This is an article published in The Precariat, an online newspaper.
In his article, Ben argues that our working lives reveal a lot about what we have in common with other people.
In Peterborough, the idea that ‘migrants’ are some distinct group belies the city’s long history of inward migration, including, most dramatically, the doubling of the population in the 1970s and 1980s when the new towns were built. Divide and rule on the basis of skin colour and presumed faith identity also have long histories, and are connected to previous colonial modes of rule and economic extraction as Stuart Hall shows so lucidly in his posthumous memoir Familiar Stranger. Hall recalls that in the post-war period, when ‘the tide of international opinion’ was ‘turning against colonial rule’ and ‘the colour-bar in Britain’s overseas possessions began to be dismantled … in the “mother country” itself the colour-bar emerged as a more visible feature of the urban landscape.’ He argues that this was rooted in a process of forgetfulness about the ‘long historical entanglements’ that the growing number of ‘dark-skinned migrants’ (and their forbears) had with Britain, a forgetfulness that was ‘incubated’ in what he refers to as ‘the higher reaches of the national culture.’
Memory is always fallible and the way we remember and talk about the past is inevitably selective. […] The stories we tell about our working lives reveal much both about our individuality and our common human condition.
As part of the Creative Interruptions project, Ben in collaboration with Peterborough-born former factory and warehouse worker Jay Gearing of Paper Rhino Films will produce a series of 10 short films, that will evoke some of the diversity of people from all backgrounds who have been employed in food factories, packhouses, fields and retail distribution centres in and around the city. Ben, Jay, and the protagonists of these stories will work together to explore people’s creativity in making intensive work manageable, or at least bearable, for example through humour, forming friendships across ethnic or national social boundaries, or getting one over on the boss.
This project will draw attention to the everyday creativity of factory and warehouse workers outside the workplace that is often unnoticed or undervalued yet is part of what makes Peterborough such a vibrant city.
Read the complete article here.