Shooting Time – Ian Macdonald by Jamie Macdonald

As a lecturer of photography at degree level, Jamie Macdonald wanted to create a series of films that would inform, educate and inspire others. Where better to start than with a film about his own father, internationally renowned photographer, Ian Macdonald?

Erasing Ironopolis – A Sad Day

Large drinks all round for Mayor Ben Houchen and his ‘independent’ Teesworks Heritage Committee.

Committee Members

Co-Chair – Kate Willard OBE Chair of the Board of Directors Teesside International Airport Ltd and also its holding company Goosepool

Co-Chair – Jacob Young MP. Director Teesworks – South Tees Development Corporation

Member – John Baker. Former Member of South Tees Development Corporation, Director South Tees Site Company

Member – Dr. Tosh Warwick. Heritage Consultant

Member – Laura Case, Head of Culture & Tourism. Representing Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Image via Change.org

Erasing Ironopolis

Every metropolis
Came from
Ironopolis

from
IRONOPOLIS by Ian Horn

Prompted by a recent visit to the South Gare and seeing the state of the Redcar Blast Furnace, I began to reflect on how this came about and how we have failed to grasp an opportunity to create a unique statement in the landscape that celebrates the area and our iron steel making history.

Background

Steelmaking on Teesside ceased in 2015. The current government was asked to intervene, they chose not to. Steelmaking on Teesside was allowed to fail, the cause of the failure was blamed on falling steel prices due to cheap imported steel flooding European markets..

Over the past 30 years the skylines of many of many British cities and towns have been changed beyond recognition. If you consider that pretty much every new building, bridge, railway, underground network, football stadium, shopping center, and industrial development required large quantities of steel in their construction, the majority of this steel was imported.

Successive governments had failed to convince developers to source their materials from the domestic market e.g. the Riverside Stadium, home of Middlesbrough FC, was built within sight of the steelworks. The stadium was constructed using German steel.

UK and European steelmakers began to fail as they could not compete with the cheaper, imported steel that was flooding the market. A number of EU countries intervened to protect what they viewed as a strategic industry, others chose to allow market forces to run their course.

The Opportunity

With the loss of the steel industry, planning for the redevelopment of the massive steelworks site commenced. We had an opportunity to not only redevelop the site for new industries but also create a new landscape which could benefit the community both economically and culturally and contain at least one genuinely iconic monument to the workers and industry that gave birth to modern Middlesbrough and sustained many of the area’s communities.

In 2017, The South Tees Development Corporation was formed under the leadership of Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen. Following consultations, a master plan was formulated and in November 2019 a revised version was issued. The plan provided details of the redevelopment of the Redcar Steelworks site and included an Open Space and Landscape Strategy which detailed items such the soft and hard landscaping of the site and ‘iconic architectural features’. The plan identified ‘a key opportunity to develop a strong heritage theme within the overall fabric of the developed business park’.

DORMAN LONG TOWER AT SOUTH BANK
This is a local landmark structure that could be retained and adapted for uses such as a viewing platform, climbing/abseiling wall, etc. integrated into the heritage trail given its location near to the Teesdale way/Black Path. The plan would be that the tower be illuminated at night to provide a striking symbol of the area’s iron and steel making heritage at the southern end of the newly established business park.

SOUTH BANK COKE OVENS BATTERY
This structure lies along a boundary line of the South Industrial Zone, close to the Teesdale Way/Black Path and it could be retained without impinging on prime development land. The Battery is an impressive example of industrial architecture. There are several examples around the world of coke ovens structures being preserved and made safe as large-scale industrial heritage and visitor attractions, that can be explored by the introduction of stairways and walkways.

REDCAR BLAST FURNACE
In many respects the most notable feature of any integrated iron and steel works, whether operational or non-operational, a blast furnace is an impressive example of industrial architecture at its best. Located at the northern end of the development, at the boundary between the North Industrial Zone and Coastal Community Zone Redcar Blast Furnace is ideally situated for preservation as a major landmark and visitor attraction.

Source

The plan was well-received locally, it promised much needed development and jobs whilst also acknowledging a desire to retain and repurpose important elements of our steelmaking heritage in a way that would enhance the local environment and attract visitors to the former steelworks site. This approach was supported by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and was documented in their 2018 Local Plan.

