Yorkshire’s Gasland

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Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock. The process involves drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which in turn allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture.

Drilling for shale gas is at present only at an exploratory phase in the UK after reserves of shale gas were identified across large swathes of the country, particularly in northern England.

More than one hundred licences have been awarded by the government to firms within the UK, allowing them to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas. But before firms can begin fracking they must also receive planning permission from the relevant local councils.

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Today I was in Northallerton as I covered hundreds of protestors from local campaign groups such as Frack Free Ryedale who along with hundreds of supporters from around the country and neighbouring counties and from environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth had gathered outside the County Hall building and in the surrounding grounds to voice their opposition to fracking.

They gathered there as the North Yorkshire County Council’s Planning and Regulatory Committee met inside to decide on a fracking application submitted by Third Energy to frack at their current KM8 well-site at Kirby Misperton near Pickering.

The KM8 well-site has been located there for over 20 years during which time it has been producing gas safely and discreetly from the site. The permit applications will allow for fracking activities to be carried out at the site to evaluate the future potential of the shale resource to produce the gas stored there commercially.

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Through the day the committee in Northallerton heard arguments both for and against the planning application. Due to the large number of those who were expected to attend the meeting to speak out against the granting of the application the meeting is expected to reconvene this coming Monday where the decision will be announced.

The opposition to fracking in this area, as in many others around the country has been strong and vocal and it remains a highly contentious issue with individuals, businesses and various environmental groups all voicing their opposition. However the planning officer for the council has already recommended that North Yorkshire County Council approve the application after various consultations have taken place with Third energy.

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If the application is approved on Monday then the plan then would be to fracture five different zones at depths of between 7 – 10,000 feet below ground level to stimulate the gas flow. This gas would then be appraised to check the economic potential and subsequent gas production.

Any gas sourced at the site would be transported by an existing pipeline system to Third Energy’s gas fired power station at Knapton.

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So are there any advantages to fracking?

Well the methods used to drill allow the firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of natural gas.

In the US where fracking is far more common it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices. It is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.

The industry suggests that the fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs and improve our own energy security.

The Task Force on Shale Gas, an industry-funded body, has said the UK needs to start fracking to establish the possible economic impact of shale gas – saying it could create thousands of jobs.

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So why is it so controversial?

The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted serious environmental concerns. Many areas within the US where fracking is practiced on a far larger scale have many and increasing reports of ill-health due to water contamination.

Fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site by either truck or pipeline all of which comes at significant environmental cost.

Environmentalists say potentially carcinogenic chemicals used in the process may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique and claim that stringent guidelines and processes in place will reduce this risk.

There are also worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors and whilst the tremors caused near Blackpool by a fracking operation in 2011 by the firm Cuadrilla were very minor at around 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale this remains an area of concern.

Campaigners say that fracking is simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels and a further increase in already high CO2 levels.

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There is little doubt that as far as the longer term effects of fracking are concerned the practice presents more questions than it answers. Mainly revolving around potential water contamination, increased CO2, the effects of chemicals from the process ending up in the atmosphere and more localised issues such as increased traffic disruption.

Whilst a single drilling site may not produce the same wider scale impact like those that have been reported in the US – our only real source of what fracking looks like on a huge scale – or indeed be the ‘end of the world’ scenario here in Yorkshire that some of the more extreme voices shout about it still raises the question of why, as a country, we should be turning down this road at all?

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should?

There are other avenues to explore that have less potentially devastating consequences if they go wrong? Other options that can be looked at to see if they work – solar power, wind, rain, tidal and geothermal heat all remain options to some degree and need to be explored further before they are disregarded as folly.

As I’ve discovered through research ahead of writing this post fracking is a complicated and divisive subject and will remain so for a long time to come but many say that this form of natural gas extraction should be a very last resort rather than the next step.

