Demolishing Redcar’s Blast Furnace is a monumental mistake. How shallow and soulless it is to push on with the destruction of the last remaining furnace for the sake of clearing this land. The disregard and lack of vision from those supposedly in charge of this region is astounding.
To wipe out the visual identity and last link to a proud history that gave birth to places like Middlesbrough, Eston and Redcar, demonstrates a serious lack of imagination and soul. And how they inflate and exaggerate reasons to destroy this past.
Iron and Steel is Teesside. ‘The Blast’ represents a proud history in Teesside that once boasted around 100 blast furnaces with this being the last one standing, the last visual reminder representing generations and industrial evolution. The blast furnace signifies the root to this very region. The beginning. Before Iron and Steel there were around 50 people living in Middlesbrough. People settled here from all over the country for work and a wage and a home. This was the birth of a region with pure pioneering purpose that flourished and made lives and is now a bygone era, immortalised by that last remaining sleeping giant. Gone but never forgotten while it remains on view.
There are many heartlands across Europe and the world that have embraced their past. Kept their identity and are richer for it. There are parks and visitor centres and structures simply kept as monuments to the past. These are lit up, held in high esteem and therefore stand proud. Robustly built to last, they require little maintenance beyond initial work to make safe. Equally, there are places that regret knocking down their industrial heritage structures. We will regret doing this here and no piece of art could encapsulate what we already have.
If an artist were tasked to commission a piece of statement art to represent an Iron and Steel industry stemming back almost 200 years, an industry that an entire region is built on, then this would be it. We don’t need to create an art piece to signify an era. It’s already there. With imagination this Titan would bring international acclaim. The Redcar Blast Furnace is no longer a functioning industry. It is already a cultural art piece as tall as St Paul’s Cathedral and can be seen for miles, from all over the region. Its awe appreciated up close and far away.
Wherever you are, Saltburn, Marske, New Marske, Redcar, Eston, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Errington, Yearby Bank, Eston Nabs, Roseberry topping, along the coastline and hills and even out towards Carlton you can see the blast furnace. It greets every ship and boat that comes in to the mouth of the Tees as a mighty historic showpiece at the entrance.
It’s more iconic and significant than any other piece of art we have in the region. What is here that identifies as strongly as this piece of history? The Angel of the North? The brick train? The two bridges Newport and the Transporter that were born from the industry?
Ben: Don’t knock it down, make it safe, clean it up, seal it, coat it and paint it. Perhaps ‘Ironman’ red and gold. Light it up in the seasons and for festive occasions as ‘Odin’s Glow’. Be proud of what it stands for, what it’s achieved, what it has built far beyond the production of structures and metals. Beyond the phenomenal iron bridges and the endless steel supplied for construction across the world. The real legacy this structure represents is that it created life. It built family. It built a home. Thousands of Teesside families were born from Iron and Steel.
Yes, strip it down so only the furnace remains exposed. Get rid of all the peripheral buildings and allow it to stand alone, tall and proud for future generations to appreciate man’s achievements and the significance of it. What it represents. What it has become. The last link to the origins of an entire region. The Blast from the Past. The Heart and Soul of Teesside.