30 October, 2012


'He should be in a hospital for the criminally insane' young male speaking to friend on train. Friends reply unintelligible.

This was my introduction to Worktown, the typical industrial town studied by the mass observers Tom Harrison, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings just 75 years ago. Some of the observers had previously been studying african cannibals and decided that they wanted to study the cannibals of Britain. I didn't see any cannibals, although I did see a questionable black pudding. Worktown seemed to have a bit going for it including an olympic gold medalist. The Salvation Army charity shop even had two utility sideboards at £30 each - now how to get them on the train...

 It was raining in Worktown today. 80% of people wearing coats, 20% of people wearing hats. Some men and women in summer clothing even though the temperature was low. Called in at the town library, museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium. The Aquarium was built after the Worktown study and attended by about 10 people most with children in tow. Strong obediennce to the notices in three languages not to tap on the glass fish tanks. Some big fish were present and the atmosphere was silent observation. Worktowners seem to like their aquarium. After that I called into the library with the Bowyer illustrated bible. This bible was given to Worktown in 1948 by the Heywood family. All 44 volumes of it sit in an ornate wooden bookcase in the library. Lavishly illustrated it is a true work of art. But I bet not many worktowners look at it.
From Travels around London
In the Worktown study the attendant came out of the Art Gallery office to see who was coming into the gallery. Well today there were a few more people in the museum and gallery. Most of them were looking at the Humphrey Spender pictures from the Mass Observation archive. 50% female, mostly elderley. The pictures were taken in the 1930s and 1960 when the observers returned to worktown. A fascinating account of the recent past. An interesting building was the Turkish Bath right next door to the Inland Revenue offices. . What would the mass observers make of that?

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