Film ID:
YFA 1330

TWO WORLD FAMOUS THINGS ABOUT BATLEY

2001

Visitor Tabs

Description

This is a documentary on the Fox’s Biscuit factory in Batley and the Gujarati Writer’s Circle in Batley.  The film was made by Vera Media Production as part of the Yorkshire Media Consortium project.  The film focuses on interviews with Khateeb Ahmed, the Process Trainer at Fox’s Biscuits, and Ismael Daji, a process worker and member of the Gujarati Writer’s Circle.

Title – Two World Famous Things about Batley
Batley 2001: A West Yorkshire mill town

The film begins with a long piece of text which accompanies the film throughout:
“Once it was famous for its textile mills and variety clubs.  Times change, the mills are almost gone.  Today, the most famous thing about Batley is its biscuits.”

As the following text rolls past there are old photographs of the factory and its workers and images of the products:

“At Fox’s biscuit factory biscuits, party rings, are moving along a conveyor belt being covered in icing.  ‘This factory sells 168 million packets and 12 million assortments per year.  Placed end to end they would stretch 16,000 miles to China and back again.  Fox’s Biscuits was founded in 1853 by Michael Spedding, who opened a small confectionery shop in the centre of Batley.  He began by selling brandy snaps and ginger biscuits.  Spedding retired in 1897 and the business passed on to his son-in-law, Fred Ellis Fox . . . hence the name.”

Rows of ginger nuts move along a conveyor belt.  Khateeb Ahmed, the Process Trainer at Fox’s Biscuits, states that you have to test the biscuits by snap and taste.  He explains that all workers have to wear mob caps, with a different colour every day, and following this, goes onto explain the hygiene procedure.  Women are putting the assorted biscuits into their packaging as it moves along the conveyor belt.  Khateeb Ahmed states that after a while one gets used to the biscuits, but he still likes to have one at home with his tea.  Text gives the figures of how much ingredients are used each year.  Some of the process of making the biscuits is shown including adding the ingredients and being poured into a large mixing bowl.

As the resulting mix is being laid out onto a conveyor belt, Ismael Daji, a process worker and shop steward, is shown. Ismael is also “a part of the second thing that Batley is world famous for  . . .  the poetry of Gujarati Writer’s Circle”.  He explains the appeal of the Ghazal poetry, traditionally an expression of temporal or spiritual love.  Modern Ghazal poetry has a wider range.  As he reads a poem the accompanying text states that the Circle was formed in 1980, and gives a list of members.  Ismael explains the origins of the poetry in Arabic, and that it was then translated into Farsi and then into Urdu and Gujarati.  He goes on to explain the structure and language of the poetry, and that the Circle has become well-known in the US and India.  Ismael then goes on to read out a poem, translated into English in the text, relating to a nuclear test in India.

Ismael, now 61, explains that he was born in India but moved to Britain in 1961.  He recounts his studies in India and states that he is now proud to be a Yorkshireman, having lived here most of his life in the same place.  His job at Fox’s is to check the standards of the biscuits.  He works night shifts, along with about 300 other workers.  A supply of Swiss chocolate arrives, receiving two tanker loads a day.  We then see biscuits being covered in chocolate on one side as they pass along the conveyor belt.  Khateeb explains that the temperature of chocolate as it is applied has to be just right.  The accompanying text provides information on the production at Fox’s three factories, which produce in total 2.85 billion biscuits each year.  Khateeb goes on to say that there is a family atmosphere in the factory, with a workforce coming from across West Yorkshire, about 30% Asian.
Ismael reads out another poem, before we see women workers packing chocolate biscuits, Echo, as they move along the conveyor belt.  The boxes are then transported to the warehouse where they are loaded onto a lorry which drives away.

Thanks to Fox’s Biscuits and Councillor Gulam Maniar
Camera – Jan Wells and Shahin Afnan
Sound – Dave Turton and Catherine Mitchell
Research – Sharon Hooper
Music – Dorman Topman Productions
Director – Martin Belderson
Two World Famous Things about Batley is part of the A4 Contemporary Video Collection
A Vera Media Production
© 2001 Vera Media