30 Years On Chernobyl Exposed

Tomorrow is the final opportunity to view the revealing and actually quite shocking images captured when a group of north eastern artists visited the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 30 years on. The visit to Chernobyl by a group of northern artists and designers proved to be an inspirational experience, leading to an exhibition of their works at House of Blah Blah in Middlesbrough.

chernobyl2Last year a group of 14 artists – calling themselves the 26:86 Collective – visited the site of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster in the year of its 30th anniversary and documented the visit with film, photos and interviews.

This was a disaster that sent shock waves, quite literally around Europe and the globe. With nuclear fall out as close to our homes as Cumbria it certainly made us only too well aware of the fragility of our globe’s ecosystems and our shared atmosphere.

chernobyl-1The debates about nuclear power have raged ever since but exactly what has happened over in the disaster zone itself in Ukraine? The group of artists have reported back and through this exhibition we can see a nuclear plant and city frozen in time. It is a 20th century Soviet Pompeii in many senses that we see.

The multi-disciplined body of work – including photography, installations and graphic design work is a touring exhibition of ’30 Years On – Chernobyl Exposed’ for 26:86 Collective. It closes in House of Blah Blah at the end of tomorrow’s  session.

The exhibition is a personal response of each artist to the trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and the research project and exhibitions will help raise awareness of the issues around nuclear energy.

Named after the day and year of the Chernobyl disaster, 26:86 Collective is made up of established and emerging artists and designers across the fields of illustrative and fine art, textiles, graphic design and photography.

To take two of the artists, Niall Kitching has created a series of striking soviet style propaganda banners. Niall says that in the abandoned city of Pripyat that the skyline is dominated by the message, “Let the Atom be a Worker, Not a Soldier.” Ironically it is said that there was a factory here making components for nuclear weapons from Chernobyl bi-products. Niall uses soviet style propaganda in his banner art to look at the secret and hidden meanings behind the words.

chernobyl-alysonTeesside artist and Cleveland College of Art lecturer Alyson Agar’s Ukranian Smile photo exhibition explores the capital city of Kiev through psychogeography wandering. Alyson documents green spaces and records accidental, or transient sculptural vistas in the townscape.

Claire Baker looks at the effects of time and abandonment of the evacuated homes but she also says Don’t Let History Repeat Itself as she shows with the destructive effects on material goods and building fabric from just ONE moment in time. And a moment that is 30 years ago!

chernobyl-pixThe exhibition seems even more poignant for its surroundings in the warehouse like House of Blah Blah. When I was there they were playing Joy Division and Velvet Underground so it did seem like we stepping inside a Cold War scenario.

Open 10-4pm tomorrow. House of Blah Blah, Exchange House, Exchange Square, Middlesbrough TS1 1DB

(Next to Teesside Archives and almost under the A66 fly over in the former GPO building.


A Weekend in Middlesbrough at Christmas

Geoff Vickers visited Middlesbrough just before Christmas and sent us this blog about the happy experience. Formerly Secretary of Middlesbrough Supporters South and working in financial services in the City, Geoff is a Boro season ticket holder travelling up for matches from the Home Counties. In December he decided to make a weekend of the trip to see Boro v Swansea with his partner Liz in December.

It is a rare chance to spend some time back in Middlesbrough. I have spent most of my Boro supporting life travelling from my home just North of London – almost always driving or taking the train up and back in one day.

orange pip aug 1A month or so ago I read an intriguing blog from a group of Bournemouth supporters who had spent an overnight stay on Teesside back in October before and after our game with them and indeed their glowing report on the town centre especially around Baker and Bedford Streets in the town centre.  I also read that Baker Street had been named as a “Rising Star” in The Great British High Street competition.

So it was the Swansea game just before Xmas that provided us with the perfect opportunity to spend a couple of days sampling for ourselves what the Cherries’ supporters had so enjoyed and have a night on the town in Middlesbrough. It turned out to be a very good weekend.

We booked into a town centre hotel – the Express at Holiday Inn opposite the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), which, as it turned out, was perfectly located for a weekend stay. The room overlooked a fine seasonal display of lights sparkling from the trees in front of MIMA. Perfect to place us in the Christmas mood.

We had lunch on the Friday at another establishment that has been enjoying media accolades. Chadwicks Inn in Maltby owned by Gary Gill, his wife Helen, manager Lee Tolley and head chef Jon Appleby. A super relaxing way to kick off the weekend and shake off the 220 mile drive North.

I am told properties in Baker and Bedford Street were taken over by the Local Authority over the last two years and have undertaken a funding programme of regeneration and refurbishment. The area has been completely rejuvenated and what a job they have done. Baker Street was first to receive its make-over in 2014 and neighbouring Bedford Street followed over the following months.

