Memory Bank

How can memories of our town help to enrich the lives of those whose memories are actually fading away? I joined John Atkinson, Community Action Officer for Ageing Better Middlesbrough, to find out all about Memory Bank an innovative DVD project launched last month by Mayor Dave Budd that aims to make a real difference to those living in care homes and day centres in Middlesbrough.

Q: Tell me please about the idea behind Memory Bank

John Atkinson: The idea behind Memory Bank Middlesbrough actually came from North East Film Archive who have already done a similar project for Bradford and approached us to say would we be interested in working in partnership and to do one for Middlesbrough. Being as they are based in Middlesbrough it made a lot of sense.

The idea of the pack is that it enables people to be prompted to remember Middlesbrough as it used to look and be and shows activities they used to do when they were younger. It is based on themes, there are eight films on there. One of them is about football, one is about work, one about play, cycling proficiency test. There are all sorts of random approaches to life as people would have experienced it.

Q: When you say people, what sort of people are you meaning?

JA: It is aimed at older people. It works for older people and particularly for people with dementia as it is a world they recognise.

Q: Sometimes people with dementia forget short term memories but remember their childhood don’t they?

JA: Indeed, it is the nature of the condition that what disappears first is the most recent memories and the disease works back. For people with the dementia it is the most recent that goes first in a progressive process. So, they are left with all their early memories and memories of Middlesbrough that look very different to the way it looks now. So, this actually makes a lot more sense to them in many ways than it does to the general population. And also it means that carers can have a different conversation with those people that they are caring for, particularly in residential care settings.

This will go free to every care home in Middlesbrough and to every day centre we can find, so that they can stick it on and sit and see what people respond to and see what conversations are available. In the pack there is a booklet with lots of suggestions with ways to get the most out of the product.  There are prompt questions. As the DVD plays a little key symbol pops up and that is a cue to say if you pause the DVD now you will find some information in the pack where you can say so and so used to do that.. or do you remember that? There are cues to enable people who perhaps can’t remember that far back, to prompt people to think about how they were living back then.

The whole purpose of this pack is to spark lots of conversations but happy conversations. That is what it is all about. Ultimately, we want to spark hundreds of really happy conversations and for that to be something that happens all over Middlesbrough.

Q: On the front, there is a picture of an old vehicle going along Corporation Road, with Burtons on one corner…

JA: And Newhouse Corner, which people talk about lots. Just the cover itself reminds me of a Middlesbrough that I remember from being a kid. We only came into town odd days to shop. It was a big deal. But it was such a vibrant town, the streets were packed, the shops were packed. It felt quite different to how it feels today, even though I think Middlesbrough has survived quite well as a shopping town. Stockton has suffered, Darlington has suffered but Middlesbrough has managed to maintain that vibrant shopping centre feel about it.

It is fun to look back and be reminded of how we used to dress, how we used to play, how we used to work. There is a section on the river that I guess lots of people will remember in terms of working there.

Q: When it was a working river?

JA: Absolutely. There is some footage of a ship launch and the tug boats working to get ships up and down the river. It is all fascinating stuff.

Q: You launched Memory Bank in May, didn’t you?

JA: We had a launch at the STEM Centre, Middldesbrough College. Mayor Dave Budd said a few words and North East Film Archive gave an overview of how it came about and how to get the best out of the pack. Then we sat and we watched and there was a lot of banter in the room as a result of the memories.

Q: So straight away?

JA: Absolutely, yes. It works. There is a section about Albert Park and just the scores of kids piled on to one piece of equipment. They were having a fine time.

Q: And were people trying to spot faces they knew on the swings and tea pot lid etc?

JA: Yes, people were watching to see if there was anyone they knew. Watching to see if their mam and dad cropped up in some of these films.

We did a pilot where we brought some people in from Ageing Better and we watched some clips, to get a steer on what they thought was important for Middlesbrough. They were all watching intently to see if they recognised anyone. I am sure it will eventually happen that someone will know someone because the DVD will go out to lots of people now.

Q: That will be very interesting when you get that feedback.

