Cat no. 9138

Bata Sports Day

Running time10:07 Colour Silent c.1954 Tilbury, Essex

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British Bata's annual sports day.



On the Bata sports field, beside the shoe manufacturer's East Tilbury factory, preparations are underway for the Bata Sports and Social Club's annual Sports Day. As the lanes are marked, the Double Diamond ale arrives by the crate-load, food is prepared and the finishing touches are put on marquees and fairground tents.

Employees arrive with their families, and company executives and invited guests assemble to watch a variety of sporting events, including running, long jump, tug-of-war, high jump, javelin and log duels. Elsewhere, employees and their families enjoy the fairground attractions and performances by a brass band, whilst children compete in running races and judging takes place in a 'beautiful children' competition, and the film concludes with a prize-giving ceremony.

Background Information:

"The construction of a Bata Shoes factory in the 1930s resulted in substantial development in East Tilbury. The factory has since closed down. The Bata company developed not only a factory, but also a town for workers, built in the modernist style, and a sizeable estate of listed buildings remains. A sizeable Czech workforce was relocated here, and has merged into the local community after connections were lost with Czechoslovakia after the Second World war. John Tusa's father became manager of the factory." [ SOURCE: Wikipedia, ]

"Looked at from today's harsh, market driven methods, the Bata enterprise was incredibly paternalistic. Nobody acts like that today, building model estates, looking after workers for a lifetime of service. The Bata estate contained a Bata school, Bata technical college, Bata hotel and restaurant, Bata cinema, Bata swimming pool, tennis courts, Bata farm, butcher, grocer, Bata shoe shop, doctor and a Bata garage. And of course, the Bata sports field. The sense of benevolent paternalism was best expressed during the Annual Sports Day. This film- one of many – is taken from the early 1950s and I think it carries some interesting messages.

The observations I draw are as follows. First, that you could not imagine an average plant of 3,000 people today producing so many people capable of running, jumping or tugging or willing to do so; we were much fitter then. Second, comparatively soon after the war ended, and with some elements of food rationing still in place, people were both fitter and slimmer. Third, everyone was far more conventionally dressed; jackets, slacks and proper shoes; a lot of hats too. Leisure wear was not even a gleam in a designer's eye. Fourth, there was big turn out; this was a major item in people's calendars. Next, the Sports Day was a competition among the different factory departments – engineering, leather footwear and so on. It built team work and a sense of solidarity among staff within the factory context. Finally, this was an event when the Chairman, Directors and all senior managers and their wives attended. Absence was not an option.

So while it was a family day out for the company and its staff, that day was a key part of the way the company practised enlightened self interest. As Robert Owen discovered in New Lanark, a work force that is well looked after works better than one that is exploited. Internal competition even at Sports Day provided innocent fun for the family, but it also strengthened team identity within the factory, and enhanced business performance too."
[ SOURCE: Transcript of John Tusa's 2003 Burrows Lecture on East Tilbury and Bata Shoes, ]

Featured Organisations:

British Bata Shoes

John Tusa

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