Doctor Who and Unseen Boro: Richard Piers Rayner Exhibition Launch

Acclaimed local artist Richard Piers Rayner asks the question: “What do you get if you cross a Time Lord with a Football Club?”

The answer? His exhibition entitled Doctor Who and the Unseen History of Middlesbrough Football Club – all from the same drawing board.

Discover Middlesbrough and pythongallery are delighted to announce the official launch of the first ever Middlesbrough exhibition of Richard’s at pythongallery, Middlesbrough, from noon-3pm on Saturday, October 29.

(pythongallery is situated behind the Club Bongo, in Royal Middlehaven House, 21 Gosford Street, Mbro TS1 1BB)

rpr-1902Born and bred in the town, Richard was official artist in residence at Middlesbrough Football Club for sixteen years. He is the illustrator of Doctor Who graphic novels, award winning artist from DC and Marvel comics and illustrator of the graphic novel, Road to Perdition on which the Oscar winning motion film was based.

There are so many facets to the artist, Richard Piers Rayner, captured in his first ever exhibition in his hometown, Middlesbrough.

rpr-dr-who-2This is an opportunity to enjoy illustrations at close quarter, some reproduced at dramatic scale from that man that has rubbed shoulders with Tom Hanks but is equally at home capturing events down by the Riverside with the Boro.

Richard is, a third generation Boro supporter whose Grandad bought a house in Tavistock Street because of its proximity to Ayresome Park, has been attending matches since a 2-0 victory over Liverpool in the old Second Division in October, 1961.

rpr-junoHe said: “The exhibition contains many the key moments from Boro’s history, including the only depiction you are likely to see of match action from the Linthorpe Road Ground, Boro’s home before the move to Ayresome Park at the start of last century.”

It is not all Boro and football from Richard. He illustrated the 300 pages of the graphic novel Road to Perdition that led to the faithful screen adaptation by Sam Mendes that starred Tom Hanks. His previous credits for the American publishing giant, DC Comics, include work on Hellblazer (for which he won the Best Newcomer Award at the San Diego Comic Convention in 1989), Batman, Swamp Thing, LEGION and Doctor Fate.

For Marvel Comics US, Richard illustrated Captain America: Red White and Blue, and for Marvel UK, Doctor Who: Evenings Empire. He set the latter in Middlesbrough, featuring well known landmarks in the background of the story such as, the Transporter Bridge, Linthorpe Rd and Ayresome Park. The villain’s lair is even based on the old family home in Linthorpe. This book has recently been re-published by Panini Comics and Rayner has contributed a substantial body of new material.

The unique historical narrative of Middlesbrough Football Club presented in the exhibition forms part of a collection of over 400 pieces Richard Piers Rayner has created during his 16 years as their official Artist in Residence. From 2000 to 2016 he built up an illustrated history of the club from 1876 to the present that is unprecedented.

rpr-cassidy-1903Richard also wrote and illustrated the much coveted Middlesbrough FC: the Unseen History, published by Breedon Books in 2008. Its comic book style presentation chronicles the unseen days, forgotten heroes as well as more familiar faces and recent history from the formation of the club in 1876 to the present day.

Every piece of artwork exhibited is available in print form and enquiries should be made, either to a Gallery representative or via email to:

rpr-spragg-and-peleSo join Richard this Saturday, everyone is welcome to the launch event when snacks and refreshments will be provided by T P Coffee House.

He added: “Boro fans please drop over on the way to the home game v Bournemouth. This will be the ideal way to get in the mood before taking three points at the Riverside.”

The exhibition continues until Saturday 19th November, so plenty more time for further time travel to view the illustrations of Richard Piers Rayner.

Saturday is a real day of first because also launching on Saturday at noon is the first ever solo exhibition by noted poet/historian and personality about town p.a.morbid.

The Liminal Crawl Space is a series of darkly surreal self-portraits and will be on show until the end of the year in the upstairs gallery.

morbid-python-1pythongallery is open Monday to Friday 9 to 5.30pm and is served by that most hospitable TP Coffee House.


