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Published 27th Feb 2012

Andy Croft at Transporter Bridge

What rhymes with Transporter? Poets everywhere are being challenged to put down their thoughts about Teesside’s landmark bridge for potential inclusion in a forthcoming book.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the as yet unnamed book of Transporter Bridge poetry has been commissioned by Middlesbrough Council as part of the ongoing celebrations to mark the structure’s centenary year in 2011.

It is being compiled by poet Andy Croft, Teesside’s unofficial literary historian, who wants more poets, no matter what their ability or views, to put their Transporter thoughts onto paper.

Rhymes, sonnets, limericks, odes and all other types of poem – and songs too - will be considered for inclusion in the book, which it is hoped will be published in the Spring.

Although he was born in Manchester, Middlesbrough-based Andy has lived on Teesside since 1983 and uses the town as the inspiration behind much of his work.

“I’m a Teessider by adoption, rather than by birth,” he says. “It’s my home now and, for better or for worse, it shapes my imagination. Teesside is one of the gloves I wear when I want to touch the world.

“The book is a way of adding to the permanent record of how a town that gets more than its fair share of knocks is able to, quite literally, stand tall through this extraordinary man- made structure.”

Poems that are contributed and accepted will be included in the book alongside many others Andy already has in his possession, including several of his own.

“Some of the poems are substantial, including one called ‘Hail Teesside’ by Cecil Day Lewis when he was poet laureate in the early 1970s,” reveals Andy. “Others are from absolute poetry beginners to distinguished and contemporary local poets.”

Well-known local poet Bob Beagrie has contributed to the book, as have pupils from Middlesbrough’s Brambles Farm, Thorntree and Pennyman primary schools, together with members of local history and heritage groups who worked with Andy on their poems.

Andy, who has already written 70 books, explains: “The poems aren’t just about what a beautiful, blue bridge we’ve got, though some of them are. Others reflect on the fact that there’s something slightly tragic about the Transporter, in that it’s a monument to the town’s defeat because we no longer have a need to get 5,000 working men across the river to build ships or make iron and steel.

“So it’s a bit of a dinosaur. Many of us like to think of it as our Angel of the North but, on one level, it’s our Beamish - a museum piece. It stands for the industrial glory that Teesside once was.”

But Andy, 55, knows the bridge has the ability to inspire. “The Transporter is something that has always been there in everyone’s living memory. It is part of the landscape, a permanent fixture, and yet everyone and everything has changed around it, so it is both permanent and shifting.

“It’s not just beautiful and iconic. It is a backdrop to people’s lives. It has played different roles in the lives of so many local people, who have either gone over it on the way to the seaside, have climbed on it or even courted there.”

How to take part

Transporter poems can be sent to Andy Croft c/o or Arts Development, Middlesbrough Council, PO Box 504, Middlesbrough, TS1 9FY. Contributors are asked to include their name and address with their poem and reference Transporter Bridge Poetry Book. Deadline is March 28, 2012.

Through a £2.6m grant, the Heritage Lottery Fund is backing the Transporter Bridge centenary celebrations together with refurbishment and upgrade work to the iconic structure.

Useful links

Love Middlesbrough: Key Strengths: Industrial Heritage: Transporter Bridge

Love Middlesbrough: Transporter 100

Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge on Facebook

Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge on Twitter

Photo: Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge by Mike Kipling

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