Boro North America

Wherever you go in this ever shrinking world it seems you are bound to bump into Teessiders and Boro fans. Former Boro TV employee, Ellen Sowerby contacted me recently to tell me about a growing group of Boro fans on the other side of the Atlantic. Spread through the USA and Canada this group of MFC fanatics get together via a facebook page set up by Ellen. They would love to reach out to more Boro fans on the other side of the pond to join in our promotion push on their facebook page.

Top of Empire State Building, NYC, after the Man City game in JanuaryEllen is actually over in the UK at the moment and has attended the last couple of games. Although she witnessed that disappointing defeat to Nottingham Forest Ellen was invited to meet new Fan Liaison Officer Yvonne Ferguson who presented her with gifts and recognition from the football club.

I asked Ellen to tell us a little about Boro North America.

I started it in September 2013 for the handful of Boro fans I’d met on my travels around the US and Canada – there were only 10 of us, but it was a good tool for sharing TV schedules and pub plans.  We grew organically: word of mouth, the fmttm message board, the occasional comment on the MFC page, finding new friends in pubs and we now almost 100 members spread out across 20 US States and 4 Canadian provinces.  While I haven’t got actual numbers, I think we’re about 85% Teessiders, and 15% natural American/Canadians who have somehow found the Boro.

San FransiscoIt’s a very active group, we’re careful to only let proper Boro fans in, to save the spamming you see in some other groups.

adam clayton marathon webIn the past year, we’ve had some wonderful member achievements: Jeff Collins ran the Boston marathon dressed as Adam Clayton complete with ginger beard (Adam sent him a signed shirt afterwards), and Martin Hill featured on Shark Tank (the US version of Dragon’s Den).

We don’t have any meet-ups scheduled at the moment – we make plans once we know the US/Canada TV schedule.  As soon as we know, we make plans on the group page.

As a group, we’d like to extend our best wishes to Ali Brownlee.  Four member of our group (including myself) are former Boro TV employees, and had the great privilege of working with him.  Being across the pond, and being in the Championship, it’s not often our games are televised, so we rely on Ali more than most.

Ellen Sowerby

Play-Off Final crew in NYCIf you are in North America you can look up fellow Boro fans at https://www.facebook.com/groups/boronorthamerica/

To join the closed group contact Ellen https://www.facebook.com/ellen.sowerby

Toronto, Ontario, CanadaMe in Times Square, NYC

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Cattle and Cane – At Home In Middlesbrough

Proud Teessiders Cattle and Cane enjoyed a fantastic year in 2015 and look forward to hitting even greater heights this year. In fact, just like the football team they support. I asked singer and songwriter Joe Hammill a few questions about the band and for his thoughts on the Boro. These answers were actually received at the start of December, straight after Boro’s win at Ipswich. Things have moved on somewhat since then of course. But here is in the interview in full, an abridged version was printed in Boro fanzine Fmttm Issue 561 v Birmingham City.

Q: It has been a massive year for Cattle and Cane – you must have been delighted to finally get the debut album, Home, out? It is a fantastic album too were you knocked out by the reaction of fans and critics alike? 

Joe: Thanks Rob, I think by the time we released it there was more a sense of relief than anything else. It felt like now we can properly crack on and getting moving with it all. The previous few years before the release were quite sporadic and frustrating (finishing uni degrees etc!

Q: Can I ask you about the album launch gig at the Uni. It was an amazing atmopshere on the night. Did it feel to you like a really special event? 

Joe: Looking back on that night I can say it was really fantastic and something we’re all proud of. To have people there and singing along, really getting into the whole experience was really great to be part of. It is sometimes hard to fully appreciate nights like that when they’re happening but we tried to soak it all up as much as we could. It was the most nervous we’d been for one of our own shows – it’s a big adjustment going from playing rooms of 300, 400, and 500 people to 1000. It’s a much different environment for the band in terms of engaging with the audience. The intimate banter of smaller rooms doesn’t really work so well in a bigger venue with a lot of people. It was a big learning curve for us and we’re excited about playing more shows like this. Cattle and Cane

Q: What other highlights stood out for you – Deershed was special I thought with everyone joining in your songs?

