The spotlight is turned on Middlesbrough’s rich heritage during Local Heritage Month which starts on Friday (May 1).

And if you thought you knew Middlesbrough, a packed programme of events throughout May might just make you think again.

Over the next four weeks, a series of walks, talks, tours, runs, exhibitions, a nostalgic film show and open days will celebrate all aspects of the town’s history.

Local History Month is a chance to take a closer look at the town’s history – from its medieval origins to the emergence of Ironopolis and the creation of 20th Century icons such as the Transporter Bridge – and to promote awareness of its rich and diverse heritage.

Local historian and Middlesbrough Local History Month Steering Group member Martin Peagam said: “Local History Month is a chance to share stories and experiences of the people who have shaped the history of the town, not just the ‘ironmasters’ and the ‘great and good’ but also the ordinary folk.

“Each year, thanks to Local History Month I find out new things about the past and learn about new developments that make this such a vibrant and interesting place to live, work and play.”

Events in the 2015 LHM programme include a look back to Middlesbrough’s Winter Garden on Saturday, May 2, as well as talks on the town’s buses and ‘Pleasure vs. Pulpit’ on Monday, May 11.

There’s a welcome event and tour of the Dorman Museum from 3pm on Tuesday, May 5, and screen buffs can look forward to Middlesbrough on Film – Take Two on Thursday, May 28.

There are a number of opportunities to explore Linthorpe Cemetery, while ‘Medieval Middlesbrough’ will be the subject of a workshop at myplace Tuesday, May 19.

Local History Month will also welcome an international festival to the town for the first time, with Pint of Science delivering talks on history and archaeology at O’Connells pub on Tuesday, May 19.

On Friday, May 22all are invited to a talk at the Dorman Museum on the war drawings of Joe Cole.

Middlesbrough Council Arts, Events & Festivals Development Officer Phil Douglas said: “The growing popularity of Local History Month shows just how much interest there is in the Middlesbrough’s fantastic heritage.

“However much we think we know, there’s always something new and fascinating to discover and that’s what makes working on the project such a pleasure.

“Once again we’re delighted to have been able to bring together such a diverse programme for the coming month, and hope as many people as possible will get involved.

“We’re also hugely grateful for the support of individuals and organisations across the town without whose input Local History Month simply wouldn’t be possible.”

Local History Month brochures are now available from shops, cafes and libraries around Middlesbrough and details of events can be found at www.historymiddlesbrough.com The brochure can also be viewed online at http://issuu.com/lovemiddlesbrough/docs/lhm_mar_15_issuu

For more information, email discoverboro@gmail.com

Keep up to date with events via Facebook at fb.me/Discovermiddlesbrough or Twitter via https://twitter.com/Discovermbro


They Answered Their Country’s Call

Middlesbrough’s All Saints’ Church First World War memorial, commemorating the lives of local men from Gjers Mills ironworks, was recently replaced following the award of an £8,500 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

The “They answered their Country’s Call” project takes its name from text that appeared on the war memorial which commemorated those who died from the parish before it was stolen and damaged in 2007.  This project will explore the impact of the First World War on Middlesbrough, its industries and churches, with the replacement of the war memorial one of the highlights of the year-long scheme.   The project will also include a programme of education activities and public events, a First World War Exhibition at the grade II* listed church, digitisation of historic material and repair work to the damaged original war memorial.

Local partners Middlesbrough Council, Teesside Archives, TeessideUniversity student volunteers and William Lane Foundry, which has housed the damaged war memorial since it was recovered following an appeal, have joined forces to make the project possible.

All Saints’ Father Glyn Holland said “We are delighted that after several years since the loss of the war memorial we are now able to remember those ironworkers and managers from the area that worked at Gjers Mills, answered their country’s call and sacrificed their lives during the First World War”.

Project Manager Tosh Warwick added: “The support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and local partners will ensure “They answered their Country’s Call” will help preserve the memories and heritage of the Middlesbrough people who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War”.

