The Exchange

In association with Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough

Commerce House 22-25th September 2022

The Masham 15th October - 25th November 2022 

The Exchange is the conclusion of the 12 month artist residency Layla Khoo has spent researching and responding to the history of Exchange Square

The inspiration


The historical Middlesbrough industries of pottery and iron and the inventive use of materials have informed the art works Layla has created. Middlesbrough Pottery utilised white clay used as ballast in boats arriving in Teesside for from the South Coast to create domestic ware and commemorative ceramics. Scoria blocks were an ingenious utilisation of a waste product from the iron furnaces – iron slag – a ton of which was generated for every ton of iron produced. This waste was put to use when Joseph Woodward created the patent to transform it into heavy duty blocks which were subsequently used to pave roads across the North East and then across the world.


The forefathers and leaders of industry were responsible for more than employment and production in Middlesbrough – they also led the way in creating lasting communities through philanthropic giving and charitable works. Dorman Long, Henry Bolckow, the Bell Brothers and Florence Bell gave back to the people of Middlesbrough through the Dorman Museum, Albert Park, the Winter Gardens, hospitals, libraries and the Guild of Help. This spirit of philanthropy, charity and giving back to communities by businesses and individuals alike lives on today in the voluntary organisations, community interest companies and charities dedicated to taking care of the communities of Middlesbrough.  


The site specific installation has been created to be shown and participated with in the space once occupied by accommodation of the Head Banker inside the magnificent copper dome of Commerce House. Exchange Square was the heart of commerce in the town, once dominated by the Royal Exchange Building, the home of the Middlesbrough Stock Exchange. Layla has reflected on how to represent the theme of Exchange and what it means to own a “share”, a small part of something much bigger.

The invitation

Layla has created 365 commemorative ceramics - porcelain block sculptures gilded with 22 carat gold. You are invited to become the final part of the art work by making your own EXCHANGE – take away one of the sculptures by giving a day of your time to a Middlesbrough based voluntary organisation. Attend The Exchange and choose the block you would like to take away– you will have an Exchange Certificate completed with the edition number of the sculpture you have taken and details of the organisation you have chosen to give your time to. Your sculpture and certificate will be wrapped for you to take away, and the voluntary organisation will contact you to arrange your day of work. If for practical reasons it is not possible for you to exchange a day of your time, you may instead donate the financial equivalent of a day’s labour.

The art work is complete when all 365 ceramics have been exchanged and a year of time has been given to the voluntary organisations of Middlesbrough

Photography credit: Jason Hynes for Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough

The Voluntary Organisations

Nite Light CIC

Nite Light CIC set up in April 2020 to help the most vulnerable throughout the Tees Valley area. An innovative digital pay forward service was introduced to offer a cashless aid and support people who are homeless have access to basic essentials such as meals, snacks, drinks and hygiene bags. Partnered with cafes and bistros throughout the Tees Valley the service also acts as a channel for members of the public who want to help but don't know how to; they can support by purchasing a product from the website which is passed across to someone in need.

Nite Light also run free market stalls where those who are facing poverty can have access to free basic essentials from food and clothing to hygiene products and small household items such as kettles and toasters.

The demand is high and there are many facing poverty however our services bring the community together and has re-introduced the once lost community spirit whilst increasing health and wellbeing.

A volunteer led organisation with 42 volunteers where numbers are growing week on week.

Nite Light have also identified gaps in services and are working on a project where people will have access to shower, washing machine and dryer facilities.

Women’s Streetwatch Middlesbrough

Women's Street Watch objectives:

- reduce strain on emergency services by reducing the number of non-emergency calls to 999 by providing first aid and safe routes home.

- provide training and qualifications, particularly prioritising women from marginalised groups

- reducing instances of sexual violence and harassment against women by offering a physical presence on the streets, acting in a both a support capacity (pastoral care) and as a deterrent for potential offenders.

- we are also running monthly community affordability events and doing outreach workshops with local schools and colleges on topics such as consent and healthy relationships.

Volunteers patrol in a group of minimum 4 between 10pm-2am on a weekend. This involves handing out flip-flops to people who are not wearing shoes, providing minor first aid, being a supportive ear or a shoulder to cry on, handing out support service information, providing people with water bottles, giving people bobbles to hold their hair back if they are being sick and handing out foil drink covers in the queue for bars. We also charge peoples phones up, wait with vulnerable females if they are on their own waiting for a taxi or walk females from one bar to another if they are experiencing unwanted attention. We stay in CCTV covered areas and have direct access to the CCTV control room and medics through our radios.

Boro Champs

We are a grassroots organisation that has enabled people across the town to become involved in volunteering with lots of different activities for all ages and abilities to choose from







Our aim is to bring communities together whilst keeping our neighbourhoods clean #Lovewhereyoulive

What we’ve achieved:


We painted and restored and brought back to life the dinosaurs which had fallen into disrepair

The shrubbery was trimmed back

Litter picking and now the park is almost litter free

Planted 700+ baby trees with the Rotary Club and Youth Clubs (whips)


We have pupils from Acklam Grange School and other young people attend the Boro Champs activities to enable them to receive their DOE certificate


Helped St Pius School start their allotment project

Providing school assemblies to all primary schools in Middlesbrough with a practical lesson litter picking around their school


We are able to help elderly keep their gardens tidy


Over 1500 have now been provided to local schools and other community groups across Teesside


The group are close to planting 2,000 whips across Middlesbrough


3,000 planted in Trimdon Ward and we will continue across all of Middlesbrough

For those unable to exchange a day of time, the financial equivalent of a days labour can be donated directly to:

The Teesside Charity

We’re a registered charity, set up by Teessiders for Teessiders. We help businesses and individuals join together to make Teesside a better place in which to live, work and do business.

The Teesside Charity is a movement, a powerful force for good, probably unique in the way it raises funds purely for those in one geographic area who need help. The Charity is all about Teessiders fighting for Teesside together. As individuals and companies acting alone, we can all do our bit for the worthy local causes close to our hearts. But under the umbrella of the Charity, companies and individuals join forces to make a truly significant impact.

We target social groups, charitable organisations and vulnerable individuals within the TS postcode, and provide them with financial support. We also act like a network, providing contacts and bringing people together, so fellow Teessiders can help each other.

Through various means we distribute our funds to those most in need within Teesside. Our objective is so wide ranging we not only provide smaller amounts to schools who may need to purchase necessities for a pupil, but also larger grants of up to £5,000 for bigger projects that provide far-reaching social benefit. We like to think of ourselves as one big family and encourage everyone to get involved. There are countless ways you can do this, from corporate patronage, to a small regular donation. When we say we can make a lasting impact with every penny we receive, we really mean it.

Project made possible with support from: