About Rob Nichols

Rob Nichols is a proud Love Middlesbrough ambassador. He is passionate about football, music and all things Middlesbrough.

Tony Wedlake and The Teesside Family Foundation

I was sent a facebook poster by Tony Wedlake for a Sportman’s Dinner in aid of the The Teesside Family Foundation. Eager to find out more I contacted Tony for a chat at Costa near the Riverside.

gallon-walk-webQ: How far do you go back as a Boro fan, Tony?

TW: I started going to Boro matches when Bruce Rioch was in charge. They were fantastic times. My uncle came to pick me up and said I am going to take you to the Boro match. There was Mowbray, Pallister, Gary Hamilton, Colin Cooper, they were all kids. I remember going to the Junior Reds and Mowbray was the guest one week and he came in and there was an aura around him. He must only have been a kid himself. It was fantastic.

Q: With his dyed blonde hair..

TW: Yes and bleached jeans and his tan. Yes, I loved it.

Q: So you were there for a decade at Ayresome Park?

TW: Yes, to the very last game. We beat Luton and then there was Stephen Pears Testimonial. A great day but a sad day. Then I remember coming over to the Riverside. The first five seasons were brilliant, weren’t they?

Q: There was a relegation in there as well.

TW: Yes but I was fortunate to go to all the cup finals which I was over the moon about. Wembley three times in a year.

Q: Don’t mention the results.

TW: I couldn’t believe we lost the first cup final when Ravanelli put us 1-0 up and then Heskey equalised in the last minute, it was devastating.

Q: Then of course under Steve McClaren we finally won a trophy.

TW: Yes, I was there again, Carling Cup Final, reduced me to tears, what a Sunday. There won’t have been many Boro fans not in tears that day.

Q: Did you go to many of the European games that followed?

TW: Yes, I went to all the home games, some of the away games and the final. I don’t think we are ever going to get to another European final, so to say that I went to that is unbelievable.

Q: A great time really.

TW: Yes, fantastic times, everyone went didn’t they? Every game was packed home and away. The support was unbelievable. I believe that some of those games where we needed 2 or 3 goals that the supporters got the players through, with the momentum. If there hadn’t been many fans there I don’t think they would have got through.

But it is a new era now, different, I am glad to be back in the Premiership. My lad goes now to all the games, home and away. I think he has only missed one game all season, at Southampton. He goes with his mates on the coaches.

Q: Did your dad go to the match?

TW: Yes, my mam and dad went until about 2000 when they stopped going. But Neil Bullock, who is also part of the Foundation is a huge Boro fan and he has probably been going even longer than me. Since the early 80s with his dad. He takes his son as well.

We are two Boro fans wanting to make a difference within Middlesbrough and Teesside.

Q: We are mentioning Boro families here, tell me how the The Teesside Family Foundation came about?

TW: I used to be co-founder of a charity called Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams. Everything we did was based on taking kids down to Boro Football Club, on tours, as mascots, for home games, even away games. We even took kids to the play off final. Then I started doing bits and pieces away from that.. I just felt as if I wanted to help more people in Teesside in different ways. So, I will still go down there with Jenny and Boro Real Fans and have some involvement.

Neal Bullock used to run a charity called Fat Lads on Bikes.

Q: Alastair Brownlee was involved wasn’t he?

TW: Yes and other ex players, Stampy, Hodgy and Maddison all did the bike ride last year, the Tour of Teesside. So Neal and me became friends a couple of years ago and he helped me when we started out. He managed to sort out paying for five mascots for us when we were trying to get off the ground. From then we became friends. We helped a lad called Finley Ingles. He has just had laser treatment in America for a brain tumour. We did a golf day called the Erimus Cup at Middlesbrough Golf Club, where Neal had a team and I had a team, Ryder Cup style. We raised £3 500 from it. That was a great day.