Explaining the importance of the HLF support, the head of the HLF in the North East, Ivor Crowther, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. We are enabling even more communities like those involved in “They answered their Country’s Call” to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Edward Bilcliffe and Stuart Williams of William Lane Foundry, project manager Tosh Warwick, Father Glyn Holland and Teesside University student Tim Butler with the damaged memorial at All Saints' Church, Middlesbrough

I chatted with Edward Bilcliffe and Stuart Williams from William Lane Foundry about the First World War plaque.

Q: It is very appropriate to be working on this plaque with it being from another foundry, Gjers.

EB: These are businesses that were in the old ironmasters district and we are the only business left with that tradition. We’ve had this for seven years and we were desperate for it to go back in the church in pristine centenary period. So it is nice that it has finally come to fruition particularly when we are in the centenary period of the first World War. So, yes it is nice to be associated with it.

Q: I know that you are very proud of the part William Lane Foundry has in the history of the town.

EB: Yes, without a doubt.

Q: This is putting back some of the history.

EB/S: Yes and I think at the time it was going to be a horrendous cost of £3k to get a patten done in the old fashioned way. We can now do it in the CNC basis so it is much cheaper and makes it an affordable prospect. I think at the time we offered to cast it for nothing or even use the original plaque as the metal to put back into the new one. We were going to do that for nothing at the time but even so that was too expensive. Again we were happy to contribute in a small way to try and put it back on the wall. It is commemorative of people in our industry at the time who gave their lives for king and county.

Q: A century on it is going to raise awareness again of the sort of people from Middlesbrough fighting in that conflict.

EB: Exactly, everybody.

Stuart: On there you have got the Middlesbrough Pals on the 1st and 4th Yorkshires. It would have been the 12th battalion, the Middlesbrough Pals, which my grandfather was in. I am doing a bit of research. I found out that Charles Watson, who is on the plaque was fighting alongside my grandfather in the same street battle. Charles unfortunately was shot and killed. My grandfather was shot and wounded and taken prisoner of war on the same day that Charles died.

Q: What was your grandfather called?

S: My grandfather was called Samuel Till and he actually worked at Dorman Long. But I think he lied to join up.

Q: Was he too young?

S: No because the trade he was in was steel making and they didn’t want steel makers to go into the war so what he said he was, that he was a bricklayer. If you were a bricklayer, a joiner or a blacksmith, you were allowed to go in. So I think he lied to enlist.

I know he landed in France on June 2nd 1916 and went straight into battle. They weren’t really trained, they were territorials. He has gone into the fighting to be captured. I think it was the German Spring Offensive in 1918 and that’s where he was fighting in a village. That is where the Germans came on strong. I do remember my mother saying that he was street fighting.

You don’t know whether he was lucky or unlucky to be shot and wounded where Charles was killed.

Q: The final year of the war, then?

S: Charles was killed on 12th of April and my grandfather was captured on 12th April 1918, so it was towards the end of the First World War in the German Spring Offensive. The Yorkshires ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Germany where they were subjected to working in the salt mines. Some even in the prisoner of war camp were shot and killed from the Yorkshire Regiment.

Q: Again you think of the Second World War with prisoner of war camps.

S: No you have got to think that the WW1 was the first time we were bombed. Hartlepool was bombed. On that plaque it mentions HMS Nottingham that was trying to defend Hartlepool in 1914. She went down in 1916.

There were the first zeppelin attacks, the first tanks, the first aeroplanes. So a lot happened.

Q: So there is a lot of history contained on that plaque.

S: A lot of history. Just digging into a few names it is surprising what you can conjure up.

Q: The Green Howards and the Yorkshire Regiment continue the links with Middlesbrough.
S: Yes, it is Middlesbrough’s battalion. They were known as the Teesside pioneers, Middlesbrough pals.

Q: Again you equate Pals regiments with elsewhere, Lancashire towns etc.

S: No, Middlesbrough was the pioneer. 12th battalion.

