Murder, Mystery and Frankie and the Heartstrings

A packed house on a swinging Saturday night in downtown Middlesbrough welcomed some favourite sons back to their native north east. Sunderland’s Frankie and The Heartstrings jolly jaunt across the UK came to a fitting funtime finale at the Westgarth Social Club topping a blindingly good bill.

Life after the Chapman Family is a darker shade of dark for Kingsley Chapman and The Murder. Yet there are a thousand and one intricate tones and contours to the film noir like melodramas and fractured melodies through which Kingsley croons and cavorts. The 7 piece provide magical and majestically moody music. The keys of the piano roll like an ocean swell, violin, trumpet and trip wire guitar fight for air against double bubble drumming tempest and fury. There are fireworks galore, Bad Blood rails against the destruction of the NHS but there are also tender and enchanted corners. The set ends with the opulent Olympians, with Kingsley surfing the sonic boom.

Originally from Humberside, Frankie’s national tour support are aptly good at building bridges. With a sound that spans late 80s/early 90s shoegazer, Night Flowers, slick, cheery, indie guitar brand is pure and simply smile-aholic medicine. Boy/girl vocals interchange, guitars shimmer and slide. Pure pop euphoria, Night Flowers feed the senses between Murder, mystery and Frankie and The Heartstrings.

So to Frankie, our favourite north eastern pop star and record shop proprietors. They dive straight in by first footing with brand new release, Save It For Tonight. The Sunderland sons follow on with a few new songs, a few classics, a new bass player and Frankie himself, as always the consumate front man. Behind him Dave, the not so silent drummer, was sporting an outrageous Bully Beef and Chips type 80s haircut. Ever dependable but never expendable, Frankie and The Heartstrings ply us with their upbeat, high tempo alt pop from the very start. Crowd showering chorus lines take root and have you dancing and indeed singing along, long before the final ringing chords. There is even an a capella opening reminiscent of guitarist Ross Millard’s Futureheads tendancies.

We soon plunge into the Heartstrings hit parade, That Girl That Scene, I Still Follow You, and Photograph all capture and captivate the now merry throng. Frankie urges all to pass a Simon Cowell style judgement of a brand new song, Think Yourself Lucky, which receives a firm thumbs up across the room. We end the night, audience arms swaying, as Frankie says in true Top of the Pops fashion, to the final heart warmer Don’t Look Surprised.

With the new track, Save It For Tonight out at present and an album called Decency scheduled for July release, the guys with the record shop/gig venue in the City by the Sea will be guaranteed to be stealing hearts and minds again this year. Our favourite north eastern pop stars are truly the bees knees.

Photos Tracy Hyman


Robert Nichols


Paint The Town Red

Last week the town’s retailers came out Boro all over as the town was painted Boro red and white in support of our promotion play off push. It was wonderful to see all the window displays and great also that many of the shops have stayed red as we prepare for the big final. Now the red and white is spreading through neighbouring Teesside towns as everyone is backing Boro and giving a united front send off before Monday.

All eyes now are turning towards Wembley Way, but Boro town never looked so red and white. I chatted to the man behind the successful scheme, former Boro commentator, Dave Roberts. Asking him where this great idea was hatched and what it means for the town and Teesside as a whole to be Boro all over and on the road to Wembley.

barnaclesQ: Where did this idea come from? Do you have memories of similar shop displays from the past?

A: Jack Hatfields, Robinsons fruit & veg shop (Borough Rd) – great memories from the 70s when the shop fronts would be dressed up each time Boro hit the big games (which meant the FA Cup 6th Rd then). I just wanted to try to bring that back to the town.

Q: Have you been delighted/surprised by the response?

A: I’ve been delighted at the quality of the displays – some have really put a lot of thought into it – Lots of Loveliness (Linthorpe Road) have done a theme of ‘Dad sitting in the garden listening to Boro on the radio’ – amazing.

Gallaghers have incorporated a piece of Teesside steel in their display.

Barnacles and Pixies have done the inside of the stores out as well as the windows.

Sherlocks pub has hand painted the windows.

US Locker Room and Boots have pulled out old match day programmes, Psyches Style Lab and the Perfume Shop dressed their staff in Boro shirts and the Fragrance Shop even ran an in-store quiz as part of the competition – everyone has made a fantastic effort.

BootsQ: Do you think play off push has really captured the local imagination? Have you witnessed a real buzz around Boro?

A: Absolutely. I heard a lot of talk of us falling short again/Typical Boro/etc.. and to be honest I almost bought into it, but the two performances against Brentford have smashed that. The fight and determination shown by the players have exorcised the Blackpool and Sheff Wed performances and given the fans real hope that at last we’ll taste Wembley success – even though Norwich will be a real tough nut to crack. Maybe winning the play-offs is THE best way to win promotion!


