As part of the local photography group that i am a member of – Sundance – we often have organised outings on the weekend. This particular weekend it was the site of the old BHP Steelworks here in Newcastle.
The steelworks closed in 1999 after about 84 odd years in operation and represented a significant change for the city of Newcastle, in many different ways. It represented a shift away from blue collar jobs and an image of a dirty industrial city located on the river, to a thriving metropolitan centre that has diversified in ways many people back then would never have dreamed possible. The closure was hailed by many as a very bad decision and by others the best thing that could happen to the city.
The steelworks were a very dangerous place to work and during the time the steelworks were operating there were an estimate 840 deaths but that is an estimate only, as records for the very early days are limited and many deaths went unrecorded and certainly unpublished/announced.
In 1997 artist Julie Squires was commissioned to build the Muster Point sculpture for the closure of Newcastle’s BHP Steelworks in 1999. The sculpture reflects on the experiences of the tens of thousands of people who worked at the plant over the 84 years of operation.
The Muster Point is made from more than 70 tonnes of BHP steel, the eight-metre high sculpture (measuring 8m x 12m x 8m) is an imposing structure. The exterior has a stylised representation of the BHP skyline encased within the design element of a BHP maintenance shop. The inside has many representations of what it was like to work at the steelworks, the people, the unions and the connection with the city.
We were also able to explore what remains on the site, which is very little as much of it was bulldozed very quickly once the plant closed in 1999.
The remaining administration building shows beautiful architecture of the time and a sharp contrast to the dirt and heat that the men would have been working in not far away.
If your Newcastle, i would recommend trying to see if Aub Brooks is able to show you around the muster point, all money raised by his tours are going towards building a memorial to those that died, a tribute well over due. (Their Facebook page is probably the best way to get in contact re tours – https://www.facebook.com/muster.point.31/timeline
The full set of photos can be seen here.
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