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Archive film on Sheffield steel industry made public

A still from archive documentary Steel, which was filmed in Sheffield in 1945

A still from archive documentary Steel, which was filmed in Sheffield in 1945

A restored film documenting what life was like in the Sheffield steel industry during the 1940s has been made available online.

The 32-minute documentary, called simply Steel, is among 25 archive films showing British films from the 1930s and 1940s that have been digitised and loaded on to the British Council archive.

They were originally produced in the council’s early years to try to show the best of the UK to audiences in embassies, consulates and classrooms around the world during global conflict.

Shot in Technicolour, Steel was filmed around the country in 1945 in several steelworks including the English Steel Corporation, Firth Brown’s and Arthur Balfour & Son in Sheffield.

It was directed by documentary maker Ronald H Riley, with narration provided by John Laurie, a Scottish actor who would later find fame as Private Fraser in Dad’s Army.

The film takes an in-depth look at steel-making and the workings of a foundry and has been described by the British Council as ‘probably the most high profile film in the entire collection’.

Footage from the film was featured in Jarvis Cocker’s documentary The Big Melt, shown at the 2013 Sheffield Doc/Fest which told the story of the city by exploring the history of its steel industry.

Among the other films that have been digitised and loaded on to the British Council is Power to Order, a nine-minute documentary filmed in 1941 that takes a look at the production of a steam locomotive in Doncaster.

British Council film director Briony Hanson said: “These films give us one last glimpse into a Britain that’s different and familiar in equal measure.”

The British Council, the UK’s cultural relations organisation now marking its 80th year, already had 89 films on the archive which first went online in 2012.

The films have been preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised through a donation by Google.

n To watch, visit www.britishcouncil.org/film.

 

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