Pint of Science

We are bang in the middle of a festival of science that links Middlesbrough with cities across the world and brings science and scientists into the more homely and comfortable setting of the pub.

“Pint of Science is a non-profit organisation that brings some of the most brilliant scientists to your local pub to discuss their latest research and findings.”  The great thing from the audience point of view is that you don’t need any prior knowledge, and it is a real opportunity to meet the people who could be the future of science (and have a pint with them).

Pint of Science runs over a few days in May in cities throughout the world from Brazil to Australia to 21 locations in Britain, including Dickens Inn, Middlesbrough. Specific topics are selected and Pint of Science, Middlesbrough has opted for Planet Earth. Programmed here by Teesside University Dr Dave Errickson, this forensic archaeologist has opted for the broadest interpretation of Planet Earth including even North Yorks folklore and the mysterious Hobs.

Tonight, (Tues 16th May) in conjunction with Middlesbrough Local History Month we have Cooking Up Local Stories and Folklore with two local favourites, Middlesbrough Museum’s Phil Philo and BBC Tees Bob Fischer. Phil will be bringing Captain Cook’s natural scientists and their incredible finds under the 21st century microscope in Gotta Catch ‘Em All. Bob will be delving into the shadowy half world of the hobs and other mythical creatures that were a very real part of rural life for the people in North Yorks Moors as he goes Hobnobbing with the Hobs.

Tomorrow night (Wed 17th May) in the same Dickens Inn venue we fly off in two very different directions again.

Spacecraft: Writing in Another Dimension – poet Harry Man has collaborated with astrophysicists, neuroscientists and ecologists, creating new interdisciplinary work which is poetry Jim, but just not as we know it.

Explore how one poem began its journey here on Earth only to be blasted into space and placed in orbit around the planet Mars, and new frontiers in adventures in the English language that evolved into poems specifically designed for those with dyslexia, poetry without words, and poetry made to be read as it slowly dissolves into the ocean or melts in the open air.

Amy Carrick River Tees Officer with Tees Valley Wildlife Trust asks: How Many Bats Can You Fit in a Pint Glass? Answer, “At least 30 (but make sure you drink the beer first!)”

Amy will tell us about all the small mammals of the Tees Valley and what the Trust is doing to monitor them. Some questions she may or may not answer are: How do we know what bat is where and what they are jibbering on about? How do we know where otters like to chill out on their couches? How do we know what water voles have for their tea?

Expect plenty of visuals with all these talks and the chance to get up close and personal with ideas, myths, facts, science and the our planet earth.

Both fun and fact packed evenings are just £4 and can be booked ahead online to ensure you have a comfortable seat to listen and a space to park your pint. Doors 6:30pm. Event 7:00-9:00pm Pint of Science




Why Cattle and Cane are Dancing for Joy on Cleveland Hills

There was some good news in a grim week for Teesside when leading local band Cattle and Cane’s second album, Mirrors, broke into the midweek charts. The band celebrated with a “secret gig” at Hit The Bar in Middlesbrough.

Mirrors made no. 53 in the national charts, no mean feat for an unsigned band. Sales at venues on the band’s current UK tour do not count towards chart positions, so it has all been achieved through genuine sales.

The follow up to the band’s popular long playing debut Home was launched at an In Store event at world renowned Stockton vinyl store, Sound It Out Records. Siblings Joe, Helen and Fran Hammill performed  acoustically between the record racks for a shop full of fans.

I caught them last week on the north eastern leg of the UK tour at the wonderful Sage music venue in Gateshead. As it happens I was in good company as it appeared a very high percentage of the audience were Teessiders on an away day. There were more than a few familiar faces, like retiring Boro FC Academy Director, Dave Parnaby as well as former band members James and Vin Hammill.

The band were on top form and revelled in both the superb acoustics offered by the venue and the very welcome respectful silence from the audience. This allowed the Thornaby band the luxury of being able to play more sensitive songs in the encore. It has to be one of the very best shows I’ve ever seen the band stand and deliver.

We need a big push now to keep Mirrors in the charts announced at the weekend. So, with that object in mind here is a quick interview with singer Joe Hammill, which he completed in his gig dressing room mid tour in Manchester.

