Neil Maddison Invites You To Join Him in a Dry January

A Boro legend is giving booze the boot for a month – and he’s urging others to follow suit.

Neil ‘Maddo’ Maddison will be kicking the drink into touch as part of the annual Dry January health drive. And he’s getting the ball rolling ahead of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week later this month to give as many people as possible the chance to make a similar pledge.

Middlesbrough Council, in partnership with Balance, the North East Alcohol office, is challenging people in the town to make a resolution to ditch the drink for 31 days.

This year’s theme is ‘Kick start the new you’ – and Neil launched the challenge recently pitch-side at Boro’s Riverside Stadium.

Neil – now best known as BBC Tees’ Boro expert summariser alongside Ali Brownlee – is working with Middlesbrough Council’s Improving Public Health Service to raise the campaign’s profile.

He said: “Many of us enjoy a drink, but like everything in life moderation is the key.

“Dry January’s a great opportunity to take a break, relegate the booze to the subs’ bench and enjoy the health benefits.

“I’m going to give it a go and I hope as many people as possible will join me.”

National Alcohol Awareness Week – from November 16 to 20 – encourages drinkers to think about cutting their level of alcohol consumption and even ditch it altogether for the 31 days of January.

Dry January – now in its fourth year – challenges people to put the excesses of the festive period behind them and adopt a fresh, healthy start to the new year.

Benefits of a month off the booze include weight loss, better sleep, more energy, clearer skin and a few more pennies in the pocket, as well as reducing the risk of developing health problems.

Last year more than two million people cut down their drinking for January, and organisers are hoping to improve on that figure this year.

dry january 1Edward Kunonga, Middlesbrough Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “In Middlesbrough there is a real need to encourage people to change unhealthy drinking behaviours, drink in moderation and take time out to let the body recover.

“Alcohol-related harm has a significant impact on individuals, families and communities, and contributes to premature deaths, preventable illness and avoidable demands on services.

“Dry January is a great opportunity to break the cycle, and make some really positive lifestyle changes.”

Mary Edwards, Programme Manager Alcohol Treatment at Balance, said: “New Year is the natural time to take stock of our health and make a fresh start, and accepting the Dry January challenge is the perfect way to commit to taking a break from alcohol.

“Drinking more than the recommended limits can have serious long-term implications for health, with proven links to seven types of cancer, plus conditions including liver disease, anxiety, stomach ulcers, raised blood pressure, strokes and dementia.

“Studies have shown that even just one month without alcohol can have positive effects on health, meaning there are real benefits to taking part.”

Councillor Mick Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Communities and Public Health, said: “Having a drink is an enjoyable and sociable part of a great many people’s lives.

“However the trend for excess consumption is a major concern for the Council, the police and the health services.

“Promoting sensible drinking is of paramount importance if we are to address the social and health issues linked to excessive alcohol consumption.”

To sign up to Dry January, find out more about the campaign and to access a wealth of support and advice, visit the Dry January website at

I posed a few questions to Neil Maddison asking him about Dry January, his own career at Middlesbrough and in the top flight at Southampton and also about his thoughts on the Boro this season.

Q: Is this a good idea after the excesses of Christmas for people to slow down for a month?

NM: Yes, I think it is a good idea. I have got a do to go to a family do on New Year’s Eve and there is going to be plenty of drink flowing. I will be drinking until 12 o’clock and that is me done and I think it will help me as well because drinking a few glasses of water during the session will help me recover quickly the next day. But listen it is only for one month and after Christmas you have got to get yourself fit and it will gee me up to do a little more than I would normally do.

Q: Help with your commentary on the 2nd of January I think it is.

NM: Yes, the commentary. I don’t think we need drink to help us with that anyway. But I think it is just a good idea, you are detoxing, changing your lifestyle around. I will have a look at the effects and if it helps me then I might carry on doing it.

Q: You are now working at MiddlesbroughCollege in sports coaching.

MN: Certainly. Middlesbrough College is a fantastic place to work. I run the 16-18 year olds there. I want to promote it in the college as well and see how many people can do it. I think it is a good idea. It is not going to hurt you, for one month only and if you want to carry on so be it. If you don’t you can go back to having a casual drink, it is absolutely fine. But yes I am going to try it and I will try and promote it round the college as well.

