Boys and Girls From The White Stuff

Directed by Leon Seth
Special screening at Tate Liverpool (30th October 2007)

Reviewed by John Owen

A symphony both bitter and sweet, concerning real people’s struggles, a great film project born out of ten years of almost religious fanaticism from historian and JMU lecturer Ron Noon. Documenting ordinary peoples working lives at Tate and Lyle. The film focussed its impact on the social fabric of the area now known as the Eldonian estate, how the community survived the Nagasaki effect of destruction of the area’s main employer.

With personal reminiscences from a workforce sold out by the Thatcherism era of downsizing and investment abroad to third world slave labour production, the downbeat theme was offset by wonderful stories and human narratives of lives lived for the moment in and with, for, and against the company founded by Henry Tate last century.

Young director Leon Seth caught the raw emotion when one guy recalling the introduction of new machinery said,” I don’t care about the sugar, the people who used to do that job that’s what I care about”. Or the woman who told how before the early shift started, which meant getting up at 5.30am to arrive at work, she would lug 28lb buckets of sugar for an hour to help older staff, “It was our workout” she said nonchalantly.

The factory of hope soon symbolised Liverpool’s decline as disinvestment and mass unemployment bit into the area, forcing thousands to leave. Exodus depression precipitating the drugs crisis amongst youth and riots and the eventually a panacea Dr Pangloss style with festival gardens - a known cure all from Tarzan Heseltine. History ironically is played out as this placebo now is due to be torn down and sold off for luxury houses.

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Comment left by Kev Noon on 28th July, 2008 at 10:01
Absolutely brilliant story of laughter,tears, hope and despair in the family that was Tate & Lyle's Liverpool until it's corporate demise in 1981. The spirit remains steadfast though in the likes of Albert,John and co in the Punch&Judy and all the surviving Tate family members. Now mines a pint of bitter Ron! Cheers

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