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.


Middlesbrough Memories at Dorman Museum

There is a second chance to view the Memories of Middlesbrough photo exhibition and that means twice the memories for free. A unique collection of images of buildings and people from the town in bygone days was recently exhibited for a week at Python Gallery, at Royal Middlehaven House, not far from the railway station.

dorman-memories-1The exhibition images were provided by posters on the mega-popular facebook page. The photos might originally have been taken to show for the family album but behind a sister, brother, mother, father, aunt or uncle there could have been a view of a house, pub, shop or public building. Many of these street scenes have greatly altered others have totally vanished. Mind you a street view in suburbia of leafy Linthorpe has hardly changed at all, except for the addition of cars.

Memories of Middlesbrough now occupy a space in the back corridor of the Dorman, close to the thought provoking and must-see d-Formed exhibition of Kev Howard. Now, this is where we get double value because along the same wall and just the other side of an internal door is a semi permanent collection, also from posters of the memories of Middlesbrough facebook site. This second collection has been showing for several months now but is being constantly refreshed with different photos from former schools, houses and shop frontages.

dorman-lowcocksIn the newer exhibition there is a focus on old Middlesbrough, or Over The Border as it became known. There is an amazing shot of the old Town Hall appearing to hang perilously over a gaping hole where the building beneath has been demolished. We see photos of busy streets leading up to the old market place. Or a view along North Street with the old Customs House cloaked in scaffolding.

The photos in the two exhibitions span a century of memories. There are handcarts outside of old shops and then kids standing outside of their front gardens in the 1960s.

Then there are the old businesses of the town. How many people used to buy Lowcocks lemonade? Maybe from the vans that stopped around the estates.

Memories of Middlesbrough facebook page and group, were founded in 2012 by Sue Martin who never dreamed how interest would absolutely mushroom. In less than five years the group now boasts 30,000 ‘ likes’. Members include thousands still living in and around the town, but also those no longer based in Middlesbrough scattered across the globe as far afield as Australia, South Africa and U.S.A.

Do drop in to our free town museum, the Dorman Museum and let your mind wander back through the streets, faces and former trading places of Middlesbrough. You might as well grab a cup of tea at Dressers café on the way out.

Dorman Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
Last entry 4.00pm

Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays.





d-FORMED: A Personal Journey by Kev Howard

d-FORMED is the startling autobiographical exhibition of Kev Howard. It is an incredibly hard hitting yet at the same time sensitive photographic record of the physical challenges and the constant surgical procedures Kev has faced over the years.

kev-howardKev Howard is an instantly recognisable figure, often to be seen clicking away with his camera at local gigs and events. He is surely the only expert didgeridoo player on Teesside and often performs live with his array of instruments. Both skills he has mastered with his mechanical hand. But I had absolutely no idea about the medical history, the painful decisions and indeed pain he has endured to get to this point. To say that the exhibition has been an eye opener would be a gross understatement. But also it underlines once again what a wonderful photographer and a great artist Kev undoubtedly is.

The exhibition starts as we confront a representation of the mask that Kev would have worn as he was anaesthetised before going down to surgery as a young lad. The emotions of fear were gradually superseded as he grew older and more experienced. But it is still a very stark gateway for us to the photo representations of the operations and outcomes as his growing body was realigned.

kev-my-left-footIt isn’t something I have ever really thought about before the decisions as to whether to increase function or even sacrifice a limb. I guess I have a tiny insight in that I was born with an extra digit and have been left with a thumb that only half works but that is absolutely nothing whatsoever compared to Kev growing facing so many physical challenges. These are challenges he still has to live and cope with throughout his life.

I found there was real beauty in the photography. When Kev replaces his limbs with coloured sculptured forms he forces us to think about why we often see beauty as skin deep or not.

kev-howard-formsThe final blood spattered image confronts the present system of appeals people must now leap through for disability benefits and all the trauma people are being put through. After Kev’s exhibition we are better placed to realise the back history and the physical and emotional ordeals some being reassessed for benefits have been through already.

kev-howard-bloodThis is such a brave exhibition for Kev to undertake. He has put his body on the line for surgery and now once again through his lens. It is a powerful statement brilliantly presented. For the viewer you will go on a real journey and I think be much enriched and rewarded for taking it.

