Eyewitness Works to host Channel 4 design contest

Taylor’s Eyewitness was founded in the early 19th century and have been producing kitchen knives, pocket knives, scissors and sharpeners for over 150 years. Image: Capital & Centric

Taylor’s Eyewitness Works, a former cutlery factory, on Milton Street, is currently being transformed into 97 loft apartments and townhouses as part of a £21m restoration.

The developer Capital&Centric has partnered with Channel 4 and Remarkable TV for a new peak time interior design show to be filmed this summer.

The series, which has a working title of Design Your Dream, will see contestants each assigned an empty apartment within Eyewitness Works to showcase their design talent. They will be judged on their performance in a series of design challenges and skills within the apartment and elsewhere.

The winner of the competition will become the owner of a two-bedroom Capital&Centric loft apartment at the development.

The buildings had been used by Taylor’s Eyewitness until 2018, where skilled craftsmen produced pocket knives, scissors and kitchen knives. Image: Capital&Centric

The Grade II listed building was built in phases between about 1855 and 1890, alongside high density housing interspersed with manufacturing works.  

The Taylor’s trademark was registered in 1838 and the company merged with James Veall in 1876 and Tyzack’s in 1879 to become Needham, Veall and Tyzack. During the 1960s the company became Taylor’s Eye Witness. It was later bought by Harrison Fisher & Co, which changed its name to Taylor’s Eye Witness Limited.

The “Eyewitness” trademark was first registered in 1838 – the inspiration for the choice of “Eyewitness” is believed to be Shakespeare’s line in Henry IV – “No eye hath seen better”.

The setting of the cutlery works became fragmented during the mid to late twentieth century when much of the adjoining high-density residential neighbourhood was cleared and several adjacent sites remain undeveloped.

Eyewitness will also be home to four lush, green courtyards and cafe bar. Image: Capital&Centric
TV and Movies

When Sheffield became Cleveland, Ohio

F.I.S.T. is a movie. It was released in 1978 and starred Sylvester Stallone as a Cleveland warehouse worker who becomes involved in the labour union leadership of the fictional Federation of Inter-State Truckers (F.I.S.T.).

Directed by Norman Jewison, several other well-known actors and actresses appeared in F.I.S.T. They included Kevin Conway, Brian Dennehy, Rod Steiger, Melinda Dillon, Richard Herd, Peter Boyle, and Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis.

Most of the filming was done in Dubuque, Iowa, chosen because of its similarity to Cleveland of the 1930s, and because the city used cable TV instead of  TV aerials on its roofs.

But there were other locations used, including Washington, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Culver City Studios, and… Sheffield.

The chances of seeing Sylvester Stallone in Sheffield were nil. His star was on the ascent after the success of Rocky, and he remained in the United States.

F.I.S.T.(1978). Directed by Norman Jewison. Opening credit. Image: United Artists

A glance at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) confirms Sheffield’s claim to fame, and the website, British Film Locations, had this to say: –

“For some inexplicable reason, this movie, which takes place entirely in the Midwest of America, features shots of Sheffield during its title sequence. Most of the Sheffield locations are unrecognisable now, due to redevelopment.”

Sheffield was seen as being suitably dismal with gloomy shots of Hawke Street, Leveson Street, Blast Lane, Carbrook Street, Hadfield Steelworks, Orgreave Coke Works, the canal towpath, and a fittingly dirty River Don. (Rotherham even managed to be represented as well).

F.I.S.T. was regarded a succesful movie, $20,388,920 on an $8 million budget,

By the way, Sylvester Stallone did eventually visit Sheffield.

In 2015, he gave a talk at Sheffield City Hall and even popped into Nonnas, on Ecclesall Road, for a meal afterwards.

Hawke Street. Image: British Film Locations
Leveson Street. Image: British Film Locations
Orgreave Coke Works. Image: British Film Locations
Canal towpath. Image: British Film Locations

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved


La Ragazza Con La Pistola

Photograph by Record Turnover

It’s remarkable that this 1968 Italian comedy, directed by Mario Monicelli, was partly filmed in Sheffield. The Girl with the Pistol, or La Ragazza Con La Pistola, received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film as well as receiving critical praise.

It starred Monica Viti, Carlo Giuffre, Stanley Baker, Corin Redgrave and Anthony Booth (Tony Blair’s father-in-law).

Photograph by Rare Film

The wry comedy finds the beautiful Assunta (Monica Vitti) being kidnapped by Vincento (Carlo Giuffre) and taken to his remote home in the country. He plans to “dishonour her” and by doing so, win her hand in marriage.

In a twist of events, she becomes too domineering and Vincenzo flees, but she resolutely travels to Edinburgh, Sheffield, Bath, and London seeking revenge, but finds an Englishman more to her liking.

Photograph by AvaxHome

According to British Women’s Cinema (by Melanie Bell and Melanie Williams), “Assunta continues her journey of revenge to Sheffield. A bus ride, highlighting the English landscape takes her there. On a street, she encounters a young man, John (Anthony Booth) who, she notices ‘has Italian shoes’, and she enlists him in her quest for vengeance.”

