I shared a drink (a modest half-pint of real ale, since you ask) in a local co-operatively run pub on Saturday with members of the Leeds and Wakefield co-operative history group who were spending the day exploring the co-operative past of my part of northern England.
They were telling me of the problems of researching the history of co-operation in Leeds, the result of records from the early days (and indeed more recent times) being lost. Keeping important archive material away from the Great Skip of Destruction is vital if future historians are to be able to do their work.
As you may know from past blogs here, I’ve been working with a few colleagues recently on an archive project to try to preserve records from the late twentieth century workers’ co-op movement. Our project application is currently being assessed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. I’ll let you know how we get on just as soon as I know myself.
To Bradford on Wednesday afternoon to have a drink with Bob Cannell of wholefoods distributor Suma and Co-operative Business Consultants. We talked among other things about the Workers’ Co-operatives Archive Project of which I’m one of the coordinators. If you remember I blogged about this idea a month or so back, but I think it’s time for another plug. The aim is to ensure that attics and spare rooms are raided to ensure that potentially valuable records from the wave of workers’ coops in the UK in the 1970s-1990s (and beyond) are not lost into skips and landfill sites. Much has probably gone already.
Co-op News has now picked up on the story, and you’ll find their news article on the Archive Project here. And let me mention again the main website of the Project: workerscoopsarchive.wordpress.com. As you’ll see, we’ve already had a good initial response since the site went live a few weeks back.
What’s happening at the moment is a scoping exercise to see just has survived – the next stage will be to try to encourage the holders of key material to get it safely secured in a properly-equipped records office.
And by the way Suma, one of the great coop success stories from that era, still has its archives. That’s a good start.