Claire goes classical

Always up for trying something new, when I was invited along to Middlesbrough Theatre to celebrate their 60th anniversary with a very special concert, I signed up immediately. It’s not every day that the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra will be playing, after all! As it was going to be my very first experience of a classical concert, I decided that the first thing to do was ask someone in the know to join me – step up Love Middlesbrough Dad. 

Over the years I’ve seen loads of live music. Loud, indie-rock, guitars and drums accompanied by lots of jumping about in the mosh pit and woohoo-ing and hollering my appreciation of each and every song. Bear this in mind and be grateful that I took my dad when I tell you the next bit. Turns out that sort of behaviour is not at all acceptable at a classical concert. There’s all kinds of rules about not applauding in between movements, patiently waiting for the conductor to completely bring the orchestra to rest before you start the clapping and definitely no woohoos or the more polite, oh-so-British ‘Bravo’ allowed. Who knew?!  

The first thing that blew me away was that the stage was absolutely filled to the brim with seats! I couldn’t count them all – there were definitely some brass instruments tucked away in the wings – but it looked to me like there were well over 100! I’ve never seen the stage so full! The photograph below, even though it’s from a different theatre, gives you an idea of the sheer size and scale of the orchestra *wow*

st petersburg symphony orchestra

Right from the very start I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty special evening. The polite applause as the orchestra sat down and the conductor appeared, followed by the immediate hush before the first notes danced up to my ears. From that point on, it’s fair to say I was completely and utterly swept up by it all, delightedly chuckling each time the conductor leaped off his feet, my eyes darting around the stage to see if I could figure out which instrument was the one making all the beautiful sounds…it truly was a joy for the senses! 

If I had to pick my absolute favourite part of the programme, it would be Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 – forty six minutes of total magic! Four movements, each more animated and rousing than the last, cymbals crashing, drums rolling, the frenzied bows of the string instruments back and forth, back and forth, and the conductor jumping and leaping into the air like there was someone up above him pulling on puppet strings…I had to physically sit on my hands to stop them from rising high into the air to applaud, applaud, applaud. You could physically feel the energy from the stage and as they reached the end of the third movement, you can only imagine my total joy when some courageous rule breaker defied the stuffy rules and shouted BRAVO before breaking into loud applause. Which of course was immediately followed by everyone else in the audience joining in! The atmosphere was incredible.

As the rowdy applause died down and the orchestra began the final movement, I found myself leaning forward in my seat to soak it all up – I really didn’t want it to end! Luckily it wasn’t over too quickly as they did not one but two encores, each to more applause that got louder and louder – my hands are still sore from all the clapping! As they took their final bow, it was pretty obvious to me that the whole audience loved it as much as I did. And guess what? I let out a (slightly reserved) Wooooo! #rebel I just couldn’t help myself! If I’d have had my way I would have woohoo-ed every single time they stopped. I definitely think the polite applause only rule should be reconsidered…

St Petersburg Symphony at Middlesbrough Theatre

If you’ve never been to a classical concert before and are open to trying out new experiences I can highly recommend it. Even if your normal choice of music veers more towards loud and rock, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. The vibrant energy of the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra was up there with any band I’ve ever seen; more civilised for sure, but don’t let that put you off. The passion and joy for the music and their instruments was there for all to see. 

Love Middlesbrough Dad, man of few words, also loved it. Later that evening I got a text thanking me for a fantastic night and I would like to say the same to Middlesbrough Theatre. Thank you! You have a new fan of classical music concerts now and I’m already planning what I’ll try out next. And a very Happy Anniversary too – cheers to 60 more years! 

The Nightmare Room – you might have nightmares too!

There’s nothing like kicking off Autumn with a trip to the theatre! Arriving at Middlesbrough Theatre just as it was starting to get dark, it was fab to see the new sign lit up and looking lovely! 😍 The newly decorated foyer looks amazing too! Head to the Theatre Facebook page to see a sneak peek – spoiler alert: it looks so nice! 

Middlesbrough Theatre nighttime

Now that we’ve fangirled all over the shiny new foyer, it’s time to talk about the main feature: The Nightmare Room! Written by John Goodrum and presented by Encaustic Theatre Productions, the tagline describes it as:

Two women. 
One locked room.
One bottle of poison…

…I was definitely looking forward to this one, and I wasn’t let down! Right from the get-go as the intro music started, it felt eerie and sinister, and I knew I was in for a good night! It won’t come as too much of a surprise that it’s based on a tale by the master of terror and mystery himself, Arthur Conan Doyle! There’s twists and turns, cheating husbands and best friends, all culminating in a massive revenge plot that will have you on the edge of your seat!  

Nightmare Room 2

The two lead actors, Sarah Wynne Kordas and Sylvia Robson, both played their roles to perfection. Sarah particularly had that sinister, teetering on the edge of madness thing down to a tee – genuinely terrifying! #wuss 😂 I loved watching the story unfold and the characters spiral their way into more and more twists and turns. My favourite thing of all was how the set, a simple white room, was used – just by standing at the very edge it looked like the actors were shrinking into corners that weren’t actually there – highly effective! #theatregeek 

Nightmare Room 4

The first act ended on a big twisty cliffhanger and I couldn’t wait to get through my ice-cream (mint choc chip in a tub since you asked, completely delicious) so that I could find out how it was all going to end…which of course I’m not going to reveal! You’ll have to go and see it for yourself to find out! Lucky for you that there’s plenty time to do just that. 