Then Neal had the same vision as me in what he wanted to do. The women from The Fat Lads on Bikes, wanted to go their own way after two years, with family ties etc. So it was left with Neal. Most of the money Neal raised went to Ward 14 but Neal wanted to help everybody on Teesside really, our own grass roots level from the bottom. So we decided to start the Foundation back in November at a charity ball, where we announced it.

So, the brand Teesside Foundation started January 1st but we were already active. At Christmas we helped around about 300 families and children with Christmas dinners and presents, clothes, selection boxes. We have started helping different groups. Since January we have sponsored two football teams. We are really trying to get off the floor. We had our first fundraiser and then raised £1755.

We put on the Gallon Walk. We were going to do this Grosmont to Egton but we decided to make it a Teesside Gallon Walk, to put money in local business. So, we started the route at the Blue Bell and it is a 9 mile trek around Teesside, visiting various public establishments. We called it 9 pubs, 9 hours, 9 pints. But really it is a sponsored walk, you can drink if you want to, you don’t have to. It is just more of social sponsored walk aiming to raise funds to help Teessiders.

Q: Lots of exercise for people.

TW: Yes, you can drink water; it is a 9 mile walk.

Q: Nice to get out in Teesside.

TW: Yes the Tour of Teesside is around here too, a 42 mile bike ride around Teesside. That starts at the Sports Village and going towards Great Ayton, going all around, past the Stray cafe and Marske, past the Riverside, going to Stockton.

I have also decided to set myself a personal challenge. For the past couple of years I have felt uncomfortable about my size and I wanted to lose some weight. Our Christmas Appeal this year am hoping to pay for by the money I raise by reaching my own personal goal. So on 24th January I started Tony’s Weight Loss Challenge to lose 5.5 stone by our first annual ball on November 24th at Gisborough Hall. That will be my final weigh in and all the money from there will go on to help possibly 500 Teessiders to have a better Christmas.

Q: That is a massive incentive and a bit of pressure too.

TW: Yes, well that was the idea. My incentive was for myself and my family but I needed the pressure. I never ever got going when it was myself, for whatever reason but the thought of letting other people down is what drives me.

Q: Tell us about the Sportsman’s dinner. Are you calling it that?

TW: It is a Boro Fans Dinner. It is Over 18s for men or women. The term Sportsman’s dinner is because it is sportsmen who are the guests. We have got Bernie Slaven who was there at Ayresome Park through the dark days. We call it Doom to Boom don’t we? He was there at the liquidation, people weren’t getting paid and people left. Bruce was left to work on a shoe strong with young kids training at Stewart Park and wherever they could. They were using old kits and putting jackets down for goalposts. Bad times.

We thought it fitting we did this as it is only 30 years gone for the 1986 Reunion, which we both attended and it was a fantastic night. Bernie Slaven is a legend and part of the history of Middlesbrough Football Club and has seen it all. Brucey’s Red and White Army, Mowbray, Pallister.. all of them. We wanted Bernie there straight away.

Then, there is no one more fitting than to have Craig Hignett, who scored the first goal at the Riverside. Craig was a great player himself. He saw the full Robson Revolution with Emerson, Ravanelli, Juninho and then Gazza, players we would only have dreamed about coming to Boro. And cup finals. He was there. To get Higgy there was massive.

We wanted a comedian and were thinking who we could approach. Through a friend we contacted Patrick Monahan but he was booked. My friend George is pals with Nobby Stiles son John. Nobby obviously played for the Boro and also won the World Cup in 1966. So John has grown up around players like Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, George Best and Boro legends too. So, we thought for John to come would be brilliant. He has got the link through Nobby. I have seen him before and he has got some fantastic stories about the World Cup, about George Best, about his dad’s time with Boro, his time with England. So, we really feel it will be a massive night.

Q: So, he is a comedian and has great stories too?

