Arts Hunter

Ribbons of Steel Performance

The Arts Community of the Hunter Region presented a large scale, visually spectacular performance commemorating and celebrating the 84 years of BHP steelmaking in Newcastle, marking the day of closure. 

Co-directed by David Branson and Brian Joyce the performance included work by students from local and regional schools, local artists and performers, BHP employees and their families. The performance included a 24-minute cantata featuring an 80 strong choir and a 28-piece brass band, stiltwalking, acrobatics, aerial work,  fire sculptures and performance presented in processional and staged performance.

Ribbons of Steel - Truck Tyres

Themes and content were drawn from the corporate and community knowledge associated with the BHP allowing the performance to present cultural outcomes consistent with the history of steelmaking in Newcastle.

Ribbons of Steel - Stuart Vaskass

Stuart Vaskess

Sculpting Steel for 'Borg'

Born out of an intensive workshop and skills development program presented by national and international masters, the work brought together an enormous and diverse range of artistic skills. More importantly the project recognised there is a new future ahead for the city and its people and aims to leave an ongoing legacy and to provide new work opportunities in the developing arts industry. 

Artists Credits

Artistic Team

Ribbons of Steel - David Grinsteed - Production Manager

David Grinstead

Production Manager

Artistic Directors - David Branson
Writer/Libretto – Brian Joyce
Composer – Phillip Rutherford
Set Design/Special Effects – Clint Hurrell
Lighting Design/Production Manager – David Grinstead
Sound Design – Craig Macdonald (Nova Sound and Lighting)
Stage Manager – Andrew Macdonald
Lighting/Specialist Effects – Oz
Pyrotechnics/Special Effects – Adam Kealy (erth)
Sets and Design – Stuart Vaskess
Technical Support – Jenny Brown

Performance Committee

Included BHP Workers from the 22 departments of BHP Steelmaking:- David Beverley, Roger Schmakeit, Kevin Legg, Steve Kuehn, Graham Barker, Adam Lepidis, Virginia Kibble, Mark Scott, David Roach, Julie Parson, Michael Von Balkom, Kevin Mantle, Nigel Stace, John Stevenson, Steve Ford, Peter Morris, Glenn Beatty, Danny Boyd, Michelle Arther

Ribbons of Steel - Stilt Walkers

Main Cast


The characters represented the 4 generations of Newcastle BHP workers

Edith – Sandra Rosier       
obert – Danny Boyd
Gary – Lance Anderson
Luciana – Jillian Searant
John – Nigel Stace
Maria – Linden Allen
Eddie – Brooke Shepherd


Ribbons of Steel - Composer and Singers

Phillip Rutherford and
Emma Pratt at Rehearsal

        Bass - Christopher Allen
                    Soprano – Emma Pratt

Director’s Note

This production was a courageous experiment undertaken under severe time restrictions. Many working on it would have valued the 2 ½ years accorded the official closure to do full justice to the depth of experience and feelings associated with the 84 year history of Newcastle Steelmaking at BHP and its culmination next month

Brian Joyce
Artistic Director

The recording of working history needs to be given its value at all times, not merely as a brief postscript to the end of a corporate era. Though we have come at a time of ending it has been a celebration of life and lives lived, and the life force that carries one into the future.

Ribbons of Steel - David Branson

David Branson
Artistic Director

We have been humbled by the richness of experience and emotion we have encountered in this process and its struggle to be heard over the obstacles that would stifle this

We offer our thanks to: all the workers of BHP who have shared their experiences, knowledge and time in developing this production, the performers and young artists who bravely gave form to this material, the school communities who provided their youthful energy and visions and all who have helped in bringing this unusual production of such disparate parts together.

