WHEN Glenn Dormand was growing up in Waratah, he wanted to escape from the BHP steelworks and their influence on Newcastle.
"I went there on a school excursion, and it looked hellish, and I thought, 'I don't want this for me'," the 52-year-old recalled.
Glenn Dormand forged a new identity as musician and TV presenter Chit Chat Von Loopin Stab, living in Sydney. But he has returned to his hometown, and to the industry that he wanted to leave behind, filming a documentary on the steelworks.
Chit Chat and fellow film maker Tony Whittaker have told a story of the lives behind the iron and steel, interviewing 12 former workers, from a canteen lady to a general manager, for their 45-minute documentary, BHP Newcastle: A City Within A City.
"You don't want dry history telling," Chit Chat said. "You want to imagine what it was like in that job."
While he expected to hear of the potential dangers working at BHP Newcastle, Chit Chat said he was surprised to learn about the steelworks' "inclusive and progressive nature".
"If you did a job, and if you were female, a refugee, you got paid the same; that's something I didn't expect," he said.
Among those interviewed for the documentary was Aubrey Brooks, a third-generation steelworks employee. Mr Brooks said his grandfather was there on the first day of production in 1915, and Aubrey himself was there on the final day in 1999.
Mr Brooks, who had organised workers' reunion days and tours of the steelworks since its closure, said the documentary would help keep alive the memory of not just the facility, but the tens of thousands who worked there.
"I hope the people who watch it are the people who never worked there and didn't know what it meant to people," Mr Brooks said.
BHP Newcastle: A City Within A City premieres at Newcastle Museum on Saturday, as part of its "Red Not Dead" evening. The documentary is to be placed in the museum's permanent collection.
"It puts a human face on that massive story," museum director Julie Baird said.
Chit Chat said he was honoured the documentary was going into the collection.
"Being part of Newcastle's history is such an amazing compliment," he said.
Watch the doco: www.storiesofourtown.com
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here.