Joe: Yeah Deershed was a brilliant day. It’s reputation as a really credible festival is increasing every year and we were delighted to be part of it. The best outcomes in life generally are the ones when you don’t have expectations aren’t they. That’s what it felt like that day. It was like a turning point for us as a band too because we played some new material for the first time and as you might’ve noticed, Rob, the new musical direction was on show! So for the first time really we had a crowd dancing and singing to these new songs and that felt great. Of course, we got plenty of Boro chants from the crowd!

Q: This is for the Boro fanzine – it was originally – so I simply must slip some Boro questions in – did you enjoy taking part in the build up to the play off final? Your George Friend song really struck a chord didn’t it? How many hits did it get and did you get any feedback from the Boro? 

Joe: Ha! The George Friend song was just a bit of fun really. It was after the Brentford home leg and everyone was on a massive high afterwards. We went home and had a few gins and all we were talking about was the game, the season as a whole, and how we were feeling confident about the final having played Norwich a few weeks before (urgh). I’d learned fingerstyle guitar for Isn’t She Lovely that week actually and thought about turning it into a Boro themed song. Choosing the player was easy because George has so much love from both men and women (Helen is a big fan, George.) I think the song and video got around 100k views or something (we actually got a request to play it when we played a show in Exeter recently) – “if we get promoted” is normally my go to answer.

Q: The final was a let down but the pre match build up epic. Did you enjoy the party the night before and being a big part of it?
Do you think that has brought us together in a way and given us something to build on this season?

Joe: The whole day before the final was a buzz at the Middlesbrough Supporters South party. As a child of the 90’s I didn’t know too much about the Boro in the 80’s. I knew that the gates had closed and Gibbo had rescued us. It was pretty spine tingling hearing the Q & A’s with Bruce Rioch and Bernie though about that time; how committed the players were to the club – unreal really when you consider how football is today. Looking around the room you could feel the emotion and pride the fans felt about that era and how the club survived.

Q: Do you think that the sad closure of SSI and all the other challenges here has made Infant Hercules all the more poignant? I had a lump in my throat when Joe sung it solo at Tees Uni and then again when you played it at the Transporter Bridge. 

Joe: Yeah, I mean when I wrote that song I wasn’t thinking specifically about the steel industry. I was trying to write about Teesside as a whole (it’s culture and history both past and present). I am really proud of the song and I’m glad it means something to people. To be really cheesy and quote one of the lyrics ‘The warm orange glow of our industry at night’ was a theme I’d always liked (When you’d been away from home for a week on your holidays or whatever and you come back and see the industrial works – it’s that sense of belonging somewhere I think is what I’m saying). I’m not sure there are many other places that produce such a strong connection for people.

Q: Next year is shaping up to be a big one for you – are you looking forward to the tour? Are the signs there that you are going to make a really big impact away from home? 

Joe: Next year is exciting for us absolutely. We have a three week UK tour in February which will be a good chance to road test new material as well as the first album. There are festival dates already confirmed and a plan shaping up to go over to Europe to play shows out there.
Q: You have been playing a few songs lately from the next album. It sounds like it could be a shift in direction in some ways is that true?

Joe: There is definitely a shift in direction for the next album. Over the last few months I’ve been writing for other artists in Europe. A lot of the artists have been dance producers and it has really opened my eyes in terms of songwriting and production. I’m learning a lot about production and sounds and how important they are to get a great sounding record. It’s also helped me become much more productive and efficient (working to deadlines is something I hadn’t really done before). So I’d say I’m understanding and developing a lot more in terms of the song writing and hopefully that will show through in our next record.

Q: There is a long way to go but how do you see the season going for Boro?  

