the Mark Thomas Product show 'Pester Power'
It's hard to know, in this twenty
first century world full of extremes and money obsessed,
whether there really is something that the next generation
can do to turn around the selfish society we live in
today. Multinational companies seem to hold all the cards,
and what can one do in a first world country, so far
away from the corruption itself?
Well, as I
realised whilst watching 'The Mark Thomas Product'
on Channel 4, there is still a huge amount that
can be done through the simplest of ideas. Why
not get the head of Global affairs of a multinational
company to actually have a discussion with a
group of 13 year olds and see the results? That
is exactly what Mark Thomas did in this fascinatingly
funny programme, challenging the stereotypes
of teenagers and finding that the power to change
things has not been lost at all, only stifled.
sited at Hampstead Comprehensive School in Northwest
London brought together the MEP Richard Howitt,
a worker at the Urban Community Mission in Indonesia,
Endang Rokhnai, the Global Director of Social
and Environmental Affairs at Adidas, David Husselbee,
and thirty blood thirsty teenagers, in order
to discuss the conditions and pay of the workers
in Adidas factories in Indonesia.
A very pale Mr Husselbee. Having had questions
fired at him about the morality of the factory
situation and the actual reality of the wages
that only come if work is done from 7:30 in the
morning until 9 at night, it was scarily obvious
how much corruption is actually taking place.
The most poignant
point for me was when 13 year old Joe Wills questioned,
completely uninhibited by Mr Husselbee's title,
about the influence Adidas actually has on governments
in developing countries. Throughout the discussion,
David Husselbee had been returning to the fact
that it is an Indonesian law that enables 15
year olds to be employed and that Adidas pays
up to 15% over the Indonesian minimum wage (if
overtime is put in) But the truth of the matter
is that Indonesian law could easily be influenced
by a huge employer like Adidas, so why don't
they work with the government to raise the minimum
wage to help Indonesian society altogether? There
wasn't an answer to be! at this one and Mr Husselbee
sunk further into his chair as he tried to push
out a reasonably round about reply to cover his
back. The only problem was that these children
could see exactly what he was doing and weren't
afraid to challenge him. Conveniently there was
a plane that he had to catch, we'll have to leave
that question unanswered for now, Joe.
he could escape the students got to show him
exactly how they felt about Adidas, entering
designs into Adidas' 'Design a boot' competition,
fashioning statements as conclusive as 'Adidas
- Walking On Others'. Again, there was no reply.
But, as Mark Thomas was quick to illustrate,
Adidas and their type of exploitation is only
one of many.
the manipulation of schools and their tight budgets,
used by Jazzy Books who give free exercise books
which are riddles with advertising, to schools
which can't afford to say no, thus ensuring a
large and impressionable potential market of
and most surprising thing about Mark Thomas and
his show was how, even though he was dealing
with extremely serious and powerful subjects,
he was able to make it entertaining and hysterical
at the same time. And this is what lifts the
show from merely being a morbid projection of
a corrupt world, to an idea of hope, and I found
it inspirationally empowering seeing what just
one person can do.
I can make a difference for a person less fortunate
than myself, no matter how corny it may sound,
is very exciting. I have personally realised
that actually Adidas have no power in comparison
to that of the next generation, which, if fairly
represented by the students at Hampstead School,
seem scarily determined to find some kind of
Ella went along to the recording
of the show!
Well, before I go into
detail, I'd like to say that is was really
nice (sorry about the mundane word) of Channel
4 to let us come, supply the transport, keep
us all watered, and have us back in time for
tea. They got us there in two coaches; one
even had a toilet.
When we arrived, we were all given drinks, (no alcohol, unfortunately), and
told to make ourselves comfortable. The show was really funny, for the TV
showing they edited a part in which he described the children as being able
to pin someone to the wall with one look, which I think is easily shown when
they showed the things that were filmed at Hampstead school. Especially when
David Husselbee came along, some of the questions were, well, do I need to
say, you saw the programme!
For those that didn't,
a person came from Adidas that was in charge
of the conditions in the factories, and all
the children verbally thrashed him! I was really
amused, especially when Richard Howitt (an
MEP) and Endang, a reporter from Indonesia,
and even her translator had a go at him.
It was an experience that
made us realise that we could affect major
Over all, a good day out, and very, very funny.
Tara and Emma also went
to the show:
On Sunday 21st January, 2001, we attended the filming of the Mark Thomas
Product, along with fellow students and teachers from Hampstead School. This
followed Mark Thomas’s visit to our school where he discussed fair trade
issues with the students. We found the afternoon spent at the filming very
enjoyable and informative.