Thanks from Arts Hunter to Bob Cook, Jennifer Brown, Kate Croll, Freewheels Theatre, Vicki Newman, Mary Gayner, Arc-Up Studios, 2 Til 5 Theatre, Rod Ansell, Lyn Cook

David Branson and Brian Joyce

Performance Program

From the Earth - Bodyweather
My Aching Back - Ommi Theatre
Newcastle Youth's Eyeview - 2 Til 5
The Garden - Angela Lee Dance
Clown History - San Clemente (Thu, Sat)
The Alchemist - Mayfield East (Mon, Wed)
Working Hard - Mayfield East (Mon, Wed)
BHP Machine - Mayfield West (Wed)
The Big Australian Parade
Unicycle Parade - Carrington Public School

Fringe Magnets

Clown History - San Clemente (Wed)

Coming Home - Tighes Hill Public (Thu, Sat)

Main Performance and Cantata in the Repository
Ballet Mechanic

Performance Components

Repercussions - Massed Drums and Percussion Group
Lead by Ortiz Pinto

Ribbons of Steel

Ortiz Pinto

A group of local drummers and percussionists worked on several different percussion styles which were utilised during the performance in three ways. The announcement of new activity leading audience from site to site. Pieces with different noise, sounds and rhythms of the BHP factory and as an integral part of the music and ambience within the repository leading to the conflagration.

Ribbons of Steel - Repercussion


Repercussion - Members - Ross Brown, Andrew Burrows, Garth Crooksley, Joe Donley, Michael Doyle, Peter Harbulot, Jeff Highland, Tom Jones, Allen Leadbetter, Jewelz Lee, Megan Long, Sue Long, Janette Lovell, Andrew Macdonald, Lucas Maidment, Tony Reddan, Kia Tipping, Vicky Walker, Gillian Wherret, Darrin Wiggins




Ribbons of Steel - Stilt Walkers


Choreographer - Tess de Quincey

Tess de Quincey choreographs movement theatre based upon the Japanese dance theatre called Butoh and produced a work that comes from the origins of steel called "from the earth". A Second piece ”The Battery” was produced in conjunction with BHP workers at the coke ovens and is about the way in which repeated activity in the work environment impacts upon the body and it's movement. Dancers - Narelle Hurley, Phillip Mills, Esther Mugambi, Lizzie Thomson with BHP Workers from the Coke Ovens 



Ribbons of Steel - Stilt Walkers and Drummers

Stiltwalkers and Drummers
exit from Stage

Ribbons of Steel - Angela Lee

Ommi Theatre Mime Performers
on stage


Ribbons of Steel - Angela Lee

Angela Lee

Dance Performance

Angela Lee – Choreographer

Piece 1 - Lunchtime – Focusing on the need of the workers to reflect and find solace in their own quite time. Piece 2 - The Garden - The workers who have died at the BHP are represented by a character that is making a memorial garden to their honour. Dancers – Katinka Smit, Damien Frost, Liesl Hopkins, Alexia Wurz, Jane Farrah, and Angela Lee 


Ribbons of Steel - 2 til 5 Theatre

2 til 5 Youth Theatre

Newcastle Youth's Eyeview - 2 til 5 Youth Theatre - Tactical Response Group

By David Branson, The Performers and Tutor Amanda Roff

This piece involved an exploration of the significant images that make up a Newcastle teenager's perspective not including the BHP. The Beach, the Knights and ‘Team’ Culture performed in street theatre style. Members - Zane Alcorn, Jema Ayton, Erin Blackwell, Rod Graham, Tom Jones, Angie Turner 



Ribbons of Steel - erth Aerials

Rachel Buchan

from erth

erth Visual and Physical

erth trained the Aerialists on the outside wall of the repository for Fridge Magnets, a piece where suspended performers tell the scientific facts and stories about the process of steelmaking. In the repository, erth fled performers in the Cantata, members of management of the BHP and large inflated hearts.  erth also provides The BIG Australian, a character who lives in big Harry's place, in fact it is Big Harry. While friendly, it is obvious that Harry is going for good. Accompanied by stilt walkers and drummers he dispenses lollies, jobs and waves goodbye. 


Physical Performance Troupe – Aerials, Stilt Walkers and Performance

Ribbons of Steel - Stiltwalkers

BHP Guide Stiltwalkers

Trained by Rachel Buchan and Ryan Taplin (erth), David Clarkson (Stalker) and David Branson

BHP Guides, performers on stilts and drummers, perform a piece that involves a dance on stilts and The Welcome where the characters induct the audience to BHP and it's “safety” procedures.