Scenes in Sheffield were shot at Granville Street, one scene overlooking Sheaf Street and Ponds Forge Works, Park Hill, Neepsend, Manor Lane, Attercliffe and at Steel, Peach & Tozer’s factory, Templeborough, in Rotherham.

According to one fanzine, “La Ragazza con la Pistola may have been nominated for an Academy Award, but is mainly interesting for Monica Vitti prancing around Edinburgh and Sheffield.”

The film was supported by a slightly psychedelic soundtrack by Peppino de Luca.

Photograph by IMDb

Slade in Flame

If you want to see Sheffield at its saddest, then look at Slade in Flame (1975), a bleak and sour look at the 1960s rock music scene.

Slade as a band had been an incredible success in Britain, but probably didn’t realise they’d peaked by 1974. Their manager, Chas Chandler, suggested making a movie, and so, Noddy Holder, Don Powell, Dave Hill and Jim Lea, found themselves showcasing the rise and demise of a made-up northern rock band called Flame.

Directed by Richard Loncraine, Slade in Flame was filmed in the second half of 1974, and subject of enormous enthusiasm when Sheffield, along with Nottingham, London and Brighton, was chosen as one of its locations.

There’s no doubt that Sheffield got the short straw when it came to the glitz and glamour, but the film is a revelation because it shows a city that has since disappeared.

Sheffield served up the hardship of working-class society and gave its best shot when offering up its depressing 1970s settings.

Photograph by Walkley History

This is the type of film that will probably show up on Talking Pictures TV one day.

When it does, look out for shining roles from the now-demolished Kelvin Flats, a polluted canal, slum-like terraced housing on Fox Road and Otley Street (long gone) at Walkley, and Douglas Road at Parkwood Springs.

Shortly afterwards, these houses, already boarded-up and convenient for filming, were bulldozed, the areas re-landscaped with no evidence to see of their shabby past.

Yes, it makes dismal viewing, but this was the Sheffield of yesterday.

Photograph by Walkley History

Slade in Flame got mixed reviews when it was released the following year. Teen audiences expecting a Slade romp-a-rama were left bewildered, not really getting what it was all about.

“It was quite a heavy movie,” said Noddy Holder years later. “It was about fallings-out in bands and all the repercussions they cause. There was a lot of violence and it had a very downbeat ending.”

However, the film has received critical acclaim since. The BBC’s movie critic Mark Kermode rates it as one of his favourites and calls it the Citizen Kane of rock musicals.

Photograph by Walkley History

Looks and Smiles

The 1980s might seem a long time ago now. This was the decade when Sheffield probably reached rock bottom, our historic industries on their knees, and prospects seemingly bleak . Unemployment was a selective virus, attacking some people more than others, and it wasn’t a good time to be a school leaver.

If ever there is a reminder of those depressing times then Ken Loach’s film Looks and Smiles, made in 1981, is the one to dig out.

It showed the effects on two Sheffield teenagers who leave school and cannot get a job. Loach, together with writer Barry Hines and cameraman Chris Menges (the same team who made Kes and The Gamekeeper) told a human story that added up to a very political film, immediately relevant to Britain of the eighties.

Looks and Smiles was made by Black Lion Films, in association with Kestrel Films, backed by the old ITV Midlands company ATV, using its ITC subsidiary (famous for The Champions, The Persuaders, Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, etc).

Shot in black-and-white during early 1981, it appeared at the Cannes Film Festival the same year. However, it was only ever intended as a deep-seated TV drama, airing on the ITV network in May 1982.

“When I started writing the story, it was going to be about courting, having your first girlfriend. But the issue of unemployment became more and more important like a storm cloud gathering,” said Barry Hines at the time.

Ken Loach pointed to the fact that one of Sheffield’s employment offices, which used to advertise “Jobs of the Week” in its window was then offering “The Job of the Week.”

The resulting two-hour film was still the love story of Mick and Karen, but against the depressing background of Mick’s struggle to find work, and whether the Army was for some of them the only alternative to a lifetime in the dole queue.

Available on DVD, Looks and Smiles now provides a fascinating view of Sheffield in desperate times, and evokes memories of an industrial scene and a city centre lost forever, including the Hole-in-the-Road.

None of the lead characters were professional actors. Graham Green (Mick), aged 17, was from Doncaster, and 16-year-old Carolyn Nicholson (Karen) was from Newcastle-on-Tyne. The third acting newcomer was played by a 17-year-old trainee mechanic, Tony Pitts (Alan) from Sheffield.

After making the film the boys went back to their trades and Carolyn back to her studies.

However, for one of them the film did have a deep impact.

Tony Pitts turned his back on being a mechanic, landing the role of loveable young rogue Archie Brooks in Emmerdale between 1983 and 1993. He’s since played key roles in Dead Man Weds, The Gemma Factor, Scott & Bailey, Peaky Blinders, Line of Duty and Wild Bill.