With the waters muddied by incorrect or mis-information, complex terminology, over-dramatising and scaremongering, financial interests, far left-wing agendas and less than honourable cross party political motivations from all sides and due to the simple fact of not knowing the long-term repercussions of the drilling method and the effects of the chemicals used then complete transparency and legal accountability at every stage is needed and should be demanded from everyone to avoid the gold-rush like chaos that has been seen in the US.

To frack or not to frack is not just about a small Yorkshire village in isolation. It is far bigger than that. The ultimate effects of fracking on the wider environment will likely remain for a long time to come.

Is that what we want our legacy to be? The final decision on the planning application on Northallerton will be announced on Monday.

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*UPDATE*

The North Yorkshire County Council planning committee voted seven to four in favour of an application by UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas near the village of Kirby Misperton.

The application is the first to be approved in the UK since 2011 and the application was passed despite the presence of hundreds of protestors, who gathered outside the County Hall building.

Dozens of speakers attended the meeting outlining concerns over the hydraulic fracturing technique. Objectors raised fears about the environment, safety issues, increased traffic, the effect on the landscape, health and the potentially negative impact on the area’s tourism.

However, supporters – including experts in areas such as noise, water, ecology and landscape – addressed or dismissed the concerns, making statements in support of the application.

Environmental groups, local residents and anti-fracking supporters have said they will continue to fight against the decision.

 

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I then took  trip to Kirby Misperton in Ryedale to have a look at the area, the village itself and to see where the site is located…

 

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For a further look at information about fracking and its potential effects I highly recommend watching the following programmes linked below: ‘Gasland‘ – an Oscar nominated film by Josh Fox on the impacts of fracking and ‘Fracking – The New Energy Rush‘ by BBC Horizon.

 

 

 

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Centre of the Community

Following an announcement by the Chancellor George Osborne last year where he revealed his plans to stop the current NHS bursary for a student loan system from September 2017 a small but vocal group of student nurses, midwives and their supporters held a rally against the cuts in Middlesbrough this afternoon.

For the trainee nurses and midwives in the northeast region the cuts would leave them with up to £50,000 worth of debt while working up to 37.5 hours a week without a wage.

The NHS bursary previously covered course fees and helped with living costs for things such as childcare.

The rally in Middlesbrough was also attended by Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar and Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald.

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Tadcaster

So after the 300-year old bridge crossing the River Wharfe in Tadcaster collapsed after heavy flooding recently and homes and businesses were flooded the residents of the town began the long process of clearing up. The Environment Secretary Liz Truss also visited during the day yesterday and said the rebuilding of the bridge was a matter of immediate urgency.

Here’s a few from the day…

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Huntington Road

Following the heavy flooding caused as water spilled over the banks and flood defences along the River Ouse and River Foss in York and flooded homes and business premises on 27 December which forced the evacuation of residents and which I photographed here I went back to Huntingdon Road in the city early this morning as the waters from the River Foss subsided to document some of what was left behind.

As rapidly as the flood water came it drained away this morning as the nearby pumping station was now functioning properly after repairs yesterday and behind the water is now left a clean-up for those affected that is sure to take many months to complete. It was quite something to witness as the street slowly began to come back to life and the residents slowly returned to their homes and got on with the miserable business of sorting out the damage. Whilst hopefully avoiding the cliche if I can it was indeed a fine example of Yorkshire spirit.

Offers of help shouted by passing friends or neighbours to homeowners. The offer to put people up or bring them some food. A woman pouring out cups of tea for anyone who wanted one and using probably the biggest tea-pot in the city brought a bit of much needed morale. The daily milk delivery had been made and left, propped up on sand bags on many of the doorsteps for their owners to collect so at least they might start their own clean-up with a cup of tea.

People walked dogs and ran or cycled along the street something that only yesterday wouldn’t have been anywhere close to possible.

A man fed the swans in the now sedate looking River Foss.

But I also spoke to a business owner who was worried that their life-long business might have ended today with the retreating waters as the insurance cover may not provide adequate protection to replace all the damaged equipment. I spoke to home owners who were devastated with the prospects of many months ahead of them of drying out and cleaning up the mud and silt left by the retreating water. I also spoke to a couple leaning out of their bedroom window who told me that someone had come and used the cover of the flood chaos and broken into a property a couple of doors down from them and burgled it as it had been left empty over Christmas. What kind of low-life wanker would do that?

