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Historic Records from Workers’ Co-operative Movement to be Saved

The Co-operative Heritage Trust, custodian of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and a registered charity which safeguards co-operative heritage, is delighted to announce today that funding has been secured to ensure that key records from the workers’ co-operative movement will be identified and saved.

A grant of £43,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, together with donations of more than £16,000 from current workers’ co-operatives and from co-operative organisations, gives the green light to proceed to an initiative which has been discussed and planned for several years.

The rapid upsurge of interest in the idea of working co-operatively in the 1970s, 80s and 90s led to a blossoming of a new wave of co-operative businesses. These workers’ co-operatives played a significant role in their local communities but also had national significance. They aimed to create jobs where people were important, with an emphasis on sharing work, ownership, profits, responsibilities and decisions. The legacy from those years remains an important one for the co-operative movement as a whole.

Ian Snaith, Chair of the Co-operative Heritage Trust, said: “We are delighted that we now have the resources we need to ensure that the records of this important part of our recent history are preserved. The National Co-operative Archive in Manchester has a priceless collection of records from the consumer co-operative movement but up to now has only had a very limited collection of archives from workers’ co-operatives. This project will enable us to ensure that key material is saved for posterity.”

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.

Gillian Lonergan, librarian for the Co-operative Heritage Trust, said: “We know that already some important records from workers’ co-operatives have ended up in skips, and much other material is now stored away in individual people’s attics and cupboards. Now is absolutely the time to ensure that these records are saved.”

The project will be based at the National Co-operative Archive in the heart of the ‘co-operative quarter’ in Manchester. Separately, we will make an effort to ensure that the heritage of workers’ co-operatives in Scotland and Wales are saved and made available in appropriate record offices and public archives.

Ian Snaith added: “We are extremely pleased that the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to support our work, and are looking forward to working closely with the HLF to develop a very successful project. We are also delighted to have received pledges from co-operatives and co-operative supporters towards the project’s costs.
It’s been a long road to get this initiative successfully launched, but it’s great to know that we’re now there.”

Notes to Editors

For more information: Ian Snaith, 07521 558344. Gillian Lonergan 0161 819 3026. Email

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about — from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

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