Snapshots from the 1980s and the idealism of its worker co-ops

A new collection of fascinating images from a golden era for the movement

English Worker Co-operative Movement 1980s, (Café Royal Books, £6.50. Order online from

Ah, the 1980s! The time when, even despite Thatcher, there still seemed plenty of hope on the left and plenty of scope for building a new and better world.

The upsurge of worker co-operatives in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s brought in a new generation of activists to the co-operative movement, and the network of local co-operative development agencies (many, but not all, unfortunately relatively short-lived) offered a framework for that growth. The experience of those heady days has influenced many people’s subsequent political and personal lives.

And now Martin Stott, himself one of those activists, has collected together a small booklet of photographs of the workers’ co-operative movement from that time. 

English Worker Co-operative Movement 1980s offers over 20 photos which will provide an instant nostalgia-fest for co-operative baby-boomers, and might well also fascinate the younger generation of co-operators active today. (Those clothes! That hair!)

Martin’s selection includes photos of a very early Suma, of the editorial conference at The Leveller magazine, of the Co-op Fair held at the Beechwood Centre in Leeds, of co-op printers Lithosphere, of East End News, and of several other worker-run businesses.

This is important history, and fortunately (thanks to the recent Workers’ Co-op Archive Project, run by the National Co-operative Archive), key records, artefacts and oral testimonies from that time are now safely in the Archive in Manchester. 

If Martin Stott’s booklet makes you long for more, the Flickr page linked to the Co-op Heritage Trust offers an even bigger treasure-trove.

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