Christmas Come Early with Cattle and Cane

In a year when so much has gone wrong for so many there has been a beacon of hope shining like a Wilton fare stack from the Tees, the very wonderful Cattle and Cane. On Thursday night they chose to give out their Christmas presents early when they invited Teesside to a special festive party at The Empire. The grand old Victorian theatre has seen many illustrious performers over the years but the Hammill family (and friends) brought the “snow” and the house down on a night and an event that warmed the hearts and minds of an enraptured capacity crowd.

cattleandcane-frontTo sell out the 1100 capacity venue is no mean feat and testament to the popularity of a band that have inspired Teesside and now successfully taken their musical message out on a debut national headline tour. The home fires were burning for Cattle and Cane in the gorgeously tinsel-ated and fairy lit gilding of the old Empire. The band sparkled sumptuously themselves.

Cattle and Cane are now poised like the giant Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling of The Empire, poised to kick on nationally and internationally next year when their second album should propel them onwards and upwards. But first came the Christmas party and fellow T-T-Teessiders Cape Cub kicked things off in style and pop panache.

It is a polished sound, with exhilarating, high wire guitar, propelling the big, big choruses up beyond that Christmas tree to the gods. The marvellously christened Chas Male has a soaraway voice to cap it all off. The sound is maybe epitomised by the anthemic single All I Need and the moody, magnificent Keep Me In My Mind. The line from the latter “take me north bound back to home,” seemed to sum up the mood.

capecubIt was Santa hats and Boro shirts on for a big festive finale; Stay Another Day seemed to stay about hundred days at number one after Christmas for East 17. It warmed us up nicely.

While Cattle and Cane were wired for sound up on stage, below on the totally rammed dance-floor there was a roar, flutter and flurry of anticipation and excitement. Helen Hammill was on lead vocals to start off. This is an exciting time to see a band in transition, between local and (inter)national, between first and second albums and perhaps edging from folk to more pop orientated. There was an even a different set up on stage with Fran Hammill taking over on keyboards, a new electric guitarist as well as an additional percussionist to beef out the sound and Helen to the fore on hands free vocals alongside Joe on acoustic and vocals.

The band wasted no time in serving up recent mouth watering single 7 Hours with its strident harmonies and smooth pop stylings. Joe’s awesomely crafted love song to the Cleveland Hills already sounds like it will be a highlight of next year’s second album.

cattleandcaneIt has some of the same burning local and vocal passion as the stirring Infant Hercules, which Joe began solo before the band joined in to the rousing finale message of hope.

Then came the first spine tingling moment as the band embarked on a gorgeous rendition of the timeless classic of White Christmas the snow came tumbling down from the heavens onto the audience. Wow.

We were all suitably festive now and no one at all held back from a massive Teesside singalong into Sold My Soul, an early standard by the band from what must be six or so years ago now. Pull Down The Moon received the same rapturous response. Fran reverted to (slide) guitar for another old favourite, The Poacher. For Come Home it felt like we were all family.

The next single Saviour was given its Teesside premier and it was very much a thumbs up from the crowd.

cattleandcane2-snowThe audience demanded encores. What seasonal delights would they stand and deliver? Except for Fran of course still sitting on ceremony. It was a fantastically festive Feed The World with snow cascading down once again and Cape Cub up alongside them belting out the Bono high bits. More singalong, organised this time by Joe for the bouncy Fool For You. In fact the singalong continued well after the song was completed and so there was absolutely no getting away from Cattle and Cane returning again for yet another encore.

cattleandcaneandcapecubA special night then as Cattle and Cane served up a slice of musical magic at Christmas.

words Robert Nichols – photos Tracy Hyman

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Stewart’s Swift Tees Defibrillator Appeal

Stewart Park should soon have a defibrillator for the use of all park users courtesy of fund raising from Swift-tees community runners. An appeal launched at the start of December has achieved over two thirds of the target £1600 in just a couple of weeks thanks to the amazing generosity of park runners and the swift tees community.

