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The Mill: A change from the usual TV
Pete Watson, Nottingham
Channel 4's The Mill makes a change from the usual TV. Here we have a glimpse into the lives of working class teenagers forced to work in the cotton mills of the north west.
It is set in the 1830s, a time of protest and change in Britain. The "ten hours movement" is active to reduce the working day.
For the children and young people who work at the Mill, this is a dream. They are "contracted" to work 12 hours a day and more in return for food and shelter.
This drama is based on the Greg family who were mill owners at the time. Many of the events in the series took place, based on the historical records of the area.
Life is hard for the young workers with the Mill bell sounding for the start of work at 6am. But the young Mill women don't take things lying down.
In episode one, a worker decides to reduce the working day using her own methods. She climbs the bell tower and takes out the clanger so they all get a sleep in! The overseer at the Mill routinely abuses the young women who work at the Mill. The clanger is put to good use when he seeks to abuse her.
Hannah Greg, of the mill owning family, is active in the anti-slavery movement. She takes a young worker with her to a meeting where an ex-slave tells of her life in slavery.
The well-to-do audience gasp when she tells of children having to work from dawn to dusk without pay. But Tommy, the young worker, nods at this. What real difference is there between him and a slave?
The ten hours movement had some success in passing laws to reduce the working week and child labour. But what is a zero-hours contract but a return to the day when young people were forced to work for nothing? To sit waiting for a call to tell you whether you can work is unpaid labour. Past gains often have to be won again by struggle.
The next episode is on Channel 4 at 8pm, Sunday 18 August, or you can view all episodes so far on 4OD: channel4.com/programmes/the-mill/4od
In The Socialist 14 August 2013:
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