The Manchester convention centre known as Manchester Central is a very large and expansive space, and this week houses Co-operative United, which includes the ICA Expo—kiosks of co-operatives from different countries all over the world. The Expo flows out into the hallway and adjoining rooms where there are kiosks mainly from more local co-operatives throughout the UK. Mixed within these kiosks are igloo-looking structures that offer a series of workshops called “Big Ideas” to small audiences of 20 or so people. And finally before arriving at the at the main auditorium participants pass through “Co-operative Living”—It is another very large room that has been transformed into a village of all things co-operative. The village looks like a typical English village, complete with a city square in the centre.
Surrounding the square are all of the shops and amenities.
You can experience the travel co-op.
The food co-op with an ongoing series of cooking demonstrations.
Learn about the co-operative schools project taking over the UK, where schools are converted into multi-stakeholder co-operatives with staff, students, parents and members of the local community running the schools and embedding co-operative values into all aspects of teaching and learning.
You can learn about the The Co-operative Group as a farmer, and how they approach sustainability.
And of course what English community would be complete without the pub, and don’t forget it’s a co-operative as well, so you own it!
This space is incredibly lively, there have been street performers and local school groups performing. It also has the feel of a community, with some people just passing through and others taking some time to stop and experience the town.
Oh and of course not a detail was missed. As you enter town, each guest is given a membership card that affords you additional benefits when you visit the various co-operatives.
This is a really great space, full of energy and such a wonderful way for the full spectrum of guests, from local to international to see ‘first-hand’ the applications of co-operatives to our daily lives. As the program states “there is always a lifestyle option that is simultaneously a co-operative option.”