D-Formed is displayed until 23 April at Dorman Museum that is open Tuesday to Sunday every week.


Memories of Middlesbrough Exhibition

Memories of Middlesbrough facebook (closed) group has been an absolutely phenomenal success since the page was set up in 2012 by Sue Martin. It is now bulging at the seams with over 12000 members and a staggering 20 000 likes. They are very active members too, posting photos and stirring up memories of Middlesbrough’s streets, buildings and people. Memories shared are almost given new life again.

Memories of Middlesbrough have been given some exhibition space at the town’s free museum Dorman Museum where a number of photos taken by the members are now on display. The exhibition was launched last month as part of Discover Middlesbrough. The display will be re-jigged with some different photos after Christmas.

momdorman1Just to underline what a phenomenon it is there have been MoM calendars, there was an exhibition at mima in association with Araf Chohan and a book is in the pipeline of photos taken by the facebook community group members.

In the meantime do go along upstairs and have a wander down Memories of Middlesbrough lane. Ride the roundabout in Albert Park or play out in the Linthorpe streets. Remember when there was a bustling market on Sussex Street. Remember when there was a Sussex Street!

Hugh Bell school may be long gone but the Winners photo lives on. Talking of celebrations get the bunting out again for a Middlesbrough V.E. street party.

Dorman Museum – Open Tues to Sunday 9.30am to 4.30pm (Closed Mondays)



Everything Flows – A Celebration of the Transporter Bridge in Poetry

A year on now from the Centenary date of Teesside’s iconic structure, and a time capsule has been buried at the foot of the beloved Transporter Bridge. Hopefully it will contain a copy of this book because these verses, paintings and photos capture so many essences of the bridge that Teesside has taken to its heart. The many faces it presents to its grateful Teesside public.

I used the word structure but it is not a museum piece because the Tranny as it is fondly called by many is still a working bridge. One hundred years on the span over the Tees still serves a purpose. The moving gondola is still a lifeline for many who need to cross the river at this point. But this monument to Teesside engineering prowess has a secondary purpose, a pivotal place in the hearts of so many Teessiders. Indeed for many the Tranny simply is Teesside.

Here in this lovingly collated volume of poetry are the thoughts in verse by many who have lived, loved and toiled in the shadow of the 100 year old bridge. Alan Morley’s impressionist depiction on the cover is not too far fetched because as the words inside underline the Transporter evokes a gamut of emotions for those that crowd the banks of the Tees around it.

It is truly a people’s bridge and this book perfectly represents that with a range of contributors from what I might term professional published poets like Andy Willoughby, Ian Horn and Bob Beagrie to several library groups and primary school children. That is how it should be because standing for over 100 years this bridge is firmly anchored in the community. And you can’t get a much more auspicious beginning than an accolade from a poet laureate but Cecil Day Lewis, Hail Teesside! was written by the great man when he was poet to the Queen visiting the new Borough of Teesside in 1968.

From the sublime to ridiculous, or is it? We are introduced to the dangers of Sloppy Molly from a reminiscing Kathleen Larkin who defied her parents every weekend by scrabbling around in the mud beneath the bridge. This bridge has played a big part in people’s childhood as well as working lives.

In addition to the poems there are some phenomenal photographs within this book and the Transporter Bridge has inspired others to pick up a paint brush. Highly evocative paintings include Mary Hicks ‘Crossing of the Workers,’ Adrian Moule depicts a giant bestriding the town. There is real drama about the brilliant sunset colours that frame Gillian Spensley’s lone bungee jumper dangling precariously from the span.

I love the description of Gordon Hodgeon viewing The Tranny as “two bony, Meccano birds.” Those birds are said to be, “Neck-deep in mud.” So, we are back to sloppy molly again. It is “A bridge too far,” according to Peter de Dee and over the years there have been many who have called for it to be scrapped and replaced. Yet with heritage lottery funding for an enhanced visitor experience there is real confidence that the “Blue Dog” of Gary Smith will stride like a colossus through a second century as Teesside’s pride and joy.

Everything flows is the title of a lovingly compiled volume of tributes to the bridge that has become part of the Teesside family. Every Teesside family needs a copy.