Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Co-operative Food Alternatives

Article in The Guardian 10th December
"Supermarkets? No, thanks. Local food-buying cooperatives, which cut out the middlemen between producers and consumers, are taking the country by storm. But how do they work, and how do you set one up? Tom Moggach reports." Link.
The piece features a picture of members of Unicorn Co-operative Grocery, Manchester which is actually a workers co-operative and not a community consumer co-op. It's also the joint winner of this year's BBC Radio 4 Food & Farming Awards as Best Local Retailer which doesn't get mentioned in the article.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Film Co-op's First Christmas

Manchester Film Co-operative shows intrigueing and thought provoking films and on Tuesday 16th December they'll be showing a "series of short films will include the doccumentary Au Rez-de-chaussee de la ville [Ground floor of the city] which documents the ecoBox project." Followed by music, food and xmas spirit. All this for £3 at the King's Arms, Salford. The room the films are shown in is a fabulous late Victorian treasure too.

Co-op at Festival of Britain

There is a good post at Hayes Peoples History called The Lansbury Estate 1951 though the best bit for me is the CWS Furniture for your new flat - cheerful optimism in an age of austerity.

"The three-piece is of entirely new design, consisting of a settee, one armchair, intended for the man—comfort being the key-note—and the other for the woman, which gives firm support to the back and ample elbow room for sewing, knitting and the other spare-time occupations which fall to the lot of the housewife."

Lots of other good stories at the blog about local Labour Parties, sports activities, trade unions, demonstrations - helpful index at the side to assist the casual browser.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

New Regional Party Structures

Yesterday (Sat.22nd November) we had the chance to hear new General Secretary of the Co-operative Party, Michael Stephenson outline his vision and plans for the future. Very positive stuff about membership and online activities.

On a more exasperating note the new regional party structures have been formalised. It's a bit of a messy dog's breakfast. The Manchester Area (which is Greater Manchester but apparently excluding Bury, Bolton and Wigan), plus Warrington, Crewe & Nantwich, Stoke and anywhere else in between will make up a region. Title of the region not known, first inaugural meeting should be in April 2009.

Vote Yes : A Video

An excellent use of video to promote the YES campaign in the forthcoming referendum in Manchester. There are some not so well made NO videos too.

Video Details : filmed at Manchester Piccadilly with a cast of hundreds - 2 mins 59 seconds
Tip of the woolly hat to Chris Paul's weblog for this item -Greening Manchester Travel A Tale of Two Videos.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Vote Yes

At today's Manchester Area Co-operative Party a resolution was passed - urging people to vote yes in the forthcoming referendum on investement of 3 billion GBP in the public transport system and a congestion charge to be introduced in 2011. This is in line with support given by The Co-operative Group earlier this week.
Manchester Area Co-op Party believes that :
· the forthcoming TIF bid vote provides an once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve public transport in our conurbation
· the proposed improvements to public transport, cycling and walking, and greater control of our road network, will pay environmental dividends for generations to come.
· the proposed investment will provide a boost to employment in the region during these difficult economic times.

Money like this is rarely, if never ever on the table for Greater Manchester. It would a pity to not get it. As was pointed out there is no Plan B if the vote goes against the proposal.

We Vote Yes
Lucy Powell's weblog in The Guardian - link

Friday, 21 November 2008

Co-op Online Magazine

The new online Co-operative magazine was been uploaded. Alright it's not a political document being full of recipes and xmas. There is a couple of pages on Fairtrade, and as ever the Co-operative introduces a new product - the UK's first Fairtrade sparkling wine from South Africa. There is some video clips - I particularly liked how to cook an aubergine? Don't laugh - I've had lots of meals at friends houses with badly cooked aubergine. Look on the bright side it saves on paper and postage, or should we be spending on such as spending is the only way out of recession? But an excellent effort all round.

Here is the link

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Report on Academies Meeting

Withington Co-op Party held one of its infrequent meetings, Wednesday 19th last. The turn-out was a little disappointing but the quality of the speakers and the questions made the night. First we heard Cllr. Sheila Newman (Labour : Chorlton) give the City Council's support for academies with certain conditions being set by the authority. Then Megs Bradley gave a presentation on The Co-operative support with 5 academies being planned. Followed by Hannah Spiers from the new Manchester Academy to be in Blackley. Other subjects discussed were the new co-operative trust schools. The first one is running in Reddish Vale, Stockport. The questions were very direct and open. As education is a department that costs lots of money the funding and finance issues were aired.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Meeting on Saturday

Saturday afternoon is probably not the best time for a meeting. At least it's not all day. Manchester Area Co-op Party have their open meeting for local Co-op Party members, with a speaker from Manchester Home Carers – a newly set up co-operative which has spread here from Sunderland, and which was set up here at the particular invitation of Manchester City Council. There is also a chance to meet the new General Secretary of the Co-op Party, Michael Stephenson.
Sat 22nd November 1330h - 1500h at YHA building, Potato Wharf, Castlefield.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Robert Owen - Manchester #6

Today is the 150th Anniversary of the death of Robert Owen. Apart from an excellent post by "Politics For People", the event has gone unrecognised. However his legacy of ideas carries on even if people are not familiar with his name.

Photos is the blue plaque on The Royal Exchange building, St.Ann's Square, Manchester. The site of a drapery shop were Robert Owen worked when he first came to the city.

Worth a browse are Archives Hub: Robert Owen which has a brief biog and some pictures of letters in the spidery quill writing of the day.