The appeal will continue until the target is achieved and then a defibrillator will be permanently installed in the park. It will be a safety valve for the multitude of people using the park, its cafe, visitor centre and museum and the weekly Saturday park run. Add to that all the events from farmer’s markets to walks, talks and occasional open air performances and there are vast numbers of people who could potentially have need for the life saving service of a defibrillator. Hopefully it is never used but it is great that the park will soon be a safer places for all ages.

parkrun 1The Saturday morning parkrun has become a big part of peoples lives now. Up and down the country, nationally and now internationally too, a 9am on a Saturday morning throngs of people of all ages and abilities set off on a 5km run around the local park. It is a run not a race so therefore open to anyone at all to get involved and with plenty of valued volunteering tasks as well, quite essential for the gatherings to go ahead every week. Middlesbrough has two weekly events lapping Albert and Stewart Parks. They are great social meetings, engendering a real community spirit as well as being very advantageous to health. With the defibrillator appeal this is in effect, the runners putting giving something back in for all Stewart Park users.

Swift-tees community running club is based at Hemlington, the group lap the lake on a Wednesday evening, running, jogging, walking all are free to join. When I say free, if you pay 50p then you can grab a cuppa often accompanied by home made cake in the all important social held at the end of sessions in the Habinteg Centre.

Swift-tees draw a lot of their inspiration from husband and wife team Craig and Rosanne Lightfoot. The couple were recent finalists in the Gazette Community Champions awards. Craig is a very popular and patient coach, Rosanne a fundraiser and an ideas person. They are the kind of people that really make things happen, as the hundreds that take part in the weekly community activities will gladly tell you.

Swift-tees run other daytime sessions, some for beginners, intermediates and those fast people, they have maybe a dozen qualified coaches. Club chair, Mike McCann organises a weekly History run on a Thursday morning. Again there is always the carrot of the cafe at the end of an enlightening and educational run through historic Middlesbrough.

Anyway, back to the defibrillator appeal and a couple of Saturday’s ago Swift-tees instigated a Stewart Parkrun takeover where members filled all the volunteer roles from timer to pacers and then afterwards raised nearly £500 to start the appeal in the style.

Last Saturday night at the Swift-tees Christmas party a further £635 was raised including a whopping £231 from a raffled Middlesbrough FC shirt kindly donated by keen parkrunner and Boro Scouting guru Gary Gill. That makes a “running total” (see what I did there?) of £1234. So, almost in the home straight, just the last bend to go now.

swift tees group

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Remembering Ayresome – Stadium Portraits

There is a guy in Bradford that is bringing old football grounds back to life. You can dive back into the 20th century with the stadium portraits of Paul Town.

I first met up with Paul Town the artist behind the brush of stadium portraits while I was on an archaeological dig at his home town club, Bradford Park Avenue. That was in the summer of 2015. Here was me trying to rediscover the lost stand of a now long abandoned ground with my trowel while Paul was doing exactly the same thing on his canvases.

Originally a builder by trade but Paul is now very much a painter of football stadia portraits by commission. He lovingly recreates lost scenes from Park Avenue, Bradford City’s Valley Parade or even our own beloved Ayresome. You can almost taste the Bovril or catch the whiff of baccy and pipe smoke in these highly evocative scenes.

Painting long gone stands and match scenes can entail much historical research and even talking to those that once occupied the old terraces.

With the help of Paul Town we can peer once more between the stanchions and flat caps of the Holgate End and watch Boro hammering the black and white stripes of Newcastle United.

I asked Paul Town a few questions about his artwork as well as how and where you can buy your own copies of his work.

paul-town-ayresome-16Q: Is there a golden age for you to capture football wise?
PT: I was brought up watching football in the late 70/80s, so I suppose my portraits have a look of these eras, unless I’m asked otherwise. These were magical times before sky and commercialism really took hold of the game. I loved it!
Q: How do you research for a commission?
PT: First of all I talk with my client about their passion for their club and their experiences whilst watching matches at their favourite ground, sometimes going into real detail positioning say a father and son watching the game from the same spot on the terracing they watched from every other week. They may ask for a particular match scene, so YouTube or images from the net are great for research on goal scenes and kits etc. I have an extensive range of stadium books dating back to my youth so alongside google I have enough information at my disposal.
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(Painting above is still under construction – to show the process)

