RSA Tees Valley Network: Heartbreak Hill - Then and Now - RSA

RSA Tees Valley Network: Heartbreak Hill: Then and Now

Fellowship events


Online via Zoom

  • Heritage
  • Fellowship
  • Fellowship in Action

Discover the extraordinary heritage of Heartbreak Hill dating back to the 1930s, and identify learnings we can take forward into the future.

In the 1930s, parts of Teesside saw unemployment reach over 90%. It was a true disaster, notably for those communities owing their whole existence to now-closed ironstone mines. Unexpectedly, the arts came to the rescue. A benevolent local landowner from Ormesby Hall began a large-scale allotment scheme for the unemployed at Heartbreak Hill, while adding in layers of cultural activity including folk dance, choral singing and furniture making. Soon-to-be-famous composer Michael Tippett wrote a new opera here in 1934 for an all-community cast, with huge local success. His partner, a Bauhaus-trained artist Wilf Franks, lived with Tippett in the village of Boosbeck and helped supervise furniture design and manufacture. An unlikely cast of characters developed a still more unlikely local narrative, including visits from proto-Hitler youth and Special branch, plus the dispatch of a local miners’ sword dancing team to the Berlin Olympics.


Join us to learn more about this extraordinary heritage, and about what we might learn for the future. Dan Gilgan is Wilf Franks’ grandson and has recently published Wilf’s biography, based on many years of unique research. Paul Ingram, with many others, including MIMA, has been involved in efforts to revive some of the work and stories from the 1930s, bringing some of the music back to Boosbeck in the last few years. Could art now, post-Covid also work to unite a local community to positive ends, as it did briefly in the Great Depression? Will understanding the heritage, help us move forward? Could the recent narratives of division in the North-East be contradicted by a new coming together, perhaps by new performances and community industry? Help us grow thought and action to develop something new and meaningful here, from our shared past.


To register a ticket for this event, follow the ‘Book Now’ link above.

Location: Online via Zoom.

Follow the link to register a free ticket, and you will be emailed with instructions for joining the call. Unfamiliar with Zoom? It is a very user-friendly online conferencing platform. You do not need to sign up or pay to join the call.