Archive | October, 2011

Visitor views

31 Oct

When I visit an exhibition, I always get really inspired and want to tell my own stories about the subject. So, at the end of the All Work and Low Pay exhibition, we’ve included a wall where visitors can write about their experiences (they can even type them on our little 1960s typewriter if they’ve got the skills/patience!)

Here are a few of the many responses we’ve had so far:

What’s the worst job you’ve had? Why?

‘My worst job was selling cold meats and biscuits in Woolworths. The biscuits were unpacked and sold by the ounce. There was nowhere to wash your hands and eventually they were covered in layers of grease from the meat and biscuit crumbs. A food hygiene nightmare!’

‘The worst job I have had was working as a tea lady in [a pension company headquarters]. I was a student and did it for the summer in 1990 and we had to wear a 1950s uniform and wheel a tea trolley and bring all the staff a cup of tea to their desks. We had to know if each person took milk or sugar. There were no men doing this job. Shame as they would have looked good in the nylon dress, apron and hat! The only chance for career progression was to move up to become the coffee maker for the CEO. You also had access to the chocolate biscuits cupboard.’

Have you experienced sexism in the workplace?

‘About five years ago I worked for a boss who said he’d give me a pay rise for wearing high heels every day, and that it was “company policy” for me to wear heels at special events. At one of the events I was wearing flats, when he spotted this he grabbed me and marched me back to the office to put on heels. He stood outside waiting for me with a friend and when I came out, made me spin around and said “see how much more f***able she is now” to the friend. I resigned a week later – best thing I ever did.’

‘My experience is that the expectation of workload is different between the genders. As a woman I do more work in less time than my male colleagues.’

Would you have liked the job your mother or grandmother did?

‘No, neither. My grandmother worked in a shoe factory, but it did instill in her an appreciation of good quality shoes, which she valued for the rest of her life.  My mother was a secretary and wanted me to do this as “I would always be able to get a job”. Later in life she ran a charity as a volunteer – I am paid to do this.’

‘My mother had to leave the civil service in the 1920s as she got married. She was the youngest woman health inspector at the time and she resented it all her life. She never worked (paid) again except as an unpaid vicar’s wife – scrimping and saving with a family and a meagre vicar’s salary. She was one of the first women to support divorced women being accepted into The Mothers’ Union.’

‘My grandmother was in domestic service. My grandfather was a farm labourer. My mother married my father who was a clerical assistant in the foreign office and had to become a professional wife. My father insisted that I had a career – and so I did. I am proud of all of us.’

What would be your ideal work situation?

‘Running my own business (from home) earning enough money to feed my family. Not much to ask!’


Introducing the team: Eve Barker

28 Oct

All Work and Low Pay posterEve Barker was the graphic designer for the All Work and Low Pay exhibition. She’s responsible for, among other things, the beautiful poster.  Here’s what she says about her work history:

“When I was a 19 year old student I designed the typography for the second issue of Archigram, a provocative architects paper in 1961, and also designed International Socialism magazine and worked on Socialist Worker. I finished college and worked for Penguin Books designing publicity and covers. Then I worked above Bertorellis Restaurant, in Fitzrovia, carrying my baby Nicki in a moses basket and running quickly up the stairs to avoid the rats that lurked everywhere. We were designing the typographic parts of Pirelli calendars, famous for their classy nudes. We moved to Covent Garden, fruit and veg market as it was then, and designed colour supplements.

When my children were a bit older I redesigned all the literature for the new Polytechnic of East London, I had to bring my three girls with me when I discussed new work with the principal. I left them in the typing pool which had turned into mayhem with staff crawling all over the floor by the time I fetched them.Eve Barker self portrait

I was a founder member of Artworkers from the 70s to 1997. Starting from a crumbling old building in Mare Street, East London, we designed placards and posters for many radical organisations, trade unions and charities. I designed a book on asbestos that played an important part in getting the use of asbestos banned in Britain, the author and publisher were sued for libel and were bankrupted but luckily I wasn’t targeted and the book got a lot of publicity. We were ordered to tear the offending page out, but no one was checking.

I have designed Hazards, a trade union safety magazine, leaflets for the construction safety campaign and leaflets and posters for Unison. We promoted the use of photographs of women and black people in the union literature, seems so normal now, but once we had to argue that they were the workforce and not some exotic strangers.

Now I work from home, supposedly at a more leisurely pace, I still love my chosen occupation.”