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Mining Poems and Odes — Callum Rice, 2016

This short documentary tells the story of an ex-welder who worked on the River Clyde in Glasgow in the shipyards. He has turned to writing as he searches for meaning through words instead of tools.

This film is excellent for introducing poetry to classes but also for challenging our expectations of people.

Classroom Activities

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  • Listen up to 01:07 mins without the picture on. What are these words telling us? Can you describe what sort of images you think might be on the screen?
  • Watch up to 03:13 mins. Why do you think the first thing we see is a close-up of the man whose voice we heard at the start?
  • What is he telling us about what happened as a 17-year-old apprentice welder? What techniques are used to reinforce the story he is telling?
  • Watch up to 04:47 mins. “The ability to do damage, and the willingness not” – what is Robert telling us about Archie? How do you think he feels about Archie?
  • What does Robert mean when he says, “He taught me the industry of life.”?
  • Pause on 05:18 mins. What sort of camera angle is this? Why has it been chosen at this point? What do you notice about the mise-en-scene?
  • Watch up to 06:22 mins. How can we tell that we are now hearing his poetry?
  • What type of imagery is used as insert shots between shots of Robert writing? What sort of effect and atmosphere is created by these images?
  • Watch up to 08:30 mins. What does Robert tell us about how welding prepared him for becoming a writer?
  • As Robert’s voiceover tells us about his writing process at the end, what shots have been chosen to emphasise the ideas he is trying to convey to the audience?


  • Robert is a working-class man from Glasgow who went from the shipyards to becoming a writer. There are a lot of assumptions about what a writer “should” look and sound like. Does Robert meet your expectations of what a poet is? If he is not as you would expect, why do you think that is?
  • Do you think the background and life experiences of a writer, or any other sort of artist, matter? Can you explain why you think it does/does not matter?
  • Another former shipyard worker is the famous comedian Billy Connolly. Watch this video in which he talks about how his experience of working in the shipyards shaped him into a comedian. Based on Robert and Billy’s experiences, can you explain what it was about the shipyards that helped shape them into a poet and a comedian?
  • The Clyde and the shipyards were an integral part of Glasgow as a city. Can you find out what has happened to the city as a result of the decline of shipbuilding on the Clyde?



  • Using the name of the town where you live (or the place you come from) as your title, write a poem which sums up what it means to you. Try to describe some of the “famous” landmarks, history and events associated with the town. Make sure to use vivid word choice and imagery.
  • Write a letter to Robert asking him about his work. Where does he get his inspiration? What does he write about? Who does he write for?


  • Interview an adult to make your own short documentary about their chosen occupation. Film a mixture of “talking head” style – where they talk to the camera on their own, using a prepared script – and voiceover recordings to be edited with your filmed footage of the place the person works, where they live etc.
  • Using your own poem or someone else’s, record a reading of the poem and use this as the voiceover for footage you have created to build up the setting, imagery, characters and so on that you want to emphasise.


  • Design a poster for the film. Remember to include the name of the film, the director, the writer (Robert Fullerton) and a striking image which would convince people to watch the film.


  • Research the role of a welder in the shipbuilding industry. Write a list of safety requirements which need to be taken into account with such a dangerous job.
  • Research the Finnieston Crane, as pictured in the film. Look up the measurements of the crane and draw a side elevation using these measurements. This link will help.


  • Create a dramatic monologue of either your own poem or a poem someone else has written.


  • Research the decline of shipbuilding in Glasgow and how this has affected the city and its people.

Clip Details

Year of Production 2016
Genre Documentary
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Literacy and English, Social Studies
Director Callum Rice
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content Live Action, Non-Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, Culture / Society, Work / Ambition, Identity / Self, Poverty / Class, Intolerance / Misconceptions, Communication, Creative Expression
Clip Length 10:48
Clip Length 10:48
Age Group S1-S3, S4-S6