Fermynwoods commissioned Combine as part of their art programme Triple Harvest. The film remixes footage from Double Harvest, Peter Paul’s 1960’s documentary film, which tells the story of the Steelworks’ in Corby. Sundew was the name of the world’s largest walking dragline excavator. In 1974 the owners wanted to relocate Sundew from Rutland to a quarry near Corby but dismantling and reconstructing the machine was not viable. Instead Sundew walked 13 miles over an eight-week period. In Steps of Sundew retraces the movement of people and resources from the landscape, whilst referencing the excavator’s great walk. Sundews are also a species of carnivorous plant.
In 2017 I filmed at the Ketton Cement Works in Rutland. I learnt that securing a consistent supply of high calorific fuel for the kilns is a significant challenge. One substitute fuel is meat and bone meal (MBM). Likewise the carnivorous sundew plant supplements its diet by digesting insects. In Double Harvest we get fleeting glimpses of the historic workers as they yield to the Sisyphean task of feeding the blast furnaces. Poorly protected by limited Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE), their own meat and bone is fed between the machine parts.
For my film Combine I unpicked Double Harvest, The Great Jib and Iron Ore in Britain, and stitched back together with my own footage from Ketton limestone quarry and cement works. Combine merges past and present to imaginatively explore continuity and ambiguity of purpose. Slipping between machine noise and easy listening music from the original soundtrack, molten iron bleeds into orange PPE. Snippets from conversations I had with the workers at Ketton sit in contrast to the authoritative narration of Double Harvest, giving voice to the silent workers.