Q:How long have you been painting?
PT: I’ve always been a stadium geek, however I started painting 4 years ago. At first it was just an hobby which rapidly turned into a business. I’m blessed to be able to do this now on a full time basis. I used to be a builder; however the challenge of laying bricks in all weathers soon disappeared when I found art and stadium painting.
Q: How did you come to start painting stadium portraits?
PT: Funnily enough I stumbled across it. I’ve always had an obsession with the old Bradford Park Avenue ground, which is a little strange as I’m a Bradford City fan. I painted the old place just as a bit of fun, then somehow became hooked on the whole process painting a selection of old stadiums. I then received my first commission within a month, and started making regular sales. When I look back and think how things have developed, I have to pinch myself. I realise my style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, however it’s a style which I’ve developed over 4 years, which I hope reflects football from the past. It is still a hobby to this day, which is now my full time profession. To be commissioned to paint the old grounds and match scenes for me is a real honour.
Q: Is there still something special about the theatre and atmosphere of Saturday 3pm?
PT: I think I’m stuck in a time warp. Without really noticing, my paintings always seem to have a twist from the past. I was very lucky in 1985 to escape the inferno at Valley Parade. Another few seconds and my life could have been so much different, if at all.
I still struggle to deal with what happened that day. I was in my early teens, so to see something as horrific as this happening as probably shaped the way I lead my life today. I assume it’s something I can’t emotionally let go of, and I feel I owe it to those who lost their lives in front of me to paint these portraits in their memory.

www.stadiumportraits.com Twitter: @stadiumportrait also on Instagram

Remembering Ayresome Park – 20” x 30” Box Canvas is £59.99

 

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Dimi’s Goal is Great Greek Food

Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos has opened a Greek restaurant in Middlesbrough. GREAT, serves modern Greek food in a comfortable, relaxed environment. Sited on the Clifton Street corner of Linthorpe Road it is right, bang in the heart of the restaurant and night life sector of Middlesbrough’s main drag.

Nestled beneath student halls and just over the road from the big Weatherspoons pub, Swatters Carr, Dimi Konstantopoulos could not have picked on a better location for his new restaurant, opened with childhood pal and business partner, Nikos Pitsoulis. Nikos has relocated from Greece along with the head chef. But 10 new posts have been filled locally.

But if you are thinking that this is a sign that Dimi is slowing down and looking towards retirement then think again as he reveals to us in his interview, hanging up his goalkeeper’s gloves is the furthest thing from his thoughts. Dimi arrived here as third choice keeper and now four seasons later he is waiting his turn again from the same position. Give him a chance and he fully intends to pounce on it.

Last week I joined media people and had a chance to sample a little food. Apparently you are pick and choose main courses now that the restaurant has opened. The menu opens with a choice of Greek starters from Tzatziki to Htipiti – that is fest cheese spread with chilli peppers. All £3.95.

Main dishes start with Pork Yeeros £11.90 to Whole Roast Chicken £10.90 and special club sandwich £12.95. There are three Greek salad options and then a selection of wraps and burgers, including Sovaki skewers. Oh and don’t worry there are chips and side dishes. And desserts for a fiver. Plenty of options to try.

Greak Food

Anyway, I plonked myself down at a table with Dimi and fired some questions in his direction about the restaurant, Boro and himself.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your restaurant. A lot of us will have travelled to Greece and the Greek islands and sampled the food but could you tell us a little about the food in Great please?

Dimi: This is traditional cooking that you find everywhere in Greece. It can be a take away or you eat a sit down meal, there are places like that everywhere in Greece. It includes a lot of variety of different meat cooked in different styles and salads. I think it fits very well to the British mentality because in my experience they like that sort of thing.

Q: Looking out of the window here on Linthorpe Road we can see many different types of restaurants and they all do well but no Greek food.

D: Yes that was the idea I think there is a gap in the market. We looked around the area and there was nothing similar so we thought it was a good idea because as you say there are a lot of different styles of restaurant around here but it is good to offer the people of Middlesbrough the option.

Q: I have heard that you enjoy eating out in local restaurants when you can.

D: Yes, I love food, obviously I can’t have exactly what I want because of my job but I do like to try different things and I go many places not only in Middlesbrough but around the area. Yes, I think a lot of people like to try new things and this is a good option for them to have.

Q: I live not far from here Dimi and I saw the signs going up in the windows a long time ago so I know that you have spent some time doing this. You are obviously trying to do it properly.

D: Yes we said from day one that we have to do it properly. If we do something like this then it needs to be 100% quality-wise. Everything should be spot on. This is something we have been planning for the future as well. We want people to come here and enjoy the food and everything to be clean and very efficient from the service and so they leave this place happy.

Q: You have a business partner from Greece and a chef from Greece but you have employed some local people as well.