But the overriding thing I witnessed was the community within the street come together.

I also saw photographers, reporters and news crews acting in an extremely professional manner and delicately and respectfully approaching those affected to try and get interviews and pictures. Something that understandably probably wasn’t the highest thing on their list of priorities this morning when they returned to their homes but it’s something that is hugely important in order to tell the story of this tragic event here in York and everywhere else that has suffered from the recent extreme weather. So as a photographer, and if I may be bold enough to speak for the wider media, thank you for your patience at a difficult time and I wish you well.

And as the council street cleaners made their way up and down the streets hoovering up the mud and as some kind of normality returned on Huntingdon Road spare a thought for those that had played such an important part in protecting those residents of York – the Mountain Rescue Teams, the soldiers from 2 Lancs, the RAF boys who dropped the spare parts in yesterday by Chinook, the Police, Fire crews and RNLI, the Council and Environmental Agency staff and volunteers and anyone else involved because their work continues as they prepare for the next storm, named ‘Storm Frank‘, which is approaching over the next couple of days and which could bring further flooding in many parts and which could also result, for some at least, especially in Cumbria and Scotland, in a miserable start to the new year.

Lets hope not.

 

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York Flooding

The River’s Ouse and Foss in York flooded riverside homes and business premises after heavy rain caused severe flooding in parts of the city on 27 December and which forced the evacuation of residents and visitors from homes and hotels. Heavy rain over the Christmas period has caused severe flooding in northern England with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as water levels continue to rise in many parts.

Emergency services including the Police, Fire Brigade, Mountain Rescue Teams, paramedics and soldiers from the 2 Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment assisted with the evacuation across the city.

I covered the floods on assignment for Getty Images and spent the day documenting the effects of the flooding on the city and the people who lived there…

 

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A story about unprecedented flooding affecting so many parts of the country was always going to bring high media interest and some of the pictures I shot appeared across various publications and websites around the world. Some of those publications I’m aware of are – in no particular order ; The Guardian, The Scotsman, The Belfast Telegraph, New York Times, International Business Times, BBC News, SKY News, Wales on Line, Irish Times, New York Daily News, Daily Express, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, Buzzfeed, Bloomberg, MSN News, Mashable, Eco Blog, WVTM Alabama, Mail on Line, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Sun and ABC news.

A selection of how the pictures were used in print or online is below: Click the first pictures to open a gallery slideshow…

See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

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Ironopolis – The day the steel stopped

As the steelworkers from ‘C’ shift prepared themselves to carry out the final coke push on oven 64 at the SSI UK steel works at Redcar this week they were not only starting the process by which the ovens would gradually cool down rendering them useless for any future use but it was also marking an end to a legacy of steel making in the Teesside area that had built up over the preceding 170 years and one which had seen the steel that was manufactured here reach across the world.

At around 6am when the coke was pushed and the final column of steam and smoke rose up from the ovens and was carried away on the morning breeze, gradually fading before disappearing completely into the dark morning sky over Teesside’s industrial heartland it carried with it any hope that this rich heritage could be saved and steel making on Teesside came to an end.

IFXT0024-2The final plume of smoke and steam rises out of the coke ovens at Redcar

Middlesbrough or Mydilsburgh as it was known began its journey in Saxon times as an ancient settlement. The term ‘Burgh‘ refers to an ancient settlement and ‘Mydil’ was possibly the name of an anglo saxon who may have had involvement with the early settlement or indeed it could be a reference to the position of the settlement’s location at that time, half way between Whitby and Durham. During this time it would have seen much activity as people passed through Middlesbrough between the two towns but even by 1800 it still remained a small farm of between 20 to 30 people.

In 1829 Joseph Pease from Darlington headed up a small group of Quaker businessmen and bought this small farmstead and its surrounding land and began the development of what they called `Port Darlington‘ on the banks of the River Tees. They then planned to build a town on the site of the farm in order to supply labour to this new coal port and Middlesbrough was born.