Q: At Boro there were many players that were teetotal during the season, Bernie Slaven, Tony Mowbray, Paul Kerr spring to mind. Can it help you keep you fit?

MN: Yes you play as long as you can, I was lucky enough to play until 37. If you can go past that brilliant. But play as long as you can and I think not drinking will certainly help you to do that.

Q: Before Boro you played at Southampton with some top players. You were a very good team as they are again now of course.

NM: Some top players. Shearer, Le Tissier. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t massive drinkers but on a weekend after a game you would like to socialise and go out with your families and have a drink and have something to eat. And that was part and parcel of football but now I think you have got to look after yourself a little bit more. The rewards now in football have certainly changed, a lot more money involved. People say make as much money as you can in football because it is only a short career and that is the case. So if you look after yourself you are going to last longer in the game, barring you stay away from injuries. I think not drinking is a great idea.

Q: When you look back at your career what were the highs at Southampton?

NM: Well, the highs at Southampton were certainly staying in the top division all that time. We had limited resources, a good youth team set up just as Middlesbrough have here and we kept in the top flight certainly all my career down there. They were the highs for me. The low points, I had a serious injury when I was a young kid that kept me out of the game for two years. Southampton is a fantastic club. It has totally changed now, compared to back in the Dell days, they are now at St Mary’s. The training facilities are second to none now. It is an amazing place to go and play and I’m delighted they are doing well. Football changes, we all change. Dry January, lets all try it.

Q: A couple of questions about Boro. We are all hoping this will be a promotion campaign and I well remember you playing in a promotion campaign here at the Riverside. Can I take you back to 97/98 and a night match where we had to score 6 against Swindon to go top of the league and we did it. A great night at the Riverside. You scored 2 in that total.

NM: I did yes. It was a good night. I can remember that night because people were saying come on I’ve had 6-0 with the bookies, make sure it is SIX. We didn’t realise that we had to win 6-0 to go top of the league until after the game.

Q: Really?

NM: Yes. We heard it around the ground, a few people saying, come on it has to be 6-0. We were thinking, what are they going on about? But on the night it just clicked, everything happened well for us. We had some good players. We had…

Q: Marco Branca…

NM: Yes, Branca, Merson, Townsend and Nigel Pearson. Top pros. Leaders. Who wanted to win games and I think that was the difference with that side. Really good players. Fought for each other and it was a good team, good set up. Bryan Robson changed the club’s outlook altogether. They were great times.

This season, I am keeping my fingers crossed. It is a big season for us. Last Saturday’s result is disappointing for us but I think Hull will be up there certainly. I think they will definitely get promotion and if you finish just below them, I think you will be the other team going up.

Q: They looked strong at the back and the front. You could see they were very experienced players.

NM: Yes, just no nonsense at the back. I think it was the first time I have seen our defenders have a really tough afternoon. Ayala, George Friend, it was a really tough afternoon for them but they are a good side. I listened to George Friend’s interview afterwards and I thought it was brilliant. He said we have been beaten today and the Championship is like that. Let’s see what they are like when they come to our place. I’m sure that when they come to our place the lads will be fired up and they will try to get one back over them.

Still close, all to play for, next game, QPR at home, great opportunity to get 3 points on the board in front of the cameras and get us back on track.

Q: Already this season we have seen some great games and results. Away at Man United of course and a great prospect to come filling the Riverside for the Everton Quarter Final.

NM: Yes, I think the Man United game will live long in everyone’s memory. Everton is a good draw for us, we are at home. They will be bringing a big following. I’m pretty certain this place will be absolutely bouncing; it will probably be a full house. It is a good opportunity, two games away from Wembley. What a fantastic opportunity that is. Who knows? Everton are a good side I have watched them play but so are we. The lads will be up for it. I think Aitor will field a pretty strong side because he knows how close we are to Wembley and it is a great occasion. I’m sure we will do well.  We will do the north east proud.

Q: There is still a long way to go but we have a big period now don’t we with a lot of games that can make all the difference.

NM: Well if you look at the games coming up now, you have got some really tough games. QPR at home, there is Brighton away. Teams that are around us. Saying that they are all tough in our league. But I think the mentality is go out in each game and try and win the game, try and get 3 points on the board. If it doesn’t happen like that you go to the next game. But you have to keep in the top six, keep in the top four possibly for us. You have got to keep in the mix of them teams near the top two. If you can get in the top two it is up to you to stay there, it is up to you to be the one that says right try and knock us out of that spot. Get in that position and stay there. We have been there a couple of times this season and been knocked out. It is a long way to go and I just think it is all there to play for and hopefully I think we have got the squad to do it.