JA: We are providing this free to care settings and we are providing it free for people caring for someone with dementia also at this point in time. People can contact me.

Q: I imagine there are a lot of people caring for people that are quite isolated. They might be caring 24/7 for people.

JA: So, this might provide a useful diversion. I am sure they have got lots of diversions in their tool box in how they are caring for that person but this is just one more. This is nice because it is really positive and lots of people can use and enjoy. If you cannot remember that you have seen this before you can probably watch Memory Bank loads and loads of times. And be enthralled by it many times over. There are some up sides to this situation, really.

Q: It is great that we can use film and that we have got all this archive footage of the town.

JA: North East Film Archive are accumulating material all the time. If anyone is out there with old reels of film that they don’t know what to do with then just take it to the film archive. They might wind up in another pack like this someday or they might wind up in a collection of clips. NEFA have put together a couple of Middlesbrough on Film shows for Discover Midddlesbrough that have gone down a storm but that depends on new footage to keep that fresh and popular.

Q: Can I ask you for a little bit of background about Ageing Better and the work that you are doing with over 50s in Middlesbrough?

JA: Ageing Better Middlesbrough is a big Lottery funded project it is a 6 years project, where we are 2 ½ years in, so we have 3 ½ years left to go. It is hosted by Middlesbrough and Stockton MIND as the lead agency. They conduct talking therapies and outreach at the front end, where if people have become socially isolated or need some help to get back out into the world then they are ideally placed to provide that support.

Then there are additional pieces of work that are contracted out. We organise peer friendship, which is one to one befriending service. The Hope Foundation provides digital inclusion and community projects.

So, that means lots of taster sessions, getting people back out and involved in new activities but in existing venues, trying to build up the range of activities and the viability and sustainability of existing community venues.

Digital inclusion is all about teaching older people how to make technology work for them. That can be on a one to one basis. Somebody might have a SMART phone but have no idea how to use it. We would sit down with them and understand from them what they want the phone to do and then just show them those things. Not get into all the things the phone could do. Those little things can put older people off engaging in technology. So, it is nice to have a dedicated part of Ageing Better Middlesbrough that enables people to use technology the way that they want to use it.

The things that Linda Ford has been doing, history walks, Egyptology and family history etc are always busy. They have attracted large numbers of people from day one and continues to. There is a real appetite for it. That has meant that our community venues and activity providers have a steady stream of work.  That has got to be good for the sustainability of those activities and those venues in the longer term. Ultimately, although it is a huge project, Ageing Better is time limited. Our aim is to make everything as sustainable as possible so that it all continues as best we can make it.

Q: So, after the end of the six years you don’t want a situation where everything you have build up suddenly grinds to a halt.

JA: That’s right. And the whole point of having six years is that you should be able to do that.

My role is almost a paid trouble maker. I am out there talking to people and finding out what they are interested in and then trying to put them in the driver’s seat as much as possible. So, trying to support them to make new things happen. Or put them in touch with people who are already doing what they want to do and then maybe adding a bit of resource so that it can be more accessible, or do more or work across different geographic patches.

So, a lot of my work is connecting people up with opportunities or listening out for things that people are asking for that aren’t out there already and then making them happen. Some of that is about, what if we try something. So, we have been doing 50+ sports days at the Sports Village and they have been fantastic. They have been so much fun and people now are connecting with physical activity as not a chore but something to look forward to and enjoy. We framed it in a new way. Everybody comes along and has a go. The next 50+ sports day will probably be a women only one. We have had plenty of blokes getting involved but actually not so many women. So, we will see if a women only event is the solution. That will probably be late summer.

We have got men’s sheds cropping up all over the place. We have got one in Berwick Hills. Another one at Frade, Belle Vue shops on Marton Road. They are a furniture recycling business. A registered charity. They take donations of furniture and make it available to people that can’t afford brand new furniture. They have lots of space, not used. So, we have put tools in there and there is a carpenter there. If anybody wants to make something there is someone there to show them how. They might be happy pottering about fixing furniture for Frade or have other ideas. They can do whatever they like there in that space.

