The Background - Tom Kelly
The Background - Steve Thompson

The Background - Tom Kelly

Steve Thompson is talking to me about Consett and his apprenticeship at the steel works. It was a memorable time for him. Later I write Steve a note: 'Steel Town...a new musical..a young man dreams of escaping, to be a rock and roll star...' He loved the idea. Steel Town was born. As with all births it took time for that scrap of paper to turn into a stage show.

The story of Steel Town could be about the closure of a colliery or shipyard, and we in the north-east have too many experiences of the demise of these industries.

Consett and South Tyneside have a strong sense of community and although this is a fictionalised account of Consett Steel Works it could well be Jarrow Palmers shipyard in 1933, Ellington Colliery or the offshore industry today. It is the effect on the community, on you and me. 

We hope that this show touches a nerve and goes some way to celebrating a community that made steel for one hundred and forty years. 

I am pleased Steve Thompson didn't throw away my note and that STEEL TOWN holds you,

"We built a town of iron and steel, sweated blood and began to believe 
we were gods made in furnace flame, as we watched our town grow in fame".

                                   "It'll End In Tears" from Steel Town

The Background - Steve Thompson

I was a 21 year old kid. I'd served my time as a fitter and turner. Now I was earning a grown mans wage and I had little use for it. One weeks wage packet got me through a month and the other three were thrown into a drawer for later use. Now I was a time served fitter I was doing shifts and I hated it:; specially night shift. The talk was always of the steel works closing down even back then in the sixties. What did I care, I was heading for rock and roll stardom and escape. When the foreman would not let me have a couple of weeks off I quit on the spot. I had a drawer full of unopened wage packets and a rock and roll dream.                                  

A couple of years later I was stacking shelves in a supermarket when the same foreman walked in - the dream had faded. By the time the steel works finally did close down I was making a living producing records and writing songs. I no longer lived in Consett - I had escaped! :or had I, I was producing Heavy Meta

When Tom Kelly passed me that note it seemed like a good idea, which indeed it was. How was I to know that it would change my life. Whilst working on the Musical an opportunity came up to work with ex steel workers in Tees Valley. I took it and found myself during the week of the show, after all these years standing by a blast furnace "I Will Go Back"  

I had interviewed some ex steel workers at Consett men's  forum and then walked around the town. I called Tom on my mobile as I looked into the vast emptiness that was once a steel town and declared I had the lyric to a chorus "I will go back someday, when the lines are gone , you'll find me there"

It was odd to see a young man onstage playing me as a young man. And then again to hear youngsters singing "he's got a dream

I did indeed have a dream, which was to make music that people would enjoy listening to. To that extent - Steel Town is a dream come true.

                                               Steve Thompson