Iconic Projects Remembered

Fascinating accounts of over 50 workers employed on a number of iconic projects have been published following a two-year oral history research project, based at the University of Westminster and involving the Joint Industry Board.

The ‘Building Workers’ Stories’ study focused on five key construction projects that took place during the 1950s and 60s: the Barbican, City of London; Stevenage New Town, the first of the post-war new towns; the South Bank Arts complex; the M1 motorway and Sizewell A nuclear power station.

Recollections from the men who worked on these sites reveal the hazards endemic in the industry before health & safety legislation. Insights include changes in building methods and technologies, trade union organisation, training, and new wage and employment systems, in particular bonus systems and labour-only subcontracting.  

The men interviewed also describe the strength of building site camaraderie and mutual support, their commitment to work in the face of very difficult site conditions and, for many, their pride in contributing to the rebuilding of Britain.

The JIB contributed to the study via FE Fund Committee chairman Ivor Williams and chief executive Steve Brawley, who were members of the advisory group set up by the Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), which led the University project.

Steve Brawley said: “We’re delighted to be part of such a ground-breaking project. Across the electrical industry there will undoubtedly be individuals who worked on these projects, or those who know people who did. I encourage everyone to take some time to listen to their captivating memories and experiences.”

To find out more about the project and listen to the workers’ stories visit: www.buildingworkersstories.com. The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led by Dr. Christine Wall and Professor Linda Clarke.

If you or anyone you know worked on any of the five case study sites and would like to contribute in any way, please contact Dr Wall or Professor Clarke.


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