The community is breathing new life into a socialist club that had closed its doors. The former Milnsbridge Socialist Club, now being run by a co-operative as the Red and Green Club, attracted around 200 people to its first event.
After the club ceased trading in June, the community formed Milnsbridge Co-operative Society to buy the building and re-develop it in phases. It plans improved disabled access, office accommodation and a canal-side café.
Its first event, a ‘People’s Party’, featured musicians, a book and CD sale, stalls from local organisations, food and local beer. It raised about £450 for the club.
The co-op is renting the building until the end of the year, by which time it hopes to have raised the £100,000 it needs for the purchase. It is talking to national trades unions about the capital costs and has benefited from free advice from the co-operative movement.
The University of Huddersfield has donated 40 chairs to replace the seats in the concert room and rail union the Transport Salaried Staffs Association agreed a short-term grant of £2,500.
Charlie Fairbank, Treasurer, said: “We have some major expenses ahead, including structural surveys and producing a business plan. Without these we will not be able to go ahead with applications for grants to purchase the building.
“We can now move forward knowing that some big costs are covered. We’ve also had some generous donations from individual supporters.”
The co-op aims to provide a venue for the Huddersfield area, offering music, theatre, cinema, poetry and history. “We can accommodate up to 60 people in the concert room quite comfortably,” said Charlie.
The co-op believes Milnsbridge Sociailist Club, which was established in 1892, was Britain’s oldest surviving socialist club. Christabel Pankhurst, Philip Snowden and Victor Grayson spoke there and Harold Wilson, who was born nearby, was a regular visitor.
“The early socialist movement understood the importance of having your own place, whether it was the radical clubs of London or the socialist rooms in the industrial North,” said Paul Salveson, club Chair and Labour Councillor for Golcar ward in Kirklees. “I’d love to hear about other examples of socialist-inclined clubs around the country. Maybe there are more than I think.”