Threads Day: Viewers recall apocalyptic nuclear bomb drama filmed in Sheffield nearly 40 years on

It is nearly 40 years since viewers were first exposed to Threads, the apocalyptic Sheffield drama about a nuclear attack, but many remain traumatised.

By Robert Cumber
Friday, 27th May 2022, 4:10 pm

The harrowing TV film, shot on location around the city and featuring many Sheffield residents as extras, first aired in 1984 and has been named as one of the top 100 BBC shows of all time.

For many people, May 26 – when which the nuclear bomb explodes at 8am in the drama – is forever etched in their memories and has become known as Threads Day – a cinematic date as notable, in South Yorkshire at least, as Back To The Future Day, which fell on October 21, 2015.

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A nuclear attack on Sheffield formed the basis of TV film Threads in 1984. (Photo: BBC)

When Julie McDowall, a freelance journalist specialising in the Cold War and the nuclear threat, jokingly wished her followers on Twitter a ‘Happy Threads Day’ – ironically in a thread on the social media site – she didn’t know what she was starting. Or perhaps she did.

“Raise a hot bottle of milk to the greatest nuke film!” she wrote, sharing one of the images from the film which is forever seared onto many viewers’ minds.

For many, it seems, the mere mention of the film was enough to dredge up long-suppressed trauma induced by the drama, which was seen by many Sheffield schoolchildren at the height of the Cold War when the threat of a nuclear attack was very real.

One person replied: “The film that aged me 10 years…”

‘Threads is still one of the most horrifying films I’ve ever seen’

Another commented: “Watched this at school - still scared the bjezus out of me.”

A third said: “Still one of the most horrifying films I’ve ever seen.”

And a fourth person wrote: “Threads has stayed with me like no other film, utterly horrifying.

“I think the complete futility of Protect & Survive is the biggest thing I took away, particularly painting the windows.”

For many viewers, the Twitter thread brought back memories of the film’s most iconic scenes and the Sheffield locations they featured.

"I’m going to wet myself outside M&S to celebrate,” said one person, to which a wag quickly replied: “Same. Fargate won't be as busy as it was then though.”

While most people were none too happy with the writer for bringing up the subject, others said more people should watch it.

‘Threads should be required viewing in secondary schools’

“Should be required viewing in secondary schools,” commented one person.

“Should be required viewing for all politicians worldwide as well,” replied another.

Written by Barry Hines and directed and produced by Mick Jackson, Threads was a dramatic account of nuclear war and its effects in Britain. It centres on two families as a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union erupts.

Most of those reminiscing agreed that it had withstood the test of time, but some felt it was a little less terrifying today than when it first aired.

One person wrote: “Watched it again a couple of years ago and it wasn’t quite as grim as I remembered as it all seems a bit *too* unreal these days.

“The one big ‘scary’ moment for me is when the guy bursts into the shop and says they’ve started fighting - the moment when it actually looks like it might happen.”