TW: Yes, he starts up telling stories about the ending of his career. He was a footballer himself and played for Leeds and Doncaster and then retired through injury if I remember rightly. He talks about himself and his dad and then will introduce the top table and the players and then we will probably have food, he will follow this with his comedian act. Then it will be Bernie followed by Higgy.

It is a brilliant night; it includes a two course meal, roast beef and a dessert.

We know Teesside is not a thriving, rich area, so we tried to keep the cost relatively low. But we are a Foundation and we want to help a lot of people on Teesside. So we thought £35 was a fair price. It is a nice local venue at Marton Country Club. It is our first ever dinner so we hope it is a busy night.

Q: Where are you as far as full charitable status?

TW: It takes about 11 months. We have a charity bank account. Our website is 90% complete. Our events for the full year are booked. We have started writing a constitution that will be submitted and hopefully by the first ball on November 24th that will be the day that we can announce full charity status.

Q: We are sitting here at Costa next to the Riverside where MFC Foundation is based. You have used the word Foundation in your charity is this a deliberate statement.

TW: Yes, it is all about families and groups. We deal with anyone from children to the elderly. If we see someone we want to help we will help. We are hoping to start DIY SOS. Last year, Neal did a couple of projects. One was building a sensory room for a girl called Millie. Local businesses were involved. The project from scratch turned into a room for her to use for the rest of her life. Also, there was a family from Redcar who were ripped off by a rogue builder, they went in and built the extension. We are hoping to start that. It will definitely be in place for next January. We will be taking nominations for that later in the year.

Q: Are you finding that there a lot of people on Teesside wanting to help other people on Teesside?

TW: Yes that is right. Over the last 2 years we have helped thousands of people between us in our groups. It is mad that both Neal and me were given Teesside Hero Awards by the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation which was unbelievable. We were taking some kids to the Boro game v Stoke, the first game of the season. The stadium manager and Dave from the Philanthropic came over and started taking pictures.

Q: So, it was a total surprise getting the award?
TW: Yes, I didn’t see it coming at all. I didn’t see how I warranted becoming a Teesside Hero but it was a great accolade and one I will cherish forever.

Neal and I are the two lads brought up on council estates, we are huge Boro fans. We are passionate about helping people across Teesside who need help. We aim in 2017 to start fast. You might think that we are in people’s faces a lot on facebook and social media but to sit back and not push it we would never get off the ground. So, those people that want to help will step forward and help. Then, over the next year from the different things we are doing people will see where money goes and who we help and what it brings to the people that we help, then other people might come forward.

It will then get busy and a lot of people will come forward that want to help.

ayresome-park-to-riverside

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The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run

The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run was first renamed last year in honour of the local broadcasting legend who died last February after a short battle with cancer.

The new name for the Middlesbrough 5k Road Race and 2k Fun becomes a permanent fixture when the event returns on Sunday, July 2.

Middlesbrough Council and leisure services partner Everyone Active are hoping for another record turn-out for the run which takes in some of the town’s most striking landmarks including Temenos and the Transporter Bridge, before a memorable finish beside the hallowed turf inside the Riverside Stadium.

I chatted with Race Director Jimmy Wattis at a gathering of Alastair’s family and famous Boro personalities to officially launch the 5km run.

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

Q: We are here at the Riverside for the launch of the Ali Brownlee Riverside Run – I believe the name is now a permanent memorial to Alastair.

JW: Yes, Ali first ran the 10k probably about 10 years ago. We both decided that his skills were probably best used doing the commentary. Then I organised the Sport Relief Mile from the Town Centre in 2008 and we wanted to develop that and we felt that we could extend it to a 5k and take it round the Riverside. So from 2009 Ali did the commentary on this event as well. And I know how much it meant to him being able to come out and meet so many people in a position where he could encourage people and see the joy on peoples faces as he shouted their race number out or if they had their name on their shirt, he would shout their name out. He was just an incredible man all round and I know that he had these events in his heart and I thought that it was only right that we named the event after him.

Q: Of course one of Alastair’s daughter’s ran last year.