Rob (Nichols) offered to host us on the Friday night and an initial walk down the two streets was a real eye opener. There is a continental European feel about the area with an array of independent shops, bars and restaurants with every establishment  seemingly full with season revellers.  We met in Sherlocks on Baker Street,  a small intimate bar with couches and a small corner bar with an array of beers I hadn’t really seen in a pub in Middlesbrough outside of the Wetherspoons in town.  There was a good buzzing atmosphere coupled with some new beers locally brewed.  Immediately along the road is The Twisted Lip and across the road The Slaters Pick –more fantastic editions to the small beer pub scene. To give the street a Bohemian feel both sides are full of independent shops that are so crucial in retaining character to the locality, including  a vintage clothes shop,  a deli and a furniture retailer amongst them.

And so to the next street along and Bedford Street which has become a go to place to both eat and drink with an array of recommended eateries and the Chairman pub the latest beer pub introduction. And the town centre rejuvenation doesn’t stop at those two streets.  Dimi Konstantopoulos has just opened his modern greek eaterie “Great” on Linthorpe Road and Al Forno  and Oven around the corner are, amongst many other strong offerings. According to TripAdvisor Middlesbrough has 80 places to eat with 4 or more review stars.

Match day morning we enjoyed a really good breakfast over at MIMAs new bistro the Smeltery and sister restaurant to the Waiting Room in Eaglescliffe.  The weekend was rounded off by a fine 3-0 win against the Swans.

I wanted to recount our experience, as Middlesbrough is no doubt becoming a serious weekend break destination that will only serve the town and local economy well. It is fantastic to see. I will come again before the season’s end and hope to try new places  Final mention of the hotel which is a fine ambassador for the town. The friendly welcome on reception and the hotel comfort was just top class. And as somebody who works in London fantastic value for money.

The Love Middlesbrough campaign is definitely working for me.

Blog originally printed in Fly Me To The Moon fanzine Issue 572 Boro v Leicester City 2/1/2017

Geoff Vickers

Beatrice Blore of Middlesbrough and the Winged Wheel Grave of Llandudno

We are delighted to publish a guest post from Dr Roger Bloor, the author of The Winged Wheel Grave of Llandudno. Dr Bloor is a retired consultant in Addiction Psychiatry and former Senior Lecturer at the University of Keele Medical School.

Introducing Dr Bloor: Following my retirement I was tempted to re-experience the joys of 1950’s childhood holidays in Llandudno and a visit to the Great Orme took in an exploration of St Tudno’s Church positioned high on the Orme with its magnificent views out to sea. As you enter the churchyard you cannot escape noticing the large white marble memorial in the shape of a Winged Wheel; closer inspection reveals that this is the final resting place of one Beatrice Blore Browne. So I started my mission to discover who Beatrice was and how she had merited such an unusual memorial. Although Beatrice and I share a surname phonetically it transpires that we are not directly related and my book explores Beatrice’s family origins, her life in Middlesbrough and Llandudno and reveals the reason for her Winged Wheel memorial.

On the windy summit of the Great Orme at Llandudno in Wales sits St Tudno’s Church with its graveyard commanding spectacular views over the open sea as the gulls whirl overhead.

One grave in particular has attracted much attention over the years, a white marble edifice carved in the form of a “winged wheel” set close to the entrance to the churchyard. The monument, the final resting place of one Beatrice Blore Browne, is intriguing and the inscription ” She feared naught but God” invites speculation as to who Beatrice was and how she came to have such an impressive memorial.

Beatrice’s story starts in the town of Middlesbrough in the 1840’s when her grandfather Robert Blore moved from Derby to work at the Middlesbrough earthenware Factory. Robert managed the factory until his death in 1868 and following his death his son Herbert took over as manager. Herbert and his wife Fanny had two children but sadly Fanny died in 1877. Herbert then remarried in 1883 to Annie Harrison and they had two children, Arthur and Beatrice.

Herbert died in 1890 and the 1891 census shows Annie living at 57 Lloyd Street Middlesbrough with Beatrice (aged 4) and Arthur (aged 7). In 1894 Annie, with a family to care for, married Edward Leach, an Irish man born in Cork in 1866 with whom she had two children Henry and Henrietta.

Edward was a trained electrician and at the turn of the century the introduction of electric lighting was producing increasing opportunities for such skilled tradesmen. Edward had secured a position as an electrician to the Llandudno Pier Company in North Wales and so it was that at the turn of the century that Beatrice Blore moved with her family to Llandudno.

The full story of Beatrice’s life in Middlesbrough and her subsequent life in Llandudno and the events which lead up to the erection of the Winged Wheel Grave memorial, a tribute to her feat of being the first woman to drive a motor car up the cable track of the Great Orme in Llandudno, are described in detail in the book ‘The Winged Wheel Grave of Llandudno’ .