Q: With Hartlepool having been bombarded early in the war there was quite a lot of feeling in this area, at the start of the war, wasn’t there? They raised a lot of money for tanks etc. Maybe a lot enlisted straight away too.

S: I think there was a First World War tank on Redcar sea front and it was melted down for the Second World War war effort.

HMS Nottingham lies just off the north east coast. August 1916 she got torpedoed. Trying to take the U Boats out of the war and got hit. Mr Dodsworth, on that plaque was killed on it, whereas about 340 were saved.



Opportunity for artists: A visual conversation with Christopher Dresser


Artists are being given a unique opportunity to have their work displayed at Middlesbrough’s Dorman Museum ahead of a festival dedicated to prominent Victorian designer, Christopher Dresser.

As part of the Dorman Museum and Teesside University’s Dresserfest event, a three day festival including an academic symposium and a family fun day, artists are being invited to submit up to five pieces of work inspired by the museum’s collection of Dresser works.

View and download the Dresser response brief.

Known as the ‘father of industrial design’, Dresser was keen to embrace emerging technologies of mass production, believing that everyone was entitled to own objects of good design. Never limiting himself to just one medium, Dresser designed everything from chairs to teapots, fabrics to glassware, and produced for well-known brands including Liberty of London.

In Middlesbrough and struck by the plight of unemployed locals, Dresser helped to set up Linthorpe Art Pottery which produced over 2000 designs during its ten year life and became highly popular, with even Princess Alexandra owning a piece.

Dorman Museum holds the largest public collections of both Linthorpe pottery and works designed by Christopher Dresser, with a gallery dedicated to Dresser having opened in July 2014. It is to mark this anniversary that Dresserfest is being held, as well as in celebration of Dresser’s birthday, which falls on July 4th.

Artists are invited to submit up to five pieces (size restrictions apply) which are clearly influenced by Dresser but do not copy any of his existing work. Submissions will be displayed at Dorman Museum from Tuesday, June 30, with Dresserfest taking place from Thursday, July 2 to Saturday, July 4.

Artists are invited to visit the Dresser gallery and view the works on display. Dorman Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30am – 4:30pm, and is free to visit.


Teesside Tornado’s Thumbs Up For Middlesbrough Sports Village

Teesside Tornado, Richard Kilty, was trackside singing the praises of the new Middlesbrough Sports Village recently. The 60m World and European Indoor Champion was happy snapping selfies with members of Middlesbrough community running group, Swift-Tees. The sprinter has joined forces with Middlesbrough Council’s sports and leisure team Active Middlesbrough for the pictures win prizes idea.

Healthy Selfie asks members of the public across all ages and athletic abilities to take selfies of themselves doing something active for the chance to win a year’s family membership at the new Middlesbrough Sports Village, which is due to open in May.

Healthy SelfieAfter the selfie session I decided to grab a few words with the champion sprinter about his thoughts on the new facilities before putting his future plans into focus.

Q: Are you impressed with the Sports Village set up?

RS: Oh yes it is absolutely amazing. When I heard that Clairville was getting shut down I thought it was a massive shame because that is where I started my career but I didn’t realise how great this place is actually going to be. I think it is an absolutely amazing, refreshing stadium. I think it is going to bring more talent out. When it opens properly all the future sports stars are going to be training here. It is just an absolutely amazing stadium. I am looking forward to coming back to train tonight. This track is amazing, the facilities are amazing. I am looking forward to the next I don’t know how many years of my athletics career, training here, then hopefully afterwards coaching here. So, it is absolutely amazing.

Q: It must have been a great buzz for you winning the European Indoors Championship sprint?

RK: Yes it was amazing to follow up being a World Champion. I didn’t want to go there being the reigning World Champion but not win the Europeans. So there was a lot pressure on me because if I had got silver there would have been people saying he is world champion but he only got silver in the Europeans. So I had to go out there and deliver. And it was tough and I was up against it. But I went there in great shape and to come out and take the victory exactly a year to the day that I won the World indoors was phenomenal.

