Sheffield’s famous women of steel inspire new opera

Rehearsals for a new Sheffield City Opera production, Women of Steel
Rehearsals for a new Sheffield City Opera production, Women of Steel

A new opera written by a Sheffield woman is celebrating the city's women of steel.

Celia Lock was inspired to write Women of Steel when she was looking for local stories as the basis of a production for Sheffield City Opera.

Women of Steel statue.

Women of Steel statue.

She said: “I’ve been with Sheffield City Opera for the last 10 years. We wrote our own opera in 2016, called Donna and her Mobile, I was one of the writing team for that.

“Now we’ve got into this mode of writing for ourselves.”

They were looking for a show to perform for a Classical Sheffield weekend festival in March, where one of the themes is women and music. The inspiring story of Sheffield women who worked in munitions factories and steelworks seemed a perfect fit.

Celia said: “I’d seen that statue at the side of the City Hall and wondered about the women.”

She said that Star editor Nancy Fielder’s book was an important part of her research and she also looked at interviews with the women that were conducted by University of Sheffield researchers.

Celia was excited to find that music was an integral part of the working day.

She said: “Ours is a classical tribute but with popular songs from the time, such as ‘I’m the girl that makes the thing-a-me-bob that’s going to win the war’.

“We’ve also got an Andrews Sisters song because they were on the radio at the time. The women sang all day long.

“The men called them the canaries because they were singing all the time. That’s what got them through. They were working 12-hour days, six days a week.”

The show also uses operatic pieces such as the Anvil Chorus.

Celia said the show looks at the friendships the women forged, the sheer tough grind of the work and the prejudice they faced from male workers.

A 45-minute version of the show will be performed at Kelham Island Museum on March 9. Tickets: classicalsheffield.org.uk. The group hope to put on the full show later in the year.