JW: Yes, I wasn’t involved last year but Alison ran last year and I think Emily, Alison and Alastair’s wife, Wendy are all going to do it this year.

It is great for the town. We hope that all those thousands of fans that still sing Ali’s name at the games come out in force and support the run and I am sure they will have a great time.

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

Q: For anyone that jogs, parkruns or races, whatever ability it is special to finish in a football stadium, isn’t it?

JW: Oh it is, there is a fantastic atmosphere because obviously there are two events, we have the 2k fun run and we also have the 5k run, so as people are finishing whichever one they are running in you have got the support of the other runners sat in the stadium cheering them on. Other than last year but it will be back this year, we play Chariots of Fire theme as they run into the stadium. I know that each runner loves that and it will be back on this year. Hopefully, all being well, we will have pictures of Ali and commentary of Ali up on the big screen, that is what we are hoping to achieve this year. So, it will be fantastic for all involved.

Q: So, people that run the 5k can progress to the Middlesbrough 10k can’t they?

JW: Yes, that is what we are trying to do. We have tried to create a stepping stone for the 10k  because that has been a major event in the town since 2005. We are always out there beating the drum about people being healthier and fitter and so there are all the stepping stones there, there is a 2k, the 3k, the 5k and the 10k. Obviously and on top of that there is the Redcar half marathon that we would like to think people could achieve at some point as well.

Q: How long after the 10k is Redcar half marathon?

JW: It is 4 weeks after 10k, it is October 1st Redcar half marathon. So, you could train up for the 10k and then still get a couple of longer runs in and then start to taper off in time for the Redcar half marathon. So, I think the timing for the runs in Middlesbrough and on Teesside is perfect.

Q: It is a great thing that there seem to be more people running than ever before.

JW: Oh there are. I think everyone notices now the nights are starting to get lighter you can see people out all the time. The 10k route especially with it being marked, so people know the distances and they know the times and I think that route has been great for the town as well.

It is always a great event and one of my favourite day’s of the year but the permanent renaming after the great, late Alastair Brownlee and the involvement of his family is bound to make the Riverside Run that bit more special.

Alastair’s widow Wendy said: “I am really honoured to have such a wonderful and prestigious event named after Ali – he would be so proud.

“I know what this event meant to him, he was always excited when he was leaving the house on the morning knowing he was going to meet so many people and to be able to cheer and encourage each and every one of them on.”

To register for either the 5k or 2k please visit www.runmiddlesbrough.com

Entries are also being taken for the 2017 Taylor Wimpey Tees Pride 10k and 3k Fun Run which takes place on Sunday, September 3.

For further information contact Jimmy Wattis on 01642 20083

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

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BALDRIC’S BIG ADVENTURE

Local children have been welcoming an un-feathered friend into their homes and hearts.  A very popular artist Janice Foley has written and published her very first book, a children’s book describing the perils and the adventures of a real life garden visitor. Now Baldric, the unfeathered friend, has struck a real chord with children and grandparents alike and the first print run has absolutely flown out.

Janice runs Yarm Originals website, an online gallery that champions local and national artists and brings affordable art to people. Jan’s own paintings of Roseberry Topping have proved to be a real hit, often featuring the enigmatic Roseberry.

I met up with Jan in her Eaglescliffe home to hear all about the unfortunate bird Baldric and how the book has been such a sensation. Oh and I was so lucky because after the interview Jan read the first chapter to me. It was wonderful.

So let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by talking about the first book of a much loved local artist, Janice Foley.

baldrics-big-adventureQ: Jan please tell me about the book and the bird, Baldric?

Jan: Baldric is a real bird that appeared in my garden on April 1st last year.

Q: April Fools’ Day?

J: April Fools’ Day, yes, and everyone thought that I was pulling their legs until I took a photograph to show what he actually looked like. He had no feathers on his head. He was like a little miniature vulture.