Q: And there was an enormous amount of pressure on the start.
RK: Yes there was. There was a long hold but that is where that mental strength comes in and that confidence even. Everyone is wanting to get a quick start and I had to have the patience to hold onto that set and have the faith in my ability even if I didn’t get quite the best reaction I could have come away and pulled away from the field, which I did, so I had to have a lot of confidence in my ability.

Q: So what is your next target?

RK: My next target. I am out to Orlando on the 31st March until the end of April. And then I have got the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas. Then I come out first race individually of the year will be the Manchester City games. That will be live on BBC. Then I have got the World Championships in Beijing in August. So they are the next few big competitions. Then in 2016 I will defend my World Indoor title. Then obviously big one, the Olympic Games. So, non stop and then in 2017 you have got the World Championships in London. So, the next two years will be the biggest years of my life. The last three years from 2014 to 2017 are definitely the biggest three years of my athletics career, for sure.

Q: Are you looking to take some of your indoors success, outdoors?

RK: Yes, definitely. We are working on that at the moment. Last year I had a couple of injuries, a couple of set backs that hindered me from performing outdoors the way I did it indoors. But this year we have had no problems up to now and we are just working on getting that fitness and taking that form into the outdoor season. And I’m sure I can perform great over the 100 metres and 200 metres as well.

To enter the Healthy Selfie competition, upload your healthy selfie as a comment on Active Middlesbrough’s Facebook page. The picture with the most ‘likes’ by 12 noon on May 1 wins the prize which is worth £720.


Mackenzie Thorpe: Middlesbrough The Heart of the North

Do get along to Middlesbrough Railway Station and take in 12 exceptional railway posters painted by Mackenzie Thorpe all extolling the virtues of Middlesbrough and destinations reached from trains embarking from the two platforms.

Subjects include All Tickets Please, heading home or heading out in the train to the rhythm of the clickety click. Bound for the Moors, we are the gateway to the moors and that includes our very own peak, Roseberry Topping or Captain Cook’s Monument or to the coast and Saltburn by the Sea.

We also have a golden ticket to explore the Tees, the seals on the Tees (Seal Sands), the working Tees with its giant ships and cranes. And of course our beloved Boro. A footballer is jumping for joy. Not just over the moon but over the bridge…our bridge. The Transporter Bridge. As we are the Heart of the North.

The 12 old railway style posters will be on display for 2 years so you have plenty of time to explore them fully before perhaps setting forth on your own adventures from the platforms. Or maybe disembarking for the game, full of hopes and expectations of Premier football.

Mackenzie is our Premier artist, how lucky we are that we can enjoy his work and bask in his vision in the heart of the town, in the heart of the north.

Mackenzie Thorpe kindly chatted to me about how the commission came about. When he talks he oozes passion for his hometown and is clearly very optimistic in reading the signs that Middlesbrough is changing.

Q: What does it mean to you have your paintings on display as railway posters at Middlesbrough Station?

MT: It means a massive amount. How in the world could you imagine that you are going to be asked to do such a job? It would have been just another job had it been Kings Cross Station or Penn Station, NewYork. But no it is your own station. My station wants my work on their walls. So that our people can see it. That must be the biggest accolade for a painter, a songwriter, a movie maker, a dress designer, a window cleaner. Anyone to be asked to do it in their own community. It must be the greatest thing.

Imagine you are a footballer and you go and play for Arsenal and then you go and play for Benfica and then you get a phone call and they say will you come and play for Middlesbrough. Your own town, in your own country. It’s huge and I have never experienced it like this before. The Captain Cook (museum) commission was the first feeling of that. But this is going to be seen by over 1 million people every year for 2 years. If I had my own big art gallery in London and I knew that my work in this gallery was going to be seen by a million people a year… you know. I am thrilled to bits.

Q: You are very much taking your art out of the gallery then.

