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al1948uk Posted on 15/09/2020 09:00
Edited On: 15/09/2020 13:03Save Our Steel Heritage
This is my response to some of the 'Luddites' on other social networks and a call to arms...

Before I start, let me declare an interest; In November 2009 I wrote, directed and produced a play about the 1980 Steel Strike, Nowt Like This in America at the Saltburn Community Theatre. It was well received by a small and appreciative November audience. The play tells the story of an Electricians Shop Steward John, who plans to take his kids to Florida for the first time, but the strike puts paid to that and the family falls apart. It is the story of a family, a community and an industry. This is where I am coming from.

My father, brother and sister all worked at Cargo Fleet, and after I served my apprenticeship as a welder at Smiths Dock, I ‘jumped ship’ to work at South Bank Coke Ovens and latterly at the Redcar Complex, where my older brother was a Chargehand Boilermaker. The thought of miles of industrial heritage being demolished, fills me with anger and dread and in the name of what? Progress? Levelling Up? Health and safety? Do me a favour!!!

Anyone who was an apprentice in the 60’s knows how dangerous heavy industry was in those days. from shipyards to chemical works to steel works. Try being a shipyard welder working in the pouring rain, with wet gloves and a cable that has breaks all over it. I once fell in the river, because someone was messing about and used to stuff bus tickets in my ears to try and drown out the sound of the caulkers and riveters. It never worked. At the South Bank Coke ovens, there places called Coal Mines in the Sky, where faces as dirty as miners were eating their sarnies with paper towels, too tired to wash their hands. Then there were jobs at the top of the Blast furnace, 180 foot and more, where coming down was more scary than going up. Or repairs to coke crushing drums, that needed a patch on the inside, never knowing if someone was going to switch the drum back on!!! It has been known, with fatal consequences.

The reasons for supporting demolition?

1.It’s an eyesore, rubbish on our doorstep – The plan is to clean the whole area up.

2.It will cost millions – It will cost millions to demolish, make safe and develop new industries. How many billions have been created by the Teesside steel community and taken out of the area?

3.A rusting wreck, our history has gone – No it hasn’t!! It lives in the hearts of ex steel- workers and their communities, who shed tears when visiting the Steel Stories exhibition at The Kirkleatham Museum. It lives on in the sculptures, paintings, photographs, literature, poetry and songs by local artistes. Craig Hornby’s Century in Stone travelled all around the world and help re-unite Teesside!! And how can we deny the community that bridged the world? Sudan, Egypt, Newcastle, South Africa, Sydney, London, Thailand, Middlesbrough, Denmark, China…the list is endless. The Dorman Museum; our history is gone?

4.No one saved the Pellet Plant or the Bessemer Furnace!! So, now two wrongs clearly make a right? I can’t speak of the Pellet Plant, but a know a number of people fought tooth and nail to keep the historic Bessemer plant only to be thwarted by same arguments put above!! See how dangerous this is?

The elite’s attack on valued services, such as the NHS, Education, Adult Social Care, the BBC, are nothing new. When Labour reconfigured the Steel industry in the 70’s to five main sites: Scotland, Teesside, Sheffield, Scunthorpe and South Wales it had a capacity for 35 million tonnes of production. A world recession cut that to 15 million tonnes and the onslaught to deride the steelworker as in efficient and lazy. Not the people who planned and created that monolithic organisation, just the workers!!! 50 years of world class steel and Dorman Long engineering was trashed. That is why Thatcher first came for the steel workers in 1980.

Another criticism is, that all these ideas are too ‘arty-farty’. Can anyone remember Odin’s Glow? Redcar’s all singing all dancing multi - media light show from 2009? Doesn’t come more ‘arty – farty’ than that and it was very well received.
Of course, I am arty- farty too, but you can blame Grangetown Boys Club and Bert Woolley for that, along with Charlie Smailes, Ted Martin and Ray Ashton. GBC also instilled in us respect, a sense of service, to look after all members of the community, which has stayed with me over 50 years.

Bert winning National awards since the mid 50’s, introduced us to the plays of Pinter, Brendan Behan, Shakespeare, Edward Albee and Eugene Ionesco, it doesn’t come more ‘arty – farty’ than that, especially in the 1960’s!! He produced Tony McBride, Johnny Benton, who inspired Mark Benton, Gordon Steel and a number of Drama teachers, including myself. All of whom have made their way in the arts and creative industry, because that’s what we are talking about; an industry, that is the second biggest contributor to the national budget.

So, the country needs to be creative, and here are just some of possibilities worthy of consideration:

-World Heritage status to include Eston Hills mine workings, the various industrial sites, proposed heritage trails. And to preserve as much of the industrial fabric as possible for the project.

-Visitors and Education centres with galleries, cafes, studios and performance spaces.

-Heritage Trails, to cover all aspects of the iron steel story from Stockton to Skinningrove.

-Nature reserve with Ornithological and Zoological expertise, education centre with classrooms.

-That all Happened here? The surprising history that is right on your doorstep, and you didn’t know. From the Doomsday Book to the present day, the medieval battles, the shipwrecks, the pier that never was…, the racecourse, the influential families and the many famous names, who started the lives in the area.

-Teesport to Dunkirk: The story of how the area responded in a time of national crisis in 1940.
So, there is no shortage of ideas, opportunities and the benefits for the surrounding areas speaks for itself. The creative industries contributed £111.7 billion to the UK economy in 2018, equivalent to £306 million every day.

One omission in the recent Kirkleatham Steel Stories Exhibition was no mention of the 1980 steel strike, the first national strike in 56 years, deliberately ‘engineered’ by Thatcher to put down decent working people and a practice for the Miners just a few years later… Yet again the working people of the area are disenfranchised again, stop doing the elite’s dirty work by calling for these demolitions!! To quote Alan Bleasdale’s Boys From the Blackstuff…

”Why don’t the stand up and fight back ya XXXXXXs”.

Please see link to presentation about the play on my Facebook page.

Link: Nowt Like this in America by Alan Spence.
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rob_fmttm Posted on 15/09/2020 09:39

Save Our Steel Heritage
Hi - Al - would you please sign up to our new board fmttmboro.com and make this same post?
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al1948uk Posted on 15/09/2020 10:12

Save Our Steel Heritage
Hi Rob,

I have registered, how do I post the thread?

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WoodallServices Posted on 15/09/2020 10:43

Save Our Steel Heritage
Don’t let them demolish it until we have the replacement for it is signed for in blood. As I said on the other site the Ben Houchen will promise a Nuclear Fusion site with jobs for all then when everything is torn down replace it with a two bob factory unit employing a dozen people on minimum wage!
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Cleveleyssmoggie Posted on 15/09/2020 14:23

Save Our Steel Heritage
Net Zero Teesside is part of BP’s new strategy. A video featuring Ben Houchen was included in their capital markets presentation today.
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