Earlier Robert Owen posts

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Hardy Lane Refurbed & Re-opens

Bit of giddyness amongst local co-operators as the Hardy Lane co-op store reopened today after a makeover in the new livery and layout. There is a vested interest in keeping the store going as our meeting room is above the shop. Now it has extended out the back the square footage of sales area has doubled. The meeting room will still be same size, and still feature the steepest staircase in Manchester. All in all, very impressive. Bright, well stocked and organised.

The shop and meeting room will be 80 years next year. Currently making a short video of its small history - the usual stuff of old pictures, bits of footage and definately some talking heads. Contributions welcome.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Co-operative Rail

An interesting transport solution from a co-operative called Lightweight Community Transport. Ultra-light railcars to run on branch lines to serve communities that have few transport links.

They are currently seeking investor members, and will soon be staging demonstrations in Stourbridge.

You can read all about it :

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Manifesto Website

Co-operative Manifesto is a new Co-operative Party website that is concerned with developing you guessed - the next Co-op Party manifesto.
"over the coming weeks they will be hosting a series of online blogs covering the twelve themes of the manifesto"

An innovative idea for a poltical party to obtain feedback and input.

Meeting on Academies

We've managed to arrange a meeting on "Co-operative Academies". For some Academies are controversial but the Co-op and the City Council are working to develop an academy along co-op principles.

Mags Bradbury from the Co-op Group and Cllr Sheila Newman Manchester City Council Exec Member for Childrens Services.

Lloyd's Hotel, Chorlton 19th November starts 2000h.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Still Here

Sometimes news goes through a thin patch. Especially when there have been no meetings. Hopefully one can be arranged before the xmas season kicks in, and hopefully it will be above the newly expanding Hardy Lane store. The official opening date is Friday 21st November.

One co-operative that is getting good support is the Manchester Film Co-operative with its monthly screenings. Next one is "Blood Car" on Tuesday November 25th...
"In the near future gas prices have reached $40 a gallon. Archie Andrews, an environmentalist school teacher, is trying to discover an alternate fuel source. While experimenting with wheat grass, Archie accidentally stumbles upon a solution. Human Blood".

The picture above which relates to nothing written here is a Manchester & Salford Co-op Commenrative Plate from 1909. The building in the picture used to stand in Ardwick and held the Labour Party Conference of 1901. A whole conference in a room above a store before all the corporate milarky and heavy security got in the way. Thanks to Michael for the irregular supply of interesting pictures.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Demutalism Failed

"The nationalisation and break up of Bradford & Bingley will represent a momentous event in the history of British banking, because it will mean that every building society that floated on the stock market in the wave of demutualisations of the past two decades will either have collapsed or been sold to a conventional bank." Robert Peston Blog at BBC
Mutalism we were told didn't have a future - it has now.

Friday, 26 September 2008

International Webcast

The Co-operative are putting on a global webcast next Tuesday 30th September starting at 1900h BST. Some of it will be from Manchester but contributions will be coming from Jan-Eirik Imbsen of the International Co-operative Alliance, and Vishwas Satgar, executive director of The Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center in South Africa.
It's chaired by Len Wardle, Chair of The Co-operative Group.

It's viewable by anybody, not just members of The Co-operative. Usually these events are recorded and can be watched later if you miss it. So full marks again for use of internet technology.

Details here.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ownership of football clubs

Andy Burnham's (Minister of Culture and Sport) speech at the Co-operative Party Conference about the ownership of football clubs received plenty of press coverage. The response from Lord Triesman, chairman of the FA was encouraging. It has a wider implication beyond the multi-million pound owners of English Premier league clubs. Emilio Butragueno until recently vice president of Real Madrid warned that it could affect the Champions League with it being dominated by English clubs. He won't remember his own club dominating European football in the 1950's. Then it was backed by the fascist Franco regime.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of Bayern Munich said "Germany needed to have an open discussion about relaxing the country's strict ownership rules and making it easier for individuals to make big investments in Bundesliga clubs." ESPN Soccernet

Back in Blighty, Andy Burnham has responded to a request from FC United of Manchester, our own co-operative football club, to meet and discuss the issue of ownership. Currently clubs in the Football League and Premiership cannot have a mutual ownership model as in Germany and Spain.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Ship Travel Video Report

Bit after the event but this is a short video of the Co-operative Party trip down the Manchester Ship Canal. Salford Quays to Pier Head in 6 and a bit hours.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Conference : Club are alienating fans

"Andy Burnham, who on Thursday outlined his views in a speech at the Co-operative party conference in Westminster, said that the Football Association were duty-bound to revise their 'fit and proper persons' test for club takeovers and also insisted that the organisation should attempt to promote competitiveness."
Press Association

This story was trailed in the press before the speech.

Conference : More school co-operatives

The Co-operative Party conference made the mainstream media on the first day. Just noting if the event gets reported. Answer is yes, thanks to a keynote speech from Ed Balls MP.

"Schools Secretary Ed Balls wants to see 100 schools taken over by co-operative trusts, primarily formed of parents, teachers and other staff." BBC Story

"Balls pledges to set up 100 co-operative schools in parent power battle"
This is London

'It gives pupils a voice and brings the community together' This is London background story

This is London is another title for the right wing Evening Standard.

'Balls to set out vision of 100 schools becoming co-operative trusts' The Guardian published before the speech was made.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Co-op Party Conference Film Showing

There is a screening of a film the ‘The Great African Scandal' at the Co-operative Party Conference. The showing of films at a Conference works well. It's lunch time so eat your sandwiches and watch the projection. Stay out of the pub, stay awake in the afternoon.

