Middlesbrough – the town that never gives in
PUBLISHED: 18:23 28 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 20 February 2013
The first major town to be bombed by the Luftwaffe in World War II, the first gig venue outside of London for the Rolling Stones there is more to Middlesbrough than first meets the eye. Linzi Barber delves deeper
Standing on the south bank of the River Tees, Middlesbrough, is home to a unique industrial skyline dominated by one of the only three transporter bridges in the country. This blue bridge is the most famous landmark in Teesside, its recognisable shape being visible for miles around Middlesbrough.
Opened in 1911, the moving car can carry up to 600 people or nine vehicles across the Tees in just two and a half minutes. High winds close the bridge but weather permitting it is open daily and used as a regular commuter link.
As one of the only UK bridges licensed for bungee jumping, the structure has become a celebrity in its own right. US TV presenter Ann Curry bungeed off the bridge, egged on by celebrity Tom Hanks, and the Transporter has also appeared on screen in Billy Elliot, The Fast Show and Auf Weidersehen Pet.
A more modern landmark on the Middlesbrough skyline is the Riverside Stadium, home to Middlesbrough Football Club. The stadium, which opened in 1995 after just 32 weeks of building, was then the biggest new football stadium to be built since the war.
As you would expect for a town with such a huge community spirit, the following of the local team is second to none despite lower attendances of late and in 1998 a further 5,000 seats were added to the stadium to meet local demand to support the Boro.
Middlesbrough was the birthplace of the world famous explorer and navigator Captain James Cook. In 1978, on the 250th anniversary of Cooks birth, a museum was opened in Stewart Park to tell his story with interactive galleries and displays. Entrance to the museum is free and special annual exhibitions are planned right through to 2020 based upon significant anniversaries in the life of Cook.
Stewart Park is not Middlesbroughs only park. Albert Park, a Grade Two listed park, is the perfect relaxation spot for the whole family, with wide open spaces perfect for picnics, a childrens play area, roller rink, boating lake, bowling greens and tennis courts. Dont worry if you forget your picnic; there is a caf, which is open daily for drinks and snacks.
Not to be outdone, Pallister Park is known as the leisure centre without the roof, with facilities including tennis courts and a nine-hole pitch and putt course. The most recent addition to the Middlesbrough park scene is Prissick Base. This floodlit skate plaza designed by professional American skaters was modelled on some of the worlds most famous skate spots and is open to boarders, BMX bikers and inline skaters.
Its not just the great outdoors that make Middlesbrough a good place to be. The once-industrial town has become a commercial Mecca and is home to no less than four shopping malls as well as a designer shopping area on Linthorpe Road, housing a haven of independent designer shops including Psyche, a home grown designer department store considered to be one of the best of its kind in the country.
Just a stones throw from the designer shops and cosmopolitan eateries of Linthorpe Road lies the University of Teesside. Middlesbrough became a university town in 1992 and the university is now recognised as a leading institute for computer animation. The university hosts Animex, an annual event for computer animators attracting visitors such as the creators of the Simpsons and Bob the Builder.
Being a university town its little wonder that Middlesbrough is billed by locals and visitors as a great night out. Whatever youre into, Middlesbrough has got it. The most famous nightclub is probably the Empire. Built as a music hall in 1897, the venue has welcomed performers from Charlie Chaplin to the Scissor Sisters to its large stage and three floors dedicated to music.
Top name DJs can be found at the Empire, which today is regarded as one of the finest clubs in the country. From Thursday to Saturday, the town centre is heaving after dark but such is the diverse selection of bars, restaurants and clubs in Middlesbrough that live music can be found somewhere every night of the week.
With heavy industry now totally gone from Middlesbrough, the town has plans for significant regeneration.
In 2007 the first key stage was seen with the opening of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, a 19million glass-fronted art gallery in the Centre Square with its big screen TV, illuminated fountains and urban landscaping. Plans are also well underway for a carbon neutral waterfront development that will reclaim Middlesbroughs docklands outside the Riverside Stadium, creating new homes and jobs. Part of the development has seen the building of a monumental piece of sculpture.
Temenos now stands 50 metres high and 110 metres wide shoulder to shoulder with the Transporter Bridge as a landmark for future generations to enjoy.
Captain Cook Museum 01642 311211 www.captcook-ne.co.uk
MIMA www.visitmima.com 01642 726720
Tourist Information www.visitmiddlesbrough.com
The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of North East Life
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