Celebrating Co-operatives Fortnight in the birthplace of modern co-operation

Rochdale is flying the flag for the movement, with events at the Pioneers Museum and support from the town’s co-operative council

Rochdale – the birthplace of modern co-operation – has been celebrating the start of Co-operatives Fortnight (17 June-1 July).

On Saturday, 17 June, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and Manchester Metropolitan School of Art hosted the Festival of Rochdale Voices, to mark both Co-operatives Fortnight and the Great Get Together – a national day to focus on communities and cohesion in memory of Jo Cox MP.

“We wanted to find out what people think of the Rochdale area, and why they feel the way they do about the places they live, in light of the Rowntree Report about life in urban areas in 2017,” said Liz McIvor, Co-operative Heritage Trust manager.

“At the same time, the Co-operative Heritage Trust began sessions related to our upcoming exhibition and community outreach programme ‘Tea and Biscuits’ by asking visitors questions how they drink their tea, and what tea means to them.

“We are interested in how the history of a culturally important product like tea sold by the Co-operative Wholesale Society is explored, and how it can provide a link between people of different backgrounds, ages and experience in the Rochdale borough and Greater Manchester.”

The event was supported by Hovis, who provided free loaves to give away during the event (especially for visitors observing Ramadan), and there were family friendly activities like face painting, poetry and singing, clog dancing, crafts and free refreshments at the museum site, St Mary’s in the Baum church, and on Toad Lane.

“The event was well received on the hottest day of the year, and we at the Co-operative Heritage Trust hope to build on it to raise our profile in the community in the future,” added Ms McIvor.

Rochdale town – which is run by a co-operative council – also marked the start of Co-operatives Fortnight with a flag-raising ceremony at Rochdale Town Hall on the Esplanade.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour), councillor Ian Duckworth (mayor of Rochdale), Richard Farnell (leader of the council) and other officers of Rochdale Borough Council, members of co-operatives and society boards were present. The flag will fly for the duration of the fortnight, and the council has committed to highlight co-operative campaigns in the region.

“During Co-operatives Fortnight this year, all on eyes will once again be on the birthplace of what has become a global phenomenon,” said Cllr Farnell.

“We must continue to celebrate and value our unique heritage and I am very proud of our links to the movement. This celebration fortnight shows the co-operative spirit is alive and well in Rochdale and across the world.”

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