Student and followthethings.com intern Will Kelleher has an exclusive story.
The last two weeks before I handed in my dissertation were a bit frantic. I was trying to publish an article about the rugby ball I had followed in my University’s student newspaper Exeposé.
Because of the damning information I had found, it was right and proper to contact the company who made that ball for a response. They demanded to see the article and, having read it, went on the attack:
Buying gifts to give to loved ones presents unique dilemmas to those who are concerned about who made them, under what conditions. Can you express your love for another person by buying them conflict jewelry, or child labour chocolate? And what are the alternatives?
Teaching and learning resources
If you’re looking for resources to help creatively discuss the controversial issues in Valentine’s Day supply chains, here’s a selection.Continue reading
Date: 11 November 2013, 4-6pm
Venue: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Streatham Court, Lecture Room C.
Setting the scene: journalism, activism & ‘Primark on the rack’
Our audience: curious & expert students
& Carry Somers
It’s a game
Students at the University of Exeter designed an Ethical Trade Trumps card game in November last year using data from free2work.org. This summer, we worked this up into a ftt-‘branded’ game, complete with rules, and templates so that groups of people could make and play cards with their stuff. You can download its templates here. This was designed with advice from the secondary school teachers involved in our ＃followtheteachers project. Natalie is using them with her A-level class to help with Globalisation revision: look!
When you make cards for your stuff and play them with others, you learn about the companies who make your stuff, their labour policies, transparency, monitoring and worker rights. In one sense, it’s a simple game of trumping – ‘Ha! My shoes’ worker rights score beats your Kitkat’s!’ – but making and playing the cards also raises questions about what you can find out about your stuff, what ‘monitoring’, ‘worker rights’ and a ‘living wage’ mean, how they are measured, and what to think about this.
Yesterday, we ran our first Top Trump workshop, at Bath Spa University, with Ranji Devadason and her students (a big thanks to them for giving this such a good go). Here we share the cards that were played at this first ever Ethical Trade Trump tournament!
The atmosphere was tense but fun. Poker faces were everywhere. Imagine being dealt some of these cards! How would you play them? What was it like for them to play with their stuff like this? We’re inviting them to say so, in comments on this post…
PS if you are unfamiliar Trump card games, check this Wikipedia page.
This game was devised in 2012 as coursework ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ at the University of Exeter by Joe Thorogood, Michael Franklin, Sophie Angell, Florence Flint, Bryony Board, Toby Swadling, Jack Saxton, Jake Pincock, Emma Hargreaves & Joe Harrison. This pack was re–designed by Ian Cook, in consultation with the #followtheteachers ‘user crew’ Alan Parkinson, Oprah Whipp, Victoria Salt, Charlotte Wild, Jenny Thomas, Natalie Batten, Heather Taylor & Mary Biddulph for use in schools and universities.
This pack was revised in 2014 as followthethings.com’s contribution to Fashion Revolution Day, an Ethical Fashion Trump Card Game is part of its Education Pack (download link to be added when this this is live).
We researched a 2009 BBC Panorama documentary ‘Primark on the rack’ for followthethings.com. This was a documentary exposing Primark for producing its notoriously cheap clothes in Indian sweatshops. It contained a 45 second scene in which child labourers were filmed checking that sequins were firmly attached to its sequined tops. Primark claimed that this scene had been ‘faked’ and made a concerted effort to discredit the whole film, with mixed success (detailed on our site here).
As with many of our pages, we made a few scenes in Lego, uploaded them to a flickr set, and embedded them. Today, we added a couple of new scenes to our ‘Primark on the rack’ set, to bring the story up to date.
These scenes are intended to highlight a theme that cuts across a number of examples of followthethings filmmaking on our site: corporations responding to sweatshop, worker health and environmental destruction exposures by employing public relations and/or legal teams to ‘prove’ that key scenes – and, by implication, whole films – are ‘faked’. This is, for example, how Primark responded to the BBC documentary in 2009, how Dole responded to Fredrik Gertten’s documentary ‘Bananas!*’ in 2009 (link), and how Chevron responded to Joe Berlinger’s documentary ‘Crude: the real price of oil’ in 2009 (link).
