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This Working Life: Steel

As our epic This Working Life project draws to a close with a paean to all things Steel, the Mediatheque offers visitors around the UK a chance to delve deeper into this revolutionary material and the industry which produced it.

While steelmaking may not have acquired the popular mythology of coal mining or shipbuilding, its pivotal role at the heart of British industry is unrivalled, and provided some evocative and poetic subject matter for filmmakers throughout the 20th century. This collection highlights steel as a metaphor for national strength in times of crisis (Steel Goes to Sea, 1941), as a political tool (Common Sense About Steel, 1948), as an industry which bound communities together (Steel Town, 1958), and its role in the creation of national icons (Angel of the North, 1998); the visceral beauty of steelmaking itself is reflected throughout the collection.

Ten to try

The Building of the New Tyne Bridge (1928)
Vertigo sufferers look away now: the construction of a North East landmark condensed into 40 breathtaking minutes.

From Raw Material to Finished Product (1932)
Descend into the mines where coal and ore are gathered to make iron and steel products.

Steel Goes to Sea (1941)
Steel plays its part at the height of WWII in this stirring documentary filmed at the Burntisland yard in Fife.

Common Sense About Steel (1948)
Conservative Party-sponsored attack on the Attlee government’s plan to nationalise the steel industry.

River of Steel (1951)
Ebullient animated fable promoting steel’s importance – and imagining a world without it.

Steel Town (1958)
Unusual colour film about United Steel’s plant at Stocksbridge, Yorkshire, highlighting its benevolent role at the heart of the community.

Men of Corby (1961)
Amongst the hard work, the molten metal and blistering heat there is a bit of the Midlands that will always belong to Scotland.

The Big Mill (1963)
Gorgeous colour account of the creation and operations of the vast Colvilles sheet steel works in Ravenscraig, Lanarkshire, prior to nationalisation.

Steel for the Seventies (1970)
Steelmaking enters a bold new era at the Port Talbot plant in South Wales.

A Century in Stone (2004)
The forgotten history of the ironstone miners of Eston, south of Middlesbrough, who laid the foundation for Teesside’s steelmaking boom.

This Working Life was generously supported by The Eric Anker-Petersen Charity and Community Union

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