THE writing is on the wall for Middlesbrough’s burgeoning town centre with the unveiling of poetry adorning prominent buildings.
Ten pieces of classic and contemporary literature (including poetry and literary quotes) will be hand painted on walls visible throughout the town centre.
The Public Poetry scheme is building on the success of Middlesbrough Council’s recent street art addition to the Linthorpe Road A66 underpass as well as adding to the feel-good cultural factor built through Orange Pip Market, Baker/Bedford Street and the various town centre art galleries.
Kicking off the project will be the transformation of the gable end of the Subway unit at the end of Baker Street.
A book page featuring The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle (the author’s favourite Sherlock Holmes short story, incidentally) will be transposed on to the building celebrating Middlesbrough’s favourite new market.
Cllr Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Media and Sport, said: “There is a real confidence in Middlesbrough town centre at the moment with the Baker and Bedford Street and Orange Pip Markets really capturing the imagination of people.
“The Public Poetry is an extension of everything that is currently going on to add more variety into the town centre and to encourage more people to visit, for them to stay longer and have an even more enjoyable experience.”
Late last year Middlesbrough Council unveiled the town’s first ever Investment Prospectus, with a clear focus on regeneration, enterprise and job creation.
The strategy aims to attract inward investment to the town of more than £600 million, with the creation of around 5,000 new jobs.
In addition, the project will be a valuable demonstration of the ambitions for the Tees Valley City of Culture bid in 2025.
Public Poetry initiatives have flourished in towns and cities for decades. The Middlesbrough Public Poetry project was inspired by a number of similar schemes in Leiden, a city in Southern Holland, Sheffield and poems on the underground – one of Britain’s most successful art projects which has brought poetry to London’s travellers for more than 25 years.
The rationale behind this project is to celebrate the written word and enrich the culture of Middlesbrough. The poems will inspire the public as they move through the town. Eventually, the pieces will also create a trail which will serve as a tourist attraction; they will also be actively accessed by schools and colleges.
The Public Poetry project will enhance to the overall vibrancy of the town centre as a desirable destination supporting mima, the Town Hall and Teesside University in the cultural agenda.
Curator of the project, Nicky Peacock, said: “Research shows that projects such as this encourage mindfulness and a sense of discovery in a familiar environment.
“Current research into the multifunctionality of town centres encourages us to be flexible, responsive to change and open to ideas that enliven space. Town centres can once again become useful, lively and creative places that reflect the diversity of our communities – but not through retail alone.”
The second site will be 11 King Edward’s Square, a Teesside University building that can be viewed from Linthorpe Road. The building will display the poem, It Ain’t What You Do, It’s What It Does To You’ by Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, Simon Armitage CBE.
Jill Morgan, Dean of Teesside University’s School of Design, Culture & the Arts and the University’s lead for Culture, said: “This is an imaginative and inspirational project which will both enrich the town’s cultural offer and builds on our important history of poetry and performance as a force for social and political change.
“Teesside University supports a wide breadth of cultural activity, both within the University and in the wider community. We are delighted to support this project and hope it will bring the work of Simon Armitage and other writers to a wider audience.”
Other sites and works will be announced at a later date.