Event…Taking over York Explore Library

By Jaanika Reinvald.

On Wednesday, the 4th of December we recreated some of the activities from the Rowntree factory days in the foyer of York Explore Library. Having set up a board with an eye-catching picture of the women working in the factory, laid out all the mouthwatering fake chocolates and set the Moorrees Formboard on display we were ready to attract a lot of attention and talk to everybody who entered the library.

Our cunning plan to attract people with chocolates and then move on to a more general discussion of their Rowntree memories worked wonders. The first of our two activities centred around chocolate packing, this is where the very realistic-looking fake chocolates came in. Adding a stop-watch, empty Black Magic box, a nice supply of frilly cups and a Top-Gear-styled leader board we were ready to start. The first one to have a go at the chocolate packing was Project Manager Suzanne and demonstrating a skill only acquired with lots of practice and hard work her packing time of 20 seconds was placed at the top of the leader board. This however did not thwart the enthusiasm of people visiting the library who happily joined the competition and came back time and time again to try and improve their earlier results. By the end of the day the leader board was displaying tens of contestants, several even beating the already experienced chocolate packers.

Competition to place on the leader board was fierce

Competition to place on the leader board was fierce

An even bigger crowd-pleaser was the Moorrees Formboard. This was one of the tests originally used by the Rowntree factory to find out which types of jobs suited people best. The new recruit would have had three minutes to match all the coloured shapes into the right slots on the board under the scrutinising eyes of a team of industrial psychologists and afterwards their efforts would have been analysed and every worker would have been allocated a suitable role in the factory, ranging from the Card Box Mill to Cream Packing or Smarties department. Even though we lacked a team of Rowntree-approved industrial psychologists we still had a lot of fun contemplating on the possible outcomes of the test and whether or not the people would have been offered a job by one of the most popular employers in York.

Morrees Formboard attracting a crowd

Morrees Formboard attracting a crowd

We had a lot of interest in the Moorrees Formboard and at one point people even had to wait in a queue to try out their board-filling skills. Though the task looked rather easy in the beginning – the shapes were all colour-coded – it proved to be much more challenging than anticipated requiring nimble fingers and a very good level of spatial awareness.

The day was a huge success in terms of connecting with a lot of people who used to work in the Rowntree factory or their offices or their own fire brigade or simply enjoyed eating Rowntree chocolates and felt like sharing their memories. We gathered many shorter memories on the day and established a lot of links with the people who would like to take part in the project as interviewees. We were particularly pleased about the range of people who came to have a look at what we were up to, ranging from toddlers developing an interest in our decorations to factory veterans who had worked at Rowntree’s for more than four decades. After the big success in York City Library we are very much looking forward to the residents’ weekend in January and hope to attract even more people.

Activities for everybody!

Activities for everybody!