I would certainly strengthen in January though when it comes. I’m pretty certain we will if we are still up there. It is all to play for and it is going to be a good season for us.


Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience – Teesside University Boost Placement Blog

pn41XX Transporter volunteer Pic 2 (4)

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.c/o Teesside Archives

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 for more information. 


Light Years Ahead – Stu Langley

Durham Lumiere starts tonight, a long weekend of the most dazzling light shows. Thousands upon thousands of visitors descend on the ancient city of Durham to see it lit up in an incredible and ingenuous variety of ways. UK’s biggest light festival is something that is really worth waiting two years for.

Middlesbrough designer Stu Langley, formerly of Twist Design the duo responsible for the amazing stained glass Reliant three wheelers in the Lumiere of 2013. They were such a success that they toured distant shores, to the Far East in Singapore.

This year, the man behind the superb Discover Middlesbrough brochures is back with not one but two attractions. Do look out for them as you wander round.

Stu won BRILLIANT for the last Lumiere, a competition where anyone originally from or living in the north region can enter with a ‘bright’ idea. Stu and his former Twist Design partner Matt Sayle won with Stained Glass cars, he is back again with two more fantastic ideas. 

I asked Stu a few questions about his Wave creation, made from collected sea glass from the East Durham coastline and firstly his Wheels of Industry, where you can illuminate the windows of a stained glass car by pedal power.

You were a BRILLIANT winner in 2013 – did this open doors for you with your art and design?

Stu: BRILLIANT for me opened up a whole new world of opportunities and made me realise that dreaming big and taking a leap is always worth the risk. Lumiere is an incredible stage to have your work shown at and I’ve been really lucky to have had the support of Artichoke (the team responsible for Lumiere and a whole load of other extraordinary art events) as I’ve taken on new projects.

stained glass 3Your stained glass window reliant really struck a chord – they have appeared all over the world haven’t they? Was it a real thrill for you seeing an idea actually work so well in reality?

Stu: I was amazed how people reacted to the cars and it gave me the determination to keep on creating and hope to put a few more smiles on peoples faces with what I do. The real reason they turned out so well was thanks to all the people that tirelessly contributed and made it possible – Andrew at Mids Auto more than anyone continues to help me create and put up with non stop demands.

wheelsIs Wheels of Industry a natural (man made) progression from the last Lumiere entry from you? And it has an important eco message doesn’t it?

Stu: It’s funny you mention man made versus natural. I have this idea that everything is natural because humans are natural and whatever we’re capable of – both deemed good or bad – should be considered natural progression. Rambling aside, I felt the first car which depicts an industrial heritage particular to the North East was a perfect vehicle (excuse the pun) for a message of sustainability promoted by interaction, in this case inviting the public to pedal their way to generating electricity to power the lights in the installation. We all make choices that ultimately have an impact on the world and future at large and I really wanted people to think about how a simple choice such as using a bike can ultimately contribute to a sense of shared responsibility in withdrawing from excess. The playfulness of the installation seems to help balance the weighty concept with the experience of pedalling like a bugger to get those lights shining.

waveWave, is such a great idea this. When you find the slithers of glass on a beach as a kid they are like jewels. Was this great working with the community and taking a journey from the origins of the shards in the glass industry and then recreating the sea in Durham?  There is a great story of community, industry and nature and recycling in this art isn’t there?

Stu: Wave has been an absolute labour of love and involved the effort of so many people and organisations – from the producers Artichoke that believed in the idea, to those that commissioned the piece (East Durham creates and East Durham Area Action Partnership), along with the amazing volunteers that have donated time and much needed sea glass, Andrew at Mids Auto and a glue expert and nice guy called Graham at Advanced Adhesives.

I have been obsessed with sea glass for years and always wanted to create a grand scale installation which celebrated this amazing material with such an incredible story. Whilst sea glass can be found on virtually any beach in the world, the Victorian glassworks in Seaham and the huge amounts of waste glass they threw over the cliffs is responsible for some of the best sea glass in the world. People go nuts for it. I like the idea of people going crazy of these tiny fragments of glass which for are a tangible and direct link to our industrial past – someone’s great grandparent will have had a hand in firing that little fragment of glass.

