A RARE collection of films documenting the North-East’s industrial heritage has been released.

The double DVD box set, This Working Life, Steel, A Century of Steelmaking on Film, includes the building of the Tyne Bridge and footage from the former plant at Consett.

Billy Robson, who joined British Steel at Consett in 1972 and worked as a motor engineer until the plant was closed in September 1980, said: “There will be a lot of interest as it was a massive place.

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"It was awesome for us. It used to light up on a night time and you could see the big glow from the slag heaps from the road coming back from Scotland.

“It was a great community and really pulled everyone together because everyone was working.”

The box set, released this week, is the third and final release in the British Film Institute‘s This Working Life series.

It follows similar box sets about the mining and shipbuilding industries and showcases rarely seen films which explore Britain’s rich industrial heritage.

The Northern Echo:
The steelworks in Consett

The 20 documentaries date from 1901 to 1987 and chart the extraordinary story of steel.

Highlights include silent footage of heavy construction in The Building of the New Tyne Bridge (1928) with newly commissioned music by Newcastle-based band Jazzfinger and the 1945 film Steel.

Shot in Technicolor by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff, the film chronicles the visually spectacular process of making steel, from iron ore to the steelworks.

Other films include the witty animation River of Steel (1951), Men of Consett (1959), directed by explorer, cameraman and food writer Tom Stobart, who ventures into the steel community in Consett, and Women of Steel by Jenny Woodley (1984) which gives a rare insight into women’s role in the steel industry in wartime Sheffield.

A BFI spokesman said: “Steelmaking is at the heart of British industry and has provided evocative and poetic subject matter for filmmakers throughout the twentieth century.

“The recent decline of the steel industry is brought into sharp focus through this richly fascinating and often surprising view of a largely vanished way of life.”

The DVDs are available from retailers, by mail order from the BFI shop by calling 0207-815-1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop

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