Q: Very distinctive then?

J: Yes and quite jittery and jumpy and didn’t mix with the other birds.

So I looked up online why you would get a bald headed black bird and it could be a virus or a ring worm or it could be stress. Maybe he needed to find a mate.

So in my head when people started commenting that he would be cold and he needed a hat and he needed a mate and things like that, I decided to just think about why he was bald and maybe stressed. And I decided he was scared and he was going to be anxious and worry about everything.

Then one day he met the lady in the shed, the artist. That’s me. That is where I paint. The lady in the shed told him that he needed to go off and find himself and have some adventures and to be happy again.

Q: And you captured his adventures in a book.

J: Yes. Thirteen chapters. He sets off and leaves me and heads off to Roseberry Topping. Because that is where most of my paintings are set. And the Roseberry Hare does feature in the story but only for a brief moment because the book isn’t about him, that is a different book.

Q: The hare is a character that you introduced into your paintings and it became very popular.

J: Three years ago now and it is still incredibly popular. The Roseberry Hare has travelled all around the world. Hong Kong, Tasmania, Australia, Europe and America.

Q: Is this the first time you have actually written?

J: I have never written anything before in my life.

Q: That must have been quite a challenge for you.

J: Yes but I found it fairly easy really. It just flowed. Once I had the idea of the storyline, where he needed to go off and have adventures, it just happened. It was quite easy.

Q: I would have struggled even more writing for children.

J: I got the ideas from stories I remembered from my own children, my daughter in particular. I probably shouldn’t say this but she used to be scared of going to the toilet and bathroom on a night time in the dark. She was fine until she had to cross the landing and we could hear her charging across the landing. She was safe in the bathroom and then she had to charge back.

That was one idea of a scared child and a storyline for the blackbird. So that is in the book.

baldric-3Q: So do you think this story of the scaredy-bird will help children overcoming their own fears.

J: I think so because a part of the story in the first chapter is that the bird has no friends in the garden. Because he is different the other birds avoid him, and the snails make fun of him and the hedgehogs don’t like him and they scare him when they scrape under the gate late at night. So he has got no friends.

The lady says you have got to leave this garden, with the high fences and go off and make some friends.

It all works out quite happily for the bird, he does manage to find some friends. The book goes through the seasons as well. At some point it gets really cold and wintry and he has to find a hat for his head because he is so cold.

Q: So, back the suggestions at the start.

J: Yes, the ladies that suggested I knit a hat for him, yes. So, yes he does end up with a hat.

Q: Has the book made it into schools?

J: I have a couple of teacher friends and I have given them copies and they have taken them in and read them to four and five year olds over the course of a few days because it is quite a long book with eleven chapters so they couldn’t take it all in, in one reading session.

It has gone to ten year olds in a school. And they very kindly wrote to me. I got seventeen reviews back, which were absolutely brilliant. I got some lovely comments from them, very positive. I have been invited to go to another school and read it. I have done a book signing with it. And I have been invited by the WI to give a talk on how I started off to become an artist first and then to write my first book. I am doing that in April.

Q: It was April 2016 when this all started.

J: Yes, so it is about a year since we all met Baldric and I can go and talk about how I started painting initially and then I went from that to someone that wrote a book.

Q: I don’t suppose you would have imagined this time last year that you would have completed a book.

J: No, not at all. Although people have always asked about the Roseberry Hare, did he have a story? And he does and that will be coming out at some point. But not yet, for a while.

Q: Was this a limited print run?

J: The first run is a limited edition and we will soon be sold out of those.

Q: It is a really quality publication.

J: That was important to me. Nice thick paper. I have seen copies that children have looked at and had for a few weeks and they still look as good as new. The pictures had to be good quality for the illustrations. So it was important to me that it was a hard back, hard wearing, nice thick pages and large print. A lot of people that have bought it are quite elderly and have bought it as gifts for their grandchildren so they could read it to them. So it is quite important that the text size is big as well.

