In April 2005, the Birmingham MG Rover Longbridge plant closed with a loss of 6000 jobs for the local community. Katy Wareham-Morris, a lecturer on both the Media and Culture BA (Hons) and Creative Writing BA (Hons) degree courses, has created a pamphlet of poetry, 'Making Tracks', highlighting the huge emotional impact of the closure in a bid to contextualise and underpin its significance in Birmingham's social history. In this Academic Blog, we investigate the importance of Katy’s new publication.
Almost 100 years after opening and having been vitally important to generations of factory workers, the carmaker MG Rover closed the Longbridge plant with a catastrophic loss of jobs. One of those roles belonged to the father of poet Katy Wareham Morris and the 25 expressive poems in Making Tracks voice the highs and lows of his 36 years at the factory as a poignant tribute to all who worked there. This surge of emotion culminates in the acute sense of bereavement felt by thousands when the gates closed for the last time on Thursday 7th April 2005.
Katy's father, Derek Wareham, was just 15 when he joined Rover as an apprentice and worked his way up to a well-respected and significant role in the factory. As well as drawing on his personal idiolect, memories, passion and anecdotes, Katy has integrated Longbridge's regeneration documentation into Making Tracks, which has been produced by award winning independent publisher V. Press. In poems such as Identity, the poet has adopted a diagrammatic format to visually reflect the form and structure of the manufacturing schedule so familiar to the workforce.
Making Tracks demonstrates the rollercoaster of emotions and generational stereotype of masculinity endured by the predominantly male Longbridge workforce. Internal Vacancy, Sod's Law and I Wandered Lonely illustrate the strong bonds and pride created through camaraderie alongside an almost suffocating sense of pressure and duty to keep the track running day and night, as well as being the family breadwinner. Empty Shells relates the sense of abandonment felt when car shells were left mid-flight on the production line on the factory's final day.
Katy Wareham Morris said: “The closure of the Longbridge factory was a devastating event for mine and countless other local families, and redundancy is sadly a reality that people across the West Midlands and beyond are confronting at the moment. Making Tracks is a reminder that the Rover factory's heritage has been all but erased by the regeneration of the area, and that's why I hope this collection of poems memorialises the Longbridge legacy for future generations to experience.”
‘Grass’ by Katy Wareham-Morris
Described as "the darkest day in the history of the British car industry" by Tony Woodley, from the Transport and General Workers Union, the closure of Longbridge has had a continued effect on the local economy. Through experimentation with language and creativity, Katy examines the tragedy and renewal contained within the events that shape the world around us. The interdisciplinary nature of subjects such as Media and Culture BA (Hons) and Creative Writing BA (Hons) lend themselves to discovery, in this case, recognising and celebrating working class experience as culture.
All views expressed in this blog do not represent the views, policies or opinions of the University of Worcester or any of its partners.