You can see The Nightmare Room at Middlesbrough Theatre tonight at 7.30pm, and tomorrow either at the afternoon matinee, 2.30pm, or the evening show at 7.30pm. Call the theatre box office to book tickets on 01642 81 51 81 or book online. In case you haven’t already figured it out, we highly recommend it! 

A big thank you to Middlesbrough Theatre for the tickets – a great night out for Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire who likes nothing better than watching scary stuff, even though she’s a total wimp! 

We love International Museum Day!

Happy International Museum Day!

Given that museums are so full of history, and the fact that I just can’t stop myself being a history geek, I thought today was the perfect opportunity to talk about some lesser-known local museum history.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve only ever had two museums in Middlesbrough, but in fact, there was a second museum which opened after the Dorman and before the Captain Cook Birthplace.

Exhibiting a collection of mammals and birds, and local bygones, a relatively dinky museum lived in rooms in Marton Hall (a beautiful building located in what is now Stewart Park, which was unfortunately lost to fire).  The museum opened on June 18th 1931, but closed in 1939 when the outbreak of WWII required the Fire Brigade to take over the space it was occupying.  Sadly, it never reopened.

This fab little titbit came from The History of Middlesbrough by William Lillie, Borough Librarian (1968).

The Museum, Stewart Park, Middlesbrough
(Postcard from my own collection)


Delving even further back into history, a forerunner to Middlesbrough’s museums opened in 1859.  On Monday, 18 April, the Middlesbrough Polytechnic Exhibition opened at the Oddfellows’ Hall on Bridge Street West.

It was a great collection of objects, some of which fell into neat categories like watercolour paintings, but by far the biggest category was ‘miscellaneous’, so it was probably best described as items from people’s personal collections!

Contributors included HRH Prince Albert, the Earl of Zetland (the Second, Thomas Dundas), local notables HWF Bolckow and messers John and Henry Pease, current and future mayors of Middlesbrough, William Fallows and Edgar Gilkes, and prestigious manufacturers including Minton and Coalbrookdale.

This exhibition was four years before the Middlesbrough Athanaeum – a society organised for the cultivation of literature, science and the arts – was inaugurated (also at the Oddfellows’ Hall), and thirty one years before Middlesbrough’s first ‘museum’ opened to the public in the Town Hall, so it was probably only open to a select group of people.

Pages from the Polytechnic Exhibition programme
(From the Dorman Museum’s collection)


We couldn’t have a blog post about museums without mentioning our two gems.

The Dorman Memorial Museum opened in 1904, a gift to the town from Sir Arthur Dorman, in memory of his son George Lockwood Dorman, who died in the Boer War.  Dorman Museum The museum originally showcased the impressive personal collections of notable local figures, including Ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, and the extensive T. H. Nelson ornithological collection, which was bequeathed to the museum in 1914.

Today, the museum holds the largest public collection of stunning locally-produced Linthorpe Art Pottery in the world, and a highly impressive collection of items designed by the visionary Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum opened on the 28th October 1978 Captain Cook Birthplace Museum – the 250th anniversary of Cook’s birth. Its site in Stewart Park is close to the granite urn which marks the site of the cottage where Cook was born.

The galleries tell the story of the world-famous navigator, from his birth in Marton to his voyages.  It also has fab temporary exhibitions on Cook-related themes like seafaring, Pacific animals, and Australian Aboriginal life.

So there you go, a full on history geek post for International Museum Day!

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

 

 

Murder comes to Middlesbrough on World Book Night

We are delighted to publish a guest post from writer, blogger and all-round literary fan Amy Lord of Ten Penny Dreams.

Amy Lord is an award-winning writer and blogger, who writes about books, travel and life in Middlesbrough on her blog Ten Penny Dreams. You can also follow @tenpennydreams on Twitter and Instagram.


World Book Night came to Middlesbrough with a murderously good evening at Acklam Library, as two northern crime writers popped in to talk about their work with a crowd of enthusiastic readers.

AA Dhand and Kathleen McKay are currently touring the North of England as part of Read Regional, a scheme run by New Writing North to bring new books to readers across the region.

They shared extracts from their work and talked about their journey to publication, as well as discussing their novels in detail.

While Kathleen McKay’s novel, Hard Wired, was inspired by her sister’s work at a Newcastle bail hostel, AA Dhand writes about the Bradford community he grew up in.

Streets of Darkness is already a best-seller and is on its way to our screens, with the author currently working on the script for the BBC, alongside his day job as a pharmacist.

He spoke eloquently about his love for crime fiction and how it developed from childhood, when he used to sneak downstairs in his parents’ corner shop and watch the 18 certificate videos when they went out. It was an evening spent watching The Silence of the Lambs that so terrified him and made him want to pick up the book instead. From then on he was hooked on crime and became eager to write his own story.

But it took a decade of work to bring Streets of Darkness to readers, with an unenthusiastic agent, a competition win and a completely different novel all part of his fascinating journey.

Kathleen McKay had her own success in writing competitions, winning the Northern Crime Competition in 2015. When she submitted her entry, she hadn’t even finished writing the book. Despite having published poetry, short stories and another novel previously, this was her first foray into crime fiction.

Both authors were happy to answer questions from the audience, revealing more about their writing process and the ideas behind the books, before signing copies of their novels.

And as it was World Book Night, the audience were encouraged to bring along one of their own books to exchange for something new. It was an idea that was really well received, with the swap table full of interesting novels that had nearly all gone by the end of the night.

So not only did I get to chat to two incredibly interesting writers, I also got to add two new crime fiction novels to my to-read list.

Read Regional at Acklam Library


More events for local book lovers are coming up as part of the Crossing the Tees festival in June.

Read more about the fab Read Regional project.