Q: Can Boro getting to Wembley and hopefully winning be good for Teesside beyond football?

A: Promotion will be massive – I remember seeing a business report stating that every year of Premier League football is worth around £200m of global marketing to a town – that’s the prize at stake for Teesside. As for the game at Wembley – of course its good for the region, the game is taken by 150 countries worldwide as many Premier League fans want to see who is coming up and the play-off game is the Championship’s showpiece game due to its cup final nature – even more so than Bournemouth/Watford’s final games of the season. Let’s get there, win it and get Teesside back on the lips of over 200 countries around the world!!

Cleveland CentreQ: Can we keep the displays up until Wembley?

A: Some shops are, others unfortunately broke corporate rules to participate so have already had to take them down – but it’s fantastic they were willing to do that as it is so easy to say “we can’t as there are rules”. I take my hat off to Ladbrokes in particular – there were three shops participating. That was fantastic.

SherlocksQ: Finally, anything else Dave might like to say about Paint The Town Red.

 A: Simply…. let’s all get behind the team. Let’s play our part as twelfth man to help kill off the Wembley hoodoo and see Boro back where we deserve to be – in the Premier League.





Boro Play Off Crime Thriller

Boro crime writer John Nicholson is coming to Teesside on Saturday for two book signings for his popular crime thrillers, the Nick Guymer series. The books are largely set in Teesside with local characters and settings. In fact the first of the series was set against a backdrop of Boro’s march towards the UEFA Cup final. I wonder whether this tumultuous season could one day find its way weaved into a plot?

John has been a blogger for Football365 for many years and has a massive following for both his football and music writings centring around his former rock outfit the Beer Pigs. He also operated a highly successful t-shirt business DJ Tees for many years, actually printing fmttm’s Tony Mowbray tops. John switched from hitting the long list of sports best sellers with Who Ate All the Pies to a series of crime novels based around a Teesside born and bred writer called Nick Guymer. They sell like hot cakes, or hot pies on Teesside and beyond. This Saturday is a great opportunity to get a signed copy or three.

Many of us knew John as a football writer before being wooed by his crime novels. He is always very forthright in his views on the Boro past and present so I thought I would pose a few questions as we build up to our date with Wembley destiny. Middlesb ”o” rough versus Norwich City on Bank Holiday Monday.

John will be in Waterstones, Middlesbrough 11am and WH Smiths, Stockton 3pm.

Q: Are you looking forward to meeting the good people of Teesside in the present Boro rush – play off fever?  

A: It’s always a pleasure and never a chore to meet my readers. Believe it or not, some of them aren’t that interested in football! Actually, it’s interesting how the whole area gets a lift from the Boro being successful. Even people who don’t pay much attention most of the time, wish them well. I don’t think that happens with big clubs in bigger places. So I’m sure there’ll be a buzz about the place.

Q: We are both old enough to remember many promotions but would it be special do you think to achieve it through a Wembley play off final?  

A: It will be a real achievement and I’m certain now that we will win. But I’m very torn because I don’t really like the Premier League – the bottom 12 sides are always a bit grim to watch and I much prefer the Boro winning a lot in the second tier. I feel like that’s our natural environment. That being said, if we go up, hoover in a load of cash and then get relegated, that might be the best solution all round. People think I’m weird but I’m not really bothered about success measured by trophies. To me, existence is success. Everything after that is a bonus.

Q: Do you have any stand out memories of promotions from the past? 

A: Back in 1988 when we met Chelsea in the old division 2 play-off. That was done in what I think of as classic Boro style. We won 2-0 at home – goals from Slaven and Senior and then in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, we lost 1-0 but went up anyway. Losing but winning, that’s just typical Boro, isn’t it? We said that at the time as we left west London. I hated going to London back then. Their crowds would always chant ‘what’s it like to lose your job?’ and it annoyed me. Smug southern gets. Later, when the recession was on, we tried chanting ‘what’s it like to have a house in negative equity?’ But it never took off.

Q: Do you reckon your character Nick Guymer would go to the final or be too distracted by a murder mystery? 

A: He and Julie would go to the final but would have to leave to try and stop some crime happening and would miss the vital action. This would annoy Nick a lot and he’d probably beat seven shades out of the bad guy as a result.

Q: Which would be the most tense a Nick Guymer cliff hanger or a play off final? 

A: In my experience fact is ALWAYS stranger than fiction, so the final would definitely be the most tense thing for him and for me. After all, I can control what goes into the books, but what happens to the Boro is in the hands of God.

Q: What have you made of this season and Aitor Karanka’s Boro? 

