MACKENZIE THORPE is a superb ambassador for Middlesbrough and the wider area and it is fitting – and well deserved – that he should be made a freeman of the Boro.

His story should be genuinely inspirational. His humble beginnings and profound dyslexia suggest he should have been a no-hoper in a world that is obsessed with processing children through examinations.

But withamazing strength, dedication and a dollop of luck he made it from the traditionally tough shipyards to be an internationally acclaimed artist. Not everyone is blessed with his talent, but his story shows that the hand you are dealt need not hold you back in life.

A second important aspect of Mr Thorpe is that his work helps create a positive image of a part of the country that its detractors like to knock. He is very like County Durham’s Norman Cornish, the centenary of whose birth is currently being commemorated, in this respect. Among the strains of an industrial life, they find a strength of purpose and a sense of community which they present with warmth, positivity and humanity in their works. Industrial towns, like Middlesbrough or Spennymoor, do have hard edges but they also have a touch of tenderness.

That’s why both artists are so well respected locally – not only are their images attractive to look at but people recognise the truth that is at the heart of them.

Although art cannot do trade deals or solve Brexit, it has an important part to play in all our lives.