It’s been a very difficult year, one which appears to make the need to find ways to develop conversation about shared values and notions of community more important than ever.
I thought that for my last post of 2016, after writing so much about the work of others, I’d share a small excerpt from one of my own scripts. And I’ve chosen this one because I think it is about an issue that is going to continue to impact on the political discourse over the next twelve months and beyond – the disconnect, the bewilderment, and the anger that is felt and increasingly heard in the conflict between a globalised economy and a sense of the local.
It comes from A Lifetime Guarantee which Hanby and Barrett (before we became Excavate) created in 2012 for the University of Nottingham who were interested in exploring the history of the Raleigh factory, one of Nottinghan’s most iconic industries, given that their Jubilee Campus was built on part of the old factory site.
This was a touring community play that we took to the places where the most Raleigh pension cheques were sent out to. And everywhere we went the place was packed. At the end of the night we would be besieged by people who wanted to share their stories and as a result we carried out more research and developed I Worked At Raleigh – a website with over ten hours of audio interviews from ex workers, along with a smartphone app that is linked to the site and which has been relaunched this year.
See you all in 2017.
Stuart’s father – who is played by the same performer (Robbie) who played Frank Bowden at the beginning of the play – is sat down polishing a lug.
Stuart: I started at Raleigh in 1997. On weld frame. It wasn’t much of a job to be honest. But I thought that it would please my father; who revered Raleigh, had been there most of his life as a Tool Setter, made bicycles in his shed, and who seemed as he got older to look more and more like Mr Frank Bowden himself.
Father: Ugly word isn’t it, ‘lug’. But it’s the most beautiful part of a bicycle.
Stuart: We don’t see them Dad.
Father: What did you say?
Stuart: I said we don’t see them. Lugs!
Stuart: So is it nearly finished?
Stuart: Is it nearly finished? Your latest project?
Father: It is. Jimmy’s coming over later and we’re going to braze it. You should stay and watch; he’s an artist Stuart, a bloody artist.
Stuart: I’m off to the football.
Father: We used to make everything there. Everything.
Stuart: I know.
Father: I lost count of the tools I had to make for the hundreds and hundreds of machines in that place.
Stuart: Yes Dad.
Father: If it’s not made in Nottingham it’s not a Raleigh.
Stuart: It is made in Nottingham.
Father: It’s not is it? It’s put together there.
Stuart: We do the frames though Dad and you know they’re the most important.
Father: Everything’s welded.
Stuart: People don’t want heavy bikes anymore. We’ve just got to do things differently.
Father: That’s it isn’t it? Make things easier, simpler to use. Get rid of anything that requires time or attention or care or real understanding.
Stuart: They’re just bicycles dad. And people will always use them for different things.
Father: What did you say?
Father: Do you know how to make a frame ring?
Stuart: You know we don’t do that.
Father: It was such a lovely sound. Making sure the joints had brazed. Touching it just so on the floor, and hearing that little ring. Like a bell. And if it didn’t; if it made a clunk do you know what we called it?
Stuart: A dead frame Dad. You’ve told me; a thousand times. And off it went to be rectified.
Father: I don’t understand it Stuart; I try to but I don’t. How can it make sense to get your gears from the other side of the world rather than from over the road?
Stuart: Parts have been made in other countries for years you know that.
Father: The sports field’s gone; Head Office has gone.
Stuart: But Raleigh is still here Dad. It’s different; but it’s still making bikes.
Father: I knew this bloke who used to be sent out all over the world for the company. He’d just come back from Kenya where the factory they were starting was next to this lake with this huge flock of flamingos on it. And he told me that wherever in the world he was everyone would ask about the Nottingham factory. Because the Nottingham factory was held in awe. It was Raleigh. The rest were just pretenders.
Stuart: Not any more.
Father: You see the thing about a lug is that it’s designed to make sure that everything fits together, just so. That everything slots into place. And the factory had a place Stuart. At the heart of Nottingham. It was where we made things. Where Nottingham made things that were used all over the world. I’d go to London on our trips and me and my workmates would point, every time we saw someone ride past on a Raleigh; ‘look’ we’d say, ‘that’s one of ours – that’s one of bloody ours’. And I felt proud. We all did. Proud of those bicycles.