Q: The second album is notoriously difficult but you seemed to have been playing songs from Mirrors before you had even released Home.

Joe: The second album wasn’t quite as difficult as it could’ve been. We had a lot of the songs already written for a while and had road tested quite a few of them.

Q: You have come a long way in recent years. There have been line up changes. And does Fran prefer sitting down in his more mature years?

Joe: Yeah the line up has changed but the core of me, Tom Helen and Fran is still there. I think with the band we are okay to have a fluid approach to interchanging/having guest members.

With each album we write and produce the sounds will change and working with other musicians is a very positive thing. Fran is thrilled to be sat down these days! What a doddle! He’s the elder statesman of the band and it’s only right he has a chair.

Mirrors sees Cattle and Cane’s sound pushing out in different directions. There is a lot of innovative production including unusual vocal harmonies and rhythms.

Q: You have been exploring a lot of different aspects of music. There are a lot of different directions and influences on Mirrors. You have also spread song writing duties and working with others too – do enjoy this process?

Joe: We’ve definitely experimented with different sounds on this album. That’s a lot to do with Luuk the producer, whose background is electronic/dance. We totally embraced that. I love co-writing – so I’ve been writing with lots of people recently. Lucy Spraggan, Alice on the Roof, Norma Jean Martine, Sivu.

Q: There is a lot of interesting, exciting production also with unusual vocal harmonies and rhythms etc do you enjoy exploring new roads. Would you describe your sound as having gravitated more from folk to pop?

Joe: I guess our sound on this record is more pop than folk I guess the songs for this album lend themselves to a more pop sound.

You are obviously still influenced by folk and your roots. People may not be aware that Joe you won a Graeme Miles Bursary a couple of years ago, awarded as part of the legacy of the great, late Teesside song writer. The wonderful Tonight We Dance on Cleveland Hills seems to spring from this tradition. Your Teesside roots are obviously still important to your music.

Q: You achieve so much as an unsigned band but does this give you an advantage of being closer to your audience with fan pledges of money for albums etc?

Joe: In terms of being unsigned we’re quite content doing everything ourselves. We have a fan base that sustain us by coming to gigs and buying our music.

Q: How delighted are you to have charted with the album? Maybe you will all have to follow Helen now that your music is being played on Made in Essex and Chelsea.

Joe: I’m delighted that we’ve made the charts. It’s all down to the people who have pledged and supported months before the album was released! I was so chuffed when we found out yesterday!

Q: What is next? A Boro promotion song?

Joe: If Boro come straight back up we’ll write a song!

Photos top by Tracy Hyman – Sound It Out Records, Stockton.

Bottom from Louise Wilkin at Hit The Bar, Middlesbrough

How to buy Mirrors

Google Play:

Or in store at Sound It Out Records in Stockton or nationwide at your local hmv.





All Aboard the Magical History Bus

There are still a few places available to hop aboard the magical History Tour.
It departs from outside Dorman Museum tomorrow morning at 10 am and from then on is guided by historian Martin Peagam and the 500 Group experts around a brand new route to see the history, the mystery and the up and coming in Middlesbrough.
Run as part of Middlesbrough Local History Month this is always a sell out part of October’s Discover Middlesbrough festival. This time the 500 group have kindly made available their vintage Bristol VRT RDC106R a former Transit double decker for our Spring history festival. We won’t need the heating switched on!
Sadly the bus is not wheelchair accessible and children must be accompanied.
So if you fancy exploring the history of Middlesbrough then hop on board the vintage bus.
The tour runs tomorrow, Saturday 6th May at 10am-4.30pm
Booking by calling 01642 81 51 81
£2 admin fee


It’s Middlesbrough Restaurant Week

The first week in May means it is time for the annual Middlesbrough Restaurant Week, starting today on May Day Holiday.

Year on year Middlesbrough’s food scene gets better and better and that means that this year there is more choice and variety than ever before.

This is the fourth annual Middlesbrough Restaurant Week and can be no doubt that there are more people enjoying eating out and there are far more venues out there. That has to be a very healthy sign for a town that is starting to establish itself as a foodie destination.

