Co-operatives United: 100 day countdown

With 100 days to go until Co-operatives United, the north west of England is getting set to welcome co-operators to the World Capital of Co-operatives.

With 100 days to go until Co-operatives United, the north west of England is getting set to welcome co-operators to the World Capital of Co-operatives.

Co-operatives United, the global culmination of the International Year of Co-operatives, will host the International Co-operative Alliance’s General Assembly, the ICAEXPO, Co-operatives UK’s annual Congress and the Co-operative Group’s Co-operative Living exhibition.

Delegates visiting the Manchester event, from October 29th – November 2nd, will also have the opportunity to visit nearby Rochdale, which was declared the World Capital of Co-operatives by the ICA at its General Assembly in Mexico last year.

Rochdale has embraced the International Year of Co-operatives with flowerbeds around the town adorning the colours and logo of the Year, signs welcoming visitors to the ‘Home of Co-operation’ and many other initiatives that raise the awareness of co-operatives.

In celebration of Co-operatives United, Colin Lambert, the Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, which is turning into a co-operative council, gave his views in a special interview about his town’s plans for culmination event of the International Year . . .

How does it feel to be named World capital of co-operatives?

It’s a fantastic achievement for the borough of Rochdale and a fitting reward for the original founding members of the Co-op movement. It’s an honour for Rochdale for the ICA to vote us as the World Capital. For them to back that up physically by actually coming here and celebrating the International Year of Co-operatives at the home of the co-op movement is a fantastic level of recognition from countries around the world.

What events are planned around and up to Co-operatives United?

There are so many! In May we worked with the primary schools about the history of the co-operative movement. We had the children pushing a wheelbarrow around the Great Hall 800 times and that measured the distance of the first sack of grain that was brought from Manchester to Rochdale in a wheelbarrow by the Rochdale Pioneers.

We are also doing a Pride of the Borough awards; we’ve got the history trails; and we’re holding the big dinner at the end of October, which will host the Board of the ICA, and we’re hoping this will coincide with the official reopening of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.

Thousands of people will be coming to visit the region during Co-operatives United, what does that mean to Rochdale and what will visitors expect from the borough?

It gives Rochdale the recognition on an international stage, but obviously it’s also going to be good for our community and for our businesses to have that many visitors in the borough at one time.

What they will see is a town that has now been redeveloped. There is construction underway with new tram and bus interchange, brand new civic offices, and by then we will hopefully have started the reopening of the river Roch through the town centre.

It’s all being done by co-operating with the local community; public and private sector together. What they will see is the co-op principles living on here in the centre of Rochdale.

When promoting the International Year of Co-operatives, what reaction have you received from residents of Rochdale who have seen flowerbeds, flags and signs about co-operatives all around the town?

I’ve been surprised by how much people know about it. I always had this fear that the present generation had forgotten all about the co-op movement – what is it about? Why has Rochdale been chosen?

That hasn’t happened. The schools have all done little projects; my children come home and start telling me about the co-op movement. It’s been quite a positive reaction.

What is the future for Rochdale and co-operatives?

The ethics and ethos of co-operation are now at the heart of how we will be running this council from 2014. All our communications are now badged as a co-operative council.

We’ve got the biggest housing mutual this country’s ever seen, which is up and running since 25 March.

We’re looking at other examples of co-operatives and social enterprise such as adult care and the youth services. This summer our secondary schools have become co-operative schools.

• To visit Rochdale as part of Co-operatives United, book your place today: 

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