'You have to know the past to understand the present'. This is a famous quote by Dr. Carl Sagan. It beautifully encapsulates the approach taken in this impressive new BBC2 historical documentary series MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN.
Presented throughout by the very likeable Steph McGovern (an ex-engineer), this first sixty minute episode looked at the subject matter of steel. This is an industry with its roots firmly placed in the South Yorkshire city of Sheffield, which became the focus for the entirety of the programme.
The biggest dilemma with a programme like this is how the makers of it decide to present the history to us. It needs to be informative, engaging and to some degree also original. I am pleased to say that all these things were achieved here.
Viewer engagement was done via us being introduced to four current but different artisans. We met ceramicist Claire, chef Carlton, blacksmith Katie and leatherworker Jason. Throughout the programme they were given tasks to do which had historical significance involving the production of steel.
Firstly, we saw our four participants have a go at making a scythe (known nowadays from featuring in the Poldark TV series) at Abbeydale Works. The Victorian Age was then focused on with regards to the production line of cutlery. Interestingly, we learnt how it became a status symbol of the middle class.
The war effort involving Sheffield steel was the most poignant aspect of the whole documentary for me. We were told how this city thus became a target for German bombing raids due to the integral part it played in the making of munitions.
With the quote at the start in mind, the programme concluded by looking at the Sheffield steel industry today. All of the artisans had a go at making stainless steel forks at a state-of-the-art factory run by Corin Mellor. This way of presenting the history to us via present day activities accompanied with archive footage and photos, was a clever way of doing it.
Usually speaking, this programme looked stunning on occasions and so it needs to be congratulated on this. We got many glorious picturesque panning shots of the city of Sheffield. The rural juxtaposed against the postindustrial city landscape of today.
All-in-all, a well made first instalment of a documentary series that looks very promising!
- Watched on BBC Two. 26/10/2018