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Mark Thomas Product a channel 4 program
review of the show
watching the recording of the show

Review of 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.

The conference, 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.

The outcome? 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.

But before 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.

He explained 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 school students.

The cleverest 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.

Knowing that 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 equality.

Holly Baxter Baine (16)

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 corporations.
Over all, a good day out, and very, very funny.

Ella Downing

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 system.”
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 too
Sympathetic to David Husselbee? He featured in business week and Financial times recently.
Clean Clothes Campaign have an adidas profile

Feedback from the show:

Featured letter:
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?

As 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 injustice.
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 (very impressed!)

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 youth'. BRILLIANT!

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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