By 1830 the Stockton to Darlington railway line had been extended to Middlesbrough and made possible the rapid expansion of the town and port.

The small farmstead gradually grew and became the site for North, South, East and West Streets, Commercial Street, Stockton Street, Cleveland Street, Feversham Street, Dacre Street, Durham Street, Richmond Street, Gosford Street and Suffield Street, all of which were laid out in a grid style centered on Market Square.

Plots of land and businesses premises were quickly bought up in the town and before long shippers, merchants, butchers, innkeepers, joiners, blacksmiths, tailors, builders and painters were moving in and by 1851 the population had grown from around 40 or 50 people in 1829 to around 7,600 and it was quickly becoming the main port on the Tees ahead of Stockton.

IFXP0006Looking out over Teesside from the Eston hills

The seeds for the future steel heritage were sewn in 1850 when iron ore was discovered near Eston in the Cleveland Hills by John Vaughan, the principal iron master of Middlesbrough. Iron now slowly replaced coal as the lifeblood that carried the town. Whilst John Vaughan and his German business partner Henry Bolckow had already established a small iron foundry and rolling mill at Middlesbrough using iron stone brought from Durham and the Yorkshire coast this new discovery of a local supply of iron ore resulted in them building Teesside’s first blast furnace in 1851.

SSI_114Blast furnace, Redcar, Teesside

Iron was now in big demand in Britain, particularly for the rapid expansion of the railways being built in every part of the country. More and more blast furnaces were opened in the vicinity of Middlesbrough to meet this demand and by the end of the century Teesside was producing almost a third of the nation’s iron output. This growth saw the population of the town increase to 20,000 people.

By the 1870’s a much stronger and more resilient metal was in big demand. That metal was steel. In 1875 Vaughan and Bolckow opened the first Bessemer Steel plant in Middlesbrough using phosphorous ores that had to be imported from Spain and which were needed for the steel making process but within 10 years new methods were developed which allowed the use of the local iron ores from around the Eston hills and the steel produced in the area began its journey around the world. At its peak there were with over a hundred furnaces along the banks of the River Tees.

Dorman Long, a name synonymous with steel making began production in 1917 and the steel produced at the site was used to build structures including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Tyne Bridge and the Harbour bridge in Auckland in New Zealand. As part of Labour’s plans after the second world war Dorman Long was brought under a newly created nationalised company called the British Steel Corporation and in 1988 after privatisation under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1988 it became British Steel. In 1999 the company then merged with Netherlands-based steel maker Koninklijke Hoogovens and formed Corus who used the site at the company’s Redcar blast furnace for basic oxygen steel making.

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In 2007 Corus was bought by Tata Steel but following the termination of a large contract in 2009, Tata stopped production at the Redcar site and 1,700 jobs were at risk. Steel workers and their families within the community rose to demonstrate their frustrations and thousands of people filled the streets of Redcar on 18 July of 2009 on a march to try and fight to safeguard Teesside’s steel industry…

Thousands of people filled the streets of Redcar, Cleveland today 18 July to join a march to fight to safeguard Teeside's steel industry. Following recent announcements of redundancies at Corus Steel, the people in the area came to show massive support for the Save our Steel March. Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2008 None Exclusive unless through prior arrangement. Do not Syndicate If purchased you have a one use licence - No resale

Thousands of people filled the streets of Redcar, Cleveland today 18 July to join a march to fight to safeguard Teeside's steel industry. Following recent announcements of redundancies at Corus Steel, the people in the area came to show massive support for the Save our Steel March. Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2008 None Exclusive unless through prior arrangement. Do not Syndicate If purchased you have a one use licence - No resale

Thousands of people filled the streets of Redcar, Cleveland today 18 July to join a march to fight to safeguard Teeside's steel industry. Following recent announcements of redundancies at Corus Steel, the people in the area came to show massive support for the Save our Steel March. Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2008 None Exclusive unless through prior arrangement. Do not Syndicate If purchased you have a one use licence - No resale