There is a genuine sense of poetry in this artwork so many people have been contributing towards. It plays with ideas of how we define waste and how nature might redefine it as beautiful – both make for an interesting mix wrapped up in one community driven installation. I feel very lucky to have been a part of the project and met so many amazing people along the way.


The Purnells – Black Dog Laughing

Not too many local bands get past the difficult second album but this weekend The Purnells will be releasing their third album. They were a staple at Stockton Weekender and have a permanent residency at Stockton Calling and are certainly no strangers to Middlesbrough venues but after 8 years of writing, rehearsing and playing live what drives on this firebrand band?

Teesside band The Purnells launch their 3rd album on Saturday night at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton. I caught up with Middlesbrough resident, Stuart Blackburn about his band’s new release and what we should look forward to in their launch show over the water.

Q: What is the new album called? The first album was named in a competition by the fans, how did you arrive at this name?

SB: The new album is called Black Dog Laughing and was taken from a line in the new songs (Spiders). We wanted to use a random line from the lyrics this time around as opposed to the methods we used in the past.

Q: Tell us a little about the new album.

SB: I like to think of this album as a fusion of the first two, the energy of Resurrection Men and the more crafted approach of A Half Step Into The Shadows. That being said we always like to try new things, so there are a few new instruments and we even stretched to a song that lasted 6 minutes!

Q: You enjoy the visuals as well, anything special lined up for the launch?

SB: We have a few video treats in store for the launch and I’m experimenting with different head gear, shake things up from the ski mask!

We’ve had almost six months away from gigging, so it’s an amazing feeling coming back to it.

Q: Does your acting training help with your dynamic stage act?

SB: The performing back ground definitely helps, but that’s not to say what happens on stage is an act, it can’t be, what we do has to be honest and the acting training allows you to open up and be crazy without the fear of being judged, that’s very important because otherwise you’re just standing there swaying emotionlessly and who wants to do that?

Q: There was a progression through the first two albums I thought and part of that was maybe different people song writing on the last release. Tell us how The Purnells go about song writing.

SB: In the beginning we wrote songs in a very linear way, I wrote a song, brought it to the boys and we added instruments. We never do that now. Instead we’ll jam it out, build a song around a bass line, riff or drum beat. Then I’ll pull lyrics out of the air, find a word or sentence I like and craft that. It’s now a very spontaneous thing.

This album was perhaps the hardest to write, a lot more commitment was needed and after 8 years you ask yourself a lot of questions. But we love what we do, and wanted, needed, this album to be finished. That need to get the songs heard was our inspiration.

The Purnells album launch is Saturday the 7th November at 7:30 at the Georgian theatre Stockton, tickets are £6 adv or £8 on the door. The band are giving away a free album to every ticket holder and support comes from Talk symmetry and The Broken Broadcast.

Photos kindly supplied by Tracy Hyman

Purnells top hat


Celebrating Guy Fawkes’ Night in Victorian Middlesbrough


Recollections of the Fifth of November - Horace Mayhew, Illustrated London News

Historian and Tees Transporter Bridge Education, Learning and Events Officer Tosh Warwick takes a look back through nineteenth century newspapers to explore how the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was remembered in Victorian Middlesbrough.  Based upon a talk prepared for the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Lunchtime Lecture Series, he reveals tales of spectacular pyrotechnics, pennies for the Guy and mischief!


Fireworks were big business with a number of shops operating a side-line in supplying a variety of pyrotechnics in the lead up to the evening of the 5th November. The tobacconist E. Wade’s 5th November 1872 Gazette advertisement stated ‘just received, our annual stock of best London fireworks, great variety of designs’.   In 1874 Caswell’s Glass and China Warehouse, Newport Road boasted of ‘an extensive assortment of the best London made’ fireworks.  In 1886 Laverick’s, Sussex Street declared ‘Several this year’s novelties in Chinese fireworks just to hand’, whilst in 1900 Campling’s, Linthorpe Road advertised ‘Fireworks from 2d a dozen to 1s each’. Fireworks advertisement from The Gazette 31st October 1873


Some of the town’s youngsters went to extreme lengths to buy fireworks, with 11-year-old Walter Tyreman resorting to stealing an overcoat to pawn as a ‘way to get money to buy fireworks’.  At Middlesbrough Police Court, Magistrate, Mayor and steel magnate Charles Lowthian Bell had little sympathy and after reprimanding the boy ordered him to receive six strokes with the birch rod!  

