Brick : A Love Poem to Middlesbrough by Scarlet Pink


My hometown

Pulls me down

Builds me up

Brick by brick

Piece by piece


Colours fly

Orange Pip Butterfly


My hometown

Pulls me down

Builds me up

Brick by brick

Piece by piece

I transform


Who am I?


Home was a townhouse then.

Back in the day when Mam cried a lot

I stayed in. Imagining. Outside.

Middlesbrough in my bedroom

A home within my home.


“Rosemary Toppings”.

Pillows piled high.

Newport book bridge

Demolished, by an enthusiastic dive

From the Transporter

Into the water.

Blue as my favourite jumper.


I created a map of Middlesbrough.

A postcard, a glossy brochure.

Where all the jigsaw pieces fit.

It was part of me, I was part of it.

I couldn’t wait to explore

To find out more

about where I was born.


Saturday afternoon’s

Gran would visit

On her way back from town.

She told me stories.

Family history.

Gran was from Cannon Street.

Once a strong community.

Split apart in the seventies.

She was still very angry!


She told me:

“Industry is our identity, Sweet Pea.

The livelihood of our family

and your Grandad (singlehandedly)

built Middlesbrough.

No statue for him though is there?”


Was she feisty my gran!

With kind eyes and a mouth

that could flatten someone.


I never wanted her to leave.

She made mam smile

Once in a while.


On dark days,

Home was where my heart ached.

Walking on egg shells. Crack.

Whispers in the back room.

Smack. Hands like sandpaper.

One. Two. Three.

I clicked my heels together

But I didn’t move

(Because they were just shoes).


I remember sunny days too,

Watching sparrows play in the backyard

On the lopsided bird table

Dad made.

I held mam’s hand so casually then.

Bit by bit

She loosened her grip

Until I let go…


I watched the walls come crashing down

From the inside out.


When I was a teenager, I saw projections of Middlesbrough.

My reflection in a magic mirror. Cracked.

Was I the Smog filled skies of industrial Teesside?

A mobility scooter parked outside the betting shop?

An obese woman in flip flops?

A child mum at a bus stop?

A Binge drinking, drug taking punchline to a joke?

Was that really me?

Or a case of mistaken Identity?

“Boro-ness” affirmed by my ability

To devour a local delicacy.


Behold “The Famous Parmo”.

Parmo Hotdogs, Parmo Pizzas.

Am I the man who saw Jesus in a Parmo?

If so, I made the front page.


Beware of false prophets spouting bullshit.

Over time, you may start to believe it.

Who knows? you may even become it.

Parmo anyone?

OI! No negative publicity.

Keep it light and fluffy…EH?


The truth is, Middlesbrough saved me.

From the pain of memory.

A childhood gone too quickly.

I found a place to play.


Impressive buildings

Forgotten places

Woodland and wild open spaces

Derelict houses. Deserted streets.

“Over the border”

(Where a faint heart still beats).

Pieces of me.


Bats at Linthorpe cemetery

Foxes on The Avenue of Trees

Seals by the banks of the River Tees.

Conkers on the horse chestnut tree.

Pieces of me.


On the back of a Triceratops!

At Teesaurus park. After dark.

Watching the sun set

At Blue Bell Beck.

The threadbare Tarzy

Down the “Arty”

Acklam Hall. Ormesby Hall

Nature’s World. Fairy Dell.

All pieces of me.

I found my place. A space.


When I had children of my own.

I made a family home.

I showed them treasure

On our doorstep.

To keep the dark days away.

Places to play.


And I watched them.

Their precious imagination

Finding their place.

Their space to be children.


One day, A man with The plan

Came to Middlesbrough

A Curious Visitor

With an arsenal of strategies

Development opportunities

To strengthen the local economy

Building strong communities.


“Cut out the cancer”.

Said another man with “The Plan”.

And the jewel streets came down

In the centre of town

Leaving behind a battered old crown

Homes, toppled like dominoes

Where do the people go?


Gran ended up in a care home.

The sparkle had gone from her eyes.

She didn’t recognise herself.

Or me.


“After years in decline, The closure of SSI

marks the end of industry on Teesside.

But forget the past Middlesbrough.

You can’t look back Middlesbrough.

Got to start from scratch.

Building is the only game in town!

Progress is Regeneration. Transformation.”


Er…Do I transform too?

Into something shiny and new.

Do I have a voice, a choice?

About what I change into?

Middlesbrough is my town… or City.

Are we a City?

Shit! Crisis of identity.

Who am I again?


Am I ancient woodland. Now executive homes?

Orange brick houses and yellow brick roads?

The Old Town Hall crumbling to dust?

The family silver turning to rust?

Am I the sycamore tree

Sprayed with a kiss?

What if I don’t want to be this?


Am I the beauty of a restored Town Hall?

The Writing on a Baker Street wall?

Poetry. Art. Colour. Creativity.

Conservation along the River Tees.

Culture, New architecture.

Heritage of the future.

Am I The Harsh reality?

Like many other towns (or cities).

Teenage pregnancies.

Drug & alcohol dependency.

Families in extreme poverty.

A lack of job opportunities.


The Strength of community?

People handing out food & cups of tea

To the homeless, week after week.

Clothes banks, food banks, alley gardens.

Support for victims of domestic violence.

The many acts of selfless kindness.


Building a town to be proud of

One brick at a time.

Home. There’s no place like it.

Where all the jigsaw pieces fit.

It is part of me, I am part of it.



Middlesbrough has potential.

Locked up tight.

It is a flickering light.

Under the front door.

At the end of an oppressive corridor.

About to burst open…

Scarlet Pink Teesaurus Park 1986


Scarlet Pink is a writer and community activist from Middlesbrough. She campaigns to protect and promote heritage and wild, green spaces in Middlesbrough, and a few years ago set up Friends of Nature’s World; a volunteer group based at the former Nature’s World site in Acklam. Her work often looks at how interaction with places and spaces construct identity, our sense of self and the concept of home.

4 thoughts on “Brick : A Love Poem to Middlesbrough by Scarlet Pink

  1. Wow. Stunningly beautiful and moving. What a skill to be able to use words in this way. Thank you scarlet. Xx


  2. Blown away by the building bricks of love shining through from this icon of a writer… made even more moving as she is home grown. Thank you Scarlet X


    1. This has been one of our favourite posts with so many readers! Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I hope you enjoy some of our other posts too. A new post every Friday.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s