At the end of 2015, followthethings.com CEO Ian Cook gave a talk explaining why we re-create scenes described on our website it LEGO, what our shoppers like about them, and what they add to our scholar-activist work. That talk was filmed and you can watch it below. He talked through a series of re-creations made in response to the controversy provoked by a TV documentary film called ‘Primark on the rack’ that was first broadcast 2008, and re-energised by Primark’s response to the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. It draws upon the work of Political LEGO artists like legofesto, whose conversation with Julia Zielke we published a few months ago. Ian’s talk outlines the argument being made in an academic paper he’s currently writing. Think of this talk as its Trailer….
One of our former interns, Eeva Kemppainen, now works in Helsinki for the pro-Fair Trade NGO Eettisen kaupan puolesta (Pro Ethical Trade Finland). In 2014, she published a paper in the Finnish journal Natura about ways in which she tries to engage students in humorous critiques of consumption and advertising. They examine, then cut up, rearrange and/or scribble on magazine adverts. They try to subvert their messages so that the information that they hide is made visible. What they produce are what’s called subvertisments. Here Eeva describes how she organises subvertisement workshops, and showcases some of the work that students have produced.
Here’s the latest of our Lego re-creations, made today to add to one of our first published pages: on Melanie Jackson’s (2006) digitally generated animation (and catalogue) A Global Positioning System. Continue reading
Greenpeace & Lego
Greenpeace want Lego to end its links with Shell, and are currently campaigning through the medium of imaginative Lego re-creation. This video is one of a number of examples, whose aim is to encourage people to sign this petition. In the wake of the hugely successful Lego Movie (whose stars make a cameo appearance) this campaign is becoming perhaps the most lavish and high-profile example of Lego activism to date.
followthethings.com & Lego
On a much smaller budget, we’ve been making, photographing and posting online re-creations in Lego of (imagined) scenes from trade justice films, art and activism for a while now. See, for example, our recreations from and around the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Primark on the rack’. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, we published a guest post from Eeva Kemppainen describing the ways in which her work for followthething.com and her masters thesis on trade justice pedagogy in the UK and Finland, had led to her work on a ‘Closing the Gap’ project with Finnish pro-ethical trade NGO Eetti . This is Eeva’s second post, in which she describes how she works with diverse groups of students (using followthethings.com as a resource) and shows the kinds of subverts that her students create.
… Valentine’s Day
Buying gifts to give to loved ones presents unique dilemmas to those who are concerned about who made them, under what conditions.
Because it’s Valentine’s Day – A.K.A International Flower Workers’ Day – soon, we’ve added the latest seasonal header to our website.
Teaching and learning resources
If you’re looking for resources to help discuss the controversial issues in Valentine’s Day commodity chains, here’s a selection.
a) the Worrison’s flower collection
A spoof website created in 2017 by students taking the university module behind our site. Click the image below to get there, click the flowers you like, read the online reviews and make sure you click ‘Buy now’.
b) our LEGO Valentine’s Day album
Check this set of LEGO re-creations, click the images, read the text underneath, and maybe re-create other scenes from Valentine’s Day supply chains. This takes you there…
- one is based on a followthethings.com page about a controversial advertising campaign by the Finnish chocolate brand Fazer, which refers to a documentary called ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate;
- another (above) re-creates a scene from Kanye West’s music video ‘Diamonds are from Sierra Leone’, in which a New York jeweller takes a diamond directly from a child miner and gives it to a wealthy client;
- a third takes Livia Firth’s short film about the care that unseen garment, shoe- and jewelry-makers invest in consumers’ appearance, and applies it to Valentine’s day flower growers;
- and the last one re-creates part of an activist documentary arguing that these kinds of hidden relations encourage us to think differently about ‘love’ in all of our relations, near and far, known and unknown.
Click the links or the slideshow photo to find out more, and to get some advice on more ethical Valentine’s Day gifts.
c) our Youtube playlist
Watch the original sources, parts of which we re-created in LEGO and/or inspired our work: on the human stories in the supply chains of chocolate, diamonds and clothes, and the activist concept of love.
February 14th could be an unforgettable day.
Yesterday at the Department of Geography at the University of Exeter, we heard Carry Somers talking about Fashion Revolution Day at our ‘What (not) to wear?’ conference. There was mention of an Ethical Trade Trump card game invented by students taking ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ in 2012 – using data from free2work.org – being adapted as followthethings.com’s contribution to this campaign.
A new Fashion pack will soon be designed, but today we tested out the idea in class. Students each made a card based on something they were wearing, sketched it, added the grades from free2work and – for extra information at the bottom of each card – added whether that company / brand had signed the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The match report
6 teams of 8 students each made one or more cards in the first 15 minutes. One student was elected from each group as their player, and we staged a 6 player tournament at the front of the classroom. The cards were shuffled and dealt. The game began with player one calling out a brand (Cheap Monday!), a category (policies!), a grade (A+!), and then slamming the card on the table (drama!). The other players then took the card at the top of their pack, one after the other, called out its brand (Calvin Klein! or Adidas!), and its policy grade (C-! or A+), and slammed their cards on the table. The audience gathered round, watching their cards being played, helping their players to win and lose each round.
In each round, the player who called out the highest grade took all of the cards, and started the next round. If there was a draw – like between Cheap Monday and Adidas, both with A+ grades for their policies – the ‘key fact’ could be played: had the brand / company signed the Accord? In this case, only Adidas had (only very recently, the referee had to say), so that was the winning card.
The game went on with rounds in which, for example, only ‘worker rights’ scores could be played. It ended with a ‘winner takes all’ round, with the 3 remaining contestants. This was dramatic: a draw that was resolved by the key fact. The Accord-signatory won. Well done Adidas! Good job you signed the accord. Nobody wants a losing card. Whoops all around.
After the game ended, we discussed what had happened, why some cards were worse to play that others, why – with one exception – the policy grades were higher than the ‘workers’ rights’ grades, and how to find out why by looking at brands’ detailed free2work ‘score cards’. So, 40 minutes into class, we were talking about, asking informed questions about, and having a good idea how to find out more about the relations between ethical trade policies, transparency, monitoring, workers’ rights and the Accord.
This game can be made and played by any group of people trying to learn the basics and/or intricacies of Ethical Trade and Corporate Social Responsibility.
This is our 46 card pack, scanned after the game. What would your pack be like?
If you want to have a go:
- download the pack template, research and playing instructions here
- find the grades for your cards here www.free2work.org
- find out who has signed the Accord here www.bangladeshaccord.org/signatories/
Let us know about your game, send us your packs and match reports!
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).