Magistrate, steel magnate and Mayor Charles Lothian Bell in 1892


Despite advertising fireworks sales, dangers posed by fireworks were a concern for The Gazette.  The 2nd November 1887 edition observed how fireworks accidents ‘not uncommon occurrences at this season of the year’ noting ‘the sellers of fireworks who have stocked their shops in preparation for “Guy Fawkes Day” find many youthful customers ready to buy their wares’.  An accident involving a ‘maroon’ firework, described as ‘a kind of bomb’, had prompted heightened concern.  It had put two boys and a man in hospital after it prematurely exploded, leading to The Gazette calling for dangerous firework sales to be stopped or at least placed under regulation.Members of the Edwardian Middlesbrough Police Force who continued the battle with public disorder into the twentieth century


With a number of nearby shops selling fireworks, Linthorpe Road was a hotbed of Fireworks Night activity. In 1878, the Gazette reported that ‘a large number of people amused themselves to a late hour by letting off fireworks’ on Linthorpe Road.  In 1879 The Gazette reported how a large crowd congregated near the Linthorpe Road tobacco shop of Mrs Smith, who was also dealing in fireworks.  ‘Crackers and squibs were constantly being thrown out, to the amusement of the people’, but to the annoyance of some fifteen policemen patrolling the crowd.    A week later several men including a barman, butcher, painter, chemist and painters hauled before Middlesbrough Police Court accused of throwing or setting fireworks on Linthorpe Road.  Sergeant Wilkinson reported seeing two of the defendants throw fireworks at nearby policemen, Inspector Sample reported stones being thrown at police, with the street only cleared at midnight by force.  This all led to Magistrate J.C. Coleman as having ‘nearly approached a riot as anything he could imagine’. 

Letting off Fireworks in Linthorpe Road - Daily Gazette, 12 November 1879


Penny for the Guy


‘How is it that though Guy Fawkes Day is “never forgot” by the little urchins of our streets, but remembered as a means of extorting pennies’ asked The Gazette’s ‘Chips’ section in 1889.  It was felt that the meaning of Guy Fawkes’ Night had been lost in Late Victorian Middlesbrough, with the article going on to tell the tale of one person challenging a group of ‘clamorous children’ “I will give you a penny…if you will tell me who Guy Fawkes was.” “I know,” was the prompt answer from one child – “she was Mrs Maybrick (an alleged murderer of her husband by poison who had dominated the headlines the weeks and months before). Guy Fawkes Days,. Illustrated London News, Saturday, November 04, 1848


Firing the flames of the bonfires on which to burn the ‘Guy’ led to trouble amongst the youth of the town. The Daily Gazette on 15th November 1876 reported of four youths – Nicholas Cronan, John James Byers, William Wilde and Henry Walton – appearing at Middlesbrough Police Court.  The gang were alleged of stealing boxes, a cask of treacle and an old tree taken from Cannon Street grocer Joseph Horsfall’s yard to make for a bonfire!   The defendants denied taking the treacle claiming that they had got it from some other lads, although Cronan admitted putting it on the fire and Byers confessed to taking the tree and a box.  The case was dropped against Watson but the other three defendants were fined.Daily Gazette, 18th November 1876


Almost two decades later, in November 1893, a similar case was reported of eight boys pleading guilty of stealing casks, the property of oil merchant and future Mayor of Middlesbrough Theophilius Phillips! The boys with previous convictions were fined 10s or fourteen days’ imprisonment, whilst the first time offenders a fine of 5s or seven days imprisonment!

Mayor of Middlesbrough, Theophilius Phillips 1895


It was not all doom and gloom however, with The York Herald of 1890 setting a scene of a town full of activity and excitement: ‘Guy Fawkes Day was observed in the customary manner by the younger generation at Middlesbrough.  The night was very dark, and the fireworks in every part of the town were seen to advantage’. 

* Thank you to Middlesbrough Reference Library and Teesside Archives for their assistance in identifying and providing sources to use in this blog.