You can watch it online on Google's 47 mins long. Download version for iPod, MP3 players etc available too.

Lunch time fringe event: 1215 - 1400h:
Screening followed by a Q & As session chaired by Michael Stephenson, General Secretary of the Co-operative Party, and with Brian Clavin, Ethical policies manager, The Co-operative Group, and Deborah Burton, Christian Aid.

Congestion Charge Campaigns

The big local issue for Manchester and the surrounds is the referendum on Congestion Charges. Vote yes and get a new metro system, vote no and things remain the same. It's a little bit more complicated than that but only a little.

Voting begins in November by postal ballot until December 11th. A yes campaign is kicking of with a meeting at Green Fish Resource Centre, 46-50 Oldham Street, Manchester 1900-2100h. The no campaign backed by Peel Holdings has been running for months as we saw in the local elections in Salford.

There will be lots of scare stories in the media. If you cross Wilbraham Road in Chorlton before 0930 you will have to pay a charge - that sort of thing.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Co-op Party Conference

The annual Co-operative Party conference returns to Memorial Hall, Westminster this week. All party members and in fact anybody can attend, but only delegates can vote and speech make. Doubt if anything will be reported in the mainstream media but if anyone wants to send in photos, stories or links the address is coop AT
We'll be scanning the web and news channels in case anything appears.
Link : Party activists seek left turn at conference - Co-op News
Official Line-Up - Co-op Party

Co-op in Play

MikronSpent the damp Sunday afternoon watching a play called "Fair Trade" by the Mikron Theatre Company out back of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. Not your earnest speeches but comedy and music to tell the story of The Co-operative Movement. Highly recommended. It has a cast of four, some stage props and musical instruments that all of that arrive in a white van. On tour at the moment. They are also touring another play called Debtonation.

Links : Mikron

Friday, 29 August 2008

Co-operative Conservatives

Co-operative Conservatives
Originally uploaded by co-ophistorian.

"An unlikely alliance in a car park at Woodhall Spa" spotted by co-ophistorian. The goings on in Lincolnshire....

Still no news from the Conservative Co-operative Movement - it's been six months since the last posting.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Will the real Common Ownership own up?

Local co-operator Tom Miller writes a regular eye on the ball blog (clearly he manages his time better than most of us) and he's kicked off a lively debate at LabourHome about about ownership and workplace democracy.

A topical subject in times when private capital gets jittery when the going gets tough, but when nationalisation is still in the shadow of bloated inefficiency. The old adage of "the profits are privatised, but the risks are socialised". But there are more choices than just the above as the millions of co-operative and social enterprise organisations do every year. You can read and put your 2 euros in.

Tom Miller is called NewerLabour.
The LabourHome debate

Co-op Website Survey

The official Co-op Party website is running a quick simple survey. What do you think of our website, 1 thru 5, strongly agree...get the idea. It says it takes 5 minutes. More like 1 minute. It maybe worth giving your answers and views...err, it might improve it.
Survey here

Friday, 22 August 2008

Ship Canal Cruise

Local co-operators are doing Ship Canal Cruise this Sunday. It's a bit different from the 1980's cruises in the leaflet organised by Co-op Travel. Then it only ran from Eccles to Liverpool, this trip had an extra hour journey from Salford. Otherwise it's obviously the canal route. Plenty of time to talk to everyone - it's a captive audience nobody can get off along the way. Once again to reader Michael who digs out the historical ephemera. As a trivia aside the CWS had one of the first cargo boats, if not the first, to travel the canal when it opened in 1894 called the SS Pioneer.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Reaping The Dividends - a play

Mikron Theatre Company make a welcome return to the Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX with Fair Trade: Reaping the Dividends. This new show tells the story of the Co-operative Movement from its roots in the early part of the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution resulted in exploitation and misery for many working people. Did it all begin at Toad Lane in Rochdale in 1844? Take your basket and wander down the aisles of history as Mikron bring you the true story, told, of course, with their usual mixture of music, humour and sadness..

Sunday 7th September 1400h
Entrance £4.00, payable on the door.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Nearly political season

Alright politics runs 366 days a day, but everyone knows the season like football begins seriously in September with the Conferences and the return of Parliament. Everything crammed in before xmas.

So coming up is the Manchester Co-op Party trip down the Manchester Ship Canal - forty people on a boat and no stops until Pier Head in Liverpool. That's this Sunday 24th August. The annual conference is 11th thru 13th September back at Memorial Hall, London - so some reports from that.....blogging returns, and thanks to reader Michael for the lovely photo of "Book of Party Games" (circa 1930's - which you can still play if you follow the rules).

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Save Bletchley Park

It's hard to believe that Bletchley Park will fall into hands of developers. More history buried under a car park.

Known as “Station X” during World War II, it's where British scientists and mathematicians, including Alan Turing (later Prof at Manchester) broke the German “enigma” codes, which changed daily, as well as laying the foundations of the modern computer industry. It’s a fabulous story, and all true, and saving it matters. It needs repairs, and serious help with running costs. The alternative is yet another shopping development.

Please, consider signing this PM’s petition:

More details at

Monday, 30 June 2008

People's Rail Campaign

Back from holidays and good to return to the Co-operative Party taking up a campaign. That is holding Network Rail to account and giving passengers a better rail service. Why not? Having just returned from a month travelling around Italy on Trenitalia with a few delays and no cancellations and then having a five hour journey from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly - you know we're not getting a good deal in the UK.