On the Trail of Young James Cook

Discover Middlesbrough kicked off last Friday with a walkabout and tucker in James Cook’s birthplace, Marton. What made this event that bit more special was the presence amongst the walkers of a couple visiting from Melbourne, Australia.

marton-philSenior Museums Curator Phil Philo and Education Officer Jenny Phillips let the antipodean visitors down gently by explaining that the Melbourne Captain Cook Cottage had actually been the Great Ayton home of James Cook senior. We were on the trail of the birthplace and early haunts of his son, the navigator and explorer who would go on to chart the eastern seaboard of Australia and put it on our global maps.

This Marton walkabout took in two Marton’s, for we first explored the lost village of East Marton and looked for clues to the equally lost birthplace of James Cook, which took place some 278 years ago on Thursday. Or at least it is the birthday by the Gregorian calendar; for the calendar changed at a cost of 13 days during Cook’s lifetime. A fact that Phil and Jenny brought to our attention.

marton-birthplace-urnDuring this fascinating walk we discovered former roads, house sites and features that would have been familiar to James Cook junior. Many of them were very close to the Birthplace Museum and inside Stewart Park. Immediately outside the park there are still many houses in the old village that date to Cook’s century. Jenny read to us a list of the trades carried out by living near to the village green.

marton-greenOn Marton Green we stopped to look at another tangible link to Australia. A piece of Australia in fact, gifted to Cook’s birthplace village. Then it was over to St Cuthbert’s Church and a fascinating tour by incumbent, Reverend Andrew Grant of this historic building. This is a building that James Cook would have known very well indeed and there are some notable features recording the association with Marton’s most famous son.

marton-churchAfter all that walking and talking we were ready for the tucker in Nana Tom’s, the museum café. I always think it is like a tree house café as you look out between the trunks and branches of trees that might have been planted by Bartholomew Rudd or Henry Bolckow, two owners of the estate with perhaps contrasting views on James Cook’s cottage.

On this fascinating walk you will learn exactly why the birthplace cottage has disappeared. How Marton lost its iconic painting of James Cook. And where parkrunners can look out for the main street of East Marton as they scuttle past on a Saturday morning.

It is a real privilege to be guided by two absolute founts of knowledge regarding the life and times of James Cook. As a Marton boy myself I find it enthralling to glean more insights about the village before it was swallowed hole as a suburb of Middlesbrough.

Don’t worry if you missed the walk because the very good news is that the fascinating tour will be repeated this Friday (28th October) at 2pm. Only costing £5 and you get your tucker, tea and cake included in the price. Don’t miss this gentle stroll, very short on distance but extremely high on historical interest.

Places can be booked at the Museum shop 01642 311211



Early Middlesbrough had a reputation as a frontier town where there were plenty of opportunities for drinking, and where crime and sin followed as sure as night followed day.

Martin Peagam’s free talk has so captured the public imagination that it sold out days in advance of the Thursday evening recitation at Middlesbrough Library. It has now been move upstairs to the Reference Library – there may be a few seats now available Ring 01642 729409

Middlesbrough: A Town of Rampant Sin is a free talk by local historian and (part) time traveller, Martin Peagam as part of the 2016 Discover Middlesbrough festival.

Following his successful guided walks in the following in the footprints of miserable sinners, Martin has taken his examination of the darker side of the pioneering days of Middlesbrough indoors into the safe bastion of a library.

In this illustrated talk, the audience will be taken on an exploration of why the town acquired this reputation, what the consequences were for crime and sin, and how those responsible for law and order responded.

Along the way he will consider some of the many drinking establishments that once littered the town and the characters that frequented them.

I thought I would take the opportunity to question Martin about one or two details on this sorry tale of squalor and the seedier side of a Victorian town.

captain-cook-pubQ: Could you tell us where the title of your talk Rampant Sin comes from?

A: The title reflects a statement attributed to a Presbyterian Minister after visiting Middlesbrough that ‘in no town had he seen sin so rampant as in the streets of Middlesbrough’ (quoted by by Paul Stephenson, another local historian, in a book some years ago).

Q: Is it fair to label 19th century as a frontier town? Is there a parallel to the Wild West taking place at much the same time a continent away across the Atlantic?

