20 January 2012

A major new film telling the ‘pioneering’ story of the birth of co-operatives

The “inspirational” story of the birth of co-operation more than 160 years ago is to be shown in a major new feature film.

The 52 minute movie is funded by The Co-operative Group - whose own origins trace back to the original ‘Rochdale Pioneers’ – to celebrate the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives, 2012.

Made and produced by The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy, the film – whose working title is “The Rochdale Pioneers” - tells of 28 working men whose vision for a better social order inspired them to form the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society in 1844 - recognised as the birth of the co-operative movement.

After a year’s trading (1845) membership had increased almost three-fold and the Pioneers’ fame soon spread overseas - today there are one billion members of co-operatives worldwide and, in the UK alone sector turnover exceeds £33 Billion.

Mark Robinson-Field, The Co-operative’s National Co-operative and Membership Manager, said: ”In 1844 the original Pioneers set out the ideals which became the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world still operate to this day. 

“This year’s activities to mark the International Year of Co-operatives will highlight the significant contribution of co-operatives to world-wide socio-economic development.

“And, with one billion members of co-operatives world-wide and the sector enjoying global attention, we believe the time is right for this inspirational story to be re-told.”

Inspired by the 1944 film ‘Men of Rochdale’, the team behind this re-telling – Kevin Atkinson, its producer, and co-directors John Montegrande and Adam Lee Hamilton, were also behind The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy movie “Julius Caesar” which was selected for the international Raindance Film Festival and premiered in London in October (2011).

Kevin Atkinson, Operations Director of The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy and producer for the new film, said: “This is an exciting project which, through the medium of film, will bring the spirit, heart and belief of the original pioneers to a brand new audience.”

The cast includes John Henshaw - known for roles in Early Doors, Born and Bred, Looking for Eric and, Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal – who plays John Holt, one of the original members of The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.

And, stage and TV actor John McArdle - known for roles in Brookside, Merseybeat and Gallowglass – who plays Dr. Dunlop who agreed to rent his premises, an old woollen warehouse, to the Rochdale Pioneers.

The film will be distributed internationally and plans are in place for it to be screened at the co-operative world festival and expo at Manchester Central in autumn 2012.

To follow the progress of the film or for more information visit www.facebook.com/therochdalepioneers/


Additional Information:

Why the ‘Pioneers’ did what they did: In 1844, times were hard and the poorer people had to be careful not to spend more money than was necessary, but private shopkeepers often charged excessive prices and adulterated their goods – in other words, they mixed sand with oatmeal and plaster of Paris with flour. Sometimes, they gave false weights and measures. The Pioneers thought that a shop actually owned by its customers was the best means of consumer protection and it would also be beneficial in that profits would go back to the customer-members in the form of a dividend instead of going into the pockets of private shopkeepers. Members of the society would be able to buy pure, wholesome food that was weighed and measured fairly and the profits or surplus would be divided fairly between them based on the amount that they spent at the shop. The fame of the Rochdale Pioneers soon spread overseas and they received visitors from all over the world who wanted to witness how a co-operative was being successfully run. A visitors’ book was kept from the 1860s and shows the range of their influence with visitors from Germany, Spain, Russia and Japan.

The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy (BYFA) – itself a co-operative - offers students a unique and hands-on film-making experience. Mentored by professionals from film and education, students are offered opportunities in everything from acting to make-up and, from wardrobe to camera and post-production to experience all of the thrills and challenges of professional feature-film production. It is supported by The Co-operative Group as part of The Co-operative’s commitment to inspiring young people. Students or colleges wanting more information about The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy should visit www.britishyouthfilmacademy.com

UK co-operative sector: In the UK, there are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses. Together they have a combined turnover of over £33 billion and have outperformed the UK economy as a whole, growing by 21% since the start of the credit crunch in 2008. They employ almost ¼ million people and, 12.8 million people - over one in five of the UK population – are members of co-operatives. The Co-operative Group – which can trace its origins back to the original Pioneers – is at the forefront of this resurgence in the sector, setting up The Co-operative Enterprise Hub to provide free advice and consultancy to communities rediscovering the benefits of self-help and mutual ownership – it has supported the creation and growth of over 700 member-owned enterprises across the UK, from pubs to grocers, cafes to football clubs, since it began as a pilot scheme in 2009.

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest member-owned organisation with six million members. It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas. The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at www.co-operative.coop

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of co-operatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The Year will highlight the strengths of the co-operative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development. With the theme of “Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World”, the Year seeks to encourage the growth and establishment of co-operatives all over the world. It also encourages individuals, communities and governments to recognise the agency of co-operatives in helping to achieve internationally agreed upon development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.

Contact Information:

Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5622
Mob: 07702 505551
Email: andrew.torr@co-operative.coop