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St Abbs Marine Biology DVDs

The Voluntary Marine Reserve at St Abbs and Eyemouth asked us to produce a series of films for every Keystage 1 and 2 children in Scotland. Each video focuses on a different aspect of life in the coastal community of St Abbs – from the fishermen and dive boats who make a living from the sea – to the beautiful wildlife that live there.


The Ranger’s story

The Diver’s story

The Fisherman’s story

ScienceContent – the home of science events in London

There’s so much science out there these days. In London, on any given day, there are dozens of science events, exhibitions, lectures and more. With so many insitutions pumping out so much great content, its difficult to find the events you really want to go to. Here, at The Refinery, we’ve created a website that collates and organises all these events into a single website, to help you find the latest, interesting sciency-things going on in London.



Science Content

Engineering Giants


The Refinery has just completed a stint working for Lion TV series producing a new three part science documentary programme called Engineering Giants.

It was an extremely tough gig in terms of access and logistics because, unlike Nature’s Giants, these giants of industry (in this case a Boeing 747, an offshore gas platform and a North Sea Ferry), are still worth millions of pounds to multiple stakeholders, even at the end of their lives.

The original working title for the programme was Machine Autopsy, but such was the difficulty of finding giant machines that we could follow through from the end of service to final scrapping, that we adopted a hybrid approach instead.

In all three episodes our intrepid presenters got into nooks and crannies that, frankly, no normal person would even try to get into. From changing the toilet bowls on the 747 and finding out how a vacuum flush really works, to climbing inside the ballast tanks of the ferry, no space was too cramped for the intrepid Rob Bell and Tom Wrigglesworth.

The programmes have now transmitted on BBC 2 and have received outstanding feedback with an audience appreciation index of 87/100, which is very high (and means the audience felt it was worth the licence fee!). In the meantime we will bask in the glow of satsfaction of work that was bloody hard,  but which paid off in the end.

  • “Really interesting programme, need more like this on television”
  • “Excellent content with some good camera work. Entertaining, informative and very well presented.”
  • “A great insight as to how they breakdown and dispose of old equipement. In this case an old ferry. GREAT !”
  • “Fascinating, educational, inspiring.”

Giants is currently available on BBC iplayer.

Episode 1

To get the insider detail on a Boeing 747, we were lucky enough to get access to British Airways Heavy Maintenance depot at Cardiff Airport (actually, its near Barry, home to “Stacy” of Gavin and Stacy fame, not to mention Uncle Bryn). BA let our cameras in as they tore a 747, Victor Xray apart as part of a major overhaul, but we also went to Cotswolds Aerodrome to see a different 747 being munched up by excavators before the aluminium fuselage went for recycling.

Episode 2 Gas Rig

The rig in question was not actually a drilling rig, but a gas production platform – the Lima platform. Lima was part of a constellation of gas producing platforms located in the Indefatigable gas field 50 miles off the coast of Lowestoft. (Indefatigable is actually the name of the shifting sandbanks on the seabed, 2km under which gas was found).

Lima was installed in the 1970s and we managed to track down some of the original team who had helped build and install her to come back and help us understand how she worked during her final demise and recycling. From the multi million pound operation out at sea to sever her from the seabed, through her final journey home to Tyneside and subsequent demolition, we got to learn how living offshore was a way of life for the family of men (and it was mostly men in the 1970s) they called the North Sea Tigers

Episode 3 – North Sea Ferry

The Pride of Bruges has been taking passengers across the North Sea from Hull to Zeebrugge for decades, but it was time for a major overhaul to be carried out at the A&P yard in Hebburn ont he South banks of the mighty River Tyne.

The first challenge was getting her into dry dock in the darkness at the dead of night. With just a few inches of clearance on either side, it was a feat of piloting skills and navigation, and our presenters got to pull the plug, signalling the exodus of water from the dock. Just a few hours later The Pride was sitting on oak blocks in a massive dry dock, ready for work to be done.

The AMS Mentoring Scheme

Screen shot 2012-07-03 at 14.38.21One of the projects we’ve been working on recently is highlighting the endeavours of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Drawing on the wealth of knowledge and expertise provided by its Fellows, the Academy runs a mentoring scheme for trainee academic clinicians. It matches these aspiring young clinicians with a relevant Fellow, allowing them to meet on a one-to-one basis for advice and encouragement. The scheme has been running successfully for 10 years now so, to mark this milestone, a special booklet was produced, and the Refinery was commissioned to produce a film that promotes the scheme and the positive effect it has had on mentors and mentees alike.

The film was created to launch a new manual for the scheme, and features a number of prominent academic figures in the medical field, from Sir Mark Walport, the UK’s new chief scientific advisor, to Sir John Saville, Chief executive of the MRC. The film was screened at the Academy of Medical Sciences’ conference in Newcastle in March and is being distributed to universities and colleges and medical schools as part of a suite of films, currently in production, which will form a “mentoring toolkit.”

Watch it here.


Even more publishing!

MS front pageDid I say we had been busy? Well we have.

Hot on the heels of the Guardian article about female TV presenters, The Refinery was asked to write an article for a national magazine based on the experiences we had had making a documentary with Simon Donald (“Him Off The Viz” – yours for just £16.99 from Amazon).

Simon was fronting a documentary for us (which is still in production), courtesy of a broadcast development grant from the Wellcome Trust. The subject of the documentary was Multiple Sclerosis; Simon’s link to the condition being that his Mum, Kay had become debilitated with it when he was born. Her health declined over the years robbing her of her ability to walk, and subsequently, even to talk or communicate with Simon and his brothers; her “beautiful boys.”

She died in the 1990’s and the documentary was Simon’s way of looking back at events which he had felt unable to address emotionally at the time. Part of the process involved a visit to a neurologist to undergo an exam typical of the kind that a patient with MS would experience.

Imagine the bombshell when the neurologist turned to Simon and said “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you have MS too”. The documentary follows Simon as he comes to terms with his diagnosis, and when they heard about it, MS Matters, the magazine for the MS Society, asked us to write up some of Simon’s story as an article which appeared in their July/August edition. He even got the front page, the handsome bugger.

As for the documentary – keep watching this space.