Groundwork NE & Cumbria

Heritage on Track Commission

Heritage on Track

Artist Brief

Tees Valley Arts, in collaboration with Creative Darlington and Groundwork NE & Cumbria, wish to commission an artist or group of artists to undertake a commission as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Great Place – Tees Valley initiative. The opportunity is open to artists working across any platform, including visual arts and performing arts and should respond to the themes identified below. The site for the work will be along the track bed of the original Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world’s first passenger railway, the bicentenary of which is to be celebrated in 2025. We envisage interventions along a 5-mile length of track bed in Darlington Borough, either physical, virtual or through performance.

The project will last for a total 18 months, between September 2018 and March 2020 and should be predicated on structured community involvement, particularly through local school, in the shaping of the final work to reflect the site’s railway heritage. Support will be offered by Groundwork NE & Cumbria and Tees Valley Arts in reaching local communities. Support will be offered through the project steering group in accessing information regarding the history of the railway, including through the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway.

We invite first stage expressions of interest which should include a statement about your practice, details of previous experience in a related area and an outline of how you would approach the brief and a proposed breakdown of your budget. This should be no more than 3 sides of A4 in total. Please include up to 5 high-quality images to accompany your proposal in digital format. Up to five shortlisted artists will be invited to develop a detailed proposal which will be exhibited at the Head of Steam Museum, Darlington in June and shortlisted artists invited to present their ideas to interested parties from the local community. A fee of £800 per proposal will be available for this stage together with modest travel costs and subsistence costs (not more than £200.) From this, a final selection will be made.

The overall budget for the final commission is £18,000 to include fees, travel & subsistence and materials. If you wish to discuss any details of this opportunity please contact by email James Beighton, Executive Director at Tees Valley Arts at

Please email your expressions of interest by 12pm on 1st June 2018 to

Opportunity Summary

Duration: 18 months
Total Fees: £18,000 including all fees, travel & subsistence and materials.

Key themes:

  • To explore the importance of both rail and local heritage within particular communities in Darlington which are based in close proximity to the track bed of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (Red Hall, communities around North Road, and Middleton St George).
  • To engage with the Healthy New Towns agenda around wellbeing, building pride and aspiration.
  • To encourage story-telling and inter-generational learning around aspects of the area’s heritage.
  • To involve other artists and creative practitioners within the Tees Valley region in the creative journey.
  • To produce recommendations for further and sustainable activity around the theme in the run-up to the anniversary.

Key Dates

1st June 2018: Deadline for expression of interest.
8th June 2018: Shortlisted artists notified
15th June 2018: Deadline for submission of developed proposals if successful
20–29th Jun 2018: Tour of proposals with local schools (managed by Tees Valley Arts/ Groundwork NE & Cumbria)
3rd July 2018: community pitch. Artists will be invited to pitch their proposal to a community group which will inform the final selection of artist/s

Download Brief

Download (PDF, 111KB)


Filed under: Great Place Tees Valley, Heritage on Track, News, Opportunities, ProjectsTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Heritage on Track

Tees Cottage Pumping Station Tour

Yesterday Ree and I set out from Tees Valley Towers for the morning (sorry if anyone called! Row is away and Miki was in Birmingham) and headed off for Darlington to visit one of our fellow River Tees Rediscovered partners: the volunteers who run the Tees Cottage Pumping Station… Unfortunately it wasn’t so easy to find, despite “help” from google maps…

So we parked in Broken Scar Park whilst trying to find our bearings, the pump house does not have the best signage… Even running slightly late, and in the rain, Ree had to be persuaded that we didn’t have time to play in the playground!

Broken Scar Playground

I was fortunate enough to be tagging along (not normal for us back-office types, but a history degree is occasionally useful) so I didn’t know what to expect and Ree had only the vaguest of briefings that this was a target site for the project. The first few signs weren’t promising:


But once we got into the site it was pretty spectacular:

The Middlesbrough & Stockton Pump House
Looking East at the Middlesbrough & Stockton Pump House

Although it seemed as abandoned as the Mary Celeste, but at least there was shelter from the rain:

Ree asks: "Where IS everyone?"
Where IS everyone?

Shortly after we were joined by: Pam Lovell, from Northumbrian Water (site owners); Rob George, from Darlington Borough Council; John West, who would be leading our tour; and finally by Christine Corbett, from Groundworks.

We were led along the tracks of the model railway, behind the main building and came to the old wardens cottage where we were greeted by some of the other volunteers serving hot tea and choccy biscuits, who gave us some background about the site:

“Tees Cottage really is unique. An analysis of 115 other sites in England, Scotland and Wales … shows that while 50% of them have one or more engines in steam, very few are on their original site and using their original boilers, and only one on the listing, a gasworks exhauster engine in Scotland, can still do its original duty. Given that Tees Cottage also has what is believed to be the largest working preserved gas engine in Europe and still has all the electric pumps and switch gear from 1926, and still pumps water as intended, this station is a very rare opportunity for future generations to study not only the total history of water pumping and engines but also the totality of life in the Victorian and Edwardian era in a complete and original context”, H C Devonshire

Since 1981 volunteers had been running the site for what is now Northumbrian Water, which still uses the much larger Broken Scar Pumping and Processing Facility over the road to serve water to the Tees Valley.

The site, particularly when combined with its modern equivalent across the road, is a complete representation of the development of piped water in the UK.

Initially built to supply Darlington with clean water, it was soon expanded to provide water to Stockton and the growing Middlesbrough, becoming the main site what is now the Tees Valley.

It has been lovingly preserved by its volunteers and though somewhat dilapidated it has the potential to be one of the most significant sites of industrial revolution still present in the Tees Valley and the North East.

We’re looking forward to developing ideas with our partners on how we can help the volunteers reach more members of the public, schools in particular, and would welcome ideas from members of the public.


Find Out More

You can read more on wikipedia here, on the Tees Cottage Pumping Station website here or follow them on Facebook here. Or if you want to know about the River Tees Re-discovered Project in general click here.

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Launch #activitees for Middlesbrough River Tees Rediscovered

Pickle Dish by Middlesbrough Pottery in the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection

Come and join artists Adrian Moule and Emily Hesse to help us launch the five-year River Tees Rediscovered Landscape Partnership programme run by Groundworks NE and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

From 11am to 3pm, today, at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Stewarts Park you’ll be able to create your very own FREE willow pattern plate and tell us what you think about the River Tees.

Great activity for all the family and you even get to take your own creation home with you and fire into a plate you can eat off!


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