From independent cafés, bar-restaurants to much-loved family favourites and even high end restaurants, there has to be something for everyone in this year’s list. This is an open invitation to explore from Monday, May 1 to Sunday, May 7.

In total there are twenty outlets offering special menus, limited edition dishes and fantastic prices in restaurants across the town centre. Restaurant Week is the perfect opportunity to try somewhere new and sample more of what Middlesbrough has to offer.

I am looking down the list and thinking of where I have and where I haven’t been to eat. I reckon I will be needing to be cutting a couple of new notches in my belt by the time the week has finished. Then again there are some healthy eating options amongst those participating.

Oh an please note that Middlesbrough is passionate about supporting local suppliers and producers, and many restaurants participating in this year’s Restaurant Week are listed on the Growing Middlesbrough directory. So guests will be able to enjoy their meal with the knowledge that they are contributing to the local economy in more ways than one.

Here is the full list – click for offer details.

For information on restaurants supporting local food, visit

Photos Tracy Hyman


The Purnells Final Curtain

Teesside favourites The Purnells play their final gig this weekend on Saturday night at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton. It will be a sad but doubtless unforgettable night as one of the area’s most exuberant live bands calls it a day. A great stage to bow out on also, the revamped Georgian is a fantastic venue now. With support acts of Be Quiet Shout Loud this show is not to be missed.

Singer Stu tells us that he may have some new masks up his sleeve, so expect theatrics and expect high emotion.

But hang on a minute, before the show I thought I would ask that, there Stuart Blackburn a few questions about the life and times of The Purnells.

Q: Do you remember The Purnells first gig?

Stu: Our first gig was at The Sun inn, Stockton. It was set up for new bands by Kingsley Chapman and we supported Be Quiet Shout Loud, so it’s great to be doing our last show with them.

Q: Is it important to you to really put on a show?

Stu: Massively important, who wants to see people just standing there? You have to go for it every time.

Q: There is real drama in the music as well live theatrics. Is that a key element to The Purnells?

Stu: I suppose it’s always just been something that comes out, a little bit of drama is always a good thing.

Q: You enjoyed working on the videos too didn’t you?

Stu: Very much so, it’s always been a regret we didn’t do more.

Q: Most of the band stayed together throughout. Did the different bass players add facets to the sound and direction?

Stu: Definitely, every bass player has brought something exciting to the table, I mean we liked Ian so much we let him stay!

Q: What was it like playing festivals?

Stu: Personally festivals have always been my favourite, maybe for the outdoor atmosphere but mainly because it’s not your crowd and you have to fight to grab and hold their attention.

Q: You must be very proud of the recordings. Some fine songs and great albums. Any personal favourites?

Stu: I’ve always loved the more bluesy ones, mainly because that’s my thing. I can’t really pick a favourite song, but if it’s dark and bluesy I’m probably a fan! I’m proud of all the albums we’ve done, I think Half Step Into the Shadow is my fave in a way because I’m proud of a lot of the lyrics on that album.

Q: You personally love putting your acting skills to the test on and off stage?

Stu: Again, it just kind of comes out, I do enjoy a bit of drama.

Q: What are you going to do with your masks now?

Stu: I may set up a museum in my garage! I could play the albums on repeat and serve chip butties or something; I think it’d be a winner.

Q: The album launches have always been special events. Very enjoyable to watch but must have been enjoyable to prepare and perform?

Stu: Very enjoyable to perform certainly, and we are at home when we play the Georgian. Enjoyable to set up? Not really, it is weeks of worrying if folk will turn up and alienating everyone with constant harassment to buy tickets. I don’t know how promoters do it everyday.

Q: Will there be excitement but also sadness for you all with the last show?

Stu: It’s very sad, as ten years is a long time. I think it’ll kick in on the night. I’m going to really miss it!

Q: Any plans for a Purnells tribute band in 10 years time?

Stu: We could form our own tribute band, there are many who say we have already! Why wait ten years? I’m free after Saturday!

The Purnells Final Gig – supports Serinette + Be Quiet Shout Loud – Sat 29 April Georgian Theatre – tickets £6 advance

Photos Tracy Hyman

Details and Tickets