Other people and organisations offered alternative visions of the redevelopment of the site. Artist, Len Tabner’s vision of the site, Hollie Welch’s vision of the Blast Furnace.

The Reality

Ben Houchen was re-elected as Mayor and the clearing and decontamination of the former steelworks site commenced under the banner of Teesworks. In September 2020 the Mayor formed the Teesworks Heritage Committee. The independent committee was co-chaired by Redcar MP Jacob Young and Kate Willard OBE, members were John Baker, Tosh Warwick and Laura Case, Head of Culture & Tourism, representing Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.

In January 2021 the committee recommended the following:

That the Blast Furnace be dismantled. They further recommend that a plan is put in place to identify and record what materials and artefacts of industrial architecture from the Blast Furnace should be salvaged to create one or more Blast Furnace memorials or displays on the Teesworks site and/or at other locations, but not at the current location of the Blast Furnace.
Further, the Taskforce recommends that work on assessing the future of the Dorman Long coal bunker aka ‘Dorman Long Tower’ at South Bank as a potential retained built asset on the site be continued.

Source

The Committee made no reference to the STDC 2019 Master Plan and its bold vision.

During 2021 The Coke Ovens were demolished and the Dorman Long Tower was deemed to be uneconomic and not worth saving. A grass-roots campaign to save the tower was launched and gained national attention. Teesworks Heritage Committee co-chairman Jacob Young MP started an online petition to save the tower but later changed his mind stating that it would be too costly to save and maintain.

In a last-ditch effort to save the Dorman Long Tower, Historic England granted Grade II listing status to the building.

Historic England’s reason for listing

Architectural interest:

  • It’s a recognised and celebrated example of early Brutalist architecture, a fine example of austere design that simply, yet wholeheartedly expresses its function.
  • It’s a deliberate monumental architectural statement of confidence by the then newly denationalised Dorman Long company in the mid-1950s.
  • It’s a rare (considered to be nationally unique) surviving structure from the 20th-century coal, iron and steel industries.
  • It’s a design which is above the purely functional which also cleverly combines control-room, storage and firefighting functions for a state-of-the-art coking plant.

Historic interest:

  • For its association with, and an advert for, Dorman Long which dominated the steel and heavy engineering industry of Teesside for most of the 20th century, a leading firm nationally with an international reputation, for example building the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Source

In Sept 2021, as one of her first acts in the role, the New Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, revoked the listing on the grounds that the structure did not “merit” listing and the building was hastily demolished. Teesworks Heritage Committee co-chairman Jacob Young MP asked for the lettering on the side of the tower to be saved for posterity, the lettering was destroyed during the demolition of the tower. The demolition of the Redcar Blast Furnace, BOS plant and other parts of the steelworks site is currently ongoing.

The Mayor’s Electoral Pledge

During the Tees Valley Mayoral election of 2020 Ben Houchen also made the following pledge

“Not only am I pledging to bring steelmaking back to Teesside if re-elected in May, but I’m already working on how we can do this. “I’ve already had early discussions with a number of organisations to bring steelmaking back to Teesside. “We’ve developed a plan and I’ve identified a huge opportunity. “Millions of tonnes of steel could be produced on Teesside and be internationally competitive.

Source

This pre-election pledge earned Mayor Houchen a lot of support. Following the election there has been little or no mention of steelmaking returning to Teesside. Quite the opposite, in Sept 2022 Mayor Houchen celebrated the first import into his flagship freeport, a consignment of steel, the Mayor described this as “just the tip of the iceberg” source

Teesside and the surrounding areas badly need new investment and jobs, we have a the highest poverty rates in the UK (overall Teesside rates rates 25%, overall Teesside child poverty 37%, child poverty in Middlesbrough 48%). As well as economic improvement we also deserve to live in a decent built environment. The redevelopment of the steelworks site could have helped to meet both of these needs, especially for the communities who have lived in the shadow of the steelworks.