The People's Rail - for details like support, Facebook, fire off emails...

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Mutual Football

Readers will be familiar with our previous posts about the world game and mutual endevours. The season has seen success for fan owned football clubs.

a) FC United of Manchester win their 3rd successive promotion and it's up to the Unibond Premier (3 divisions below the Football League).
b) AFC Wimbledon eventually get to the Blue Square South (Conference South) - they might be on Setanta Sports next season.
c) Stockport County win their play-off and climb to League 1 (Division 3 in old money).
d) Exeter City, another fan owned club, return to the Football League from a spell in the Conference
e) Ebbsfleet United, owned by mutual Myfootball Club (Registered No. 30275R) are going to Wembley won the FA Trophy final and £25,000 in prize money. Myfootball Club now have over 29,000 members, their target is about 53,000. You can still join or buy membership as a gift - it costs £35. They voted to leave the team selection for the final to the manager.

f) Next season sees the start of AFC Liverpool, a fans owned club in the North West Counties League Division 2. They'll be playing Cheadle Town, Blackpool Mechanics, and the local derby will be against Bootle. They have some summer friendlies coming up. Check out their brilliant Soviet retro crest.

New Mutualism Spring Edition

The Co-operative Party journal, New Mutualism Spring/Summer 2008 edition, has just been issued. The Party doesn't issue that many publications in a year so it's always a refreshing read.

Titled 'Consumerswith attitutude, can we design the society in which we live?'. Articles by Ed Balls MP, Andy Burnham MP, and expert on the railways Lord Berkeley. News on the co-operative school in Reddish Vale, Stockport and a review of NHS Foundation Trusts and co-operative housing.

There is also mention of the Annual Conference of the Co-op Party which is back at Central Hall, Westminster again on 11th, 12th & 13th September.

PDF Version available here

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Recycled Bio-Fuel Co-op

There used to be a small co-op in Manchester that sold bio-diesel from throwaway cooking oil. Unfortunately it closed back in 2006, but economics change, and if the barrels of oil continue to march to $150 and maybe a change in the duties levied this form of business will be available in every conurbation. It's ideal for a co-operative solution.

Already off the mark is one in Bolton. Their website stresses no fresh oil and no palm oil is used which allays fears of the growing of crops to fill petrol tanks instead of feeding people.

Story in Bolton Evening News
Bolton Alternative Fuels Cooperative

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Co-op Group to stay in city centre

After all the talk and press about the Co-op Group was planning to move out of Manchester city centre it has been announced it's staying but probably on a new site.
Co-op to stay in city centre - Manchester Evening News 20/05/2008

Monday, 19 May 2008

Changes Afoot

Went to the Manchester Area Co-op Party meeting last Friday. Everybody discussing the recent elections. Not as bad locally as the results the national picture. However disquieting points about breaches in election expenses by opponents - more to follow.

What is coming up is changes in the funding of the Co-operative Party. Only a small percentage comes from membership subscriptions the real money comes from the co-operative societies and the big player is the Co-operative Group. You can read the amounts, if you can be bothered, in the annual returns submitted to the Electoral Commission.

This is my take on the proposal that regional Co-op Parties come up with a 'business plan'. If they want money they should apply and if they are sitting on big reserves in the bank then spend it on political activity before asking. The bottom line is the Co-op Party is spending the money of co-op members and they should get some good value for that.

Hands Off Our Co-ops

The European Commission is currently examining so-called claims of unfair state aid to co-operatives. If they come to the wrong conclusion its decision could hurt some
250,000 co-operatives across Europe - including those in the UK. And it could be the thin end of the wedge with future legislative attacks from the private
sector on co-operatives to be expected.

for more information and to sign the online petition

Friday, 2 May 2008

Local Elections Record

It was never going to be good night nationally. Locally Sheila Newman fought off a strong Lib-Dem challenge to retain the seat with a 259 majority. This was against an unbelievable amount of Lib-Dem leaflets. I received two on polling day itself, and five in the last week, despite having two Labour posters on display. You can't out leaflet the Lib-Dems, well not unless election expenses are scrutinised. Spotted the ineffective John Leech MP on numerous occasions directions operations on the street. Must have been another quiet week in Parliament then.

Cllr. Andrew Fender (Lab/Co-op - Old Moat ward) - LABOUR HOLD
John Hacking (Lab/ Co-op - Chorlton Park ward) - LIB/DEM HOLD
Jennie Lennox (Labour - Didsbury West ward) - LIB/DEM HOLD
Tom Murphy (Lab/Co-op - Burnage ward) - LIB/DEM HOLD
Cllr. Sheila Newman (Labour - Chorlton ward) - LABOUR HOLD

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Can Film Festival

Picked up a flyer advertising the free showing of a new documentary movie "The 11th Hour" and it was called The Can Film Festival. The issue is recycling and climate change, and the draw is it's produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCapro.

Making films and getting them shown, usually for free has become an effective propaganda tool in recent years. The message is the impact the population has on the earth's ecosystem and the changes that must be made.

The free showings are in London (8th May), Glasgow (15th May), and Manchester (22nd May AMC Deansgate) . All at 1803h BST.

Can Couture
11th Hour Action

Fair & Square in Manchester

Fair and Square is a project of the Co-operative College and they're organising a meeting / seminar or is it conference - it's from 1000h until 1630h so it lasts a long time.

