The Britain at Work oral history programme, covering the period 1945-1995, developed from a project 'The Workers’ War: Home Front Recalled', which was a joint initiative of the TUC and the National Pensioners Convention.
That project only covered the years 1939-1945 and it was clear that many of the people interviewed had gone on working in both the private and public sectors after the war. Many of them formed the backbone of the post-war trade union movement for many decades: how could their accounts be collected?
Britain at Work was formed to carry out those interviews which would be mainly about peoples’ working lives and their trade union experiences.
The two most successful projects to emerge were the Construction Industry, for example the building of the Barbican in London, and a project launched by HISTORYtalk, a local community history group (now closed) to interview people in West London and north/west Middlesex.
This West London project interviewed over 100 people, including those who had worked in many iconic factories such as Firestones, Kodak, Trico, Grunwick and on the Park Royal industrial estate. But people in the NHS, local government and the railways were also involved.
Other projects, such as News International/ Wapping and the Bishopsgate Institute’s East End voices, have also been involved in Britain at Work.
Britain at Work London
The Britain at Work London Project was then formed and in 2015 it produced it's first publication, a 260 page book All in a Day’s Work: Working Lives and Trade Unions in West London 1945-1995.
The key focus of Britain at Work London Project is to build an oral history archive of interviews covering both the private and public sectors across the whole of London, recording the shop-floor activities of the men and women who formed the backbone of the trade union movement in the period 1945-95.
We hope to be able to 'map' a number of strategic workplaces eg train stations, town halls and post office sorting offices as well as factories, hospitals, and many smaller workplaces.
We are focusing now on three north London boroughs, Islington, Camden and Haringey where the majority of our interviews will be based in 2018. We have already interviewed a number of people who worked in these boroughs during the last two years but hope to record the working lives of many others working in the NHS, local government and the railways.
So far, interviews have included Liverpool Street and Waterloo stations, the ambulance station in Park Royal (now closed), social work and housing, and full-time union work in the London Boroughs of Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham, London Underground ticket office work and working as a tube guard, disability rights activism, postal work in Islington, health visiting in Wimbledon, LGBT activism in NALGO/Unison, working in a music venue in Soho, secondary teaching in south London and running a fish-mongers in Barking.