Berwick Hills gets regularly a dozen men, on Tuesday morning at Berwick Hills community allotments. FRADE is just starting now. I am sure that will get quite popular too. People might well go between the two. If people just want to turn up have a cup of tea and have a natter then that is equally OK. It is up to them how they use those spaces. Now they are resourced and up and running they should continue on indefinitely. We should have lots of fresh veg in the summer, too.

That is Ageing Better in a nutshell. But we have another three and a bit years for all sorts of interesting ideas to come along and for us to support older people to do another range of interesting things.

We have a digital reporter’s project just kicking off. We will be inviting older people to come along and learn how to collect and tell stories on a blog that we will set up. The question we will pose is what matters to you and then we will support them to go and gather that information and frame those stories and present those stories hopefully in a way that is interesting and engaging and we want to spend maybe a year and see what happens.

A lot of people want to do something or go along to something but there needs to some invitation or intervention that makes it OK to do that. So, we can use the digital journalist project to highlight things and make it easy for people to try something out and be that invitation.

There can big barriers for a lot of people. One is not knowing that all these amazing things are happening out here and Middlesbrough is absolutely overrun with amazing activities if only people knew they were there. We are one part of the overall solution in terms of that. People get their information from so many different places that one agency cannot hope to reach everybody. Yet what we can do is make a big effort to reach as many as we can and that we try as many different avenues to make sure we reach as broad range of the community.

Q: Am I right in thinking you are ask people what they are interested in?

JA: All the time.

Q: Then you can feed back to them.

JA: Yes. We are always interested in talking to older people and that is anyone over 50. And I know that there are lots of people out there thinking I am 51, I am not ‘older.’ But I want to spend this year reaching the 50-65 age group as much as possible, they are busy people. I know they are at work etc. But if we can engage that age group now then we are going to connect them with stuff that will help other people and will be the scaffold for when they turn 67 and are looking for something to do and carry on being involved with the world in that constructive way.

Q: So that when people retire it isn’t a case of what do I do now?

JA: I have spoken to loads of people who have said when they retire it is going to be great and then within three weeks they are climbing the walls because they don’t know what to do with their time. I spoke to a nurse and that is such a social activity, you see people and talk to them all the time then suddenly he was at home all the time. He said we had rescued him from very long days. I think that for me is what this project is all about. It is about providing more for people to do than they than they would have access to ordinarily.

We get lots of good feedback and it is too early to tell what will be the big successes at the end of this. We have got a huge connection into BME communities and that is working really well. It has enabled us to do stuff we thought was never possible. We did a big community meal at the Chinese community centre to introduce Ageing Better Middlesbrough and to hear the sorts of things they were interested in having us work together on.

It will be interesting to see at the end of this whole adventure what we have been managed to achieve. Hopefully we will have lots of really well equipped and confident older people in the driving seat of something that carries the work forward ultimately.

If you would like a copy of the Memory Bank DVD pack please contact  John Atkinson – Community Action Officer – Ageing Better Middlesbrough

tel: 01642 955670 email: john.atkinson@mvdauk.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison

Natalie Scott is all set to create convincing poetic voices for historical figures and she wants to help you do the same.

Join Natalie on Saturday (10th June) at Middlesbrough Central Library (1.30pm) as she introduces the form of dramatic monologue and then guides participants in using factual materials to voice a person from the past. Then on the evening of Tuesday 20th June, Natalie will be presenting her collection of dramatic monologues to creatively retell the story of Holloway, the notorious London prison from 1852 (when it first opened its gates) to 1955 (when the last woman to be hanged in Britain was executed within its walls).

That performance is at Acklam Community Hub and Library when Natalie will also share some of the fascinating documents she has discovered on her visits to the archives in London and will do a script-in-hand performance of selected poems.

Next weekend sees the start of the 2017 Crossing the Tees book festival. The library services for Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Darlington and Redcar & Cleveland have combined to put the printed word and spoken word top of the agenda throughout the Tees Valley. There are some fabulous opportunities to hear from authors and even join them in workshops.

