Is Middlesbrough a city in all but name?
PUBLISHED: 12:42 14 May 2012 | UPDATED: 04:24 10 February 2013
Is Middlesbrough a city in all but name? In the wake of the decision not to change the town's status, Jo Haywood canvasses opinion
Its hard not to feel a little deflated when a small Welsh hamlet with a population that could only fill the Riverside Stadium if they bussed in 30,000 additional friends gets city status while Middlesbrough loses out again.
Add in the fact that St Asaph only spent 300 on its campaign, while Middlesbrough a town with approximately 134,000 more people living in it spent somewhere in the region of 10,000, and you could forgive a few miserable faces on Dundas Street.
But Boro folk are made from sterner stuff and are managing to turn what many would regard as a negative into a positive boost to the towns standing at home and abroad.
We might not have gained city status this time around, but no-one can have been left in any doubt over Middlesbroughs ambition for the future, said mayor Ray Mallon. This is a town with its focus firmly on that future a true city at heart.
Although widely regarded as an outsider at the outset when 20 towns launched bids for city status to mark the Queens diamond jubilee, Middlesbroughs vibrant campaign saw it quickly become the bookies
favourite, ahead of the eventual winning cities Chelmsford in Essex, Perth in Scotland and St Asaph in Wales.
The North East towns campaign its third, following unsuccessful attempts in 2000 and 2002 focused on its role at the commercial and administrative heart of Teesside and the wider Tees Valley. The borough itself might be home to around 138,000 people, but organisers argued the town acts as the city centre for a much wider region of around 720,000 people, making it the largest in the country not served by a recognised city.
The formal 25-page bid document, which was submitted in May 2011, also highlighted and paid tribute to the towns award-winning schools and colleges, cutting edge culture and burgeoning regeneration projects.
Claire Wordsworth, from the city status bid team, paid tribute to the enthusiasm shown by local people, from the hundreds of youngsters who wrote to the Queen telling her what city status would mean to them, to the activists, ambassadors and community champions who took the bid to heart.
Many businesses and organisations provided sponsorship and offered their services free of charge, while almost 7,000 people joined lovemiddlesbrough on Facebook and Twitter.
The support we have had has been fantastic and has come from every part of our community, from political leaders and stars in many fields to members of the public of all ages, said Claire.
Most importantly, the campaign has given a voice to the ordinary men, women and children of Teesside, enabling them to tell the world why this special place deserves to be recognised, both for its heritage and for its future potential.
This upbeat message is echoed by college student and community radio DJ Tommy Dunn, who has acted as a young ambassador for lovemiddlesbrough throughout the campaign. He believes the bid has achieved a great deal by improving the towns image and standing both nationally and internationally.
Of course its disappointing to fall at the final hurdle, he said. But for the thousands of people who backed a vibrant and creative campaign, this is by no means an ending or a failure.
The process brought the community together in hope and aspiration as people from every corner of the town gave their time and talent to support the bid and build a better future.
Times are undoubtedly tough for a great many people in Middlesbrough, where the average wage is more than 4,000 below the national average and 10,000 below some of the other city status bidders. But there was never any guarantee that becoming a city would lead to more cash in ordinary peoples pockets.
What is a dead cert, however, is that the campaign has been incredibly
beneficial, re-energising the town and casting it in a new positive light on the national stage.
The process has brought out the very best in the town and its people, and that can only stand it in good stead, said a justifiably proud Ray Mallon.
A key theme of this bid was that it was for and by the people of our area their contributions and support were central to the case that Middlesbrough is already a city at heart. Many people automatically assume it is a city, and that speaks volumes about how we are seen by the outside world.
This is a town that feels and acts like a city, and can deliver the opportunities that any city can deliver.
There are indeed many opportunities for celebration heading Middlesbroughs way in the coming months. Among the most notable are the 29 million investment in Teesport to double the container terminal capacity; the opening on the 4.3 million Myplace development; the 9.5 million transformation of Stewart Park; the launch of two enterprise zones for advanced engineering and digital technology; the 11 million refurbishment of the town hall; and the completion of the Ciac residential development at Middlehaven.
Not bad for just a town, eh?
Three things to do
There was a time when Town Halls were the sole preserve of councillors but thats definitely not the case in Middlesbrough. This month alone the Town hall will host among other events concerts by acts as varied as the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, on May 23rd, and Bob Geldof on May 26th. For tickets for both, and details of other events, contact 01642 729729.
The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art - mima - this year marks its fifth anniversary. Admission is free and the town centre gallerys collection includes work from 1900 to the present and exhibitions change throughout the year. For full details of exhibitions and events, go to www.vistitmima.com.
Take a tour of Middlesbroughs parks from the tranquil Grade Two listed Albert Park to the adrenalin filled thrills of Prissick Skate Plaza, theres something for everyone. Fairy Dell at Coulby Newham to the south of the town is a great place to get close to nature. For more information on the towns parks or other attractions and events, go to www.visitmiddlesbrough.com.
What do you think? Should Middlesbrough have been given city status or could that money have been spent in other ways? Send your views to email@example.com.