the radar again and a part of Europe and the world of football.

The great thing is that I could feel confident about giving the guys a really interesting and hopefully entertaining tour in Middlesbrough. There is a genuine feeling that things are finally happening and on the up here not just at Boro but in the town and area too.

We enjoyed a sumptuous pasta lunch whilst staring across the reflections in the water of the former Middlesbrough Dock from the Brasserie at Hudson Quay. Our appetites had been worked up on a tour largely devised by Ecomomic Development Officer, Yaffa Phillips but we had finished with a firm football theme touring the team dressing rooms and going pitchside at the Riverside. That was the setting for one of two brief interviews I gave about Jelle Vossen and Boro.

To start with I took the group on the Trophy Room tour of Ayresome Park. In Belgium as in this country so many football grounds have been demolished without a trace being left to commemorate these temples of football worship.

We then had a good look at the statue of Brian Clough in Albert Park and we reflected on whether like Cloughie, Jelle might one day be a Boro goalscoring hero. After looking at the Middlesbrough FC memorabilia in Dorman Museum it was off to a 21st century success story the rise of the independents in Baker Street. There was sampling of boiled sweets in an old fashioned sweet shop and of course a pint in Sherlocks. The guys just loved Sherlocks.

At the end of our tour there was one parting question from me, how does Jelle Vossen get his goals? Apparently he thrives on crosses. Great news as he has joined a squad full of wingers at Boro. He should love hooking up with our many wide players, Adomah, Reach, Wildshut and Nsue.

Truly Jelle Vossen could be a star in the making sent from Belgium with Love.

There are two links showing the filming from Boro in Belgium.

Firstly on TV Limburg (TVL) a regional TV channel in the Belgian province Limburg.

Secondly for the very popular Sports Café.



Middesbrough’s own Olympic athlete Chris Tomlinson is jumping behind a new drive to promote health and well-being in Middlesbrough.

Last week the long jumper helped to formally launch Extra Life at a special event to at Teesside University.

Extra Life is a new preventative approach which will see four of Teesside’s largest employers working in collaboration for the first time to improve work environments and boost the health and wellbeing of staff, students and the local community.

Teesside University, Middlesbrough Council, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Middlesbrough College are joining forces to create a supportive environment to help people get active in familiar surroundings.
The unique health improvement programme has been developed by Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health team to be adaptable to any large organisation in the public, private or voluntary sector.

The aim is to help reduce the direct cost of sickness absence to the economy which currently stands at around £14 billion every year.

Last year an estimated 131 million days were lost to sickness absence in the UK, while up to 50% of health and wellbeing is thought to be determined by environmental and social factors.

Middlesbrough rate of premature deaths linked to lifestyle choices is also higher than the national average, with contributory factors including smoking, poor diet and a lack of physical activity.

Edward Kunonga, Middlesbrough Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Middlesbrough suffers from poor health outcomes and a high number of people dying early from preventable illnesses.

“The evidence tells us that health and wellbeing is highly influenced by, and dependent upon the environment people live, work and socialise in and this makes these organisations – places where people go as part of their daily lives – an ideal place to deliver Extra Life.”

Through the four major employers, Extra Life will directly engage with 35 000 people right across the local community. Edward Kunonga estimated that at least 25% of Middlesbrough’s population have contact with the hospitals alone. The push now is to transform hospitals into major agents of prevention.

The colleges will tackle issues with students, many of them at a very critical and vulnerable age health wise. This new partnership and branding will help to reach out like a Chris Tomlinson long jump across the whole community.

Chris Tomlinson took the microphone and voiced just how proud he is to be living back in Middlesbrough a town that he loves with a passion. He encourages people to join him in moving back into the town itself.

Chris pointed to a real buzz at the moment in areas like the independent traders street, Baker Street. For the Olympic athlete, Extra Life is an example of people coming together and moving forward together.

Meeting chair Paul Frost summed up by concluding with a driving tenet of Boro boss Aitor Karanka that the coalition of forces in Extra Life will show that we are all greater than the sum of our parts.

Above all else Extra Life is a real life saving initiative.