This past week has seen relentless TV news footage and newspaper column inches devoted to the Savar Rana garment factory collapse. Journalists have told unfolding stories of dramatic rescue efforts and the shocking numbers of people who made Primark, Joe Fresh, Matalan, Mango, Benneton, Bon Marche and other branded clothes being found dead in the wreckage of their workplace or missing, presumed dead.
NGOs and others are putting pressure on these clothing brands to respond appropriately to this disaster by properly compensating its victims and their families, by signing agreements that they’d been reluctant to sign before, and by putting into place more comprehensive auditing practices so that what they agree to is more likely to be done in the future.
This pressure continues to be applied, and companies are responding. On Monday, for example, the BBC reported that Primark had released a statement saying that it ‘accepts all its responsibilities in this disaster’ (Source: BBC 2013 link). ALL of them. We shall see.
This is not a single documentary with a named director, whose work can be ‘discredited’ with the right PR and legal teams in place. This is ‘Primark on the rack 2013’. Click the photos to get to the whole 6 scene set.
Postscript: why Lego?
We’ve been inspired by Lego re-creations that we found online of hidden scenes from the ‘War on Terror’. They had been made and posted online in 2009 by an artist/blogger called Legofesto (see her flickr sets here). She argued that:
‘By using toys, I hope the viewer will linger longer over the image and think again about what is actually being depicted or described, in a visual language that is recognised by us all: LEGO. … The incongruity between the immoral and horrific acts and events depicted and the smiley-faced children’s toy create a tension’ (legofesto in Time Magazine 2009 link).
By photographing re-creations and publishing them online, she argues:
‘I want to keep the debate going. To keep it in people’s minds, to remind us of our atrocities because the media has moved on and they don’t want to dwell on the tactics [of the ‘War on Terror’]. … People are using Legofesto to talk about torture and state violence’ (legofesto in Carling 2009 link).
We want our Lego re-creations to help keep trade (in)justice debates going, to keep them in people’s minds, etc. in a similar way.
Animation and humour can play powerful roles in trade justice campaigning. Perhaps the most well known example is the peanut who criticises the regulation of world trade in The Luckiest Nut in the World. See our page on that film here.
One recent example of this genre was launched In March 2013 in Switzerland. To make public the findings of their report on the sourcing of raw materials by Swiss chocolate manufacturers, Swiss NGO the Berne Declaration (aka Erklärung von Bern) commissioned animators / filmmakers Kompost to imagine what Chocolate Bunnies would do if they knew more about themselves. As Kompost state:
Easter in Switzerland is a busy time for the chocolate industry. Billions of delicious chocolate bunnies are produced by the grand masters of chocolate. Unfortunately, still many Swiss chocolate companies and retailers are producing their chocolate under exploitative conditions; a third even refuse to make a statement to this issue. EvB, a Swiss NGO responsible for fairer globalization, tries to put an end to this with the help of these ads.
The two commercials Kompost designed, directed and animated, show the EvB-chocolate bunny trying to take his life, as he simply cannot live knowing these shocking facts. With the help of a hair dryer and a hotplate, the chocolate bunny tries to melt his sorrows away. His attempts however fail, and he is left with the bitter reality.
We are going to love this week at followthethings.com HQ.
We’ve redesigned our website’s header for the season. Here it is:
[click the Cherubs’ banner, and you will get to this page]
We’re adding Finland’s favourite chocolate to our site, a new page created by University of Helsinki MPhil student Eeva Kemppainen. She’s working with us in Exeter this Spring. She is creating our first pages to be simultaneously published in English and Finnish.
We’ve started to tweet Valentine’s Day issues, stories and activism. Like this:
On Thursday, all of our efforts will come together in a public Lecture at the University of Exeter. It’s ‘The St Valentine’s Day public lecture: love, following, things.” Here’s the opening slide:
Here’s the description on its facebook event page:
Come take part in a public lecture and discussion that puts chocolate, renowned for its romancing qualities, under the spotlight this Valentine’s Day. Ian Cook (Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Exeter) will be using Finnish chocolate (following them through the world economy as physical goods) as a case study in a broader discussion of trade justice and emphatic socio-economic relations. The discussion will also cover the ways in which this approach to understanding the exchange of material goods can be taught and learned in universities, engaging students in the issue of trade justice activism in critical, creative and enthusiastic ways. The event will take place in the Peter Chalk Centre, lecture theatre Newman C. It will take place at 2pm on Thursday 14th February.
Everyone is welcome.