Trying to be an ethical shopper
on Saturday 10th May at the Mechanics Institute. Nothing about it on the website at the moment but I've an email address if you need more details.

Lots of issues like fairtrade, climate change, GM crops, organics, air miles...

Monday, 28 April 2008

Gareth Comes to NW England

The Chair of the Co-operative Party is Gareth Thomas MP and he's going to Blackburn - Cathedral Crypt on Friday 23rd May for a regional dinner and a speech. This will form a significant part of the Cathedral’s “Ann Frank Week”, which is sponsored by The Co-operative Group.

Co-op Party Flyer Early 90s

Co-op Party Flyer Early 90s
Originally uploaded by Noddy Guevara.

Not the Co-op Party but a party to raise funds for a small co-operative. From around the early 1990's but using a cut-up style from a decade anda half earlier.

Possibly this co-operative is still in existence, a housing social enterprise in Hull.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Robert Owen - Manchester #5

Old mapWhilst in Manchester Robert Owen stayed in a boarding house at 8 Brazennose Street where he met fellow lodger Robert Fulton - later known for his submarine and steamboat inventions. That was back in 1794, and he'd be 23 and Robert Fulton would be 29. Both Roberts struck a business deal to develop cutting machinery for the new canal constructions in Britain - the venture capitalism of the 18th Century. You can read about it in - Projects For Marine Propulsion Chapter III

You can't see the building 'cos that's long gone but the street pattern still exists. On the right the area called Longworth's Folly is where the Town Hall was built in the late 19th Century.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The final push

LeafletOnly a week away from the local elections and the scramble for the last leaflets to go out. In some respects the election has already happened. It was last Monday when the postal ballot papers landed in the hallways. The logic is postal voters have a higher turnout than people like myself who like the walk to the polling station. The pleasant chit-chat with the polling clerks, and the smug walk home.

Picture on the left is of Tony Harold, the Treasurer of Salford Co-op Party who is standing in the other city on the left bank of the Irwell. There is blog post at CP's Labour of Love and a flurry of comments in response. Like ourselves, he's up against the Lib-Dem fiction writers and whingers.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Re:act magazine

Chicken issueThe co-operative industry is awash with publications. I get to see only a fraction of them which may be a fortunate blessing. The Co-operative have dropped their "Network" magazine for members and replaced it with a much improved "Re:Act". It has articles by established journalists and has even strayed off the well worn paths of ethical food and climate change. The best article for me was an interview with Aubrey Meyer about the concept of contract & convergence. Actually that is about climate change.

If you are a member it might be landing on your doormat soon. The only thing I wasn't sure of was the advert for 'Fairtrade holidays in South Africa'.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Co-op Regional Meetings

It's that time of the year - planting potatoes, end of the football season and The Co-operative Group members meetings across the country.

For Central Region there are seven meetings in Wythenshawe, Hyde, Stockport, Salford & etc..and in Manchester it's at The Mechanics Institute 103 Princess Street M1 6DD. Meeting starts at 1930h.

This year there are webcasts of some of the meetings, though that is only a pale substitute for being there. Even if it's just to receive your shopping vouchers, spot some the 'odd characters' who attend and watch the scramble at the free buffet. Some regions even offer free transport - see Cambridge Co-operator - that doesn't happen around here.

For details of webcasts you have to use your members login at Co-op Membership.

Robert Tressell Day

Britain's most influential working class novel: "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" was written by Robert Tressell in Hastings and St.Leonards 100 years ago (c.1906 - 1908) though not published in an abridged form until 1914.

"But from these ruins was surely growing the glorious fabric of the Co-operative Commonwealth. ......The Golden Light that will be diffused throughout all the happy world from the rays of the risen sun of Socialism."

There isn't a Robert Tressell day but if there was it would be today, the birthday of, real name, Robert Noonan 18th April 1871. There are some events in Liverpool happening this year, with it being capital of culture and the resting place of the ledgendary writer.

The book is in print and the TUC made it available online a few years ago. Other details of his time in Hastings the setting for Mugsborough in the book are here. Looking through it today after many years the characters of Crass, Bundy, Sawkins come out with comments you'll still hear today. No wonder the hero, called Robert Owen, is up against it.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Robert Owen - Manchester #4

Owen statueThe Robert Owen statue is now a photo opportunity. I almost expect the Prime Minister to a get a snapshot taken next time he's in Manchester. Why not take your own photo and send it here.
So left to right : Mervyn Wilson, Co-operative College;Douglas Alexander MP;Dave Gibson, College Board of Governors; Pauline Green, Co-ops UK.

Manchester Film Co-operative

A new co-operative venture organising regular screenings and discussions of films that challenge current economics, politics and society. The inaugral showing is "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", the documentary about Venezuela and Chavez.

The venue is The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford which is across the river from Deansgate. It must be upstairs, and if you've never been it is one of the best late Victorian rooms you'll ever see...

The date is Tuesday 22nd April, 1945h, £2.
Details on the website.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Robert Owen - Manchester #3

Cambridge MillThere are still some old cotton mills in the centre of Manchester. They haven't done any spinning for years and have been transformed into appartments. Robert Owen was in business in one of them around the Chorlton-on-Medlock district. Don't know which one, or even if it's still standing. Always like to think that it's this one on the corner of Cambridge Street and Hulme Street - map. One day I'll find the definitive answer. Though the area has refurbed from dereliction to prime reality in the last ten years it has buckets of industrial revolution history. The first industrial slum "Little Ireland" that Engels wrote about is around the corner from this mill, and the first raincoat factory is at the end of the street.