A: There is every justification for describing Middlesbrough as a frontier town comparable to the Wild West: immigrants seeking their fortunes, substitute an iron and steel rush rather than a gold rush There was little law enforcement  and it was a predominantly male population. They were hard working  and hard drinking.

Q: Was there really a pub or beer house on every corner? 

A: Not only was there a drinking establishment on almost every corner, there were quite a few on the streets linking the corners as well.

Q: How much were people drinking?

A: It is difficult to prove how much people were drinking, but pubs do not make money if people do not drink and the number of drinking establishments grew in line with the massive population explosion.

Q: Work must have been very hard but what would it have been like at home in our worker’s town? 

A: The housing conditions of the workers were appalling. The pub was a refuge offering warmth and company, for the price of a drink.

Q: Where were the women in all this? 

A: In the early days the population was predominantly male. And the females who were around in the early days were often purveyors of services of a particular kind.

Q: You have conducted walks as well as talks before under this title;  do you think there is a fascination to know more about the people and the character of the early town of Middlesbrough?

A: I find that people are fascinated by the people who built Middlesbrough from scratch in the nineteenth century – not just the Ironmasters but the ordinary folk who laboured in the iron-works, on the docks and elsewhere. They came from Ireland, Wales, from Scotland, from Staffordshire and elsewhere to create the ‘Infant Hercules’.

Q: This is all a long time ago what are your thoughts on recent developments in the old centre of the town? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about Middlesbrough’s future?

A: As a historian I am always amazed by the ability of people to transform and adapt. Middlesbrough was a marsh-land before 1830. Thirty years later it was part of the greatest industrial nation in the world.
Today the Middlehaven area is slowly, but surely, developing with new industries and activities.
Whether they will succeed or not remains to be seen, but I suspect that there were people who thought that Joseph Pease was mad to bring a railway line to a salt-marsh alongside the River Tees in 1830.
So I am cautiously optimistic about Middlesbrough’s future.

Martin Peagam is fascinated in the heritage of Middlesbrough, Stockton and Teesside, and who enjoys exploring the past and bringing it to life for people through talks and tours.

Ring Middlesbrough Library now for the last few seats – 01642 729409 Starts 5.30pm – 6.30pm Middlesbrough Reference Library

Discover Middlesbrough is presented by Middlesbrough Council’s Festival and Events Team and co-ordinated by Tracy Hyman and Robert Nichols.

Discover Middlesbrough festival programmes are now available from venues across Middlesbrough, including libraries, community hubs, museums, Middlesbrough Town Hall, Middlesbrough FC and the Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre.

Digital versions can also be viewed at

Follow Discover Middlesbrough on Facebook at and on Twitter at @discovermbro


Nightfall Over Middlesbrough

Discover Middlesbrough kicked off on Friday as Middlesbrough people came out to embrace the dark nights and star gaze. Even if the clouds weren’t quite playing ball with the telescopes trained from the roof of mima from Sunderland Astonomical Society there was plenty of magic and wonderment to be had from wandering amongst the starry imagery and sound sprinkled across Centre Square below.

Nightfall was curated by Stellar Projects working with local artists to create a visual and audio journey through the heavens on earth.

It almost goes without saying that the experience was lapped up by local children. So much family fun to be had by investigating and even creating your own starry starry night.

nightfall-starsTwilight tours offered the opportunity to pour over Teesside’s archives and building plans and blueprints by candlelight. Or be guided around the elegance of The Empire by an Edwardian ghost keen to recreate tales of the heyday of the theatre. Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Houdini all appeared on the stage that continues to be a vibrant, beating heart for young Middlesbrough. Historian and part time time traveller Martin Peagam was our twinkle eyed twilight guide.

nightfall-telecopesPerhaps the most sensational view of all was for those lucky enough to have booked tickets for the Transporter Bridge lift. Sponsored by SABIC it was a free elevator into the night sky. A chance to view the twinkling lights of industry, townscapes, ships on the river and cars motoring by. A wonderful experience. There are few places that offer such a unique panorama. Just ask the two Watford football fans that had travelled up for the Boro match on Sunday and filled their Friday evening by heading up the Transporter.

Time to shout about our town and invite all to Discover Middlesbrough.