I have actually taken it into a nursing home and read it to some of the elderly people in there and they have loved it. They found it funny and entertaining.

Q: All those things that you list from the hard back to quality illustrations and nice big text that is how I remember books from my childhood. It used to be that way, didn’t it?

J: It did, yes. The difference between my book and what children are reading now is it is a lot longer and has a lot more words in. Although some children have actually said it is too long because they are used to very short, brief, a few lines to a story. But teachers have said that is one of the best books they have seen lately because it is different. But it is different in that it has gone back to how I would see books when I was young.

Q: Speaking to some teachers they tell me that some of the children try and move the pages of books with their fingers as if they are a smart phone screen.

J: I have seen that yes, I can understand that. I have done that on my computer screen and wondered why it isn’t working.

Q: It must be nice to produce a proper book.

J: It is nice to see that some children actually still read proper books, yes definitely.

Q: You have achieved a lot with this book. Is the next step to do another print run?

J: I think there will be some more copies but what they will look like I don’t know. Obviously I want to keep the price down and get it out there into some book shops. At the moment I am selling them myself. To get them in bookshops is another ambition. Also, to maybe take them into hospitals and children’s homes and get them out there to people that actually can’t afford the books would be nice as well.

baldric-and-janQ: Have you sold these books in the same way that you sell your paintings.

J: I have yes and it has mainly been online. Or people have come to me because they have heard about it. Not so many local people but this is the way the paintings go as well. My paintings go to people all around the country far more than they do locally.

Q: Have the people around the country got a link to this area?

J: Sometimes yes, they have moved away or they have visited here for holidays and have a special memory of Roseberry Topping and this area. They are bought as gifts as well for people that have lived here to give to family members etc.

Q: There is something about Roseberry Topping, isn’t there?

J: There is something magical about Roseberry Topping. We have all got a good memory of it and it is a place that you notice when you are coming back home. It is visible from so many miles around that we all see it is a landmark that means something to us in lots of different ways.

My uncle and aunt used to live at Great Ayton and as a child we used to go on two buses on a Sunday morning from Eaglescliffe to get to Great Ayton and it seemed to take hours and hours to get there. And then there was Roseberry Topping and just the magic of Great Ayton really. My uncle was an artist, just an amateur, he painted for pleasure. He did a few Roseberry Toppings and he always put a little snail in his paintings as a symbol. A lot of people see my Roseberry Hare as my symbol but there is actually another symbol that is hidden in the paintings as well. Some people know about it but I’m not going to say what that is, not just yet. At some point it will come out. But you can find it if you go looking for it.

Q: So, we should all look closely.

J: Yes, you should buy a painting and then you can see what it is (laughs).

You can order the last few copies of the book and view both Jan and other artists work online

www.yarmoriginals.com

baldric-2

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Simon Yates – My Mountain Life – Middlesbrough Theatre

In the remote Siula Grande mountain in Peru in June 1985, mountaineer Simon Yates was faced with an unbelievable situation. But then again as an incredibly experienced worldwide adventurer Simon knows how to face up to hair raising situations and quickly analyse the right way out of amazing situations.

simon-yatesIn a really gripping talk illustrated by breath taking photography and short film clips Simon took the audience on a mouth watering trip around the tops of the world. From the Alps, to the Himalayas, the bottom of South America, to the tips of Greenland we climbed the near vertical walls of rock and ice in the company of our ever calm host.

His quests to conquer the previously unclimbed still takes Simon to all parts of the globe. He has come a long way from his Leicestershire village, about as far from mountains as you could wish to be born. Simon told us of the amazing temperature ranges in the giant mountains of Pakistan, in his tent at 6000 metres the thermometer went from +38 C to -5C in a few minutes. There was spending over 20 days scaling shear vertical cliffs in the Andes. Or Tierra Del Fuego where it is so remote that not only does no one live there but it wasn’t even mapped. A true wilderness that has drawn Simon Yates back again and again.

