"Today's Britons" are quietly successful, hard-working people, who deserve to be heard - and we can learn a lot if we listen to what they have to say.
Tina Talks to...
Welcome to 'Tina talks to... Today's Britons' - the podcast where I talk to people who don’t very often get heard and from whom we can learn a lot if we listen to what they’ve got to say.
As we grapple with solutions to help us level-up, tackle inequalities and bridge the education divide we’ve seen exposed by recent democratic events – it’s important to hear from people whose experiences can help us check we’ve understood what’s gone wrong, as well as help put things right.
In this season, I talk to an Oil Rig worker from Middlesbrough about community in all its forms and what's influencing voters in 'Red Wall' seats; a warehouse worker about Big Tech and its impact on people’s motivation at work; a hairdresser about the importance of attitude as well as a great technical education when it comes to being successful; a former national newspaper editor’s PA about what power means, as well as how the media has changed and the way the world of politics responded to the Brexit referendum result; and by listening to the story of a fantastic couple who own and run their own small funeral directing business and have been on the front line during COVID, learn just how important localism really is when it comes to decision-making.
These are their stories and their perspectives - and they are all worth listening to.
All Season 1 episodes will be released on Friday 24th September:
Tina talks to...
…an oilrig worker about community, and the Red Wall
…a secretary about power, the media, and Brexit
…a hairdresser about attitude, and technical education
…funeral directors about local life, and COVID
…a warehouse worker about motivation, and Big Tech
...an oilrig worker about community, and the Red Wall
This is a conversation with John Greenslade who was born, brought up and lives in Middlesbrough. But like so many other Teesside men, John works away and has done so for most of his adult life. John and I first met in a London pub one Saturday night in 1986, when he told me he had travelled on the so-called “Tebbit Express” to London in search of work. We learn how he’s prospered since, the community-spirit of Teesside’s men even when they are dispersed and away from home, and why a sense of community and belonging is also important when working in the middle of the North Sea on an oilrig.
John also tells us about Teesside’s decline as one of the UK’s thriving industrial heartlands, his hopes for the revival of his much loved home-town – and why this life-long Labour-voter feels more optimistic since the election of Teesside’s Conservative Mayor (though he still voted Labour at the General Election in 2019).
We hear politicians talk a lot about the so-called Red-Wall: this is the perspective of someone who lives there. And by listening to what John has to say and the distinction he draws between national and local politics – we get a sense of why the political landscape has changed, and may yet change further.
...a secretary about power, the media, and Brexit
In this episode I’m talking to retired secretary, Sooty Javeri. For nearly 20 years of her working life, she worked at Associated Newspapers. First in the editor’s office at the Daily Mail, as the junior secretary to David English, and for 15 years as PA to Stewart Steven whilst he was editor of the Mail on Sunday and then editor of the Evening Standard.
She shares her views on the way the media has changed which she believes is for the worse, with journalists wanting to argue with politicians and interviewees instead of helping people understand and make them think. Sooty also explains why she voted Leave in the EU Referendum and gives her reaction to the way that Parliament and the House of Lords in particular behaved in the years that followed and until we finally left the EU in 2020.
By talking to someone who held a junior role at work - and hear Sooty describe when her important contribution was recognised by her bosses and when it wasn’t - this conversation is essentially about the power dynamic and what it looks like from the smaller side of the equation. Because the same dynamic is in play when we go on to discuss Sooty’s perspective – as a Leave Voter who respectfully engaged in the democratic process – when the world of politics and other powerful forces responded so negatively and obstructively to the Brexit referendum result.
...a hairdresser about attitude, and technical education
In this conversation with German hairdresser Fabian Raad-McAndrew (who came to London in 2008 when he was 21 and settled here after marrying a British guy), we get to learn that technical training in Germany is as much about gaining the right attitude as it is about learning and developing the best skills to be good at your job and achieve your goals. Fabian tells us about his experiences working alongside British-trained stylists in the West End and his success in setting up his own small salon in South London at the age of 25 – where the high-standards he’d learned in Germany drove him forward and were always on display. We learn too how ‘officialdom’ can be blind to the contribution small businesses with high standards make to a local area and, when councils focus on all the wrong things, discourage people who we can’t afford to lose. Fabian’s is in many ways an uplifting and positive story and he is a fantastic example of someone technically trained, but it also shows why we as Brits still have a lot to learn about how to value people with a trade and who work with their hands.
...funeral directors about local life, and COVID
In this episode I get to talk to two funeral directors: husband and wife team, Julie and Richard Haywood. They run their own business, the Julie Wesson Independent Funeral Directors, which they opened in Beeston about 14 years ago. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, they found themselves on the frontline as the first funeral company in Nottingham to deal with a COVID death, and like all other funeral directors have remained there since.
Julie has worked in the funeral trade since she was a teenager and she tells us about her progress beginning on a YTS scheme, running the Beeston branch of a larger firm, and what led her and Richard to start their own business. Their story is a great example of how and why people succeed, and we get to learn from their approach (and that of the local bank manager who backed them from the start), just how much a business can achieve when the people who run it really care about and are vested in the people they seek to serve. More than anything, this conversation and their story demonstrates the power of local relationships – and just how much difference can be made, and more impactful the world of business could be, if more people on the ground had more decision-making power.
...a warehouse worker about motivation, and Big Tech
This is a conversation with my brother, Mark Stowell, about how the world of work has changed over the last 40 years for those on the shop floor working in manufacturing and logistics. What is it like working in a 24-hour high-tech environment in contrast to one with deadlines and mass orders? What is it like when computers and technology drive rates of performance and standards, instead of human beings? How does this affect the motivation of people who work in these environments and the relationships we build? Indeed, does it make a difference to who wants to work there?
The backdrop to our chat is that, for the last two years Mark has worked in the shipping department at a large Amazon Fulfilment Centre, and when Amazon arrived in the local area and created several hundred new jobs in 2019, I was surprised to learn (contrary to all I’d previously heard) that the contract terms, wages and working conditions were good; and better than most other places offering unskilled work.
In this conversation, Mark covers in fascinating detail some of the routine aspects of the various jobs he’s done over the years, and through his analysis of how the workplace has changed, offers an insight to the human consequences of relying on and giving more authority to machines. The question it left me with is – what can or should we do about this? Because whilst we are motivated by the benefits of greater productivity and convenience that technology brings, the workplace is also where we build relationships and stronger local communities, without which we can't survive.