Disclaimer: Longbridge is not in the Black Country, the editors know this. We’ve selected this piece because of its inventiveness, quality and because it deals with a site important to the region’s industry and culture.
Thursday, 7th April 2005
By Katy Wareham Morris
After World War One and Two, the depression, the strikes, the foreign market boom, the Mini, the Metro, the Austin Allegro, the mergers, the take-overs, the share drops. All the faces, the bodies, the tools gone: the darkest day
Gloom spread its plumage beyond Longbridge borders, the world fell in its nest. 5 years, 14 years, 25 years, 36 years and 2 minutes in the dole office feeling 2 inches tall. Just bear with it, good will come in the shape of Sainsbury’s and the eternal night shift that no one wants, stacking stinking pet food and pop.
Like a slow motion crash that kept on crashing even after the kids’ day out to see Blair, and Pricewaterhousecoopers with their paperwork and no remit and the 3pm locking of the gates. When feathers glued together with a tenner started rustling about pensions, wings folded and everyone hoped the life-saving deal might still go ahead.
Regardless of niceties, ITV Central News told us it was over and Rohit Kachroo said the facts were plain: 100 year history, no party. Hewitt MP was teary, palpable appalling anxiety of the forthcoming election probably. Huddled under the magnificent bird, shielded from freezing winds and flurries of snow, it sung about good business logic and let’s not set hopes flying but there’d be a fight. The scraps kept us singing.
Powell was approached by a certain number of people, a bid from a private consortium, and he’d be delighted to hear from more. Any company would be glad to have a workforce such as that. Suffocated whilst waiting for the golden egg, the phoenix wouldn’t rise again. £10 million here, £40 million there, task forces, hotlines, training, regeneration zones, CV creators, support packages. Rover sneezed and was gone.
As this unusual and evocative poem reminds, the good and bad of this site spread its plumage beyond Longbridge borders. Indeed, this plant was a crucial part of Black Country employment, running for 100 years before its demise, resulting in many Black Country communities being without work, struggling with similar changes and challenges as the steelworkers of Wednesbury and Brierley Hill; from decades of valued labour to the eternal nightshifts that no one wants, stacking stinking pet food and pop.
This prose-poem beautifully weaves the familial and domestic with the socio-political, working almost as a tapestry of the plant’s closure. On the surface, it’s a list of images, facts, figures, important people, car models and media outlets. Wareham Morris delicately places these parts together, one feeds the other, like component parts of the car’s engine – remove the poem’s coil and you remove it’s spark. This mix of image and tone of voice fuse and build, redolent of the expert engineering as well as the seismic waves of this kind of employment / industrial crisis. It is more than the sum of its parts, creating the image of the slow motion crash that kept on crashing.
Katy Wareham Morris is a writer and lecturer in media and culture. She is particularly interested in identity politics and digital humanities. Her debut pamphlet, Inheritance was a poetry duet with Ruth Stacey, and was published by Mother’s Milk Press in 2017. This collection recently won Best Collaborative Work at the 2018 Saboteur Awards. Her first full collection of poems, Cutting the Green Ribbon is with Hesterglock Press and was published in May 2018. Her poems have also featured in webzines including I am not a silent poet and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She lives in Stourbridge, West Midlands with her family. Her website can be found at katywarehammorris.com , or on Twitter @katy_wm