Further reading : Spinning The Web - Chorlton-on-Medlock

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Old store in Bury

Near Gigg Lane
Up in Bury today for the last Saturday home match of FC United of Manchester for this season. Thought I'd better take this picture of the Co-op store near the Gigg Lane ground. FC United might be groundsharing elsewhere next year so thought better take a snap because you might not be around this parts for a while.

The wording at the top says 'Bury District Co-operative Provision Society Limited No.14 Branch'. The shop is the regular convenience layout.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Local Election Paper Pushing

The local elections are almost up us, and the leaflets are landing out behind the letter boxes all over the country. Non more so than here in Chorlton where the Lib-Dems must have issued about ten. They are a well funded group, I don't know how many fund raising dinners it would take to pay for them? Usual stuff about getting the Council to move rubbish or fix a pot-hole but an amusing one about a petition to the Stagecoach Bus Company demanding a return of a cheap bus ticket for the 85 & 86 service. Not quite a Council issue, and not something Stagecoach who have a private monopoly on the route will respond to. Meanwhile a lot of us have been helping the Labour Party by putting out the A4 with positive stories of 'Free Swimming for over-60's' and new recyling facilities.

Some local blogs - not that up to date due to election work, except for Crumpsall Labour where the leader Richard Leese is up for re-election)
Chorlton Labour Chorlton Park Labour Fallowfield Labour Crumpsall Labour

Fanciful Co-operative Building

SplendidSpotted this in Raw Vision - the magazine of Outsider Art and Art Brut, always a good read even if you just look at the fantastic pictures inside. It's a review about A.G.Rizzoli : Architect of Magnificent Visions, who drew imaginary buildings in his lifetime and never published them.

So it was never built and would be very costly to construct and maintain if anyone had the dollars to do so.

As ever click for a bigger picture.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Robert Owen - Manchester #2

It's in Northenden near Wythenshawe Park. This is 1960's sheltered housing, and back when Robert Owen was in Manchester this was all fields and part of Lord Tatton's estate. One of the few references to Robert Owen in the city.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Swipe at Co-op Party

Letter in the current issue of the Co-op News that takes a swipe at the Co-op Party. It's from Richard Balfe, used to a Labour MEP but went Tory in his old age.

"It is high time to stop this charade of Co-op Party and instead start supporting any people in politics from all parties who support the Co-operative Movement, including Conservatives, Greens, Nationalists and Liberals, though obviously not fascist parties."

"Clearly the Co-op needs to have some political influence, but this should be on non party political basis."

Not quite the line taken by the Conservative Co-operative Movement, but they've got a bit quiet so we don't know what they think of this - though Richard Balfe does describe himself as David Cameron's Envoy to the Co-operative Movement.

Fair & Square Project

The Fair and Square project aims to bring information to concerned consumers through a programme of educational work within the co-operative movement. It's being run by the Co-operative College with funding from the Department for International Development.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Workers' Co-op is Best Shop in Britain

Best shopAt the prestigous Observer Food Awards last Thursday, and featured in today's Observer Food Monthly is our local workers' co-operative Unicorn Grocery coming out as "Best Shop in Britain". Story.

There is a small item coming up on the telly in a couple of weeks on UKTV Food (Sky Channels 256, 257) about the awards. I'm told you don't actually receive any silverware to take home, and the event was full of media luvvie types. No surprise there as The Observer food magazine is no mirror of food reality in Britain.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Power from Energy Co-ops

There is an eight page spread in the current issue of New Sector - the magazine of democratic enterprise and community control - devoted to renewable energy co-operatives. You can read it here

Didn't realise there were so many. But as the editor David Parker points out elsewhere in the magazine. "If community co-operatives generating power from renewable resources is such a good idea why aren't the Brits doing it? ...but there impact is tiny compared with Denmark where about 80% of wind generating capacity is community owned."

There are plans for water powered turbines in New Mills, Derbyshire which isn't far from here...I can see a trip coming up.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Cons Co-op Move it can't be over?

Has the Conservative Co-operative Movement given up already? Well noted political blogger (does a bit of football as well) Kerron Cross thinks they've thrown in the towel - here.

It's only been a month since we've heard anything. He does point out that nobody from the other benches could be bothered to turn up for the debate on the Co-operative Model For Education yesterday, 26th March. Perhaps it just slipped their diaries - it does happen?

Robert Owen - Manchester #1

Statue of Robert Owen, Manchester, England Originally uploaded by beyondutopia.
Seeing this is the 150th Anniversary year of the death of Robert Owen then it's time to weblog a few images. Robert Owen came to Manchester in 1787 when aged 16 and stayed until 1799 when he moved to New Lanark. There is very little left of 18th Century Manchester but there is a statue of him outside the Co-operative Bank HQ. This is the same as the statue in Newtown, Wales where he was born.

More to follow....

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

East Side History

Good history and memories article and pictures in "East - the magazine about regeneration in east Manchester - edition 8". It's 28 pages, probably not available at all good newsagents but it is online - PDF here. Skip to pages 16 - 21.

Thanks to co-operator John Hacking for putting me on to this.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Shipping Trip in Advance

Snow at Easter, we've not even had a summer and Manchester Area Co-op Party is organising a cruise on the Manchester Ship Canal in August. It'll make some people happy but you need some stamina for six hours on a boat that's also a floating bar. Time to have a meeting, do the enough networking for a whole year, read a broadsheet, complete ten sudoku and see the sights along the 29th wonder of the world before arriving near Liverpool...

