A new heritage centre has officially opened its doors, showcasing "Island in a River", a permanent exhibition inspired by the history of Yarm.

The exhibition at the town's newly refurbished Grade II listed Town Hall has been created by artist Matthew Rosier, and celebrates Yarm’s connection to the River Tees and location on the horseshoe bend of the river.

The exhibition also offers a collection of historic local artefacts interpreted by ten films, created with about 100 residents, including community groups.

The objects will be displayed inside the exhibition centrepiece – an replica iron age canoe, carved by volunteers from a washed up tree, inspired by a prehistoric canoe found and lost 150 years ago, thought to be the earliest sign of life in the town.

Darlington and Stockton Times: ‘Island in a River’, the new permanent exhibition

At night, the exhibition will transform into a public art installation, visible through the windows of the building, with the canoe seeming to float on a projected looping holographic film of the River Tees, referring to the numerous floods which have submerged Yarm High Street over the years.

Mr Rosier has worked closely with the community over the last two years to create a series of short films that accompany the exhibits.

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The collaborations include a Yarm veteran having his nose cast in silver by silversmith Pete Musson in recognition of local hero Tom Brown, who lost part of his nose in battle and a replica of a tenth century Viking Helmet, the first ever Viking helmet found in Britain.

Darlington and Stockton Times: From left, Matthew Rosier, artist, Councillor Nigel Cooke Cabinet Member for Housing and

Also featured are a lion statue from legendary nightclub Tall Trees accompanied by a film interviewing the former owner and residents who now live in the housing estate on the site of the former club, and a contemporary re-enactment of a landmark moment in railway history of a meeting of railway pioneers in The George and Dragon Pub that led to the founding of the Stockton an Darlington Railway.

The project is produced by Mediale and was commissioned by Yarm Town Council and will be on permanent display in the centre.

The town council worked in partnership with Stockton Council to carry out the refurbishment and conversion of the town hall into a heritage centre, including the opening-up and reinstatement of its eight brick arches.

The project has been funded as part of Stockton Council’s successful application for £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, alongside contributions from the council’s Town Centres Investment Programme and Yarm Town Council.

The Town Hall was opened on Thursday followed by an evening event which was attended by members of the community and the mayor of Stockton.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Yarm Town Hall                             Picture: STUART BOULTON

Mr Rosier said: “Island in a River is a project made by and for the community of Yarm.

“It’s been a privilege to see my ideas, which sought to connect stories past and present, brought to life by the efforts of Yarm residents and the trust they’ve shown in me. Everything in Yarm connects back to the river; the earliest crossing point on the Tees.

“To have this exhibition – its objects and community, contained within an iron age canoe, floating along a river – felt both absurd, and entirely fitting.”

Councillor Peter Monck, chair of Yarm Town Council, added: “We are delighted that Matthew Rosier's 'Island in a River' is the jewel in the crown that is Yarm Town Hall Heritage Centre. I wholeheartedly thank Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Wharton Construction and architects HLP for meeting the challenges that have achieved our ambition.

“We are also blessed with skilled and committed residents who are part of our ongoing engagement process over many years, making community ownership of YTHHC a reality - testimony to the project's potential; a real first for a small parish council. "

Councillor Nigel Cooke, Cabinet member for regeneration and housing at Stockton Council, said: "This is a huge, unique project for Yarm town centre and I'm really looking forward to seeing the exhibition brought to life through the fantastic memories and stories of Yarm residents.

“Both the refurbishment of this centrepiece building and the permanent exhibition will be key to attracting new visitors to the area and is another step towards making our town centres fit for future generations."

Yarm Town Hall Heritage Centre will be open to the public from 12pm to 6pm between Thursdays and Sundays.