ALMOST 2,000 people gathered in the shadow of Redcar's steelworks last night in solidarity for the thousands of workers who face losing their jobs. JULIA BREEN reports.

REDCAR at dusk, and the bulk of the blast furnace is silhouetted against the darkening sky.

On Majuba beach, 2,000 phones and torches are held aloft, glowing in the dusk against the black shadow of the SSI steelworks, as 2,000 voices chant "Save our Steel".

The furnace is still burning, black smoke spiralling into the sky, but a week from now, that might be over.

This is a community forged in the steelworks, and it came out in force last night for an emergency Save Our Steel rally.

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SSI fires burn low 

"This is a message to the Government and to the Prime Minister," said union leader Paul Warren. "Tonight is about passion, about commitment.

"As long as that blast furnace is alight, we have hope. The 6,000 people whose jobs rely on that steelworks have hope.

"There are coal stocks to the end of next week, possibly to Saturday, to keep the furnace alight, and where there is a will, there is a way."

Former steelworkers joined the crowd alongside the current staff and their families as they listened to speeches from Mr Warren and Redcar Labour MP Anna Turley.

Ann Walter, whose husband is a former steelworker, and who grew up in the shadow of the blast furnace, gave out hundreds of chocolate-chip scones to the crowd - white chips representing the tears of the steelworkers, dark chocolate chips for the coal that keeps the steel fires burning.

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Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald posted this photo of the media and supporters on Twitter.

Steel veteran of 40 years, Vic Jeffries, said: "They are not just shutting the plant down. They are shutting the community down.

"It is a young workforce, there are not many over 55, and they have mortgages, children, debts to pay.

"Tonight shows the passion we have here, from the children to the grandparents.

"We won't give up until the last light goes out in the furnace."

Current SSI worker Chris - he did not want to give his last name - was at the rally with his wife and two boys. He has been at the plant for 29 years in its many incarnations, under British Steel, Corus, Tata and now SSI.

"We're due to be paid tomorrow, but there is very little information coming forward from the company," he said. "We were supposed to have a briefing today but it didn't happen. To be fair I think the senior management team are in a very difficult position, but surely there has to be some kind of plan going forward because we just don't know what's going on."

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He said he was concerned about paying the bills for the next month, the same worries many others have.

One said: "We don't know what's happening, so we can't start applying for new jobs because we still work here. But then we might not get our paycheck in the morning."

After addressing the crowd, Ms Turley said: "We had over 2,000 people here with 24 hours' notice.

"That shows the passion we have here. We want to show the world how much steel means to Redcar.

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Union leader Paul Warren delivers his speech Picture: Chris Booth

"Generations of men and women have dug and forged steel here. We have 6,000 jobs reliant on the steelworks. It is absolutely horrendous for the guys who have worked so hard to get it up and running again, to be living with this kind of uncertainty."

Mr Warren called on the Government to help and said: "Is that too much to ask to save a community, to save our jobs, to help our families, and to give us a chance to compete in the future?

"We’ve been here before and we came back. Our passion for steel is what got us through last time.

We need that passion again."