Thousands of people filled the streets of Redcar, Cleveland today 18 July to join a march to fight to safeguard Teeside's steel industry. Following recent announcements of redundancies at Corus Steel, the people in the area came to show massive support for the Save our Steel March. Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2008 None Exclusive unless through prior arrangement. Do not Syndicate If purchased you have a one use licence - No resale

Thousands of people filled the streets of Redcar, Cleveland today 18 July to join a march to fight to safeguard Teeside's steel industry. Following recent announcements of redundancies at Corus Steel, the people in the area came to show massive support for the Save our Steel March. Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2008 None Exclusive unless through prior arrangement. Do not Syndicate If purchased you have a one use licence - No resale

https://player.vimeo.com/video/11838325 <p><a href="https://vimeo.com/11838325">Save Our Steel</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/user3846199">Ian Forsyth – Documentary Photog</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>” target=”_blank”>

Save Our Steel

Alas it was unsuccessful and the jobs were lost. The site underwent a mothballing process with hope that sometime in the future a new buyer could be found and once again steel production could carry on. In the meantime and inevitably, Redcar and the surrounding areas started a sad slide into decline as the ripple effect of the job losses was felt across the entire region.

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Then on 24th February 2011 a flame that had been slowly dying started to flicker a little brighter. A new buyer had been found. Thai-based Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) came in and took on the site and finally in April 2012, and with much publicity the plant was officially reopened and as the first slabs of steel rolled a new found optimism, albeit tentative had began to come back into an industry that had been brought to its knees by economic pressures, global changes in the steel markets and a general run of bad fortune.

15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

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© Licensed to London News Pictures. 18/04/2012 SSI Steel, Teesside, England Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant, the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside was re-lit at the weekend as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. Today, the furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaviriya Steel Industries saw the first steel slabs come out of the furnace. The steel will now be shipped direct to SSI in Thailand for use in the car or white good industries. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth/LNP

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15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

Over the following years production continued. The slabs of steel continued to come out of the site. There were some underlying wobbles and concerns through those years but despite these the steel still came. But then a change of events began that seemed to gather pace. A storm was coming. There’s something that is often referred to called the ‘Butterfly Effect’ in chaos theory and you’ll have heard of it I’m sure. It states that when a butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the world then there is an inevitable connection to a hurricane that occurs thousands of miles away on the other side.

© Licensed to London News Pictures. 18/04/2012 SSI Steel, Teesside, England Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant, the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside was re-lit at the weekend as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. Today, the furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaviriya Steel Industries saw the first steel slabs come out of the furnace. The steel will now be shipped direct to SSI in Thailand for use in the car or white good industries. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth/LNP

© Licensed to London News Pictures. 18/04/2012 SSI Steel, Teesside, England Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant, the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside was re-lit at the weekend as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. Today, the furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaviriya Steel Industries saw the first steel slabs come out of the furnace. The steel will now be shipped direct to SSI in Thailand for use in the car or white good industries. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth/LNP

Well there was a butterfly flapping its wings in China. Their economy was starting to slow after a few years of strong growth. Businesses, Industry and the economy in general had done well off the back of the boom but as that economy slowed so to did the demands for products right across the board. With the construction industry slowing the need for steel started to drop but China’s steel furnaces were still producing a huge amount of cheaper steel and selling it to world markets, including Britain and it wasn’t long before there was a significant overcapacity of steel.

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As oil prices also began to fall the oil companies began to reduce investment in the exploration of new oil fields or stopped trying to get more oil and gas out of their existing fields because the prices just didn’t justify the investment. As a result companies all along the supply chain, including steel plants who produce steel for pipes needed for extraction and movement of oil, started to see their order books going unfilled.

With prices for steel dropping, poor trade opportunities and the knock-on effect on the supply chain it seemed that there were butterfly’s flapping their wings everywhere and for those at Redcar it seemed that it was only a matter of time before the hurricane hit!