I’m aware that there was a strong local voice to completely flatten the steelworks and ‘have done with it’. This is understandable, the production of iron and steel is a dirty, polluting process and people naturally wanted to move on. However, much of the opposition was also driven by the mayors ‘either/or’ approach. Whenever the issue was raised, the mayor would brand any opposition as ‘anti-progress’ and ‘activists’. He would state that the repurposing of the iconic structures was unaffordable and, despite their relatively small footprint and peripheral locations, would threaten the building of new factories on the vast 7 square mile site.

My personal opinion is that by deliberately choosing not to take the opportunities to create something unique on Teesside, our local and national politicians, fully supported by local heritage committee members, have failed us and future generations.

Ironopolis

a collection of objects

divorced from context

a digital archive

a name on a plaque.

Articles

Demolishing our past is vandalism in the name of regeneration – Jonathan Meades

C20 Director on the demolition of the Dorman Long tower

The bigger the lie: Houchen’s alternative facts about the Dorman Long Tower

Listing of Dorman Long tower was a ‘farce’, Teesside mayor says

BEN HOUCHEN, DYNAMITE DORRIES & THE DORMAN LONG TOWER- A Cautionary Tale

Teesside enjoys its Palmyra moment, as Redcar Blast Furnace is Torn Down

Westgarth Social Club: Live Music Fund

Westgarth Social Club: Live Music Fund

The Westgarth Social Club is one of Teesside’s most popular independent music venues. Across its three stages, the Westgarth has hosted acts such as James Bay, Public Service Broadcasting, Wolf Alice, Pete Wylie, The Vaccines, Edwyn Collins, TV Smith, and First Aid Kit. 

What will gigs be like in 2021? Based on the last 9 months, these shows might need to happen under safety measures, with restrictions on crowd numbers or the need for particular seating arrangements.

Unfortunately, as through the first and second waves of coronavirus, if local promoters can’t put on viable events – places like the Westgarth will struggle to reopen. 

But with your support, we’re hoping to form a live music fund to support the safe and sustainable return of live music and events to the club. No donations will go to Spooker Rekkids or towards the running costs of the club, with the fund only to be used by local promoters. This could be to subsidise ticket prices; to help towards the cost of sound engineers; or to cover the shortfall in ticket sales due to potential crowd-limits.

We want to ensure that, whatever happens next, bands, promoters, music lovers and the whole community are supported and have a place to safely enjoy and participate in live music and events.

Our initial target is to raise £3000, which we have calculated could support between 15-20 gigs in 2021. If we reach that goal, there are plans to expand this target to £4000 for around 20-25 gigs, and £5000 for 25-30 gigs. Basically, the more we raise, the more gigs we can help to put on!

We’re aware this is an incredibly tough time for people but if you can offer a donation, we have some wonderful rewards merchandise kindly provided by Teesside’s finest promoters and musical talent. Donations with rewards start from just £5, but you can donate any amount you want! 

Link to crowdfunder

The message above is taken from the Crowdfunder webpage.

The smell of t-shirts

I’m selling some lovely t-shirts. They were designed by Carl Mole and Oli Heffernan and feature the ‘Dorman Long Tower’ at South Bank, a landmark on the Teesside skyline. The tower was built during the 1950’s to store and supply coal to the South Bank coke ovens.

Designed by Carl Mole

Designed by Oli Heffernan

T-shirts available in 2 colours Grey/White

Sizes S, M, L & XL

Price £15 plus P&P

100% of profits will be donated to the Trussell Trust

email smellofblackpath@gmail.com stating design, colour & size

The Artists

Carl Mole Oli Heffernan

Adventurous Play: Experiencing the post industrial landscape of Redcar Blast Furnace

Royal Institute of British Architects Presidents Medals 2016

Part 2 Project 2016
Hollie Welch
Northumbria University | UK

Unlike many industrial relics, the Redcar Blast Furnace has a positive association with the local population, and stands as a monument to industrial Teesside which should not be lost following closure and decommissioning.

By repurposing the site through the provision of a climbing hub and offshore survival training facility, the Blast Furnace presents exciting opportunities to develop the offshore industry sector emerging in the area and to celebrate local heritage.

Hollie Welch

Link http://www.presidentsmedals.com/Entry-41641#

23 – The Black Path

Read a history of The Black Path here https://teessidepsychogeography.wordpress.com/2020/05/05/the-black-path-8/