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5 cultural hotspots in the Tees Valley

There’s way more to enjoy in the Tees Valley than Middlesbrough Football Club… here’s the cultural ‘boro squad that’s always firing on all cylinders.

Written by High Life North
Published 19.05.2022

Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Yarm

If you’re ever in Yarm and looking for a live performance venue that ticks all the boxes, then just head straight to the Princess Alexandra Auditorium.

This stunning, 750-seat venue has been designed and built to the highest performance specifications and was recently awarded a commendation by the Civic Trust Awards, along with two prestigious RIBA Awards for design excellence. Which is probably why it’s able to attract some of the best local and touring talent in the entertainment industry.

You can enjoy every kind of live performance here – including theatre, stand up, live new music, orchestras, tribute bands and themed nights. And whenever you’re taking a break from soaking up all this epic culture on stage, head to the bar in the atrium and enjoy your refreshments while looking out over the meandering River Tees outside.

 

HLN’s highlights: As well as their upcoming Abba tribute night, we’re looking forward to seeing Su Pollard, Alexandra Burke, Newton Faulkner and Elysium Theatre’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

 

Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Yarm School, The Friarage, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees TS15 9EJ

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Middlesbrough Town Hall

Middlesbrough Town Hall’s foundation stone was laid back in 1883, and over the years the venue has played host to some truly great names in music – including ‘the Godmother of rock and roll’ Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Oasis, David Bowie, The Clash and AC/DC. But these days, you’ll find only the most modern, popular and innovative entertainers in this respected performance venue.

That’s largely thanks to the £7.7 million restoration project the venue underwent in 2016, which saw the Town Hall enjoy extensive renovations to restore rarely-seen elements of this Grade II-listed building and ensure it remained at the forefront of culture not only in the North East, but in the UK.

The renovations have seen the grand concert hall restored to its former glory – a glory which has attracted performers from around the world in its time, including Russian virtuoso pianist Sergei Rachmaninov, Dame Nellie Melba, Johann Strauss, and Sir Edward Elgar with the London Symphony Orchestra – as well as the opening of fascinating areas of the building that haven’t been seen by the public in decades. So, when you next visit, make sure to check out the old police cells, the courtroom, the fire station and the spectacular carriage driveway.

 

HLN’s highlights: It’s the variety of Middlesbrough Town Hall’s programme that we love. Where else would you find stand up Dylan Moran alongside rock band Enter Shikari, a lecture about The Psychology of Serial Killers, The Magical Music of Harry Potter and some Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare?!

 

Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough TS1 2QJ

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MIMA

The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) isn’t only the focal point for visual art, craft and design in the Tees Valley. It’s a major cultural landmark in the North of England, bringing some of the most innovative, respected and ground-breaking new work in the world of art to the region.

Not that the gallery is so focused on welcoming the work of international artists that it has forgotten where it’s based. Celebrating the work of local artists and art groups forms a central part in MIMA’s cultural offering, with their ‘Middlesbrough Collection’ holding 2,350 works of art from local creatives and current exhibition Chemical City focussed on exploring the legacies of chemicals production in the Tees Valley.

Artistic appreciation can work up an appetite. Luckily, MIMA Kitchen serves up fresh, homemade food to eat inside the gallery, outside in their gorgeous garden space, or to take away.

Or maybe you’ve seen something in the gallery that you love? Well, see if you can find something similar in MIMA’s shop, which offers a unique range of products sourced from local and national makers, designers and artists – including jewellery, homeware, stationery, books and children’s gifts.

 

HLN’s highlights: From 25th June London-based ceramics artist Lubna Chowdhary will be exhibiting multi-part sculptural installations that fuse visual languages and cultural references from the East and the West.  

 

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Centre Square, Middlesbrough TS1 2AZ

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Friarage Theatre, Yarm

Built to the same exceptional standards as its neighbour, where the Friarage Theatre differs from the Princess Alexandra Auditorium is that it offers a more intimate entertainment space, with 140 seats.

And with its HD projector and surround sound system, the Friarage Theatre makes for the perfect setting for live screenings from prestigious theatre companies such as the National Theatre, the RSC, the Royal Opera House and English National Opera – bringing performances direct from the stages of London (and around the world) straight to the screens here in Yarm.

This community hub also plays host to smaller events, such as lectures and more intimate concerts. The theatre-style seating is comfortable and has plenty of leg room to kick back and relax, while a variety of refreshments are served in the foyer to keep thirst and hunger at bay.

 

HLN’s highlights: Our out-and-out highlight of the Friarage Theatre’s upcoming programme of live screenings has to be the National Theatre’s Prima Facie, where we’ll see BAFTA winner (and all-round legend) Jodie Comer make her West End debut.

 

Friarage Theatre, Yarm School, The Friarage, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees TS15 9EJ

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Middlesbrough Theatre

The extraordinary history of Middlesbrough Theatre began when the old 1920s Opera House was closed to be converted into a cinema with the cataclysmic rise of film.

But, following a plea from Leah Bateman of the Macdona Players to ‘keep the legitimate stage alive in your town by every means in your power’, representatives from over 40 dramatic societies came together and the Middlesbrough Little Theatre society was formed.

Fast-forward a century and Middlesbrough Theatre is still renowned across the North as a place where amateur theatre companies and up-and-coming performers can find a stage and a willing audience with which to hone their craft. As such, you’ll find plenty of new material to whet your cultural appetite on your visit here.

But that’s not all you’ll find. Middlesbrough Theatre also attracts a wealth of established touring talent, including Strictly Come Dancing stars and comedy wise-crackers, burlesque legends The Lady Boys of Bangkok, and esteemed National Ballet productions.

Our cultural cups overfloweth.

 

HLN’s highlights: We love a bit of Strictly, so the impending visit of ‘ballroom boys’ Ian Waite and Vincent Simone has got us excited. As has Middlesbrough Theatre’s plans for a Jubilee Cabaret, which should be a riot.   

 

Middlesbrough Theatre, The Avenue, Middlesbrough TS5 6SA

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