North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

Levelling up the Boro with help from the parmo

The achievement of one of the four objectives of levelling up has come a step closer for Middlesbrough with the help of the parmo.

The Northern Echo reports that Philip Harrison, a local performance artist, has been chosen as the Boro’s first town crier, with a cry including the phrase ‘God Save the Parmo’.

He made his debut in his new role during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

This is not as trivial an event as it may seem. Encouraging ‘pride in place’ is one of the four objectives of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper, and the town crier with his parmo reference will certainly help towards that nebulous but important objective  in Middlesbrough.

The parmo helped Ben Houchen win his first election campaign for Tees Valley Mayor in 2017; he pledged to win it Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status – a promise he still has not managed to fulfil, perhaps because PDO status falls under a European Union regulation.

Houchen understood the importance of local pride in politics well before it was incorporated into the levelling-up policy. As a former Stockton councillor he perhaps remembered the first World Parmo Championships in the town in 2007. Perhaps he recalled that in 2003 the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette had run a ‘parmo of the week’ column – a feature of which this author was unaware even though he had once been the Gazette’s news editor.

Today the parmo has become what is described by the Echo as ‘the national dish of Teesside’, though this author is embarrassed to admit that he had still not heard of it in 2018, when a leading local politician finally enlightened him, describing the dish to him unflatteringly as:

a local delicacy, probably about 3,000 calories of pork escallop covered in cheese, deep-fried…best served up after people have had several gallons of beer at 2 o’clock in the morning’.

The parmo has evidently become more socially up-market since then, as according to the Echo, it now appears on the menus of the most fashionable dining establishments – ‘even in Yarm.’

Perhaps in this smart village setting the parmo will even appeal to the boys and girls of Eton when they eventually take their places at the satellite sixth-form college which the elite college is due to open in Middlesbrough in 2025. Eton scholars eating parmos in Yarm will be as chic and levelled up as anything Royal Berkshire has to offer.