But back to the cliff hanger for that is what it was. Below Simon his climbing partner Joe Simpson was apparently dangling from the end of a rope but had not responded for well over an hour. Gradually his weight was pulling Simon off the mountain, who was also starting to freeze. The man at the top found a knife in his clothing and took a fateful decision, which he said was really his only option and cut the rope. Amazingly both men survived and that action has been recorded in a book and film, “Touching the Void,” it made both men famous.

But here tonight was the story from the other view point, not the climber that then plunged to the bottom of a crevasse and somehow survived but the climber at the top of the rope who said matter a factly that once he found the knife it was his only option. And it worked! They both lived to tell their tales.

It was a thrilling ride tonight without getting up off our seats. As well as the quiet calm, that must be so essential for a climber of the world’s great peaks, Simon Joyce transmitted his passion and drive for adventure. A group of scouts were sitting amongst the big audience, I wonder how many of them will be inspired to pursue their own adventures.

Simon Yates – Middlesbrough Theatre – Thursday 2nd March

There is a really interesting range of acts programmed for this the 60th anniversary season of the Middlesbrough Theatre. This Saturday join broadcaster John Suchet as he delves into the life of the most naturally-gifted composer that ever lived, Mozart.

www.middlesbroughtheatre.co.uk

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Searching For New Authors

Middlesbrough has a bit of a literary tradition from Ernest Hornung author of gentleman thief Raffles to Mel Small and (Sherlock) Holmes as a Boro lad. You could be the next in line on the ever growing Tees library shelf thanks to a brand new initiative being launched by Writers’ Block North East.

The Middlesbrough based creative hub that is Writers’ Block has forged a partnership with literary agents from ‘Watson, Little’ and ‘Hardman and Swainson’, is searching for new and emerging writers in the North East.

Sixteen writers will be selected to take part in Block 1: a nine-month writer development programme consisting of workshops, one-to-one mentoring and advice from industry professionals, culminating in a networking and showcasing event which will be attended by literary agents and other industry gatekeepers.

“We’re looking for anybody who wants to produce a brand new long-form narrative prose work, and wants the opportunity to present that work to a selection of agents in 2017-18,” said Laura Degnan, Writers’ Block director and mentor. “We want to support aspiring writers from the grassroots up.”

When Block 1 is complete Writers’ Block and the literary agents will then work together to select the eight writers whose projects are closest to completion to become part of Block 2: an additional, accelerated, 3-month completion programme, after which the eight participants will re-submit their work to the agents for final feedback.

All workshops will take place at The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) in Middlesbrough town centre and mima will be a key partner in the programme delivery, offering professional support and further development opportunities to writers. Participating writers will become mima writers in residence, producing written creative responses to their collection and working with the wider mima team to explore and expand their practice as writers.

Writers’ Block will provide ongoing one-to-one mentoring and a series of four intensive story development days for the chosen writers, as they develop an idea from scratch into a completed manuscript, including workshops delivered in partnership with Northern Film and Media and New Writing North.

The aim will be for the 16 writers to have produced a draft long-form manuscript at the end of Block 1, which they will then be able to pitch to agents.

Block 2 will include two further development days and mentoring from Writers’ Block and a literary agent.

“We’ve had a good record with introducing regional talent to national agents,” said James Harris, WB mentor and workshop leader. “People like Cathryn Summerhayes (William Morris) and Camilla Wray (Darley Anderson) have been very impressed with the standard of writers at our events, and all have said they’re keen to come back. Following our 2016 Meet the Agent event, two writers are represented by agents and a further three writers are in ongoing talks regarding representation.”

“If you’re a writer, or you think you’d like to be one, we’d love to hear from you,” said Degnan.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 17th March 2017. For further information please contact Laura Degnan on wbne2017@gmail.com or visit  www.writersblocknortheast.com/2017

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