‘Vacation work 1950s, Birdseye Pea factory’, (2012), oil on linen, 80 x 100 cm2012
During summer vacations from school and university in the mid to late 1950s, as a teenage student, I worked as a labourer at the Birdseye Pea factory in Ladysmith Road, Grimsby. (The factory dated from 1929 and produced frozen peas and fish fingers.) Mostly I and other students unloaded lorries but sometimes we did a 12-hour nightshift in the pitch black countryside. Each year we were observed by management types wearing white coats and holding clipboards. They were trying to reduce the need for physical labour by such means as using huge metal containers lifted from the backs of lorries by forklift trucks. After a few years temporary student labour was no longer required thus I witnessed the reduction of manual labour associated with mechanisation that has characterised the industrial revolution. I asked myself ‘if work is a diminishing resource, should it not be more fairly distributed?’ Eventually, in 2005, the company closed the factory with the loss of 650 jobs. The building was later destroyed by a fire.
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