‘The Rise and Fall of Timex Dundee’ BBC Scotland – 15 October 2019

Tuesday 15th of October was good for women’s history in Scotland. After returning from seeing ‘Her Century’ at the cinema I watched ‘The Rise and Fall of Timex Dundee’ on BBC Scotland.

You can watch the trailer here:

This was a really interesting documentary that looked at the impact of the Timex strike of 1993. I know a wee bit about this having worked in Dundee and written about women in the city for an edited collection years ago. Timex is also a case study on the project I’m currently working on which has analysed the phased and managed process of deindustrialisation in Scotland in the post war years and the long term impact on individuals, their families and communities.

We have interviewed individuals from the Timex History Group and have drawn on interviews conducted by Dr Mona Bozdog of Abertay University in Dundee. In fact it was Mona who first highlighted the links between computer console manufacturing at Timex and the games industry in Dundee in her project Generation ZX(Y).

Here Mona describes the project:

And here we see some footage of the final installation:

You can find out more about Mona’s fascinating work at her websites – https://monabozdog.co.uk/2018/02/22/generation-zxx/ https://www.performingplay.co.uk/generation-zx-x

There was lots of really interesting testimony in the documentary about the strike and it’s place in Scotland’s industrial and labour movement history as the “last full-blooded strike in Scotland”. There was really the sense of this being an event that impacted on and drew solidarity from workers around Scotland (see images below of solidarity marches). Especially given the fact that people in the city crossed the picket line to work in the factory – with scenes on the picket line becoming increasingly violent. The emotion was clear in the interviews with former workers but also with former union officials and from the strike support group.

Solidarity march in Dundee March 1993 – it was estimated 10,000 people attended

I’d have liked to heard more about the rise as well as the fall of Timex in Dundee. There were snippets of what it was like to work in the factory such as the ‘shop’ in the toilets and Christmas nights out. I wanted to hear more about women’s everyday experiences of working in the factory as well as its loss – the camaraderie among women, the networks of mutual aid and support, the gendered experience of factory work. These are the elements of women’s work that can be difficult to find out about and capture. This is what was lost when the factory closed after the lock out and strike. Many of the women who worked at Timex and in other factories in Scotland went from working in groups, as part of a team with the banter and humour that went with it, to more solitary work in the care sector or similar. It was the same for men who became taxi or delivery drivers or gas fitters. They didn’t just lose their job but the network of people around them.

However that would have been a different programme and I can understand the emphasis on the climatic end given the longevity of Timex in the city and the generations of Dundonian families who had worked there. The programme is also included in a series entitled ‘People Power’ which has an emphasis on protest.

What is most important about this documentary, as well as Mona’s work, is that women’s voices are being heard and their experiences recorded. This isn’t the first time the story has been told, a play ‘On the Line’ written by Alan Spence was staged at the Dundee Rep only a few years after the closure and proved cathartic for many former workers. But it is important that this episode, and the very visible action of women, in Dundee’s and Scotland’s history continues to be remembered.

The Rise and Fall of Timex Dundee is available on BBC iplayer for 28 days 

Dr Valerie Wright, University of Glasgow

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