Locally based poet Natalie Scott will be leading a workshop entitled Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison: Poetry Workshop. She will use examples from her Arts Council funded poetry collection in progress Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison. Participants will be encouraged to create their own convincing voices and there will be an opportunity to receive feedback on their work. Book your tickets below.

Rare Birds

I was so drawn to this concept that I had to ask Natalie to tell me more. So I sent her a few questions by email, I hope you enjoy reading her answers.

Q: Natalie could you first tell us a little about your own story and the kind of poetry that you like reading as well as writing?

NS: I’ve been writing poetry for about twenty years now but have enjoyed it as a reader for even longer than that. Poems that inspire me show an unfamiliar view of the world, a fresh perspective on the familiar and the everyday. They have a sensitive approach to the subject matter and use form not as a way to constrict the subject but to let it say more as a poem than it might as a short story or other longer text. I’m particularly drawn to the dramatic monologue. In fact my recent PhD research centres on the characteristics of this form. I’ve also explored polyphony – multiple voices – and how to use them in longer works. In my first pamphlet ‘Brushed’ (Mudfog, 2009) I created dramatic monologues from the point of view of figures in famous works of art. My first full collection ‘Berth – Voices of the Titanic’ (Bradshaw Books, 2012) retells the story of the tragedy through a range of voices and perspectives. I have also used the form in my most recent pamphlet ‘Frayed’ (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and of course it will take centre stage in my latest project ‘Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison’.

Q: You live locally and it seems to me that there has been a very strong poetry and literary “scene” if I can call it that, for some time now. Would that be a fair assessment do you think?

NS: In the ten years that I lived in the Tees Valley (I’m originally from Durham but have lived in Lancaster, Wakefield and Hexham too!) I have experienced its thriving poetry scene. Over the years I have attended local poetry evenings such as the Black Light Engine Room, the Electric Kool-Aid Cabaret, Writers’ Block and Darlington for Culture’s open mic. I’ve always felt valued and welcome at these events. I am also a member of the Tees Women Poets, a collective which has attracted some of the best female poets in the region to participate in poetry events organised by the group. These networks all have a presence on Facebook which makes it easier to connect with other writers.

Q: I suppose writing can be a solitary thing do you enjoy live events and particularly engaging with people in workshops like this?

NS: I’ve always enjoyed working with people and using creative writing as a participatory tool. I’m a qualified teacher, having completed my PGCE training in Creative Writing at undergraduate level, and I think that this has helped me to find ways of engaging people through poetry. I facilitate many sessions locally with an aim to bring people together and connect through writing. I am currently completing a practice-based qualification offered by the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy and am being supervised by Victoria Field, one of the only registered poetry therapists in Europe. Last year I established my own initiative Pen Power™ which offers a range of group sessions for people who wish to maintain their levels of mental fitness through expressive writing. I facilitate these sessions in the Teesside area but am hoping to widen the reach over the coming months.

Q: I am intrigued by this workshop Natalie – is this something you have worked on for a long time shedding light on people’s stories through poetry?

NS: It’s a concept I used in my first collection ‘Berth’ which took three years to write and research. As I’m interested in retelling familiar stories in less familiar ways, Holloway Prison as a subject was for me an engaging choice for the next large project. I’ll also be doing a presentation and reading for the festival on June 20th. I’ll be sharing the research I have completed so far and doing a script-in-hand performance of selected poems.

Q: Do you use much actual historical data as well to build up your word pictures?

NS: I am taking care to ensure that any factual information is accurately represented in the collection. I was awarded Arts Council funding to research and write the collection so the research stages are crucial to the project’s success. In addition to the dramatic monologue form, I will be using a wide variety of other poetic forms in the collection such as found and list poems which will use actual documented material sourced from the prison archives to shed light on the topic from a new angle. I will be sharing some of the historical data at the workshop on June 10th and at the Presentation on June 20th.

Q: Do you see it as giving people back a voice that may have slipped off the page?

