Okay, I admit it, I’m a Smoggie. For those of you scratching your heads, I’m not admitting to some bizarre medical condition or an addiction to cigarettes. I’m from Middlesbrough. Please don’t wince.
Most people have a limited concept of the town and its people. Whenever Middlesbrough makes an appearance on the television, you usually see a vista of cooling towers and chemical plants filmed from the vantage point of the A19 flyover, never the lush Stewart Park or the grand old listed buildings like Acklam Hall.
Basically, the rest of the country think that Middlesbrough is a shit hole, the worst place to live in the UK (thanks for that one Kirstie and Phil) and the people are all unemployed, uneducated and heading for an early grave thanks to smoking, drinking and eating too much. Oh and our football team are shite.
Okay, so most people who have ever lived in Middlesbrough will tell you on a bad day that it is a dump. But it’s our town so we’re allowed. When you outsiders do it, we don’t like it!
I remember going for an interview at York University and being shown round the campus by three rather posh boys. Hearing that my friend and I were from Middlesbrough, they shuddered, “Oh yes, that’s got quite a reputation, hasn’t it?”
Err yes, actually. As a major industrial centre for the UK, the ‘infant Hercules’ of the North East. Or the home of the Grade II listed Transporter Bridge; how about the birthplace of explorer Captain Cook. Oh and did you know that there’s a town in Kentucky named after us?
Way back in 2007, Location, Location, Location voted Middlesbrough the worst place to live in the UK based on some dubious statistics, for example that 90% of people in the town do no exercise. How did they come to that conclusion? Stand in the town centre and ask ten morbidly obese people if they go to the gym on a regular basis?
Although it was six years ago, mention the show and Boro folk will still start foaming at the mouth, because we’re passionate about our town.
Most people would be quick to dismiss Middlesbrough as industrial, poor and inconsequential, but it’s no worse than any other large town. In fact, there are a lot of great things that outsiders just don’t see.
Recently I came across this blog post from Bridget of the North about the Boro dialect. It’s been endlessly shared by us Smoggies on Facebook and it inspired me to share my own perspective on what it means to be from Middlesbrough.
- The parmo. Middlesbrough’s very own cuisine is famous in many circles and is a takeaway fanatic’s dream. Made from flattened chicken breast (although you can get pork too), coated in breadcrumbs, béchamel sauce and cheddar cheese, the parmesan, or parmo for short, is recommended post night out cuisine. Plus, they’re big enough to challenge Adam Richman!
- The location. Middlesbrough is surrounded by some beautiful countryside, including the North Yorkshire Moors. Ten minutes up the road is the seaside town of Redcar, where the Dunkirk scenes from Atonement were filmed.
- The accent. We have our own distinct accent, as anyone who has seen Boro lass Steph McGovern presenting on BBC Breakfast will be able to tell you. Unfortunately, we are often mistaken for Geordies, usually by southerners whilst on holiday abroad. Calling a Smoggie a Geordie is a great insult and no one from Middlesbrough would ever claim to be one. Except Holly from Geordie Shore, but she’s getting paid. Boro Shore doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Smoggie Shore anyone? (If you’re wondering, Smoggie is short for Smog Monster. Do I need to explain further?)
- The history. Once referred to as Ironopolis, iron and steel making formed the backbone of the town for many years; the steel components of Sydney Harbour Bridge were built in Middlesbrough. The town’s industrial centres were a target for the Luftwaffe during World War Two.
- The people. It’s not unique to Middlesbrough, but northerners, especially those in the North East, are renowned for being some of the friendliest people in the UK. People will chat to each other at the bus stop, community spirit still exists and you always see someone you know on a night out.
- The culture. Don’t laugh. Sure, we don’t have the pull of the big cities, but Middlesbrough attracts some of the top bands each summer to its annual music festival, not to mention the exhibitions at mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art). Plus, one of our top nightclubs, The Empire (commonly known as The Theatre), is a converted art deco Victorian theatre and has hosted performances from the likes of Kasabian and Scissor Sisters.
But when it comes to Middlesbrough, there’s nothing I can say that will ever top the immortal words of Sky Sports legend Jeff Stelling…
“The iron of Eston has diffused itself all over the world…It has crept out of the Cleveland Hills where it has slept since Roman days, and now like a strong and invincible serpent, coils itself around the world.”
Sir H.G. Reid