These photographs were taken in four different locations in the West Midlands. An early set from an Apprentice Training School run by GEC, a series taken at the moment the Norton motorcycle company was tossed aside by an ill advised Labour government, a lock factory Josiah Parkes in Willenhall (which was the only company I photographed to survive the industrial devastation caused by the Tory government’s rush to embrace a market economy), and finally Lee Howl, a successful local industrial pump manufacturing industry in Tipton. In all the factories I photographed I learnt how important the culture of skilled and semi skilled work was, and how significant were the relationships formed at work to millions of people in industrial Britain. The loss of this country’s industrial base in subsequent years has created a profound demoralisation, and a profound rupture in society.
The GEC training school at Witton was a highly prized target for school leavers in North Birmingham.
The photographs show the appalling underinvestment that management had made in the manufacturing process, and the tension involved in the sad demise of the company.
Josiah Parkes were based on two sites in Willenhall. Since the 19th century the town had been the centre of lock making in Britain.