Ribbons of Steel - Performance Group

David Branson 
Rehearsing with
Performance Group


Blast Furnace. The final outcome of all steel making process. It is the forge, if you like, when the elements come together. The blast furnace motive was used several times throughout. 

Ribbons of Steel - Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson

Aerial Artist

The first time it was projected in Fridge Magnets on the outside wall of the Repository and secondly as people enter to sit. The blast furnace sculpture was presented in the final section of the performance where it was brought in and ignited into a phoenix representing the hopes and change for the people of Newcastle.

Ribbons of Steel - Stilt Walkers

David Clarkson 
rehearsing with the Stiltwalkers


Artists – Zane Alcorn, Linden Allen, Helen Atkinson, Jema Ayton, Aaron Beasley, Erin Blackwell, Scott Blick, Ross Brown, Jonathan Burrows, Mary Carryer, Corrina Collins, Daniela Edwards, Owen Elliott, Brett Garland, Joel Goodsir, Cain Gorfine, Rod Graham, Tim Henderson, Kate Jackson, Tom Jones, Sarah Mathieson, Zoh McEnally, Di Muldoway, Krichelle Parkinson, 
Chris Saxby, Brooke Shepherd, Angie Turner, Emma Wafer, Katherine Zeleski 

Ribbons of Steel Cantata

Composed by Phillip Rutherford and Libretto by Brian Joyce

The Waratah Brass 28 piece and the Hunter Singers combined with the Sing 2001 Choir, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie singers, to make the choir who will sang the Cantata conducted by Ron Grice. This piece represents the feelings of several generations of a Newcastle people in the closing of the BHP Steelworks. The Cantata was composed by Phillip Rutherford with libretto by Brian Joyce and is performed with two soloists, Christopher Allen and Emma Pratt   

Ribbons of Steel - Waratah Brass

Waratah Brass

Ribbons of Steel - Choir

Choir Rehearsing








My Aching Back

Ribbons of Steel - Ommi Theatre

Ommi Theatre
Mime Group Rehearsing

Niz Jabour - Writer and Director – Ommi Theatre

A work that encapsulates the effects of heavy industry upon the human body. In this sketch it's not the skin of the body that is itching it's the soul of the worker. Artists – Lenae Bonkain, Ron Giggins, Jessica Macokatic, Sarah Mathieson, Alisha Roderick, Stacey Sulivan 

Ribbons of Steel - Niz Jabour

Niz Jabour

The Immigrant

Niz Jabour - Writer and Director – Ommi Theatre

If there is no culture to act as a tent to be united within, then nature will unite us. This is a work that speaks of the multicultural nature of the workforce of BHP and that, which makes up the Australian identity. Artists – Lenae Bonkain, Ron    Giggins, Jessica Macokatic, Sarah Mathieson, Alisha Roderick, Stacey Sulivan 

Unicycle Parade

Carrington Public School 

Clown History of BHP

Ribbons of Steel - School Performance

Ribbons of Steel
School Performance

San Clemente High School

A comic history of BHP highlights told through clowning and slapstick 

Coming Home

Tighes Hill Public School

A series of dramatic scenes about a parent coming home from work from the BHP over 5 different periods, 1940’s – 1999. 

The Alchemist

Mayfield East School

A drama about the creation of steel through bringing different elements together

Ribbons of Steel - Lyn Cook and Brian Joyce

Lyn Cook - Creative Consultant
Dept School Education

with Brian Joyce - Director

Ribbons of Steel - School Performance

Ribbons of Steel
School Performance

Working Hard - Dance Piece

Mayfield East Public 

BHP Machine

Mayfield West Demonstration and Pre-School

A combined movement sculpture of a poetic and industrial machine accompanied by trash percussion band

Ribbons of Steel - Angela Lee
Ortiz Pinto leading
Repercussion off stage

Ribbons of Steel - Audience enjoying the show

Audience watching the show


The BHP Ribbons of Steel Quilt

Quilt blocks were produced by people associated with the steelworks and were put together to make a quilt

Ribbons of Steel - Stilt Walkers

Ribbons of Steel Quilt


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