Rochdale Pioneers film premieres at Co-operative United

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The atmosphere couldn’t have been more electric as the credits rolled of the premiere of the Rochdale Pioneers film at Co-operatives United last night. 

The room was full of co-operators wiping their eyes and cheering for the film created in conjunction with the Co-operative Group and the Co-operative British Young Film Academy.

The story of the Pioneers has been told only once before on screen in the 1944 film ‘the Men of Rochdale’. Plucking at the heartstrings of even the strongest co-operators – this brand new re-telling truly captures the spirit and struggle of the men who founded the worldwide modern Co-operative Movement.

Peter Marks, the head of the Co-operative Group, said at the opening that he wondered why the story hadn’t been told hundreds of times before, it has all the great elements of a film “goodies, baddies, and triumph over adversity”.

The making of the film itself reflects the values and struggle of those pioneers over 160 years ago – made on a shoestring budget and on a tight shooting schedule.

Co-Director, John Montregrande, explained that they had been working on it “24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a year.”

The film stayed true to the Rochdale origins with nearly a hundred volunteers helping to make it success. One man, Ian Jenkins, a Rochdale resident who had never acted before turned up to help out as an extra and ended up getting a peaking role opposite one of the stars: John Henshaw.

As the credit rolled and a Q and A session began; Colin Lambert, Leader of Rochdale Council, asked when we were going to see Rochdale Pioneers the sequel to much cheering.

The two directors John and Adam Lee Hamilton are “graduates” from the Co-operative British Youth Film Academy, which gives young people the chance to find their feet in this industry. They have clocked up five years experience each in the BYFA and last year created the film; Julius Ceaser that made it into the competition selection at the Raindance Film Festival.

The idea of the Pioneers Film began last year, as Mark Robinson-Field, National Co-operative & Membership Manager at the Co-operative Group, was looking for a new project that would encapsulate the importance of the International Year of Co-operative.

At the same time the two co-directors came to the Group with an idea of a film about the Rochdale Pioneers and it all snowballed from there.

Co-operators and non-co-operators can catch the TV Premiere on Film4, Sunday 11 November at 17:45.

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About Emily Barker

Journalist for Co-operative News.