D: Yes it is partly something for me to give back to this area that has given me so much. To invest here. Since we started having this idea straight away I said the best place to start is here in the north east and in Middlesbrough. Yes, there is no better place for me to start a venture like this.

Q: How many years is it now since you first came to the area and joined Hartlepool?

D: Yes, there was a spell of three years when I went to Greece, it has been altogether about ten years now. So, I have spent most of my professional career in the north east and it feels like home to me. My family is settled here and my wife is from Hartlepool and it is where I have my home.

Q: From my experience of going in restaurants in Greece it seems like a social thing as well as eating. Would that be fair to say?

D: Yes, it is like a ritual for them in Greece people like to spend a few hours eating and talking, nibbling and having a chat and a laugh. It is not the same here because people sometimes go out and eat and they go straight away. But we are flexible. If people want to spend their time here and enjoy a few drinks. Because we have the option of a little variety, you don’t have to stick to the same main course you can try different things and pick. So, maybe people will take some time.

Q: I notice you have the four tv screens. Like a sports bar.

D: Yes we want it to be a bit contemporary and simple really.

Q: You are certainly not stepping into a taverna here are you?

D: No we didn’t want to go down that road because the kind of food we are offering is not taverna food it is more traditional Greek food. We have done this design where the designer did the whole project. The tellys are part of this, they will be showing videos and music. Something for people to look at. There will be music as well. We are trying to make it as enjoyable as possible for people to have food here.

Q: You are beneath a student hall here aren’t you?

D: Yes, student accommodation, so I think it is a good spot to open a restaurant. There are a lot of students upstairs so we hope they will come and try some food. We will see what happens.

Q: Can I please ask you a few questions about football. You joined Middlesbrough three or four years ago now?

D: Four seasons ago.

Q: I don’t suppose you dreamt back then what would happen over the next couple of seasons. You were third choice weren’t you?

D: No, it has been a tremendous journey for me. I have enjoyed every step of it. I came to the team on a short term contract but I always believed in myself, I always thought I need a chance and if I get a chance I will prove myself. That is what has happened in the past and I was lucky to be given a chance and then from then on it started going upwards.

Nothing has changed for me; it is the same story now. I have done it before whenever I am given the chance and I will do it again.

Q: People might not realise that prior to joining Boro you had been playing at AEK Athens, so playing in the top league in Greece.

D: Yes and Europa League as well, European football. I have some good experiences on my CV. I have played for many big clubs and I am proud of it.

Q: You must also be very proud of your record at Boro, especially last season with so many clean sheets.

D: Yes it is something I take great pride in. I was lucky to be amongst a set of lads who were really working hard, really working together. They were a good team and still are. To have this record and to be in the record books of the club is something special.

Q: And of course to experience the drama of clinching promotion in the last game against Brighton. Going down to the very last seconds. That must have been special.

D: Yes, it was a bit of a roller coasterm as a season and a game. But we came through it and we are here now and we are very grateful and we are enjoying our time in the Premier League and I think we have the potential to be in this league for many, many years.

Q: What about you for your future? You have said that you want to continue playing as long as you can?

D: Yes, I feel good, I feel fit, I feel sharp. I train every day and I train hard. I still have the urge to improve myself. So, it is not even in my mind yet about retiring. When I get to the stage that I wake up on a morning and I am not feeling as happy going to work and am not feeling that I want to try any more then I will retire. But for now I am feeling like I was feeling ten years ago. So as long as I feel like that I will continue.

Q: I was going to say, so you are still hungry to play football…

D: Yes, (laughs) that is a good one.

Q: Thanks very much I am looking forward to coming here and trying the food and celebrating a Boro win.

D: Yes, I will get the lads in soon to try it as well. I have already told them they are expected.

Photos by Tracy Hyman (below head chef, Dimi and Nikos)

Great is open 11am til late. You can find it on twitter @GreatGreekFood

Dimi, head Chef and Nikos

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James Kruman – Twitch Album Launch

Tomorrow night (Saturday 10th December) is a proud night for Teesside troubadour, James Kruman, it marks the launch of his debut album, Twitch at The Westgarth Social Club. If ever there was an album launch worthy of your support then this is it. An outstanding singer songwriter on the local scene and beyond over the last few years James has released one of the albums of the year in Twitch.

james-krumanThey say to never judge a book by its cover he cover of the album but from its enigmatic scientific diagram drawn on a black surround it is quite clear that Twitch is no ordinary affair. This is a debut full of dark mystery and rare beauty. It demands your full attention. There are shades and layers of meaning here contained within songs that almost entice you in and trap you with deadly venus fly trap barbs. Either the songs devour you whole or you are caught up in their spell. I haven’t put the thing down since it arrived through the post a couple of weeks back.