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In August Cornelius Louwrens, the SSI chief admits that the business is facing problems. Then on 18 September, production was paused due to the declining steel prices with some reports suggesting that SSI was also facing a September deadline after missing a series of payments to its banks. Then on 28 September the plant, the second largest steelworks in Europe was once again mothballed and at the start of October it was announced that SSI UK had entered liquidation.

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Against this backdrop local Teesside MPs like Labour’s Anna Turley and Tom Blenkinsop lead calls in the Commons for the government to intervene and help the steel industry…

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Meetings were set up with the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle to give steel workers an opportunity to speak to at least some government ministers, from Labour at least, but one look at the faces of those at the meeting told more about the questions they had and the uncertainties that they and their families faced than any number of meetings might have done.

032Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Labour MP for Redcar Anna Turley

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Like any community threatened Redcar steelworkers rallied around to try and protect their way of life. People like Linda Robinson, a writer from Billingham and who has four generations of steelworkers in her family and who has taken it upon herself to stand outside the entrance to the SSI UK steel making site each morning for 22 consecutive days (as of 2 days ago) holding placards to help raise awareness to the plight of the steelworkers…

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Local shops all across Redcar and surrounding towns started displaying posters supporting the steelworkers and a petition was started that quickly gained thousands of signatures…

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Steelworkers like Brian Dennis, a steelworker of 26-years became a public face of the workers as he stood up at the Labour Party Conference recently and gave a passionate speech about the real effects of what this all meant to the workers once you looked beyond the business speak, the corporate jargon and the political bullshit. You can see his speech HERE

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Within 24 hours of a social media post initiated by members of the local community and supported by Anna Turley, thousands of steelworkers and their families, members of the pubic and supporters attended a ‘keep the light burning‘ rally one evening near the beach in Redcar…

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But despite all this, despite a few slim opportunities that seemed to offer a potential last minute reprieve to secure the site if local businesses or suppliers stepped in and despite all the other efforts that were made it became increasingly clear that the end was coming and on 12 October 2015 the receiver formerly announced there was no realistic prospect of finding a buyer and the coke ovens, for the first time in thirty years, were to be extinguished.

On the 15 October the final ‘coke push’ was carried out at Redcar and after 170 years, the steel stopped on Teesside. The sounds that emanated from the site over years ceased and towns like Dormanstown who sit in the shadow of the giant steel and iron monolith of the blast furnace fell silent. Familiar noises now gone. The backdrop of an industrial pulse that had driven the communities around the blast furnace slowly ebbed away.

So what of the future for Redcar and Teesside in general? What of the future of those leaving this way of life? What will happen to the thousands of people in the supply chain for the steel works and the security of their jobs and businesses? All will be affected and we have already seen job losses at PD Ports and Hargreaves coal suppliers and more will follow it is certain.

To step away from the emotion of it all, to ignore the effects this closure will have on the family of a steelworker or another contractor…to forget how this might affect his partner and his children as they approach an uncertain Christmas and an even more uncertain future…to not allow any emotional connect to this story then that answer is a simple one – A private business got into financial difficulties and a government, hands tied and restricted by law under EU rules and regulations couldn’t act to do anything. Even if it had wanted to it couldn’t do anything. Although the lack of government involvement or intervention or empathy has been shameful.

There are talks of police investigations into SSI regarding their insurance cover for employees at the site. There is a risk of the closure being used as a political football for point scoring. There is a minefield of redundancy packages to be negotiated, so this is a long way from over. But to turn away from all this, to ignore the emotion and to disregard the confusion and uncertainty and doubt etched on the faces of workers, of hard workers, of proud men – and women, with a background of determination and dignity and with a pride in a world-building industry with a heritage that contributes to what makes us collectively as a country what we are then ignoring the feelings permeating through Teesside right now is indeed a very tragic thing to do.

Yet despite it all, despite the difficulties it is those very same qualities that they and others like them possess that will be the very same reasons that will ensure that whatever the future may hold for the steelworkers and contractors on Teesside who may have taken a hard hit this time, they’ll get through it. One way or another. They’re made of strong stuff. Maybe as strong as steel?

