Not In A Room On Our Own – A Social Life of Steel

Not In A Room On Our Own – A Social Life of Steel is an exhibition that celebrates and tells the story of how communities have lived, loved, worked and played against the backdrop of our region’s steel industry. The 20 people photographed here live and have worked across Redcar & Cleveland and Middlesbrough. They collaborated with Liverpool based composer Patrick Dineen to create a new work. Their stories comprise over 20 hours of interviews, and have been edited by Patrick for the sound work that can be heard in full in our gallery space.

These physically distanced portrait photographs have been created by Kev Howard during a recent period of lockdown. Each individual is shown on the threshold of their home or business and together they talk of a community waiting to emerge again and rebuild.

This room tells a story of how an industry has helped to bring a community together, creating bonds which are enduring. In 2019 Tees Valley Arts supported a voluntary group from Dormanstown called Ladies of Steel to mount their annual Steel Gala. The photographs on display here document the day and were taken by Saltburn based photographers Kev Howard and Heidi Knights. Here you will also see two banners made for an opening procession by Ladies of Steel and another women’s group from Middlesbrough called The Thorntree Roses.

You will also hear a sound work which is being premiered in this exhibition. Ladies of Steel invited Liverpool based composer Patrick Dineen to work with them and create this new work that explores how communities have responded to the changes that they have experienced over recent decades. Patrick carried out over 20 hours of interviews and condensed these down into an hour-long work with a composed score.

Patrick would like to thank Ladies of Steel, all the interviewees who generously gave their time to make this work, Sara Dennis and Carmen Marcus. This exhibition has been curated by Miki Rogers and James Beighton.

Also on display here is work by Aphra O’Connor, an artist based in Sleights near Whitby. Having graduated from the Royal College of Art of London, she moved back to the region at the start of the pandemic and has now decided to establish her studio here. She is fascinated by how the forms of found objects can be cast in clay and then re-assembled to make three dimensional collages. The term “concatenate” refers to a process of linking together different forms, words or ideas.

Aphra is working with The Redcar Palace to help us explore the roles that ceramics can play in our programme including the possibility of opening a ceramics studio in the building and of developing a new range of Redcar Ware. In the middle of the twentieth century visitors to a holiday town would be able to buy ceramic trinkets carrying the crest of the town. We will be working together with Aphra over the course of the Summer to imagine what this could look like today.

This audio piece was written and composed by Patrick Dineen. It was created using the voices and thoughts of people from Redcar and the surrounding area. The song ‘Come Along Brave Boys’ was performed by the Marske Fisherman’s Choir.

This is a Tees Valley Arts Production, in collaboration with Ladies of Steel, and part of Great Place Tees Valley, through the Tees Valley Combined Authority with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England

The Interviewees were as follows:

  • John Baker Terry Colley
  • Leo Croft
  • Laura Dalby
  • Sara Dennis
  • Jo Foster
  • Lyn Gibbins
  • Hilary Greenwell
  • Mike Guess
  • Dave Harrison
  • Liz Homan
  • Brian Hutchinson
  • Doreen Hutchinson
  • Martin Johnson
  • Kat Kempen
  • Pete McCarthy
  • Marcus Pacitto
  • Jonny Phage
  • Tracey Phillips
  • Paul Steinmetz
  • Bill Porritt
  • Chris Powlay
  • Debbie Powlay
  • Julie Tomlinson
  • Lynne Waller

Additional thanks to Sara Dennis for writing the accompanying poem.