Today, we launched the start of our campaign to get people talking about Middlesbrough. We want to listen to the insights of people that live here to understand what’s important to them and engage them in shaping the future of our communities.
As a resident of Middlesbrough myself, I thought I’d get the ball rolling…
What is life like in Middlesbrough for you and your family?
My husband and I have lived in Linthorpe (Park Ward) for the last seven years with Rosie our jack russell and (more recently) with our daughter. We think Middlesbrough is a great place to live for a young family. We find there is plenty to do locally; some great family eateries, libraries, swimming, Albert Park, Stewart Park and if you like to be outdoors like us, walks along the beck and through the Avenue of Trees (Acklam). Until our daughter was born we didn’t have a car and although that has opened more possibilities (quick drive to the coast, Roseberry Topping, Portrack lane shops etc) we didn’t find life a struggle. There are plenty of local shops, our NHS doctors and dentists are nearby, and our internet/ phone signal is great, so online grocery shopping was easy. Both of us were able to walk or use public transport to get to work. My husband still uses the X10 service to commute to Newcastle. Our daughter goes to a local nursery, which she loves, and we are very happy with the choice of schools ahead of her.
What could be done to improve life in Middlesbrough?
Neither my husband or I were born in Middlesbrough, I’m from Leicester and he’s a scouse, we came to Teesside for the university over ten years ago. We find we are a rarity though, we know very few other ‘non-locals’ who have chosen, or been able, to start up a life here after graduation. We both feel more could be done to keep graduates here. Many struggle with opportunities to start their career or to integrate into the wider Middlesbrough community once they no longer identify as a student.
Both of us support Middlesbrough Foodbank and we know recently the number of families having to access support has increased. Volunteers often signpost a lot of people to the services of the credit union, who can help people to manage their finances. I think it is vital that credit unions/ community banks are supported to have a high-street presence to prevent so many families accessing high-credit loans, resulting so often in food poverty.
We are frustrated with the amount of litter in our area and the (assumed accidental) creation of areas for anti-social behaviour; unlit footpaths, undeveloped areas of land on the edges of estates and poor choices of shops in a row open until late and rarely policed (i.e. cheap off licence, bookies and takeaways). As dog walkers we know there are plenty of bins around the streets (we know because we use them!!) but you wouldn’t think it from the amount of glass, cans, takeaway boxes dumped on pavements and cycle tracks. The beck is often used as a tip too. It’s a such a shame, but clearly there is a lack of area pride.
What could your role in that be?
As a family we attend Middlesbrough Community Church in the town centre and there we are involved in welcoming and supporting students who live in our community. That community was one of the main drivers for us to stay local. It gave us the chance to meet and befriend non-students, provided pastoral support, even helped us to explore some of the surrounding area and get to know there is a Middlesbrough beyond Linthorpe Road!
We do support Middlesbrough foodbank and are members of our local credit union, but we could look for more ways to get involved in campaigning to change things for our neighbours around this issue.
In terms of area pride, I’ll guess we’ll continue to do our bit in recycling, phoning to report glass and sharps, not-littering and occasionally calling out those who do!
What would help you to do this?
I suppose if there were one-off volunteering days to help clear and care for the beck we would be up for that, I think we would just expect our efforts to be valued and a system put in place to prevent it getting in such a state so often. Similarly, with fair finance/ food poverty – support a community bank to operate in our town and we will use it. Also, marketing a payroll saving scheme or similar among large local employers may encourage others to use it too.
In terms of the graduate retention I think opportunities to blend campus and community would be good – show the community the value of the university to them and help the students to realise Middlesbrough is a great place of great people.
My husband plays for the newly founded Middlesbrough Dodgeball team at the new Middlesbrough Sports Village. He finds it a great way to get different people from all parts of the community to share in something (with the added bonus of getting fitter!) Maybe more initiatives like that would help break down barriers for others.
How would we know that things were improving for people in Middlesbrough?
- Increased graduate retention
- Increased opportunities for local people and students to mix and gain from each other
- Decrease in families accessing foodbanks
- Decrease in families in financial crisis
- Fewer incidents of anti-social behaviour
- Cleaner streets
That’s a snapshot of my thoughts… What is life like in Middlesbrough for you and your family?