Make It More Middlesbrough

Make it More Middlesbrough was a creative development programme led by Navigator North between April 2023 to May 2024 to empower communities, groups and volunteers to connect in positive ways to enhance wellbeing, improve social cohesion, co-create events and increase a sense of pride in Middlesbrough and its heritage.

It follows on from the success of the cultural programme – Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough as part of Historic England and Middlesbrough Council’s High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) between 2021 and 2023.

The programme was supported by Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund with Know Your Neighbourhood funding.

Love Letter to Middlesbrough, Pride of Place project with Annie Curry from Health & Arts

Co-ordinated programme of support, training and opportunities for volunteer led community action in the HSHAZ. Connecting with and building on existing volunteer networks. Training opportunities and more informal skill share sessions support identified training needs with volunteers, partners and programme participants.

Volunteers at The Masham during public exhibitions. Photo credit, Rachel Deakin

To create more accessible ways to visually represent volunteers and good practice in volunteering we worked with illustrator Miki Rogers to develop a series of images to share what volunteering looks and feels like for our volunteers and what we value most.

This was also informed by Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency’s training and resources, including Navigator North signing up to the Tees Valley Volunteering Charter.

Miki spent time with us and the volunteers at The Masham, getting to know how volunteers supported the programme. This resulted in a series of info graphics which reflect what a positive experience of volunteering looks like.

Volunteering illustration above by Miki Rogers

Read about Paul Andrew Boden’s experiences during the programme, as one of our Make It More Middlesbrough volunteers here

Working with Freestyle Community Projects the programme embarked on a series of initiatives focused on urban greening in Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter. This project aimed to enhance community engagement while improving public spaces within the High Street Heritage Action Zone with local residents and volunteers.

A series of creative sessions with residents of Webb House on Zetland Road in late 2023 resulted in the decoration of the building’s windows with floral designs, paying homage to its history and architect, Phillip Webb – a leader in the arts and crafts movement. This creative endeavour not only celebrated the area’s heritage but also boosted residents’ wellbeing and pride.

In early 2024 the residents and volunteers created a ‘vertical plant pocket garden’ within the basement alcoves on the exterior of the building. This involved creating bespoke textile pockets and hand printing the designs on to them, learning about suitable plants for that environment and selecting those to then plant up on site. The residents continue to look after their garden which will hopefully continue to give them fresh herbs and flowers.

This aligned with a series of ‘Plant Club’ sessions which were open for anyone to join in as well as focused sessions for the Webb House residents.

Participants crafted plant pots with artists Will Hughes and Sarah Falconer, learned planting techniques, and created seed bombs for distribution across the Historic Quarter. These workshops not only contributed to greening efforts but also promoted community involvement and skill-sharing.

Community hub and programmed activities
The programme supported access to creative spaces and places within Middlesbrough’s high street for audiences and participants. This included the continued use of the former pub The Masham as a community hub and creative space, with a programme of exhibitions and events linking the Make It More Middlesbrough activities.

Wish You Were Here, Pride of Place project with Aimee Charlotte for Unelected Middlesbrough Tourism Board. Shown at The Masham in 2023.
Meta Middlesbrough, Pride of Place project with Andrew Glazebrook. Shown at The Masham in 2023. Photo credit, Rachel Deakin

Programme highlights include Last Orders – Historic & Lost Pubs of Middlesbrough, with new research and oral history interviews working with Teesside Archives, Heritage Unlocked, The Middlesbrough History Project and volunteers.

Last Orders! Historic & Lost Pubs of Middlesbrough, exhibition at The Masham, Oct/Nov 2023. Photo credit, Jason Hynes

Created as a result of extensive research with local historians and volunteers and through creative sessions with artists, we produced a brand new map and limited edition print of the pubs in St Hilda’s between 1831 and 2012.

This project involved local people and enabled them to get to know their neighbourhood better, whilst co-creating the artworks themselves. A limited print run offered visitors to The Masham a way to get involved and take home a print of their own.

Pride of Place Projects
This series of small grants supported volunteer led initiatives and creatives to devise and deliver their own projects. The grants supported creative activities that offered opportunities for people to reconnect with their town centre, share memories and ideas, develop skills, take collective action to improve pride of place and connect with each other.

Communities were invited to shape their own projects and events. Grant support included; focused advice and guidance from Navigator North and project mentors, access to expertise, knowledge, networks and resources, project budget up to £800.

Pie and Masham, Pride of Place project with Cori Dales
Storytelling Quilt, Pride of Place project with Dianne Bowell

Projects included –

• A Love Letter to Middlesbrough by Health & Arts with Annie Curry
• Wish You Were Here by Unelected Middlesbrough Tourism Board with Aimee Charlotte
• Meta Middlesbrough by Andrew Glazebrook
• Pie and Masham by Cori Dales
• Postcards of Middlesbrough by Louise Goult Textiles
• Matchbox Memories by Phillippa Worthington
• Middlesbrough Colouring Book by Open Door Art with Chris Layfield
• Storytelling Quilt by Dianne Bowell
Together We Are Unified by Alan Hathaway
Self Portraits & Poems by Bob Beagrie

Postcards of Middlesbrough, Pride of Place project with Louise Goult

Matchbox Memories, Pride of Place project with Phillippa Worthington