Arts and culture
Middlesbrough is the hometown of many influential creatives who have shaped their own areas of art and design. The Northern School of Art has been the starting place for creatives who have gone on to make their mark in the world of fashion and interior design.
Local talents including Mackenzie Thorpe, Kate Fearnley, and Alasdhair Willis have all nurtured their craft in Middlesbrough. Museums, independent art galleries, creative spaces, cultural talks, and pop-up exhibitions on a range of themes make Middlesbrough an excellent destination for arts and culture.
Recognised across the art world for its forward-thinking approach as a ‘useful’ museum, innovative exhibitions, and inclusive community activities programme, MIMA is an iconic jewel in Middlesbrough’s cultural crown. Exhibitions change regularly and are always created with the public in mind. They offer collection displays, learning activities, projects, and community-focused initiatives which involve all areas of society, including asylum seekers, students, and young people. Current exhibitions include Mikhail Karikis, For Many Voices and Why Are We Here, Black Artists and Modernism.
Mikhail Karikis, For Many Voices
Just a ten minute walk along Linthorpe Road will take you from MIMA to the Dorman Museum, where a world of local history awaits. The green dome roof and red brick exterior greets you as you enter a world of discovery, journeying through Middlesbrough’s social and industrial history including wartime memories, the changing face of the town, the pride of the people, and of course the history of Middlesbrough FC.
The museum is also home to a beautiful collection of colourful Linthorpe Art Pottery, which was produced between 1879 and 1890, just a mile away from where the museum now stands. The Dorman Museum’s internationally-significant collection of items designed by the visionary Victorian designer Christopher Dresser is the largest public collection of his work in the world.
Situated in Stewart Park, and attracting visitors from across the globe, the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum is brimming with history and fascinating insights into one of the world’s most famous explorers. Captain Cook was one of the first European’s to successfully circumnavigate around Australia, New Zealand and many other islands in Australasia. His life and explorations are celebrated in the fun and interactive museum, and a plaque in the park’s grounds commemorates his place of birth.
Gallery TS1 in the heart of Middlesbrough exhibits and sells quality art and crafts including original artwork and prints, as well as jewellery, cards, ceramics, glassware, turned wood, and soft fabric pictures, which are all produced by local artists. Next door is Mannequin Cafe which also sells artwork from local artists.
The gallery and cafe, both on Corporation Road, sit opposite the world famous club and music venue, The Middlesbrough Empire, which was built in 1897. The Empire has hosted a variety of renowned performers from past to present, from Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, to the Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. It boasts an impressive exterior and an equally impressive interior, which still has many of its original features.
Just a five minute walk away is Hey Base Camp which is situated in Middlesbrough’s historic quarter. A creative space in one of the area’s oldest and most charming buildings, it’s used for a range of music and arts events, urban therapy, film screenings, yoga classes, and much more.
Middlesbrough’s history and heritage
Middlesbrough has a proud social history. It’s a place which welcomed workers from across the world to build its foundations. These people have made Middlesbrough the diverse place it is today, and an increasing student population and growing business community reinforces Middlesbrough as a place to build a bright future.
The term ‘Ironopolis’ is synonymous with the people of Middlesbrough – a place that grew from the discovery of ironstone to become one of the world’s most powerful steel and iron producers. That legacy is at the heart of many structures and buildings across the world, from Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Tyne Bridge.
The Tees Transporter Bridge is Middlesbrough’s most famous and iconic landmark, and a symbol of pride to the people of the town. It is the longest working transporter bridge in the world, and is a tourist attraction as well as being a key link between Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. Visitors to the bridge can ride in a glass lift to the top to take in the stunning views from 50m above the River Tees.
Since the rapid growth of Middlesbrough in the 1830s, the town’s industrial and social heritage can be seen in the heart of Middlesbrough’s historic quarter where original ornate buildings line the streets with historic charm. Middlesbrough Town Hall was officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 23 January 1889 and still forms the proud heart of civic life in the centre of Middlesbrough. After extensive renovations it reopened in 2018 with many of its beautiful original features restored, including the courtroom (make sure to look up at the ceiling!), the old fire station, and the old police cells.
Teesside Archives holds thousands of documents on the history of Middlesbrough (and Stockton, Hartlepool, and Redcar & Cleveland), both pre- and post-Industrial Revolution.
Just a short drive away from the centre of Middlesbrough, Acklam Hall is a stunning Grade 1 listed building which was built in 1683. Originally a grand ancestral home and later a school, it has been impressively and painstakingly restored to its original grandeur and is one of the North East’s award-winning wedding venues.
Acklam Hall exterior