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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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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Stewart’s Swift Tees Defibrillator Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

swift tees group

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Remembering Ayresome – Stadium Portraits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Painting above is still under construction – to show the process)

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

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

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

 

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