Heritage grant will preserve valuable records of the worker co-op movement

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the Co-operative Heritage Trust £43,000 to track down and preserve key documents

Funding has been put in place to identify and protect valuable historical records from the worker co-operative movement.

The Co-operative Heritage Trust has secured a £43,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, plus donations of more than £16,000 from current worker co-ops and other organisations in the movement, for the long-planned Working Together initiative.

The project aims to identify, preserve and make accessible for the first time records from some of the major workers’ co-operatives of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, when a rapid upsurge in the idea of working co-operatively led to a new wave of worker co-ops.

These workers co-ops played a significant role in their local communities but also had national significance, says the Trust. They aimed to create jobs where people were important, with an emphasis on sharing work, ownership, profits, responsibilities and decisions. The legacy from those years remains an important one for the co-operative movement as a whole.

A trained archivist will be employed for a 12-month period to find the material and, where possible, deposit it either at the National Co-operative Archive or the relevant local county record office or public archive.

An oral history element to the project will mean that recordings of the memories of some of those most involved in co-operatives during this period will be made.

Gillian Lonergan, librarian for the Trust, said: “We know that already some important records from workers’ co-operatives have ended up in skips, and much other material is now stored away in individual people’s attics and cupboards.

“Now is absolutely the time to ensure that these records are saved.”

The project will be based at the National Co-operative Archive in in Manchester, with separate measures to ensure the heritage of worker co-ops in Scotland and Wales are saved and made available in appropriate archives.

Ian Snaith, chair of the Trust, said: “We are delighted that we now have the resources we need to ensure that the records of this important part of our recent history are preserved.

“The National Co-operative Archive in Manchester has a priceless collection of records from the consumer co-operative movement but up to now has only had a very limited collection of archives from workers’ co-operatives. This project will enable us to ensure that key material is saved for posterity.”

He added: “We are extremely pleased that the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to support our work, and are looking forward to working closely with the HLF to develop a very successful project.

“We are also delighted to have received pledges from co-operatives and co-operative supporters towards the project’s costs. It’s been a long road to get this initiative successfully launched, but it’s great to know that we’re now there.”

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