NS: I hope so yes. Although I have chosen to voice some of the more famous figures from Holloway’s past, the majority of the collection aims to capture the voices of those who have not been as firmly stamped in the history books. The dramatic monologue is a ‘double-poem’ which means that the voice of the poet blends with that of the speaker. I have to take care that my own voice does not dominate; this is one of the challenges for the collection.

Q: Am fascinated by the processes you might use, can it be everything from the vocabulary, to the way the words are delivered that can be used to capture the character of an individual?

NS: The dramatic monologue is a hybrid form because it needs to realistically capture character voice in a way that would sound convincing when performed, but it also needs to be a poem on the page. Therefore many elements have to be combined to achieve the desired result. For example, I am currently working on a poem informed by one of the personal accounts written in autobiography form. From reading this I can get an idea of any little idiosyncrasies with speech and vocabulary so that these can be accurately represented in the poem. The poetic form lends itself well to this, as any repetitions within speech all help to structure the format and give it shape.

Q: Everyone will have heard of Holloway Prison, it was the most famous or infamous women’s prison in the country up to its very recent closure. Is the intention of your own project to shed light on forgotten histories through verse?

NS: Essentially ‘Rare Birds’ aims to retell the story of Holloway Prison’s beginnings and development between 1852 and 1955 in a distinctive and engaging way. My poems will adopt a range of interesting first-person perspectives, including the voices of actual prisoners, staff and other influential people involved in the prison’s history to create a polyphonic retelling. It will also include voices for inanimate objects such as the Black Maria (the vehicle used to transport prisoners) and the two griffin statues above the main entrance gates. In offering such a range of perspectives I intend the collection to have multiple narrators; so rather than having one person telling it from distance (as is often the case with historical texts), I will enable my characters to speak for themselves. Although Holloway Prison is so well-known I still hope that my audience will learn something new about the topic through the way I am approaching it. For instance, not many people know that it was originally a mixed prison, with inmates as young as eight years old serving sentences for crimes such as pickpocketing.

Q: There must have been some notorious women held in this prison over the years, would you say you are drawn to the darker side, people that didn’t necessarily stick to the straight and narrow?

NS: I have a fascination with human behaviour and the psyche in different contexts, so any subject-matter which sheds light on this topic is of interest to me. The collection certainly does not intend to glorify some of the heinous crimes committed by the women imprisoned at Holloway but rather shed light on the backstory of such women. For example I’ve written a poem from the point of view of a woman who was imprisoned for neglecting her children (two of her children died as a result). Whilst we can’t in anyway condone this act, at the time it was committed conditions such as post-natal depression were not fully acknowledged. This particular woman had given birth to three children before turning twenty and had been abandoned by her husband, so my interest lies in how these circumstances might have affected her behaviour.

Q: Suffragettes including Emily Wilding Davies were held at Holloway and force fed, it must have been extremely brutal and quite terrifying for the women being held in prison.

NS: One of the first poems I wrote for this collection was for Emily Wilding Davison. I was drawn to her story and role as a suffragist, particularly because of her levels of strength and spirit which never seemed to wane even though she suffered the ordeal of forcible feeding 49 times. I wanted to draw attention to this because many people remember her for ‘throwing herself under the king’s horse’ at the Epsom Derby (again there is conjecture around this event) but not as many know about the forcible feeding itself. However, I also want to voice the women who did not achieve celebrity status but contributed significantly to the cause. For instance, Katie Gliddon, who was the only suffragist to write a diary whilst in prison (writing materials were not allowed at the time). She penned her thoughts into the margins of a copy of Shelley’s Poetical Works using pencils smuggled into the prison. Her diary offers one of the most accurate views of prison life in the early 1900s. I had the privilege of being able to hold the original artefact when I visited the Women’s Library in London.

So, at Middlesbrough Library can people try and give voice to any historical character?

NS: In the workshop I will be introducing the characteristics of the dramatic monologue first, enabling participants the opportunity to try out the form. They will then be invited to voice a historical character from a selection I will bring to the session.

Q: Do you think it could be good to do some preparation and have somebody and their achievements in mind?

