Welsh co-operators honoured at Owen Awards

A new crop of co-operators has been honoured at the second Robert Owen awards, launched by the Co-operative Group to celebrate co-operation in Wales.

A new crop of co-operators has been honoured at the second Robert Owen awards, launched by the Co-operative Group to celebrate co-operation in Wales.

The “Community Co-operative of the Year” award went to Vetch Veg, a community vegetable garden in Swansea. Families, local organisations, churches and charities from the local Chinese and Bangladeshi communities as well as the indigenous population are cultivating over 110 plots at the site.

Alban Rees, chair of the Co-operative Group’s West Wales area committee, said the project demonstrated how co-operation could achieve environmental results and bring a diverse community together.

Pat Brandwood was named “Co-operator of the Year”, in recognition of her work as voluntary curator at Robert Owen Museum, Newton.

Former teacher Pat became interested in Owen’s ideas about learning through enjoyment and discovery as a student, and when she retired to Newtown she joined the museum that celebrates his life. Initially volunteer education officer, as its curator she has taken a pivotal role in the museum’s recent makeover.

Pat said. “The team at the museum has done a lot in recent years to refresh the museum, conserve the historic artefacts and reach out to the community. It’s important to see this as an award for all those who’ve helped.”

Sam Woodward, 20, from Winchestown, Blaenau Gwent, received the “Young Co-operator of the Year” accolade. Recognising local issues with anti-social behaviour, she has launched weekly multi-sport sessions for young people, as well as doing voluntary youth work with North Ebbw Fach Communities First.

Brian Rees, Chair of the Group’s South Wales area committee, said: “Her commitment to the local community and the success she has generated is truly outstanding.”

The community of Six Bells received the “Outstanding Contribution to Co-operation” accolade. It has created a monument, the Guardian of the Valleys, to commemorate the 45 colliers killed in a mining disaster in the village in 1960.

Over 400 family members, mine rescue workers and support service staff were involved in planning and creating the monument, which has attracted over 30,000 visitors to one of Wales’ most deprived areas. The community has also reopened a derelict pub, Ty Ebbw Fach, creating work and training for local people.

Brian Rees said the village had shown great strength in coming to terms with its loss, and achieved a longstanding legacy for the area.

The people of St Asaph received the “Outstanding Contribution to Co-operation” award, for their response to the floods that devastated the city a year ago.

Vaughan Rigby, chair of the Co-operative Group in North Wales, said the community had co-operated to rebuild the city and support those worst affected. “One member of the community tragically lost their life in the floods, and others are still affected, but we hope the community can be honoured by this token of recognition,” he said.

The awards were presented by Ed Mayo, secreatry general of Co-operatives UK.

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