Go on then, the real politics is always in the pub.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Environment Conference

The Co-operative are organising a conference on the Environment in Manchester. At the swishy Bridgewater Hall no less, on Saturday 31st May. There are options to visit Waste Works - The Co-operative Recycling Centre, not sure where that is, but it can't be far away.


I picked up on Co-opinnvervations from the Politics For People weblog a couple of weeks ago - see shape the future of the co-op. Well, the email invite finally arrived and after a bit of a rigmarole to actually register the project looks intrigueningly interesting.

It's a brand new venture for The Co-operative (never thought I'd see the term Beta in the title) that's looking for innervative ideas, brainstorms and other thoughts out of your head.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Seven weeks to the Locals

It's that time of year when the local elections are coming up. This year Withington Co-operative Party will be supporting five of our own members who are candidates :

Cllr. Andrew Fender (Lab/Co-op - Old Moat ward)
John Hacking (Lab/ Co-op - Chorlton Park ward)
Jennie Lennox (Labour - Didsbury West ward)
Tom Murphy (Lab/Co-op - Burnage ward)
Cllr. Sheila Newman (Labour - Chorlton ward)

We don't have elections for a mayor but one of the key contests for the country is in London. Unfortunately we don't have a vote but if we did it would be for Ken Livingston. Here you have a major international city, and the prospect of Boris Johnson winning for the Evening Standard and Tory Party makes you think he would be making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Area Party AGM

So you find yourself in a packed small room for the AGM at the Castlefield Hotel in Manchester. I always like the way they announce the finish time as the meeting starts. A good ploy - you know you won't be trapped and can plan of bit of shopping in town afterwards.

Down to business, we've got a new chair Kevin Bennett from Warrington, our own Paul Murphy moves over to Treasurer, as Joyce Creuvel retires and gets a presentation for all her seasons on the accounts.

There is a plastic bag resolution going to the Co-op Party Conference in September.

We had a guest speaker Shaun Fensom from Manchester Digital entitled "The Co-op and the Internet - a missed opportunity?". It's not all doom but a lot more could be done.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Fairtrade Hamper Winner

Fairtrade mealWell, I entered my 100% Fairtrade meal into a competition organised by Fairtrade Woman. Guess what, I won and hopefully a hamper of Fairtrade products will be arriving soonish.. Now to organise a something to share this dividend.

Previous entry Breakfast, Dinner and Wine. Forthcoming will be the recipe for "Chocolate Salami" so you can use up all those bars of Fairtrade chocolate bars and impress your friends and comrades.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Fairtrade Round Up & Video

Fairtrade Fortnight has come to an end. The news has all been positive. Sales in 2007 are nearly double that of 2006, Tate & Lyle will be converting their whole range of sugars to fairtrade and The Co-operative will be switching all their hot beveages to fairtrade too. Lots of events, plenty of publicity and even little stories like Manchester Cathedral switching to fairtrade communion wine.

Above is a short video of our contribution the showing of Black Gold movie with two guests from a cocoa co-operative in Ghana.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Our Popular MP

Couldn't resist a chortle at this story about our MP.

"John Leech MP - the least popular man in Parliament? ...he really know hows to garner support for a cause and kick up a fuss. Just look at the support he's gathered for this Early Day Motion"

A tip of the hat to Greater Manchester Fabian Society for actually finding out he's visited Parliament.

Smart Planet Site

Not sure how long the Smart Planet website has been around but it's publishing lots of fairtrade, eco-friendly, organic, low-carbon news, reviews, and videos.

Some recent examples - five things you never knew could be fairtrade, like Euro notes issued by the Netherlands in this Story. Even more obscure fairtrade products like a webcam, necklace and trainers in another story.

Well worth a visit, or if you're a rapid surfer like myself putting the RSS feed into a Netvibes page..

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Is it it fair without the logo?

The Fairtrade logo licensed from the Fairtrade Foundation certifies a product is fairtrade. But it does cost money to obtain one. Interesting article in the current issue of Ethical Consumer (No. 111 March / April 2008 - not available online though) which is an interview with Nasser Abu Farha, founder of the Palestinian Fair Trade Assocation. Their products are sold by Zaytoun in the UK and include organic olive oil, soap, almonds, medjoul dates, and za'atar spice mix. However there is no Fairtrade logo though everybody from the growers to the suppliers say they are trading fairly.

You'd be right to be very sceptical if some major corporation came out with fairtrade claims, but then by-passing the bureaucratic hoops and not paying the fees to the Fairtrade Foundation. But there can be bilateral agreements between growers and sellers which are based on fairtrade principles and prices but not carrying the logo.

Related post 16/11/2007 - Olive Oil Meeting

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Ethical Clothing : Manchester

ArkadashThe positive aspect of Fairtrade Fortnight is that it raises awareness with the media spotlight even if it's only for a couple of weeks. In tonight's Manchester Evening News was a story about Arkadash in Chorlton who sell fairly traded, sweatshop-free, recycled and organic clothing all 52 weeks of the year.

The article is titled 'eco boutique', that's the Evening News, you'd never guess it was the same news corporation as The Guardian if you've ever read a copy. Read it here. There is also an Arkadash in Leeds.

Related earlier weblog post.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Top Ten Fairtrade Wines

"Let's raise our glasses to an increasingly impressive combination of ethics and quality" writes Jonathan Ray in the Daily Telegraph. I'd never consider myself a Telegraph reader, but hats off to a newspaper that has recently been covering fairtrade in a positive style.