Joe: I am quietly confident. I staked a bit of money on winning the league when the Downing rumours came out (we were 10/1 then!) The other week though when we lost to Hull I was pretty worried – one of my mates is a Hull fan so you can imagine my sheer delight when texting him a screenshot of the updated table after this week. The main positive for me is that apart from the second half against Ipswich the team haven’t been playing that well but we’ve been winning games and are right up there. I think that’s such a good sign. When you look around the side defensively we’re unbelievable (I think we’ve conceded two goals all season at home!). Clayton is looking superb; then you have Stewy who I think is really coming into form. Stuani oozes class too. And then everyone keeps talking about the return of the prodigal son, Bamford – personally I’d love to see him in a Boro shirt again!

cattle and cane

 

 

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The Art of Bridges: Celebrating the Tees’ landmark bridges

Celebrating the Tees’ landmark bridges by Brian Collins

Tees Transporter Bridge

Brian Collins is a local artist and member of the Cleveland Art Society, whose work includes celebrations of the Teesside industrial skyline.  Brian contributed to the ‘Green One and the Blue One’ 2014 Exhibition held at The Heritage Gallery at Cargo Fleet both to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Tees Newport Bridge and to mark the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Project.   

Blastfurnace1

They stand tall and proud our two sentinels guarding the River Tees. Along with our industrial heritage we can boast of being custodians to two of the most iconic bridges in the world, so different in their design and solution for crossing the river Tees.

c/o Teesside Archives

I cannot think of another place where a bridge or bridges affectionately belong so strongly to the very fabric of the people and the area.  Returning to Teesside from a journey or holiday by plane, ship or car, seeing either of these structures is instantly reassuring and comforting as a sign of home.

There is nothing banal about either; they give congruence and consonance to the surroundings and space that they occupy.  A close artist friend once told me that they are as natural as A,B,C, an ‘Absolute Beautiful  Consequence’, I didn’t get it back then but I do now.

Tees Transporter Bridge - Vulcan Street Wall1

The Tees Transporter Bridge with its purposeful angles and lines so delicate and poised, those tapered legs adding to the sense of height perspective.  Surely such a feminine form had to be designed and conceived by Ferrari in Italy?  In fact, it was designed by Cleveland Bridge of Darlington which continues to build bridges and even the odd football stadium arch around the world!

In contrast the Newport Bridge is a bold and functional statement.  It shouts “we designed and constructed it this way because we can!”  For me it is a real “Boys Own” Meccano bridge, a masculine form.  There is no doubt that these two engineering master class statements belong at home here on the “steel river.”

Tees Newport Bridge - second image

My first artistic encounter with the Transporter was as a fifteen year old at school; I photographed and drew the structure as part of my final art project.  My art teacher Tom Dalton never told me what to draw but he explained how to observe a subject and how to capture the atmosphere of a place, I learned a lot about the Bridge that day. A short while ago I returned for the umpteenth time compelled to try and find a new way of looking and recording its beautiful form.  This structure is so iconic that it occurred to me that I didn’t need to paint all of the bridge, even if I was to paint  just a metre section with rivets along with that “give away” blue colour, it is instantly recognisable.

The Dorman Long built Newport Bridge is different, in some respects it has always appeared to be the poor relation; second best.  Although I have travelled back and forth across it for a number of years it was only a couple of years ago when I finally decided to get up close and personal with it.  It was a summer evening, I set off with camera and sketch pad in hand aboard my motorcycle.  I rode across to the north side and then doubled back a little on the underside along the footpath.  The sense of scale is overwhelming, the whole structure perches on a series of red cotton reels submerged into the river.  The wild grasses and hogwart attempt without success to swallow and claim the lower sections.  This is an artist’s paradise to sit back in and draw, it was painted green back then and the two columns stretched upwards into a cloud free ocean of blue sky.  I couldn’t resist walking onto the Bridge to touch and feel the rivets that hold the individual sections of steel girders together.  This indefatigable landmark was built by hand and you can sense and feel it all around you, it’s a part of living history.

  The Tees Newport Bridge

A short distance up river from these two enduring icons of industrial Teesside is the A19 flyover; it does the same job and in a much more efficient way but it will never be held in the same esteem or heartfelt affection as the Newport and Transporter Bridges.  These two grand coliseums are special, erected by our great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers, forged by “Teesside’s Industrial Gladiators” with blood, sweat and tears.

Brian Collins’ artwork features in the forthcoming book River Tees by Tosh Warwick and Jenny Parker, published by Amberley later this year.

For more information on the Tees Transporter Bridge visit www.teestransporterbridge.com.

* Additional content by Tosh Warwick.

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