Over the last few years I’ve been stressing the importance of ensuring that key archives from the co-operative movement are identified and preserved. In particular I’ve mentioned several times the initiative some of us have been engaged in to focus on workers’ co-op records from the 1970s-1990s.
We’ve had several generous offers of financial support from current workers’ co-ops, from co-operative organisations and from individuals, but we needed the Heritage Lottery Fund to come in and support the project as well.
I’m delighted to say that HLF have indeed now agreed to contribute £43,000 towards the project – so green light to go!
To crib a little text from the press release which has just gone out: “The project, called Working Together: recording and preserving the heritage of the workers’ co-operative movement, aims to identify and make accessible for the first time records from some of the major workers’ co-operatives of the time, together with co-operative support organisations. A trained archivist will be employed for a twelve month period to undertake the work of finding the material, and then in ensuring that where possible it is deposited either at the National Co-operative Archive or in the relevant local county record office or public archive. An oral history element to the project will mean that recordings of the memories of some of those most involved in co-operatives during this period will be made.”
I hope you share my satisfaction that a little part of our history will now be more easily understood by co-operators of the future.
You’ll know, if you are a regular visitor to my blog, of my involvement in a project which is aiming to ensure that primary material from the upsurge of interest in workers’ coops in Britain in the 1970s-1990s is saved and preserved. I was at a meeting today in Manchester of the informal committee which is seeking to ensure that this initiative (what we calling Working Together: recording and preserving the heritage of the workers’ co-operative movement) gets the resources it needs to get going.
We worked up a detailed grant application for the project which was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund this summer, and we have now heard back from HLF. They say that they had applications for three times the money they had available for distribution – and disappointingly we have been one of the unlucky ones.
However, all is definitely not lost. HLF accept resubmissions, and we are now going to talk to them again about how we can strengthen our bid and maximise our chance of success. We hope a revised application can be submitted before Christmas. I’ll keep you posted.
A nice email arrives from Debbie Clarke at Manchester’s workers’ co-operative store Unicorn Grocery, letting me know that Unicorn has just been awarded the Fair Tax mark. Debbie goes on, “we’re not particularly concerned about receiving coverage or accolades for getting accredited as we feel it should be pretty standard business practice, but as it isn’t we are keen to do what we can to promote the mark and make it more visible nationally. It also feels like a really good opportunity to talk about co-operative values and principles and how they are being put into practice.”
Well done to Unicorn, an excellent example of successful worker co-operation.
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.
Suma, the long-established and highly successful wholefood distributor which is structured as a workers’ coop and which practises pay equality and multi-skilling, is the subject of an article by Jenny Carlyle in HR Magazine this month. Well worth a read. The web link is here.
I stopped off today while in Manchester for a coffee in the city’s long-established workers’ coop Eighth Day. It was good to be welcomed by a window sticker on the front door reading ‘Proud to be a coop’.
Happy to be a customer.
I wrote back in 2014 and again more recently here of the moves being made to identify and properly preserve key records from the workers’ co-operative movement of the later twentieth century. I need to declare an interest as one of the small advisory group that has been working with the Co-operative Heritage Trust on the project Working Together: recording and preserving the heritage of the workers’ co-operative movement.
The project has already received support from co-operatives and individuals in the movement. I’m pleased to say that the project plan and budget was yesterday submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, who we hope will also endorse and help fund the initiative. I’ll let you know how we get on.