I was so intrigued that I contacted James to ask him a few questions regarding the album, his music and what we might expect from this weekend’s launch. He is always a compelling performer, with his distinct look, and a voice that harks back to 60s folk and psychedelia and yet is very much of the here and now.

Backed up by the irresistible Broken Broadcast and Hartlepool’s Bob Dylan, Danny Devon this should be an amazing show to end the year.

You  can a preview of the album here on James bandcamp account.

So, here are a few questions and some amazingly insightful answers from James.

Q: You go for a very big start with Barrel Bomb – did you want to take us into the deep end straight away?

JK: I identified Barrel Bomb as being the biggest indicator of how my music has evolved over the last few years, and it seemed important to let the audience know this from the start. I think the mood in Barrel bomb encapsulates the overall mood of the album and I too think that this was important to let the audience know.

Q: I hear hints of Dylan, Donovan and maybe Syd Barrett and psychedelia in your work – are you drawn to great and maybe off the wall song writers?

JK: Bob Dylan was probably the catalyst in my need and obsession to first write music. I have always been drawn to the abstract images portrayed by those artists.

Q: There is a dark beauty to the album Twitch – even the cover – do you feel drawn to a darkside?

JK: I have always been drawn more to the macabre, depressive elements of the human existence. I feel I write more fluently about the dark existence that one can feel.

Q: Your songs draw the listener into great ideas, words and stories. Do you enjoy storytelling in your work?

JK: It’s great that I have been asked this again, because I feel like my songs are far too abstract and narratively warped to tell a story. I genuinely love the way that people take a story from them as it breads another dimension in the song that even I did not realise..

Q: You are hard to pigeon hole but I would say that you like to take an oblique, unusual angle on things, maybe from a long way above the ground. Is that fair?

JK: I think that is fair indeed. I have always felt like an outsider, and I wish to stay an outsider! I do indeed prefer to create the more unusual angle on themes. If I think a particular lyric is too straight and literal I try my best to distort it. I guess it’s like throwing a tin of paint over a blue print.

Q: This is a departure at times from your acoustic live persona did you enjoy working with different instruments and production?

JK: I indeed enjoyed the departure from my conventional set up, but more so, this departure was overtly necessary to create the soundscapes and propel the intended moods to the level that fit the content of each song.

Q: What was the process like of writing, recording etc?

JK: I knew it was time to make the album, I had been toying with ideas of sounds and lyrics for a while and these are the bulk of Twitch. The whole album was recorded in my damp spare bedroom. It used to get so cold in there you could see my breath bouncing off the microphone. I hope this can be imagined in many of the songs, its certainly a winter album! I discovered a new approach to writing music for this album in that in some of the songs on Twitch the music came first and they were left baron and without lyrics for a great while. I have never previously considered myself a musician before as I felt my lyrics were the real fundamental of the song, and the music came second.

Q: There are diagrams and gadgetry on the cover and in the songs, are batteries included in this package?

JK: The Diagrams were re-designed from an old book I found in my parents attic. It was called something like ‘The Young Engineer’, and it was presented to my father in the 1950’s for an achievement at school. I was fascinated by the beauty of the line drawings and how archaic the language was.

Q: Please say anything you want about the album and your recorded work in general, I think you should be very proud of such a great piece of work. Tell us a bit about your album launch and what we might expect from you and the other artists?

JK: The ‘Twitch’ album if nothing else is a mirror image of where I am now in my creative life. I am truly excited for the album launch, it has been a work in progress for the last 9 months, and it is the cause of a worsening insomnia that I have developed recently! I feel privileged to have the Broken Broadcast on the same bill. The Broken Broadcast have a sound and atmosphere that I have not heard elsewhere, they are my favourite band in Teesside, after Journey South. Danny Devon is opening the show, and I have become close with Danny over the last couple of years. His raw live energy coupled with his real life poignant folk songs will be the perfect start to the evening.

James Kruman releases his debut Album called Twitch on Saturday (10th December) at Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough.
Ably supporting James are
The Broken Broadcast and Danny Devon

Tickets £5.50/5.00

Buy Tickets seetickets

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