The Blore family, through the work of Robert and Herbert, played an important part in the development and continuation of earthenware production at Middlesbrough for over 40 years. Robert’s skills as a ceramic modeler have been somewhat overlooked in previous descriptions of his role at Middlesbrough that have focused on his role as a manager. The surviving examples of his work during his time at Middlesbrough are in a very different style from that of the traditional Middlesbrough product and show the influence of his time at the Derby Factory and his early exposure to monumental sculpture in the Bridge Gate works of his father Joseph.

The ornate monumental style of the memorial to Robert’s granddaughter Beatrice is perhaps unwittingly a reflection of her ancestry and one that her forebears would have approved of.

The author’s book ‘The Winged Wheel Grave of Llandudno’ which is sold to raise funds for Breast Cancer UK is available from Amazon or direct from the author full details are on the website http://beatriceblorebrowne.uk/ or via the Beatrice Blore Browne Facebook page.

Beatrice died at the very young age of 34 from Breast Cancer and all the profits from the book will go to the charity Breast Cancer UK.


Christmas Come Early with Cattle and Cane

In a year when so much has gone wrong for so many there has been a beacon of hope shining like a Wilton fare stack from the Tees, the very wonderful Cattle and Cane. On Thursday night they chose to give out their Christmas presents early when they invited Teesside to a special festive party at The Empire. The grand old Victorian theatre has seen many illustrious performers over the years but the Hammill family (and friends) brought the “snow” and the house down on a night and an event that warmed the hearts and minds of an enraptured capacity crowd.

cattleandcane-frontTo sell out the 1100 capacity venue is no mean feat and testament to the popularity of a band that have inspired Teesside and now successfully taken their musical message out on a debut national headline tour. The home fires were burning for Cattle and Cane in the gorgeously tinsel-ated and fairy lit gilding of the old Empire. The band sparkled sumptuously themselves.

Cattle and Cane are now poised like the giant Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling of The Empire, poised to kick on nationally and internationally next year when their second album should propel them onwards and upwards. But first came the Christmas party and fellow T-T-Teessiders Cape Cub kicked things off in style and pop panache.

It is a polished sound, with exhilarating, high wire guitar, propelling the big, big choruses up beyond that Christmas tree to the gods. The marvellously christened Chas Male has a soaraway voice to cap it all off. The sound is maybe epitomised by the anthemic single All I Need and the moody, magnificent Keep Me In My Mind. The line from the latter “take me north bound back to home,” seemed to sum up the mood.

capecubIt was Santa hats and Boro shirts on for a big festive finale; Stay Another Day seemed to stay about hundred days at number one after Christmas for East 17. It warmed us up nicely.

While Cattle and Cane were wired for sound up on stage, below on the totally rammed dance-floor there was a roar, flutter and flurry of anticipation and excitement. Helen Hammill was on lead vocals to start off. This is an exciting time to see a band in transition, between local and (inter)national, between first and second albums and perhaps edging from folk to more pop orientated. There was an even a different set up on stage with Fran Hammill taking over on keyboards, a new electric guitarist as well as an additional percussionist to beef out the sound and Helen to the fore on hands free vocals alongside Joe on acoustic and vocals.

The band wasted no time in serving up recent mouth watering single 7 Hours with its strident harmonies and smooth pop stylings. Joe’s awesomely crafted love song to the Cleveland Hills already sounds like it will be a highlight of next year’s second album.

cattleandcaneIt has some of the same burning local and vocal passion as the stirring Infant Hercules, which Joe began solo before the band joined in to the rousing finale message of hope.

Then came the first spine tingling moment as the band embarked on a gorgeous rendition of the timeless classic of White Christmas the snow came tumbling down from the heavens onto the audience. Wow.

We were all suitably festive now and no one at all held back from a massive Teesside singalong into Sold My Soul, an early standard by the band from what must be six or so years ago now. Pull Down The Moon received the same rapturous response. Fran reverted to (slide) guitar for another old favourite, The Poacher. For Come Home it felt like we were all family.

The next single Saviour was given its Teesside premier and it was very much a thumbs up from the crowd.

cattleandcane2-snowThe audience demanded encores. What seasonal delights would they stand and deliver? Except for Fran of course still sitting on ceremony. It was a fantastically festive Feed The World with snow cascading down once again and Cape Cub up alongside them belting out the Bono high bits. More singalong, organised this time by Joe for the bouncy Fool For You. In fact the singalong continued well after the song was completed and so there was absolutely no getting away from Cattle and Cane returning again for yet another encore.

cattleandcaneandcapecubA special night then as Cattle and Cane served up a slice of musical magic at Christmas.

words Robert Nichols – photos Tracy Hyman


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.

(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