THIS is a fascinating study of the economic giants that have dominated Sunderland through the decades, as seen through the eyes, and as depicted in the words, of the workers. Dockers, pitmen and shipbuilders have all been interviewed as well as people like Sir Paul Nicholson, of Vaux Breweries, and Sir Bob Murray of the football club.

It is the workers, though, who are the stars, both in recording what it was like to work in these huge industries and, nostalgically, in reminding what wider life was like in the days of fleapit cinemas and Jolly buses.

For instance, glass-making has been a giant in the Sunderland economy ever since AD674 when Benedict Biscop brought over continental glaziers to make stained glass for his new priory at Monkwearmouth. More than a thousand years later, Brenda Forster was employed in the industry, by Wear Glassworks which manufactured Pyrex, although Abbot Biscop wouldn’t have recognised her surroundings.

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In 1961, Brenda came second in the Glass Queen beauty competition, and so was one of the maids of the queen – a lass from the North Shields factory with “lovely dark hair and loads of make-up”.

Brenda recalls: “They took the three of us around the factory to show all the workers, and then Miss White took us to the Marsden Grotto (a pub) – it was the first time I’d ever been and the first time I’d ever had scampi!”

For the author, a Sunderland photographer, the book is a personal voyage of discovery about what it means to belong to the city, and it is also a debate about Sunderland’s future when the giant that dominates the area today is Nissan. Is Nissan, she worries, “a cast doing its best to keep a fractured Sunderland together, but perhaps not healing it” following the departure of all the traditional industrial giants.