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Duration: 30 minutes

February 2010 saw the mothballing of iron and steelmaking at the Corus site in Redcar - seemingly ending a 150-year-old industry on Teesside.

Camera crews from all around the world flocked to the gates of the site, and government ministers waded in to try and make a last-minute deal to save the steelworks -but it was to no avail. The workers inside had a job to do - extinguishing the fire of the huge blast furnace and steelworks.

Emotions were running high, and one camera crew was given exclusive access to the Corus site as the last cast of steel emerged on Teesside. It was a moment that nobody present would ever forget. Over 1,000 men and women lost their jobs - many having worked there for some 30 years. A way of life had come to an end.

For these steelworkers, the mothballing had been a gut-wrenching experience - many compared it to the death of a friend, but the bigger challenge was what awaited them afterwards, once the fire had gone out. The culture shock of life after 30 years of steelmaking was immense. Stuck in the house with prospects of finding a new job seeming bleak, these were dark days of depression and aimlessness. These were days of soul searching and looking back on careers that may have come to a premature close.

Our cameras were with these former steelworkers to chart what has been a huge year in their lives - exploring the emotions of each man, and looking at how friends and family have banded together to help them back on their feet.

Their stories range from the unexpected to the plain bizarre, from cleaning pubs to making fudge, from despair to salvation, and gain additional significance in light of the grim employment prospects currently facing workers up and down the country.

It's a story about the spirit of these men, and the spirit of Teesside.

Last on

Wed 23 Feb 2011 19:30 BBC One North East & Cumbria only

  • CORUS

    CORUS

    The Corus plant at Redcar on Teesside.

  • The year Teesside steel making stopped

    The Last Cast follows the lives of six former Corus steel workers as they attempt to navigate their way from redundancy to new lives and new futures.

    The programme begins at Corus’ 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 making 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 has 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," say 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."

  • Life after Corus: Steve Prest's story

    Life after Corus: Steve Prest's story

    Former Corus steel worker Steve Prest found there was life after Corus.

    He took the opportunity to start up his own business, Northumbria Fudgery.

    Steve's daughter Holly sees it as a natural progression: "You melt the flavours, at the steel works you melt the scraps of metal. It's nearly the same as steelworks."

    BBC Tees: Last Cast

Credits

Narrator
Kirsten O'Brien
Producer
Christopher Chapman
Executive Producer
Jacqui Hodgson

Broadcasts

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