 

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15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

15/04/2012 SSI Steel Works, Teesside, Cleveland Two years after the closure of the Corus steel production plant the huge blast furnace on the site in Teesside is once again fired up as the process of bringing the furnace back to operating temperature begins. The furnace, now owned by the Thai company Sahaririya Steel Industries is expected to see the first steel come out of the furnace early next week. Photo credit : Ian Forsyth

Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2013 None Exclusive unless through prior arrangement. Do not Syndicate If purchased you have a one use licence - No resale

 

#saveoursteel

 

See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2015 / Getty Images

All rights reserved.

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The real Northern Powerhouse

More than two decades after the last pit closed in the Durham Coalfield the Durham Miners Gala or the ‘Big Meeting’ as the event is also known remains as popular as ever. The Gala forms part of the culture and heritage of the area and represents the communal values of the North East of England. The 131st gala held today saw the traditional colliery bands marching through the city ahead of their banners before passing the County Hotel and heading down to the Racecourse. In the early years of the meet those attending left their villages early in the morning and then made their way on foot to Durham from all directions but these days people either drive or arrive on buses.

Beginning in 1871 the Gala is now the biggest trade union event in Europe and many thousands of people still meet up in the market place of the city to follow their banner and pass the County Hotel on Old Elvet as they walk past union leaders, invited guests and local dignitaries who greet the march from the hotel balcony.

Once all the bands have passed through speeches are held on the racecourse. Amongst those speaking this year or joining to march with the procession (and shown in some of the pictures below) were Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall. Tosh McDonald, the president of ASLEF – The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen – and Owen Jones, a columnist with the Guardian newspaper and political activist and many more.

The contemporary artist Grayson Perry also attended. Visiting the gala as part of a documentary he is making and the actor Alun Armstrong, the son of a miner and originally from Anfield Plain in County Durham stood on the County Hotel balcony.

More importantly though than all of these guests and trade union speakers and their rhetoric are the men, women and children who attend the miners gala each year without fail and who make the event the occasion that it is. These people and the pride in the mining heritage of the region is where the real northern powerhouse is to be found: The group of ladies who arrive very, very early each year to secure the same place on the steps near the market place who start the day with strawberries and pink champagne.

To Nora Newby, a wonderful 81 year old from Chilton who has attended 60 out of the last 61 gala’s who arrives at around 6am on the morning of gala day to stand in the same spot each year. The missed year was so that she could attend her granddaughters wedding! An unfortunate tongue-in-cheek fact that she reminds (scolds) her granddaughter of often.

Former miner Billy Raine, 89, from Easington is a regular who entertains the crowds outside the County Hotel wearing his orange coveralls and miners hat as he dances and salutes as the bands perform and of course the thousands more who attend but especially the colliery bands and the former miners and miners wives who make this occasion what it is and who help create an event that continues to bring well over 100,000 people back year after year. Long may it continue.

CLICK to listen and recorded today: Gresford – The Miners Hymn

To keep the Durham Big Meet going any contributions and support are welcome through the Friends of Durham Miners Gala website.

 

Some of the pictures that I shot from the day are below. Enjoy Marra.

 

0001 0002 0003

Strawberries and pink champagne0004

Nora Newby, 81, from Chilton0005 0007 0008 0009 0010 0011

Grayson Perry0012 0013 0014 0015 0016 0017 0018

Former miner Billy Raine, 89, from Easington0019

Alun Armstrong (centre)0020 0021 0022 0023 0024 0025 0026 0027 0028 0029 0030 0031 0032 0033 0034 0035 0036

Labour MP Liz Kendall0037 0038 0039 0040 0041 0042 0043 0044 0045 0046 0047 0048 0049 0050 0051

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn0052 0053 0054

Tosh McDonald, the president of ASLEF – The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen 0056 0057 0058 0059

Owen Jones0060 0061 0062

 

 

See more of my work on my website and blogs…  HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth /  Getty Images

No usage without arrangement.

All rights reserved