A: It has genuinely gone how I thought it would. I suspected we’d end up in the play-offs right from the start. But as I get older, I expect less and because of that I enjoy everything more. When I was young, I’d get so wound up and tense during big games but these days I let it slide by. If good things happen, great, if they don’t, I don’t sweat over it.

Q: Do you feel inspiration for any future plot lines from the present Boro promotion push?

A: Well we’ll have to go some to better the drama of the 2006 UEFA cup campaign – which as you know, I used as the background to the first Nick Guymer novel, but yeah, I will definitely use this season in future books. They’re all set about 4 years in the past so it’ll be book 16 or so before I get to the 2014/15 season. I’m just finishing number 9 right now and Strachan is still in charge. That was a miserable period.

How the success of the club affects Teessiders means it must inevitably play a part, if only because it affects how we talk to each other. When the Boro are doing well, people tend to chat about it with each other at the bar or the bus stop. One thing I realised while writing these novels is that the region is very small really. When I was growing up, it didn’t seem that way, but now, it feels like you pass through Teesside on the A19 in a few minutes. As a result, I think the place almost has a collective consciousness, especially when it comes to the football.

Q. Your Nick Guymer novels are selling really well and I know lots of people really love them. What’s the best thing about being a popular writer? 

A: The glamour and the money and the women. Actually, in reality, the best thing about the huge interest in the books has been the fact that it is putting Teesside on the map as a real, nuanced place and not just an easy bad news story. It’s allowed us all to shout about ourselves a little more and to celebrate the area as a place where people are solid, decent, funny and sexy. I’m a great believer in our people, our culture and our attitude to life, wherever we might live on earth. I think we’re quality. As a writer you couldn’t have better source material, from the way we talk to the way we tend to think, it’s all grist to the writer’s mill. So if the books are successful it is, in great part, because of the qualities of the area.

John will be signing copies of the new Nick Guymer novel, Teesside Meat in Waterstones in Middlesbrough Saturday 23rd May 11am- 2pm and then WH Smiths, Stockton, Wellington Square 3-5pm.
He says, “Come and say hello.”

John Nicholson crime novels


And Now You Gonna BELIEVE Us…

So it will be Middlesbrough v Norwich at (New) Wembley on Bank Holiday Monday and they will need to award another holiday if Boro win and make it a promotion celebration. Kick off 3pm. No trains back but as long as we get there… who cares?

What a night it was on Friday. A jam packed Riverside and an atmosphere to match any of the great nights and indeed days of the 20 year history of the stadium. The younger crowd will have probably had their fill over the years of tales of League Cup semi final wins over Liverpool in 1998 and of course the phenomenal lightning strikes twice, double miracle v Basel and Steaua in the UEFA, nine years ago last month. But on Friday night the younger generation finally got to experience, endure and ultimately enjoy, the nerves, the mounting tension, followed by the ecstasy of a victorious evening that will live long in the memory banks.

It had been an unbearable week, quite frankly. Trying desperately not to think about the second leg against Brentford. We stung The Bees late in London and had to keep our fingers and everything else crossed that taking that lead to Fortress Riverside would prove a task too far for Warburton’s plucky men. It would also be a stepping off point for a victory to inspire Boro fans all the way to Wembley. So it turned out to be…

The Twe12th Man North Stand Card display was a phenomenal way to set the scene. #Believe was the watchword and belief shone through from the North Stand message through the sell out stadium and down to the players that ripped into the London team from the start. Aitor Karanka had arranged for a few lines from a Rocky film to be relayed over the PA before kick off, which fired up fans and team alike. In fact we were all Team Boro on Friday night.

You should have heard the roars from the Riverside at the kick off. In fact you will have done, unless you were in Outer Mongolia or in the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, as that sound will have been heard all over the planet and beyond I shouldn’t wonder.

There was still tension in the air early on. Patrick Bamford’s ongoing ankle problems confined him to the sub’s bench but his replacement Kike chased down opponents and harried for lost causes all night long. But the loss of the Chelsea striker meant we were possibly less potent and less sure of ourselves in front of goal. That was until a signing from the other Boro, Posh Boro, Peterborough, Lee Tomlin launched an unstoppable missile into the net. And now relax.. and enjoy.

Of course the job wasn’t completely done and dusted as yet. We all know the cliché about a 2 goal lead being a dangerous one. The man from Spanish second flight football, Kike, it was that had other ideas about that. Vossen was put through by a defence splitting throughball from Tomlin, when his run was halted Kike picked up the pieces and finished in style.

Things would get better still as Vossen, Tomlin and Adomah combined with a tantilising series of passes before Albert walked it past Button in the Brenford goal and hammered it into the roof of the net. The Bees keeper Button had been under fire all night, a target for hundreds of paper planes, for his less than complimentary comments about Boro. But it was all water under the Transporter Bridge now as Boro advanced towards Wember-ley.

