Mr Democracy

A written constitution for the UK (made in China)


  • Welcome to Mr Democracy, the story of a British artist who set off to get a written constitution for the UK made.
    Understanding the changing balance of power in the world, and with a nod to Britain’s ‘democratic’ ventures across the world, he chose to get it written in China, and ship it back to the UK.
    Read more under 'about' and in the many blog entries.

Archive for the ‘toy production’ Category

Local Press

Posted by mrdemocracy on 14,11,2008

Just a quick link to a feature in the Daily Post, here. Not sure about the title, but overall its pretty positive about the project, and I hope it raises some interest.

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Huang Pu, wuh-hooo!

Posted by mrdemocracy on 09,09,2008

They’re off. Today I relaxed for the first time in two months! It was a stressful day though, completely Challenge Anneka.

Our deadline was 11am at the warehouse in Huang Pu, Gaungzhou’s main port. Despite everyone telling me it would be easy to find a truck and driver (man with a big van), we … had some trouble finding a man with a big van. Fearing that one wouldn’t be enough, we got two trucks (Jackson’s friend recommended them for us), and we met them at a metro station. From there we tried to get to the installation factory. I say tried to, we were again struck by the no-maps-no-directions-curse, loosing us valuable time. In the end someone came to meet us on a bike, after a few circles and many phone calls. Arriving at the installation factory I seemed to be in more of a rush than anyone, but Marco got the idea pretty quick. As the boxes started coming downstairs, I went upstairs to pay up. As this wasn’t Marco’s place, we settled using some plastic chairs to count the cash, I’ve never counted to much so fast!

The pressure only increased as we got back on the trucks to speed off to the port. I was concerned about traffic and getting lost, particularly not being able to find our warehouse. Jackson and I were on the phone all the time to each other and Laura from the shipping company. Arriving at Huang Pu, we were told we had to go to a counter to hand in a form, and get another one. I don’t know what people normally do, I can’t imagine many people do so much themselves. The queue at the counter was long and slow, and we noticed that the counter closed at 11:30 for lunch. Lunchtime in China seems to be as strict as France and Italy (used to be), and it also has nap time built-in, I approve. We made it! We were the last ones before the little counter window was slammed shut, that was lucky. We then went off to find our warehouse, 8c. We then discovered that it was closed for lunch, I don’t know why we weren’t told this by Laura beforehand. We unloaded onto pallets next to the warehouse, thankful that it didn’t rain, and paid the drivers. Lunchtime gave me a moment to start some filming – coming in with the goods had given me the opportunity to get right into the port, and it was the container base, cranes and all. I hadn’t known this before, I had thought we might have left our boxes at a warehouse owned by the shipping company, but they were not around.

After lunch the pallets were driven into the warehouse, boxes bouncing around, I don’t know how they are supposed to get to England. They had a piece of string to hold them together. And they were marked with chalk. We’ll see.

The filming opportunities got better still. A little wander round the corner and we were at the waterfront, with the cranes dropping the containers onto barges set for the short ride to Hong Kong, where they will be transferred to bigger cargo ships. Amazing. I still can’t believe we could get in and get so close, what happened to all the Olympic security? One guard told us we weren’t allowed to film, and asked us who we were. It did help that we were customers. We couldn’t really argue that we were lost (we were a long way from our warehouse), but maybe just curious customers. I tried to be discreet, and although he could still see we were there, he never come back. Jackson started to get a bit nervous with the huge cranes moving tonnes of container above our heads and rolling on their train tracks next to us, so we called it a day. Walking out of the container base in search of a bus or taxi, I really felt like I’d done it, the toys were on their way. Thanks Arts Council England, thanks for believing I could do it.

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Where are the clothes?

Posted by mrdemocracy on 05,09,2008

We had another scare (there’s basically one a day) – Marco called to say the clothes weren’t there. After calls to Mr Shao and Ms Chen (from the company from whom Mr Shao buys his toys, but not actually the toy factory owners), we establish that the delivery company left the box at the depot. Marco and the delivery company try to persuade me to go and get it. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve paid them to deliver it, its a complete waste of time – there are no good maps and I’ll never find this place. So after hours of persuasion, Marco relents and goes, although its only (in theory 15 mins from his company). We arrange to meet up after at the installation factory, his colleague shows me the way there.

Marco arrives an hour an a half late, having walked for miles. He’s pissed off with the delivery company, they just told him ‘near the bus station, just go straight’. Indeed, it was straight, but about 2 miles ‘straight’. It has the positive affect of making me realise that this sort of thing happens to everyone here not just me. What is still hard to understand the reaction – there was no acknowledgement by the delivery company that this was wrong, giving him useless directions and making him walk 2 miles.

Anyway, it was another great day being able to see the installation factory. Bear in mind this factory really was just working to complete my order, re-wiring each doll with the new chip, DC socket and switch. They also had to test each one, which I had failed to anticipate – that meant all the time you could hear ‘Consti, constit, Constitution for the United Kingdom of Gre…’!! It was comical, and made complete sense for the project.

I was disappointed to see that the boxes were damaged, with not just scuff and crushes, but holes too, don’t know how that happened. We discussed it with Marco, and I won’t go into the detail, but there was trying to decide who was responsible – the toy factory, the transporters, or the factory that received the goods for not noticing until now. I accepted pretty quickly that we weren’t going to get any more from Mr Shao or Ms Chen (also she was more helpful), so it was up to Marco and me. I offered to go 50 50 on some new boxes, and he agreed, remarkably easy. All a bit silly really – I’m more worried about the booxes being damaged than the toys the boxes are meant to protect. It might have been better to pack all the toys together and have 1000 boxes left flatpacked to be assembled in the UK, in good condition.

We also spent several hours trying out one ‘mainline’ – the power lead connecting all the toys together, so that they could all be run off the mains (saving the need to change batteries). In the end the design was incredibly simple, just a 30cm length of thin wire connected to the next by a connector – the type used to connect a lightbulb wire to the mains wire. There is then a DC socket coming of each of these connectors aswell, which plugs into the toy. At the end of these (100) wires is a mains power convertor. It was exciting to get all the toys laid out and plugged in… but sad to see that it wasn’t going to work. The voice chips went out of sink very quickly, and after less than 10 seconds you couldn’t make out a word. I then tried it with just 2, and even they went out of sink fast, and became inaudible. Marco seemed dissappointed too, which he should – this was a big part of what we had discussed since the start. The electrical engineers had said it would work. I wasn’t at all annoyed really – it just didn’t work. I was much more annoyed that the delivery company had failed to deliver the toys and made Marco walk 2 miles to pick them up.

What was also really different here was spending 4 hours in the factory, recording and then trying to get the mainline working. It was different to be working with Marco, we were trying to solve the problems together, and the people from the factory too, whereas before I’d been more of a customer.

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