During Summer 2015, Laura Forbes worked alongside Middlesbrough Council staff in the day-to-day running of Teesside’s iconic Tees Transporter Bridge as part of the Teesside University Summer BOOST Programme. Here Laura recalls her time on the HLF-supported Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Project…
Throughout my time at the Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Project, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with local schools in promoting the Bridge’s heritage. This has included assisting with tours, creating presentations and worksheets. Having never worked specifically with schools before, I didn’t realise the importance of promoting heritage from a young age. I was surprised to find how in awe of the Bridge, and how eager visiting school groups were to learn more about it. Their enthusiasm was contagious and really brought home to me the importance of children in the role of heritage. I also found they had the most profound perceptions of the Bridge, particularly those who live in Port Clarence – they described the Bridge as something that made them feel ‘safe’ and like they could ‘never get lost’. It was very touching to see how important this landmark was in their day-to-day lives.
Inspired by the project, I also developed a link-up with local writing company, Ek Zuban, in creating a wider heritage creative writing session. This would come to fruition in the form of not only a performance of creative writing inspired by and in the shadow of the famous landmark, but also a musical performance too.
I realise the legacy of the Bridge’s heritage lies with these children and the importance of creating an unforgettable first experience of the Bridge, so as they grow older, they too can pass on these fond memories to others and keep the vision of the Transporter Bridge as an iconic landmark alive.
With the support of Teesside University, I have also utilised the camera loan system and captured unique parts of the project – there have been countless opportunities where having a camera has made a real difference. Many of the images I’ve taken onsite have been used for press releases, publications and social media – I’ve felt proud to be able to contribute towards the promotion of the Bridge in a visual way. I’m now even saving for a D-SLR camera of my own. I’ve always had an interest in photography, but have never gone as far as to purchase a camera. This placement has inspired me to pursue this hobby, and to be able to develop new skills in this has considerably increased my employability.
As I am a student studying English at Teesside University, I was given the opportunity to create blog posts and contribute to press releases. I felt I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the conventions of these formats of writing. Furthermore, simple daily writing tasks, such as emailing, have helped me develop a mature and formal tone when communicating with colleagues, whilst this better understanding of what is expected in press releases – invaluable should I wish to enter a role in PR.
During the course of the placement I particularly enjoyed working at the newly renovated Transporter Bride Visitor Centre, from greeting visitors to the Bridge to setting up the venue for special events. This also provided a fantastic opportunity to share what I’ve learnt about the heritage of the Transporter Bridge with visitors. I have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with people who visit the site, and I have surprised myself with the amount of knowledge I’ve picked up just being around the Bridge and the people that are passionate about it. I did my best to make sure people’s experience at the Bridge was a positive one.
I feel very proud to say I have been involved in the Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience, so much so that I have joined the Friends of the Tees Transporter Bridge and volunteered beyond my placement. My time at the Transporter has increased my confidence in dealing with the public and helped create a sense of pride that I have added positively to their experience at the Bridge. I would encourage anyone interested in volunteering at the Bridge or participating in a placement there to pursue this truly unique experience.
Are you interested in volunteering at the Tees Transporter Bridge? Visit www.teestransporterbridge.com for more information.