Captain and magic man, Grant Leadbitter was given a standing, man of the match ovation as he left the field early to be subbed. Rarely if ever has he worked so hard and been quite so magnificent in the engineroom. Alongside him the swashbuckling Adam Clayton was nearly on a level playnig field to Grant. What a midfield platform they gave us. In defence, Ben Gibson was absolutely flawless. Hats off to dependable Dean, Dean Whitehead barely put a foot wrong at right back all night.

It was a lovely touch by coach Aitor Karanka to give Jonathan Woodgate one last bow before the Boro home crowd. A couple of minutes later and the final whistle sounded and the pitch was evacuated before a fan invasion. Order was restored and Brentford players and now contract-terminated boss, Mark Warburton were accorded generous applause by the whole ground. Then it was time for the Boro players and management to tour the pitch. The Beesotted fans have touched our hearts this season. They loved Baker Street and I mean Middlesbrough’s Baker Street, so much they stopped behind again after the match for a consoling drink in the Twisted Lip. Top blokes.

After a phenomenal season we will get an epic finale at New Wembley. Yes, remember the old Wembley was knocked down, this is a whole new era beneath the Tees workers constructed arch. Let’s mark it with a famous victory. I cannot wait.

photo – Claire Bowdler


Explore Your Local History

Middlesbrough Local History Month is now in full swing with plenty of events, tours, walks and talks to dive into. There is an open invitation to discover a little more about the history and heritage of Middlesbrough.

Some of the highlights of the first week of events included Martin Peagam’s exploration of the town of “Rampant Sin.” We dived in up to our necks in what was once “over the border” with a reputation earned from the hundreds of public houses, drinking houses and back street brothels. This was the original worker town where men worked hard, very hard and had no home comforts to fall back on and so the bar was a haven. It was the place they could be hired, where they were paid. For men who might even share a bed with another shift it was the only home comforts in a life of back breaking toil.

Martin takes us back to Middlesbrough in WW1 as we go back through time 100 years in his walk In Memorium – Middlesbrough 1915 on Sunday 17 May. He sheds some light on the memorial board in MiddlesbroughCollege, telling us about the town the former High School Boys left to fight the war and the lives behind the names that never returned.

Every Wednesday this month historian Ian Stubbs tells us about the great and the good buried in LinthorpeCemetery. Ian first shows slides and describes the industrialists, the mayors and civic leaders and the health workers before taking us out to visit their last resting places in what is now a nature reserve in the heart of Middlesbrough. Almost putting flesh on the bones and revealing the live behind the tombs and headstones that we all probably drive past regularly.

Some of the figures are half remembered today by street names like Mayor Brentnall, or in the case of Mayor Archibald he is buried almost opposite the former school of England football manager Don Revie.

Quakers played a pivotal part in the establishment of the new town of Middlesbrough in 1830 and the Quaker plots are fascinating for their complete egalitarian resting places, civic leaders and ordinary citizens alike.

Photo – Tracy Hyman

Ian and the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery showed off the new display board naming all those buried here from hostilities in WW1, including some that lost their lives during the bombardment of Hartlepool, 100 years ago. This board stands next to the Cross of Sacrifice a universal design by Edwin Lutyens including the bronze longsword within the cross.

There are many familiar names of business people and industrialists within the tree lined boundaries. Amos Hinton the grocer who began his trade in South Street. Many still fondly remember the Hintons name, fresh thinking I believe was there motto. There are also heroes and heroines of the battle against smallpox that afflicted Victorian Middlesbrough. Indeed it might not be a good idea to dig deep into the ground as well as the past in parts of the cemetery near the former West Lane isolation hospital, many victims of infectious disease were buried here.

There are plenty of Local History events to look forward to next week starting with a £1 tour of the Riverside Stadium, a talk on the battle between pleasure and the pulpit – which perhaps returns us to a subject related to the rampant sin walk. Then on Monday afternoon we can take off the walking shoes and turn back the pages to the days of Cleveland Transit, United and the O bus as David Hunter recounts the history of Middlesbrough buses. There is also an opportunity to Try Ancestry and Find My Past for free using the Reference Library’s family history resources.

For more information about Middlesbrough Local History Month go to or look for the Discover Middlesbrough page on facebook.

Monday 11th May events –

Pleasure v Pulpit: Public Holidays in Middlesbrough – 10.30 am Teesside Archives – talk by Ben Roberts (Free)

Riverside Stadium Tour 11am and 2pm – £1

To book email

History of Middlesbrough Buses 2.30pm with David Hunter at Teesside Archives Ts1 1DB (Free)

And you can try Ancestry Library and find my Past for Free at Middlesbrough Reference Library – during normal opening times.