The discovery of ironstone at Eston hills in the mid-19th century sparked an explosion of industry and population known as 'The Great Iron Rush'. It established the unknown Cleveland district of North East Yorkshire as the world's iron-mining and iron-making capital.
The ironstone miners of Eston laid the foundations of industrial Teesside and laid down their lives in hundreds. They left a legacy from the Tees to Sydney Harbour and were forgotten.
This 2-hour documentary tells their story combining dramatisation, virtual reality, rare archive film and candid interviews with the very last of the mining community. It is a digital monument for them and and a cultural landmark for Teesside.
1988: I begin the project as a 21-year old art student in Middlesbrough. The brief is to make a 3-minute historical film in 6 weeks. Curious about the mine ruins I explored as a kid at Eston, I discover that the mine was of massive significance, not just to the development of Teesside but to to the industry worldwide; and yet it is virtually unknown. Tracking down the last of the iron-miners is a revelation and I suddenly find myself dutibound - I have to make a proper documentary of this before it's too late and because TV would never make such a film. Production and fundraising is slow and extends beyond college...
1989: With £1,000 raised, I complete 'A Century in Stone' (Mk. I) a 28-minute prototype. It is well recieved and goes on to sell some 900 VHS copies but it falls far short of what I really wanted.
1999: After ten years of other projects including a first world war re-enactment in Canada for CBC, I return to my first project to make the film that I always wanted to make. The recent advent of digital technology enables broadcast picture quality at a fraction of the cost but big funds are still needed to match big plans...
2002: Erratic production ends with the big funding break-through. I am awarded a £75,000 fellowship from Lord Puttnam's NESTA organisation in London. The sky is now the limit and I am able to make the film with no artistic compromise - and eat too!
PREMIERE & TOUR
Feb 2004: 'ACIS' the 119-minute epic is premiered to an audience of 400 guests at the former miners' institute in Eston. Critical acclaim and a subsequent media frenzy leads to sell out shows in workmen's clubs, community centres and village halls across Cleveland. After 41 shows and an audience of over 4,000, it was time to take on Hollywood...
Sept 2004: ACIS makes history as the first local film to open at a Teesside multiplex. In its first week at Middlesbrough's UGC, it outsells the Hollywood competition on all other screens. It runs for 3 weeks and then opens at Tyneside and Sheffield. The story makes national news in The Guardian and on BBC Radio 4 and I am invited to speak at the Sheffield International DocFest.
Xmas 2004: Frantic demand for the VHS/ DVD leads to in-store signing sessions, a temporary shop in the mall and bestseller status with sales exceeding even Harry Potter at Teesside's WHSmith and Asda stores.
August 2005: The ultimate gig and the ultimate tribute - The Dendy cinema beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge (made from Teesside steel / Cleveland ore). Shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Newcastle follow with sell out crowds at Perth and national press.
Teesside's true history is back on the world map !
Three years since the launch and thirty miles from Teesside - another full house with 180 packing the Ritz in Thirsk. The 'Outer Limits Tour follows at Whitby, Danby, Hutton Rudby, Staithes, Swainby. and Darlington.
The closure of Teesside's last steelmaking plant at Redcar in February re-ignites interest and sales.
Selected for the British Film Institute's 'Mediatheque' at London's South Bank and Newcastle's Discovery Museum.
Also featured strongly in BBC Radio 4's
acclaimed 60 min. documentary
'Redcar-Made of Steel'
(in 6 parts)