Discover Middlesbrough events run for the next two weeks until the end of the month there are walks, talks, open days, musical and poetry events. In short all sorts of opportunities you might well not have known existed here in your town.

nightfall-tranny-biggerFor more information on all the events please take a look at our facebook page

Don’t worry if you are not on facebook then all the events can be found online below


Discover Middlesbrough’s Rich History and Vibrant Present

Next weekend is lift off for the return of a popular festival that puts Middlesbrough’s history, heritage, arts and culture firmly in the spotlight.

And even if you think know Middlesbrough inside out, Discover Middlesbrough always has a few surprises in store.

The 2016 programme is officially launched this week, with a feast of events, shows and exhibitions getting under way on Friday, October 14.

It’s an annual open invitation to explore, experience and enjoy everything the town has to offer, and there really is something for everyone.

From the opening night until Monday, October 31, all are welcome to Discover Middlesbrough, from its well-known attractions to its hidden gems.

The festival will be launched in spectacular fashion with Nightfall in Centre Square, a family arts event commissioned by Middlesbrough Council and produced by Stellar Projects with support from Arts Council England.

Nightfall celebrates the theme of stars in the sky through installations, performances and workshops from 6pm on Friday, October 14.

Highlights of the fortnight include a talk by artist Ian Taylor on the final evening of his show at Pythongallery also on Friday, October 14, a walk around James Cook’s Marton (14th and 28th) and a Day School on life in the North East during the English Civil Wars the following day at the Dorman Museum.

Why not grab a breath of fresh air with historian-led walks with the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery and Nature Reserve, or even join a 7km run to Larchfield Community on Thursday, October 20.

Treasures of the Town Hall will be the subject of a talk by the historic venue’s manager Rob Guest and heritage expert Tosh Warwick on October 21, and later the same day Streetwise Opera will give a lunchtime concert at Middlesbrough Central Library.

The ever-popular Magical History Bus Tour is back on Saturday, October 22 with a brand new route, and the following day there’s a rare chance for a ‘hard hat tour’ behind the scenes at Stewart Park’s Central Lodge.

Boro fans can find out all about their favourite fanzine from FMTTM editor Robert Nichols at Marton Library on Monday, October 24 and on October 27 there’s a walking tour linking the four grounds from the club’s early history.

There’s a 278th birthday celebration for Captain Cook on October 27, and the hugely popular Orange Pip Market returns to Baker and Bedford Streets on Saturday, October 29.

Discover Middlesbrough 2016 draws towards a close on Saturday, October 29 with a joint opening of poet and local historian PA Morbid’s first solo exhibition at the Pythongallery upstairs and downstairs the first ever Middlesbrough show of longterm Boro artist in residence, Dr Who illustrator and Hollywood collaborator, Richard Piers Rayner.

The festival finishes as it starts with a spectacular night time experience, a unique opportunity to experience Wilton industry at night on November 2nd.

Holiday Inn Express Sales Executive Tony Bainbridge said: “With our extension under way we are absolutely thrilled to see Middlesbrough developing and growing.

“We are very excited about the events surrounding Discover Middlesbrough, and cannot wait to kick the whole thing off with Nightfall!”

Councillor Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “Discover Middlesbrough is a celebration of Middlesbrough’s fantastic history and heritage, as well as its thriving contemporary cultural scene.

“The festival has become a popular fixture on the town’s calendar, with an array of fascinating events exploring Middlesbrough’s past, present and future.

“Once again visitors and local residents can look forward to an eclectic and inspiring mix of events, exhibitions, talks and walks.

“I hope everyone will take the opportunity to have a closer look at the things we treasure about the town, and perhaps along the way discover some gems that may have passed them by.”

  • Discover Middlesbrough is presented by Middlesbrough Council’s Festival and Events Team and co-ordinated by Tracy Hyman and Robert Nichols.

Discover Middlesbrough festival programmes are now available from venues across Middlesbrough, including libraries, community hubs, museums, Middlesbrough Town Hall, Middlesbrough FC and the Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre.

Digital versions can also be viewed at

Follow Discover Middlesbrough on Facebook at and on Twitter at @discovermbro

For more information, contact the Council’s Festivals and Events team on 01642 729085