Stainless steel cinema captures metal legacy

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A remarkable chapter in Sheffield’s history will be seen from a new angle when a series of rarely-seen film footage is screened.

The Stainless Steel Cinema will be housed at the Millennium Gallery as part of the celebrations for the centenary of Harry Brearley’s discovery.

The cinema opens on Tuesday, July 9, and a range of films are being presented exploring the legacy of the 1913 Sheffield discovery.

The footage ranges from 1950s promotions marketing stainless as an ideal metal for the modern world, through to insights into contemporary designers.

Among the films being screened are Sheffield on its Mettle which dates back to 1948 and is a British Pathe short documenting an exhibition of stainless steel products at Cutler’s Hall.

There will also be 1945’s Hub of the House, promoting Firth Vickers’ popular Staybrite range of products and Making a Paris Fork which was made in 2012 and looks at the work of David Mellor Design.

The films are being showing on three screens and will run on continuous loops.

Clare Starkie, curator of decorative arts, said: “Some of the films are two minutes long and others are 12 minutes, so people can pop in when they want.

“One of my favourites is Hub of the House. It is very much of its time and shows the difficulties of having an old house.

“It shows how liberating stainless steel kitchens were going to be and at one point a woman in the film says, ‘oh it is like a dream’.

“We might laugh at its tweeness now, but it was supposed to release women from the drudgery of so much housework.

“Today it has a huge diversity of uses and so it is still really relevant.

“It is a legacy maybe people didn’t envisage when stainless was invented.”

Swarfhorse, a series of sculptures by Sheffield artist Anthony Bennett and pay tribute to the city’s historic metalworking tradition, will run alongside the cinema.

The series of 11 sculptures were created in collaboration with the city’s last jobbing grinder Brian Alcock and highlight the plight of the industry.

They are made from swarf, the residue collected as blades are ground, and are described as an evocative testament to Sheffield’s long history creating bespoke cutting edges.

Staff at Museums Sheffield are pleased with the numbers and wide range of people who have been to see the stainless exhibits already on display.

“We are getting lots of comments and pieces of family history about the first time they bought something made of stainless steel or information about relatives who used to work in the industry,” Clare said.

“It is great to get personal history to go with the objects on display and for it to reflect back onto the people of Sheffield.”

Stainless Steel Cinema and Swarfhorse runs until Monday, August 26.

Entry to the exhibition is free.