Robert Owen’s story set for BBC prime-time

Robert Owen — one of the inspirations behind the Co-operative Movement — features in a television programme about Britain's 19th century heroes.

The story of Robert Owen, who transformed the New Lanark mill town for the benefit of the workers, will be told by political satirist Ian Hislop in the Age Of The Do-Gooders.

Ian Hislop recounts the lives of the maverick Do-Gooders who he believes fixed the 19th century’s version of broken Britain in this three-part series, which starts next week on BBC 2. 

The Do-Gooders are heroes to Ian — extraordinary men and women who precipitated the most remarkable period of social change in British history and, Ian argues, left us with a nation worth living in.

In the first programme in the series, Britain’s Moral Makeover, Ian tells the story of Robert Owen’s transformation of New Lanark in Scotland. Here, Owen brought better working conditions for the labourers — including reduced-priced food and other goods, which was bought in bulk and inspired the Movement’s notion of reducing costs and passing benefits on to the members.

Says Ian: "Today many see Do-Gooders as little more than interfering busybodies and few people believe they can personally make a difference. But the achievements of these extraordinary characters and others like them should perhaps make us think that their 19th-century dynamism and commitment might just have something to teach us in the 21st century."

The programme also focuses on Thomas Wakley, founder of The Lancet, who exposed the fatal consequences of cronyism in the surgical profession and George Dawson, inventor of the civic gospel which inspired a generation of Brummies to take responsibility for their city.

Other Do-Gooders include Charles Trevelyan, who battled to make the civil service a meritocracy, and Octavia Hill, a pioneer of social housing, despite her opposition to cash hand-outs or anything that might create a dependency culture. 

The programme is set to air on November 29th at 9pm on BBC 2. It can also be viewed online after the programme has aired.

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