MT: Totally and for that I must congratulate Middlesbrough Council because they came up with the idea not me, I didn’t approach them and say can we do this. That’s exactly what they are doing. So anyone arriving, and the last thing on their mind is art, they are going to step off into the station and it is going to be there. They can opt into it or walk past it. And when they are leaving they are going to get it again.

Q: Or when you are waiting for your train.

MT:  When you are waiting for your train you are going to have it to look at. When you’ve come to Middlesbrough to buy a dress and you are going back home to feed your kids you are going to go past art. So that as an artist I advocate and hope more artists will follow and it will be just bigger and bigger and bigger.

I got asked could I do seven posters and it was an easy answer, YES. And I was really busy and still am that I said what we will do is take it from the archive. Easy. Then Middlesbrough say, Oh can we have two new ones? Alright. Just leave it with me. Then that night I said to (my wife) Susan if they had given me 6 months I would have done the whole station with real railway posters, like mystery posters. And she said that isn’t going to happen as we have Santa Monica to do, New York coming up, Australia…. OK.

And then she came up north. And I went in the studio and I rang her and said we’ll do it anyway.  So a lot of these are done at midnight, after work, kind of thing. Because I want to do it. If they are ready they will come out. And I did it. Susan told them what I was doing and they were over the moon. So, let’s do it. And that’s how it came about.

I was introduced to a graphic designer Matt (Twist Design) on Linthorpe Road near where Fearnleys Records used to be. I went in and met him and I said I have got these ideas. And I brought in this little book that Susan got me of railway posters. I said that green on the football one is from Mabel Lucie Attwell (British illustrator) who designed this poster in the 1930s. And the lettering is so important. He started researching and he got excited. Everyone around us got excited. And I ended up doing 15 pictures so we could whittle it down to 7. Then it went from 7 to 8 and from 8 to 10. And then last week they needed another one. So, Saltburn by the Sea was done last week to fill in the last space.

They are real railway posters. Looking at them, if they weren’t the Transporter Bridge or whatever you could take it to Paris and it would work as a railway poster. That’s what I wanted to do and I think we have done it.

Q: So those poster evoke memories for you..

MT: Massive.

Q: But the fact they look like real railways posters it must be a thrill for you to think that others will get memories stirred by them.

MT: Yeah. That was the big deal for me doing it. I started my journey here. I meet people in Timbuktu and they did. So, the next person who is going to start their journey in life and go on to another adventure, they are going to catch the train at Middlesbrough and they will see where I’ve come from and how I have interpreted it now and what this gives people is the legacy that is inside me and the message that I carry around the world is that we are the ‘heart of the north.’

Q: You come from here and travel all over and it is interesting to see things through your eyes when you return. Do I sense from you that you see some energy here?

MT: Massive. And it is the first time I have seen it and felt it and realised it. I was talking to some councillors this morning and I said you know I didn’t believe it. I have been involved with schemes and you have asked me to make comment on this and this. I come and I say, you still haven’t done that. I go home and tell my mam. Mam they are going to do this. Oh yeah they always say that. They always forget 3 weeks down the line. Now I believe that ten years ago they had ideas and now I can go and touch them. And that is the real thing, now I really believe in it. I really do. It is the first time I have complimented a politician. I was at the Houses of Parliament last year and I wasn’t complimenting anybody. My hat is off to them. The new park by the Transporter Bridge. What is happening around MiddlesbroughCollege. Saltholme. Fantastic. We walked the path by the NewportBridge, incredible. It is all starting to make sense.

And then somebody says on the news this morning that we have the most unhealthy high street in the country. Anything that they said was healthy on the best high street in the country you can get on this high street. A lot of it comes from social economic background. We can’t have gold on every platform. But they don’t look deeper either. If it was a census about humour or a warm welcome and gratitude and thanks, then we might come somewhere top of the list. That is what I concentrate on, the good and strong elements.

Q: And that is what your posters are saying.

MT: Exactly. They are not going to call us the heart of the north. We know we are. And I think we have been keeping it secret for too long so you know what I am going to burst the bubble and shout aloud and a lot.