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You are in: South Yorkshire > Places > Places features > The view from above

A crane

Crane from below

The view from above

Ever looked up and wondered what it's like to work in a crane? A series of short films have been made about the people who work hundreds of feet above us - with the help of a Sheffield crane company. Kate Linderholm braves the long climb up...

If you've ever come out of Sheffield at Junction 34, turning north towards Leeds, you've probably driven past a site with lots of cranes on your right hand side.

BBC Radio Sheffield's Kate Linderholm

BBC Radio Sheffield's Kate Linderholm on a crane

"There's another layer in the city. There's the people on the ground, the people on the roofs, and then there's crane drivers hundreds of feet above them." These are the words of one of the crane drivers from HTC Plant Ltd in Sheffield, featured in Eva Weber's series of short films, City of Cranes.

Radio Sheffield's Kate Linderholm met Alan Marshall from HTC Plant Ltd at the top of one of the cranes, along with Eva Weber directed these films about the people who work above us... 100 feet above the ground.

"Standing on top of one of those cranes, looking out over Wincobank, I can see every car going past on the M1. It's a beautiful clear day - but goodness me, 100 feet up, it certainly feels quite high," gasps Kate.

Driver climbing down the crane

City of Cranes: driver climbs down

Naked hoovering

Another of the crane drivers describes the sights he and the others are privy to...

"If you're working a night shift it's amazing what you see you know. People think they can't be seen because it's night time. Quite an elderly woman used to do her hoovering at 3am - naked. That was pretty strange. It was one of those situations where only the crane drivers could see her. More embarrassing really than anything."

Sitting in the relative quiet of the crane cab, Kate hears about the job satisfaction for the operators from crane driver Alan Marshall:

Looking down from a crane at HTC Plant Ltd

The view from a crane at HTC Plant Ltd, Sheffield

"When you're up here, you're in charge of everybody's safety. You've got to give the load nice and smoothly without hurting or injuring them. When you climb down the ladder at the end of the day you think, 'Well I've put that load on today, I've done that today, the building is starting to progress'. And you're so high up that the air is different - nice and clear, it's nice and quiet. That's the enjoyment you get from the job. But you've got to have your wits about you - especially where you're working on big sites and you might be oversailing three or four cranes."

City of Cranes

Eva Weber, director of City of Cranes which was shown at the 2007 Doc Fest in Sheffield explains why she wanted to make a film about the subject:

"I think it was probably just spotting cranes in the cityscape and then actually starting to wonder what it must be like to be up there.

"The drivers are up there and they can actually watch the world. It's almost like they're actually removed from the world they're building."

Eva Weber, City of Cranes director

"I started talking to some drivers at a construction site in London. I literally went down there and said, 'Can I speak to some of your crane drivers?' I talked to them and it just happened that they work for HTC in Sheffield.

"They put me in touch with the company - so the cameraman, producer and me came to Sheffield to climb up a crane and see what it was like, what we could do up there, what was possible for filming purposes, what we would need... and it was amazing. 

"The funny thing is, we came to the yard and I looked up and thought the crane was really small. I was like, 'I want to go up on a tall crane!'... and then we went up it and it was definitely tall enough!

"I was really tense. Climbing up a crane the first time. I could really feel it in my body afterwards, and it wasn't the exercise, it was just nerves and anxiety in your muscles. But being up there is just breathtaking."

View along the crane to Tinsley Towers

View along the crane to Tinsley Towers

Crane operators have a point of view of the world that most of us don't get to see. Eva describes the attraction for her:

"That's what really fascinates me. They're up there and they can actually watch the world. They don't get noticed and it's almost like they're actually removed from the world they're building - so they can watch it perfectly.

"One driver was describing to me how he can see the same person going into the coffee shop every morning and they buy the same thing. And then one day they're not there and he's like, 'Oh, I wonder where they are'"

It's as if they people down there are actually their friends, but they don't know it.

"Talking to the drivers really makes you think differently about the world, it's just a new perspective."

The M1 from a crane

The M1 from a crane

And operator Alan Marshall finds the cranes strangely beautiful too: "When you've got four, five, six cranes together, you get this wonderful sort of dropping, almost like they're nodding politely to each other and then pulling back and turning round. It's wonderful.

"When you're part of it, it's almost like a ballet. But nobody's too arty [in the crane business] so if you said to someone, 'it's like we're in a ballet', you'd get a rude answer over the radio! Fair enough, fair comment - it's not a ballet dancer, it's a crane driver."

last updated: 30/04/2008 at 12:01
created: 22/11/2007

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