In 1844, a group of weavers and other local artisans in Rochdale, England, came together to pool their resources and open a store based on co-operative principles. They each contributed a small amount of money towards the building up of the store, as they wanted to provide the community with food and other essentials that they couldn’t afford on their own. The establishment of the Industrial Revolution meant that many skilled workers were being forced into poverty, and the idea was that banding together in this way would hopefully prevent destitution, as well as benefiting the wider community.
Ten years later, their movement had expanded to over 1,000 co-operatives. This is the heritage of the modern day Co-operative membership – the principles of social justice merged with community solidarity. Today in the UK, as well as The Co-operative Group with its six million members and 5,000 outlets across its family of businesses including food, financial services, travel, pharmacy and funerals, there are thousands of other co-operators who share the same heritage. The Co-operative Membership is launching a new campaign aimed at highlighting and promoting the inspiring work they do – work that gives individuals and community projects the chances that might otherwise be out of their reach due to financial or social constraints. The co-operative revolution is still going strong.
There are several projects that the co-operative have highlighted in their new advertising campaign – all of them are inspiring in their own ways. For example, there are quite a few initiatives involving young people that help them to realise their dreams and enable them to go further in their dream careers. One of them is a film academy helping hundreds of young people kick-start their career in film. This is the Co-operative British Youth Film Academy which aims to give 14-25 year olds from all backgrounds the chance to gain skills, confidence and hands-on experience at Summer Camps where they work with industry professionals on feature length films. It also provides a variety of year around educational opportunities.
For John Montegrande the BYFA provided a much-needed opportunity to overcome personal problems and realise his dream of a career in film. Starting in a junior role, John worked his way up to become Head of Acting in 2008. Along the way he developed invaluable life skills, as well as greater technical expertise. He is now studying acting, developing personal theatre projects and is even co-founder of a production company.
The co-operative membership is something that inspires me. There are many possibilities that come to mind when considering local schemes or even regional schemes – in particular I would be interested in setting up something for deaf youths or deaf young adults. Locally there are societies for younger deaf people – such as the NLDCS (North London Deaf Children’s Society), and national organisations based in London such as the RNID. In Birmingham, there is an interesting collective called DANUK (Deaf Arts Network UK) and I would love to set up something similar in London, where deaf people interested in the Arts, such as writing, performing, photography, visual arts and so on could get together and support each other and promote each other’s work. This could also link to the community, getting children, young adults and older people involved in the arts, whether hearing or deaf. As a deaf writer, I find it hard to connect with the deaf community and would like to connect with other deaf writers. I am not aware of any local projects with the co-operative membership – so it would be brilliant to get involved in the local community in this way.
If you are interested in the co-operative membership and want to find out what they can do for you – please follow the links below. You never know, they may be interested in furthering your ideas and projects!