Invisible (co-operative) histories

It is more than twenty years since I was commissioned by the GMB union to visit the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) in Salford for a feature for their members’ magazine. I was blown away by the wonderful collection of books, newspapers and ephemera from all strands of radical political activity assembled there, the life’s work of two remarkable people from a past generation of activists Ruth and Eddie Frow. Their collection is now held under the auspices of a charitable trust and is housed just across the road from Salford Crescent station.

I strongly recommend a visit if you haven’t been to the WCML before. The WCML tells me that it will be marking this year’s Heritage Open Days initiative with ‘behind-the-scenes’ tours on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 September.

But you’d also be welcome on 30 September when, as part of the WCML’s regular series of free Wednesday ‘Invisible Histories’ talks, I’ll be there talking about early productive cooperatives in Britain and elaborating on some of the themes I explore in my new book All Our Own Work. The talk starts at 2pm (details here).

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Past and present

It’s always a treat to visit the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, the quite remarkable collection of books and material from progressive movements of all kinds in Britain and beyond which was the life’s work of Eddie and Ruth Frow, and there was a particular pleasure in being there on Saturday for an informal gathering of cooperative historians, facilitated by the UK Society for Co-operative Studies. Useful discussions, and a chance to catch up on what other research initiatives other people are engaged in at present.

And as it happened the day before I was at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, in Toad Lane, Rochdale, also talking cooperative history. The museum will be hosting a small exhibition of the story of the Hebden Bridge textile mill run successfully by its workers in the nineteenth century, as a tie-in to my forthcoming book on the subject All Our Own Work. If you want a sneak preview you’ll find a short graphics-led account of this story which I have produced already available online on the Co-operative Heritage Trust’s website.