Posted By The Sugar Girls ~ 5th April 2012
The Sugar Girls took to the airwaves today, appearing on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 with the lovely Jenni Murray. If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to it here:
Gladys Hudgell and Eva Rodwell, who worked at Tate & Lyle’s Plaistow Wharf Refinery as teenagers, joined co-author Nuala Calvi to talk about factory life in the East End during the 1940s and 1950s. Here’s a picture of everyone inside the studio (taken from the control room by Woman’s Hour runner Sophie!).
Jenni got to the bottom of Gladys’s reputation as a troublemaker, always getting told off by labour manageress Miss Smith for her pranks and bad behaviour – which included terrorising her supervisor with the mice she found in the scrap paper. Gladys was nearly sacked many times, but kept her job because she was the star of the factory athletics team. Girls from the Plaistow Wharf Refinery, run by the Lyles, always did their best to beat the Thames Refinery, run by the Tates, in the annual inter-refinery sports day.
Here is Gladys collecting the Inter-Refinery Shield from movie star Derrick De Marney.
We also talked about the recent surge of interest in the East End, with the successful TV adaptation of Call The Midwife, and why it’s important that the stories of people like Gladys and Eva are told. While the Tates are famous thanks to the art galleries they funded with their sugar empire, and the Lyle name lives on in Lyle’s Golden Syrup, until now the lives of the thousands of young girls who worked in the company’s East End factories and made the founding families their fortunes have not been recorded and their contribution not widely recognised.
Find out more about Gladys, Eva and the other women who made Tate & Lyle one of Britain’s most famous brands in The Sugar Girls, published by Collins. Click here to buy the book for just £3.77 with free delivery.