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New role puts communities at heart of town's museums

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A photo of Umar Butt, Community Co-Producer

Middlesbrough's diverse and ever-evolving communities will be the focal point of a new era for the town's museums.

Working closely with multi-cultural flagship the Mela, Middlesbrough Museums is developing a new programme of activities and engagement to reflect the town's rich culture and heritage.

At the heart of the new approach will be Umar Butt who has just been appointed as the service's Community Co-Producer.

Umar's role aims to ensure better representation for Middlesbrough's varied communities - from across the UK and around the globe - with programmes and projects that foster insight, engagement and inclusion.

Umar said: "I'm delighted to be taking on this exciting role at such pivotal time in Middlesbrough's history.

"It's all about developing links with those from diverse and migrant backgrounds - including those from other parts of the UK - to ensure they are better represented through exhibits, programming and other cultural activity."

The Community Co-Producer is looking to establish long-lasting relationships with the people of Middlesbrough and explore a number of themes including:

  • identity
  • the history of migration in Middlesbrough
  • the importance of migration in the town's development
  • contemporary stories of migration and how this has shaped Middlesbrough's cultural heritage

Umar added: "We're turning the traditional practice of how museums create their programmes on its head.

"It's a bold and radical approach for our museums, and sends out an important message to Middlesbrough's many communities that this is the beginning of a conversation.

"We are willing and excited to embrace change, and make our museums places for any and many voices and communities. 

"It's all about putting the power in the hands of those groups, enabling them to tell their stories and develop their own journey, with the support from Middlesbrough Museums."

Welcoming the new approach, Councillor Mieka Smiles, Middlesbrough Council's Executive member for Culture & Communities, said: "This is a really radical move for a town whose very foundations are rooted in diversity and innovation.

"It's an exciting new direction for Middlesbrough Museums and the wider cultural service, and Umar is just the sort of imaginative and creative individual to spearhead such a forward-looking and inclusive approach."

Anyone is interested in getting involved is asked to email info@middlesbroughmela.co.uk for more information.

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