A group of modern-day workers experience working in a British garment factory. They start their journey in 1968, and the reality of the production line proves a rude awakening.
A group of modern women are going back in time to the 60s, 70s and 80s to work and live through three decades of British factory life and learn how an unsung army of female workers took on the fight for equality at work and at home. 50 years ago, Britain was a manufacturing powerhouse, with an astonishing 34% of the population working on a manufacturing production line. Factories mostly employed women - hundreds of thousands of them, who made our clothes, telephones and televisions - an amazing array of
household items that were sold all over the world. The factories were centred on areas of high unemployment like the south Wales valleys and by employing so many women and girls they were at the forefront of a change in British society. But the women who would drive that change were poorly paid, unfairly treated and denied basic rights.
Now, a group of modern-day workers are going back to the shop floor to work in a classic British garment factory to travel through three decades of hard graft and social change to chart just how far we have come. From a mother and her daughters to a young feminist who is the first in her family to go to university, and from a pregnant mum of three to a teenager struggling to find work in the Welsh valleys - how will these 21st-century women adapt to a period of rampant sexism, huge gender pay gaps and tough working conditions?
Starting in 1968 when 85% of all our high street clothes were made in the UK, our recruits run a production line that produces classic pink petticoats, outrageous orange flares, classic prairie dresses and shocking velour tracksuits, as the women work their way through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. At the same time they experience the realities of working life for women in these three crucial decades - from the excitement of being out in the work place to the pressures of ever increasing targets, the camaraderie of the factory floor and fun-filled evenings at the social club. Most eyeopening of all is the contents of their wage packets - revealing to our modern workers the deeply ingrained attitudes towards women's work as inferior and helping them understand what galvanised a generation to fight for change.
For three of our women, the time-travelling journey won't stop at the factory door. Mum Emma and daughters Angelea and Tamara, joined by dad Jason, are living in a typical valleys' terraced house, transformed into a period-appropriate time capsule. They discover how, as more women began to work, many started to question their domestic role as sole cook, cleaner and childminder, leading to changes at home too.
100 years since six million British women won the vote, and 50 years since the female machinists at the Ford factory in Dagenham first demanded equal pay, this programme is a timely celebration of the ordinary women who revolutionised the workplace, and transformed Britain in the process. Guiding us through the decades is presenter Alex Jones, who grew up in Ammanford, and joining her to offer advice are some of the women who actually worked in the real factories over these vital years. Sharing top tips on everything from the quickest way to sew a seam to piercing ears in toilets or setting up a union, their wit, humour and honesty underpin everything our workers experience. Combined with astonishing TV footage of the time, their eyewitness accounts provide invaluable context to help our modern factory girls understand the world they are living in.
The workers start their journey in 1968, when The Beatles and Tom Jones are topping the charts, Labour's Harold Wilson is Prime Minister and big hair abounds. It is also the year the female strikers of Dagenham brought the Ford factory to a standstill and the question of women's pay into the headlines. Their first task is to produce pink nylon petticoats - a staple of British women's wardrobes in an era when only 30% of houses had central heating. But to do that they need to master the fearsome sewing machines and over lockers on the factory floor. While some are keen amateur seamstresses, others, like 17-year-old school leaver Chelsea, have never even threaded a needle before. The reality of the production line is a rude awakening for many - long monotonous hours with short breaks and few distractions - a situation made worse for some of our women when they discover that it's legal to refuse to serve an unaccompanied woman in a public bar. But that is far less of a shock than the moment they open their pay packets and realise some of them are being paid less than half the rate of the men on the factory floor.
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Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
|Series Producer||Catrin Griffith|
|Production Company||Wall to Wall Media|