Last week I was surprised to read in the local paper that American rapper Snoop Dogg will be performing at a concert in Middlesbrough this summer.
I’m not really a fan, but it’s exciting to have a gig like this taking place so close to home.
Middlesbrough has a history of attracting great artists to perform, but they often visit during the early stages of their career, before they become famous, or on the other side, after their fame has peaked. So to attract someone like Snoop Dogg is fantastic for the town and its residents, who would usually have to travel much further afield to see a musician of this calibre perform.
But it isn’t only its choice of concert headliners that shows Middlesbrough has ambition.
Officially a town, in recent years Middlesbrough has thrice applied for city status, in 2000, 2002 and 2012. But why does it matter?
Being granted city status can be prestigious and research has shown that there could be a connection between that and local economic growth. But it’s also a matter of pride. For a long time, Middlesbrough has had a poor reputation; something that has slowly begun to turn around in recent times thanks to things like the success of the university and the boom in digital industries.
Recently I was invited to a blogger event at Psyche, Middlesbrough’s designer department store. The shop has grown steadily over the years, at one point even having its own TV documentary on BBC3. Founder Steve Cochrane has big plans for the store, with a new branch opening in Leeds. He even appears on the new Santander advert alongside other notable business folks, replacing sports stars Jessica Ennis, Jensen Button and Rory McIlroy. It just goes to show that Middlesbrough is home to thriving businesses and ambitious entrepreneurs too.
Even our football team have shown flashes of ambition, making it as far as the final of the UEFA Cup Final in 2006 after a particularly dramatic campaign where they twice came back from being 3-0 down to win their matches 4-3. It seemed like the trophy was fated, but unfortunately a win wasn’t to be.
Still the club (and the fans) have their eye on greater success than their current league position would imply.
That’s one of the great things about being a town that’s not really on the radar; those flashes of brilliance when something exciting happens, shining a light on the town and the things that might be possible, which other people take for granted.