Mark Thomas managed to produce a very funny and entertaining show, while
talking about such controversial issues. The programme was based on the exploitation
of factory workers for multinational companies, such as Adidas. Mark Thomas
showed scenes of debates held at our school with David Husselbee, the Global
Director of Adidas’s Social and Environmental Affairs. Students from Hampstead
School demanded explanations for the poor treatment of Adidas’s workers in
Indonesia, and were given answers such as, “people who make our clothes and
shoes in Indonesia are paid better the than teachers and university professors,” implying
that if Adidas paid their workers more, it would “threaten Indonesia’s education
It was clear from the reactions of the audience, that the issues discussed
provoked strong feelings in all of the students that took part. They were
disgusted by the attitude of the offending companies, and the lack of sympathy
that was portrayed.
We were very grateful for the opportunity to take part in this event, as
it has raised our awareness of the regularity of slave labour in large companies
across the world. We realised that not only do these companies exploit their
workers, but they do so in such a way that the consumers are led to believe
that the products they’re buying are manufactured by fairly treated workers.
We hope we will be given an opportunity like this again, as it proves that
young people today can make a difference if they try.
After finding out about Adidas, and other similar companies, we have made
a conscious effort to stop buying their products. The Mark Thomas Product
helped raise awareness of fair trade issues around the world. We hope that
with more work like this, companies will be forced to change their policies
and cases such as the ones we looked at will become a thing of the past.
Web site of show mtp2001 and here
Sympathetic to David Husselbee? He featured in business
week and Financial
Clean Clothes Campaign have an adidas
Feedback from the show:
Hi - I saw the show and
really enjoyed it - I thought the kids were
excellent, and asked some very telling questions
(I'm a fan of the MT show, and was at the recording).
One question that I would like to have seen Husselbee ask the class (and
what I would have asked them if I were in his place) was "How many of you
will refuse to buy Adidas products again (or Nike, GAP etc. for that matter)...or
at least until we can guarantee better working conditions?". I was interested
to note that nearly half of the children at the recording were wearing Adidas
or Nike products. Without wanting to sound critical, the thought occurs that
the single most powerful weapon those children (and the rest of us) have
is the cash in their pockets.
Criticising Adidas on the one hand, but contributing to their profits on
the other is hypocritical. I'd be interested to know if the children were
asked about this (maybe it was edited), and if so what was their response?
a parent, I was both proud of the students
and very pleased that my child is at a
school where he is encouraged to challenge
I was extremely impressed by the depth of knowledge and understanding shown by
the students. They clearly felt strongly about the subject and displayed great
persistence in their questioning. I thought their actual questions were perceptive
and challenging. So much so, they were able to undermine totally, the weak case
presented by Adidas.
The recording of 'The Mark Thomas Product' was the culmination of a project that
has enabled my son, not only to understand more about the nature of the world
he lives in, but to realise that inequality does not have to go unchallenged.
He has shown a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm for the whole project
and I would like to thank Mr. Jenkins for initiating and running the project.
Saw the MTP programme - the best thing on TV in years!! You all did really
well questioning Husselbee - when is he coming back? You're so lucky
to have such interesting Geography lessons. This website is excellent
- telling all my friends - EVERYONE should visit it! Well done!
Just wanted to say Hi and congratulate all the kids their on a great performance
last night. You were all a credit to your school and teacher with the thoughtful
and intelligent questions that you posed. I was impressed! Keep up the good
work and the pressure. Best wishes. RE
I saw the Mark
Thomas Project programme and just wanted to
pass on my congratulations to you and your
students, who I thought were excellent!!! Yours
Just writing to
say how much I enjoyed watching your contribution
to the mark thomas show. All of the pupils
involved showed themselves to be clear thinking
and fair minded individuals. What an amazing
feat to get addidas to agree to a meeting with
the mep - a real achievement and a very empowering
experience for viewers as well as for you.
I'm not entirely sure though that this was
really what Blunkett had in mind when he talks
about citizenship but it should be. thanks
for reviving my faith in the so called 'disaffected
I watched the show and I thought
it was brillant what was acheived. I hope you
can continue to help fight for what you believe
in, and that this was a life changing experience,
for the better.
Just wanted to
say congrats on a great site and to get a little
background form you about the site because
I would like to feature it in a news story
on www.fuk.co.uk I saw The MT Product this
week and was amazed at how savvy your class
is. It's inspiring. The trainer drawings are
tremendous and I would like to do a story on
how the kids got involved with this project
and how you can see their alternative adidas
posters online (linking to your site of course).
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