Sunday 21 Sep 2014
A BBC documentary to be broadcast on BBC One (North East and Cumbria) next Wednesday 23 February, follows the lives of six former Corus steelworkers as they attempt to navigate their way from redundancy to new lives and new futures.
The programme begins at Corus’s Redcar plant on 19 February 2010, when workers, their families and friends gather as the last cast of steel is rolled out. The next day the plant was shut down. One hundred and fifty years of steel and iron stopped and over 1, 000 workers lost their jobs.
A year on, the men’s lives have changed dramatically, and while dealing with the emotional challenges of redundancy, they begin adjusting to new routines. The programme reflects the determined spirit of these men – and the spirit of Teesside.
Former worker Keiron McCarthy says: "I felt lost...I put my clothes on as I thought as I was going to work...then I realised there was no work."
Some of the men have been able to start again. Former worker Rod Fowler has found work as a supervisor in an engineering firm where he is training and passing on his valuable skills to younger workers.
For others it’s been more of a challenge, Keiron has decided to keep busy by developing an allotment together with chickens, ducks, Chinese pheasants and a "man shed", which he plans to furnish with a sofa, TV and billy boiler.
Keith Barnes helps his friend maintain his boat. As he sails past the former site he finds it strange not to see the furnace working as it used to.
Mick Lee has taken to working with his wife at his daughter-in-law’s pub in Middlesbrough where he helps her with the cleaning.
"It keeps his mind occupied", says wife Debbie, "it’s good working with him".
A couple of weeks later, Mick receives a letter from Corus asking if it can send his details on to potential new future owners, Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI). "I’d love it if they asked me to go back", he says.
For others, redundancy has been the chance to do something completely different.
Former worker Steve Prest and his wife Michelle say that they didn’t want to wait for things to happen to them, they wanted to make things happen – and so they acted upon a long held ambition... to make, market and sell fudge.
Within a month of starting Northumbria Fudgery, they’d won three Guild of Fine Food Awards, which lead to invitations to events around the country and more exposure for the business.
"If you’d asked me five years ago where I would be in five years time, I’d never have guessed I’d be making sweets at home with my wife and daughter!"
Neil Hodds decided to become a volunteer. He works with the Teesside Hospice ¬– a charity close to his heart: "It's not only getting me out of house, it’s giving something back", he says.
Christmas comes and the men meet up for their usual annual get-together.
"I’m so chuffed that all the lads have turned up tonight, we always have a good night, every year", says Mick.
As the anniversary of the closure of the site draws nearer, and with no firm confirmation of a new owner for the steelworks, Mick and Keiron look back on the year: "I want to see that furnace up and running", says Mick. "I want to see steel making and iron making back on Teesside where it belongs".
The Last Cast, BBC ONE (North East and Cumbria), Wednesday 23 February at 7.30pm.
Please credit the programme in any copy.
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