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Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

Life after Woolies...

Woolworths store
End of an era...

Woolworths should have been celebrating its centenary this year. But on 6 January the international retailer, with a presence in nearly every high street, closed down for good. Twenty seven thousand people in the UK are now redundant as a result. And in one town, three generations of one family lost their job.

That is how the Politics Show found itself in Barrow-in-Furness, a town perched at the end of a peninsula in the north-west corner of England.

An isolated town, Barrow lies at the southerly tip of the more visited Lake District.

Some have called it Britain's biggest cul-de-sac.

Its people are proud of their past. Murals commemorate the town's importance as a ship-building hub.

It is here, the UK's strategic national defences are built, where warships are still commissioned.

BAE Systems, formerly Vickers, is housed in a bulky building by the coastline.

Despite its appearance, residents remain fond of it. It is after all, a major employer.

Margaret Bewley
Margaret Bewley - 45 years of loyal service at an end

It is ironic that their local MP is also the Defence Secretary and has had to sanction the delay in building a new aircraft carrier at the works.

"He used to be for us not against us," said one constituent.

Difficult times

But the town is facing a very different difficulty.

The Politics Show found a family, covering three generations who have had their once-secure futures left as exposed as the peninsula town itself.

There are no sea-faring songs in this industry, although a week ago you might have witnessed a couple of congas by the pic-n-mix.

Margaret Bewley had worked in the same Woolworths for 45 years.

Margaret has been awarded the minimum statutory redundancy, capped regardless of how long you have worked there.

Loyalty and dedication have ended in a rapid and upsetting sell-off of everything: not just stock but the shelving and baskets she stacked every day of her working life.

At 66, she could retire.

But like any grandmother, there is a large family she likes to treat.

Another generation…

Stephen Neale
Supporting his family is a vital priority for Stephen

Stephen, Margaret's son-in-law, rose to Assistant Manager of the same store.

He supports a family of five and while we were in contact with him, he became a youthful grandfather for the first time.

Baby Lunar was born the day after his shop closed. Meeting their mortgage payments is a big worry.

And then there is student Matt - Margaret's grandson.

He worked there in his spare time, largely for pocket money.

It helped keep his debt down.

Matt Neale
Matt will need to find new directions for his business life...

His goal was to enter business and management and was working towards it in his degree.

Perhaps ironically, we interrupted him writing an essay on future employability.

One possible ambition was to work his way up through Woolworths, perhaps managing where he used to buy toys.

A recalibration - as well as a new funding source - is now needed.

The Bewley family
The demise of Woolies will be felt by the extended family...

Barrow survived when other ship-building towns looked for new ways to regenerate.

Portland Walk was a regeneration of sorts, ushering in a flotilla of new shops.

But in the high street stands an empty shop which had survived the Great Depression, Two World Wars and many other busts.

In 2008, it failed to weather the credit crunch.

The Politics Show will be keeping in touch with Margaret, Stephen and Matt to see how they cope with Life After Woolies.

If you are affected by the crash of Woolies - you can send an e-mail in the form below...

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