NS: I would suggest coming into the workshop with an open mind ready to try something new. I will provide all the stimulus material required so no need to prepare in advance, unless participants particularly wish to!

Q: I suppose with wikipedia we can all walk around with people’s biographies in their pockets but can poetry bring us closer to their life and times and voice?

NS: Yes, we now have access to a wealth of biographical information – seemingly too much at times! But through poetry, and specifically dramatic monologue, there is a chance to retell this information with sensitivity and thoughtful crafting. In this collection, I have to think carefully about how the form and structure will support the subject matter. For example, I’ve been working on a found poem made from a list of the items some of the first prisoners would have had at their disposal in Holloway. A book called The Criminal Prisons of London by Mayhew and Binny (1862) has been helpful for this as it clearly outlines the specifics of each cell. I let the triadic pattern of the shelves inform the structure of the poem itself, using a three-stanza list form to convey the items kept on the three-tiered shelf. It is in this way that the poetic form can illuminate a topic in a way that other genres cannot.

I would like to thank Natalie for giving that fascinating interview. It really does whet the appetite for the poetry workshop at Middlesbrough Central Library next Saturday (10th June) at 1.30pm. Cost just £3. You can also hear more from Natalie when she is the after 2pm guest on Bob Fischer BBC Tees show on Tuesday 13th June.

Book your tickets for the Saturday workshop here

You can pre-book tickets for Natalie Scott’s Rare Birds – Voices Of Holloway Prison: Presentation And Script-In-Hand Performance at Acklam Community Hub and Library on Tuesday 20th June at 7 – 8.30pm. Cost just £3.

Book Tickets Here

Please click below for information and all the listings for Crossing the Tees book festival, a fortnight of events at libraries across the Tees Valley.

www.crossingthetees.org

You can find more information about Natalie Scott websites, publications, performances, project in progress:

www.nataliescott.co.uk

www.penpower.org.uk

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Tom Dresser VC statue unveiled

The newest statue to a local Victoria Cross (VC) winner has been unveiled outside the Dorman Museum.  The statue was commissioned to mark 100 years since Private Tom Dresser was awarded a VC for his heroic actions in a battlefield in France, and was created by sculptor Brian Alabaster, who also created the amazing Stanley Hollis VC statue which stands opposite the Dorman Museum.

Tom Dresser was born in Yorkshire, around the beginning of the 1890s.  There are conflicting accounts of where, specifically, he was born, and in which year – it varies between 1891 and 1892.  According to the Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, which claims to have a copy of Dresser’s birth certificate, he was born near Easingwold on 9th April 1891, so hopefully this is a reliable record!

We do know that Tom was educated at Hugh Bell school here in Middlesbrough. He worked for Dorman Long, both before and after the war, before taking over his father’s newsagents, which stood at 65 Marton Road.  Many older residents of Middlesbrough still remember him, and the fact that he kept his VC in a tobacco tin behind the counter!

Tom Dresser’s VC was awarded for his actions on a battlefield near Roeux, France, on 12 May 1917, when he was aged just 24 years old and a Private with the 7th Yorkshire Howards Regiment.

His official VC citation gives more information:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Private Dresser, in spite of being twice wounded on the way, and suffering great pain, succeeded in conveying an important message from Battalion Headquarters to the front line of trenches, which he eventually reached in an exhausted condition. His fearlessness and determination to deliver this message at any cost, proved of the greatest value to his Battalion at a critical period.

Private Dresser was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 21st July 1917.

A fun fact for you: Tom Dresser VC is distantly related to Christopher Dresser, the visionary Victorian designer, to whom a fantastic (and extensive) gallery in the Dorman Museum is dedicated.

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These websites were super helpful while writing this post:

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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

PledgeMusic: http://po.st/PledgeMirrors
iTunes: http://po.st/iTunesMirrors
hmv: http://po.st/HMVMirrors
Google Play: http://po.st/GoogleMirrors
Amazon: http://po.st/AmazonMirrorsCD

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

 

 

 

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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

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