A musical theater group presents a local film recreating the history of the booming and bankrupt steel town of Dronfield


Rail Britannia, a film featuring members of the Dronfield Musical Theater Group, was made after the company was unable to perform its scheduled 2020 show due to the pandemic.

Two years later, the film will be shown to the public for the first time as part of the group’s 50th anniversary entertainment program.

Rail Britannia tells the story of what happened when a steel railway factory opened in Dronfield, bringing hundreds of workers from across Britain to work there. Dronfield has become a boom town. But exactly ten years later, the factory closed and was moved to Workington, where raw materials were cheaper. As a result, Dronfield became what the Derbyshire Times described as “a town in ruins…a town full of ghosts”.

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Rail Britannia is a film about how Dronfield became a boomtown in the Victorian era.

The film tells the story of the trials and tribulations of workers and their families as they struggled to survive and overcome all the hardships that beset them. It is also the story of the indomitable spirit of the workforce that produced huge quantities of steel rails that were exported around the world.

Filmed entirely on location in and around Dronfield, the film has traditional and original music.

Alan Powell, chairman of the Dronfield Musical Theater Group, described how it all started. “Not being able to perform

live was a big shock for us but we were determined to keep the spirit of the band alive. We had already started rehearsals, so we continued to use Zoom and recorded a lot of the music from home. As we emerged from lockdown, we began filming, meeting in small groups at first, then expanding as lockdown levels receded.

Members of the Dronfield Light Opera Group in a still from the film.

“It was a great way to keep the band engaged and we enjoyed the new challenges of filming a story (in monochrome) rather than directing it. Band member Gavin Ward, who usually plays the lady in our pantomimes , taught himself the art of cinematography and editing and his colleague Tommy Jones (often a panto villain) wrote and recorded the original music for the score.

Alan added: “In addition to the cast, other members helped with the technical and localization process and many people from Dronfield were curious to see us all dressed in Victorian costumes filming on location early on Sunday morning.

“We also had superb cooperation from many people who helped us with locations, including William Lee on Callywhite Lane who allowed us to film inside the works.

“The story of Rail Britannia is a truly remarkable story that is part of Dronfield’s rich industrial history and needs to be remembered.”

Cast members spent Sunday mornings in Victorian dress filming in various locations around Dronfield.

A public screening of Rail Britannia will take place at Dronfield Civic Hall on Saturday 21 May at 2.15pm. Tickets (all £6) from [email protected] or call 0751 985 2244.

As part of the celebrations, the band will perform a show featuring songs and dances taken from many of their productions over the years. Musical Gold will take place May 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and May 22 at 2:15 p.m. at Dronfield Civic Hall. £10 tickets (including interval buffet) can be obtained via the email address or phone number above.

Dronfield’s wealth of old buildings provided the perfect backdrop for filming.
The film Rail Britannia shows how the Dronfield steelworks closed ten years after opening, with the business moving to Workington where raw materials were cheaper.
All Rail Britannia scenes were shot in and around Dronfield.

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