Congratulations to Unicorn Grocery

How can I fail to respond to the press release that has come through from the Manchester-based workers’ co-operative Unicorn Grocery?

The press release is advising me of some good news which, in fact, I had already heard elsewhere: that Unicorn has carried off the prize in the BBC Food and Farming awards as the best food retailer.

Unicorn, one of the country’s most successful workers’ co-ops and one which has contributed a great deal to the wider co-op movement, is 21 years old this year. It demonstrated the success of raising investment funds from within the community long before everyone else was talking of community shares, and it has already taken the BBC prize once before, in 2008.

One of the things I learned when I was researching the later nineteenth century co-operative movement a couple of years ago was the strength and importance of the co-operative flour mills in several northern towns, most notably the societies in Sowerby Bridge (which also had a mill in Hebden Bridge and was the largest in the country) and in Halifax. What we would now call food politics was an issue early co-operators understood, too. It’s good that co-ops like Unicorn continue the tradition.

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You and yours and coops

BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours lunchtime programme has been looking at coops this week, and doing so, I’d say, in a balanced and intelligent way.   There have been packages on three very different cooperative businesses, the venerable wholefood shop and cafe 8th Day in Manchester, Clansman Dynamics in East Kilbride (an employee ownership venture which engages in some serious manufacturing work) and  Snaith Salad Growers in east Yorkshire, an interesting agricultural coop which I hadn’t come across before but is worth checking out.

I’ve been asked to appear tomorrow (Fri) on the programme for the final round-up discussion (the feature should be going out about 12.30pm).