The stats: 30 fairtrade wineries in the world. The Co-operative has the biggest selection with 16 wines, and the Fairtrade Reserva Malbec 14% vol, Argentina (£5.99; Co-op) makes it into Jonathan's Top Ten (it's all subjective, but he does a lot of tasting and has a career writing about it).

La Riojana Co-operative is the world's largest maker of organic Fairtrade wines: its 510 members produce some 4.7 million cases a year. This fantastically full-bodied, smooth, chocolaty 100 per cent Malbec from Famatina Valley - made especially for the Co-op. I've gone through a few bottles of it this week. The acid test is always would you buy it again. Answer is yes.

Full Story

Friday, 29 February 2008

Bags of them

If there was a time for a grassroots political campaign to become legislation then that time has arrived for abolishing disposable plastic carrier bags. Let's face it we don't really need another when we've gone through a couple of dozen this month. Lots of mixed messages this week that skirt around the edges. The Prime Minister announces something is going to be done, M&S are going to charge 5p for a bag, The Co-operative have fairtrade long life cotton bags on special offer.

"The Co-operative is to run a six-week trial of home-compostable carrier bags in a bid to encourage shoppers to cut down on free, throwaway plastic bags. The scheme will run at 11 stores in Northampton."
Talking Retail

However, it's not just the issue of landfill it's the waste of resources of oil and energy to make something that''s going to be used for a couple of minutes. Customers are price sensitive, 5p is too cheap and voluntary action hasn't had enough take up, so maybe a tax of 20p per bag would change things.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Fair Trade Online Discussion

Missed taking part in the online discussion hosted by The Co-operative today. The topic was Fairtrade Campaigning. But I've read the questions and answers and some interesting ideas came up. A focus on fairtrade cotton for Manchester next year, given our historic links with this textile. Live video link-ups between schools in Garstang and Ghana, and having a Ubuntu fairtrade cola v. Pepsi / Coke challenge.
If you are a member of The Co-operative, and can find your membership number on you card, then you can log in and read.
P.S. One of our own members Cllr. Sue Murphy was in the panel. There is another online discussion on fairtrade on March 5th.

El Alto Tough But Fair

This week we'll be mainly blogging about fairtrade. El Alto produces outdoor clothing and equipment which has been ethically sourced and manufactured in Bolivia. Personally I never go near a mountain but I've bought some of their thermals and fleeces - just the job for a watching a winter football fixture. Not bulky, just fashionable, British designed and Bolivian made. You can read about it on their website.
For locals you can nip to Arkadash in Chorlton (also in Leeds) the shop that stocks fairtrade or organic clothing. 20% discounts on offer in Fairtrade Fortnight. P.S. I don't get paid to plug this stuff.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Successful Fairtrade Showing

Over 100 people came out to see the showing of "Black Gold", which in these of many distractions is a good muster. As a bonus we got to meet Christiana and Comfort from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa co-operative in Ghana over in the UK to promote fairtrade. What a contrast. You meet people who talk about the schools, health care and clean water that's come from having a sustainable price for their commodities. Then you watch a film of Ethiopia, a country that grows quality coffee but receives starvation wages for it.
Picture is : myself (Co-op Party), John Hacking (Chorltonparklabour), Comfort (Kuapa Kokoo), Paul Murphy (Co-op Party), Cllr Sue Murphy (Chair of the Fairtrade Manchester steering group). Little movie of the event to follow....

After Black Gold

Now showing at the cafe at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Wilmslow Road, Manchester is a selection of photographs documenting the impact of Fairtrade on coffee farming communities. Throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, 25th February to 9th March 2008. Details.
The cafe is pretty good as well. Opening Times.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Breakfast, Dinner & Wine

FT breakfastNo use banging on about fairtrade if you don't buy into it. So here we have:

a) Fairtrade breakfast that's OJ, some of the muesli, banana, but not the soya milk.

Fairtrade mealb) 100% Fairtrade dinner.
Red quinoa, Nut Koftas (brazils and cashews, ground and fried), fried banana (the unripest ones I could find in the Co-op), Mango relish (re-hydrated sun dried mango coated in mango chutney). Apart from the mango it all has a co-op connection, either Suma or The Co-operative.

FT wine c) Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape which I've not tried yet but as it won "The Best Vegan Fairly Traded Product" award for 2008 thought I'd pop it in the basket, or was the 20% off attraction.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Visitors from Ghana

It's more than a rumour but coming to the showing of Black Gold on Wednesday there might be two visitors from Kuapa Kokoo the co-operative in Ghana that grows cocoa beans that go into Divine Chocolate.

Hopefully we'll hear first hand of this fairtrade success story.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Fairtrade Woman

For Fairtrade Fortnight I'll be seeking out local fairtrade activity - don't have to wait long as we're showing Black Gold this Wednesday 27th February in Chorlton.

If you're on Facebook you might want to check out Fairtrade Woman who'll be surviving on nothing but Fairtrade food for two weeks. There are some competitions with prizes you can enter by designing a 100% or a 50% fairtrade meal. As a dab hand at home cooking I'll be publishing my entry this week. If you don't know what quinoa is you'd better Google it now.

Nuts & Bolts Online

The Conservative Co-operative Movement have made the booklet "Nuts & Bolts : How to Start a Food Co-operative" available online. You can download the 90+ pages here. You are supposed to sign up to the free email newsletter, which I have done, as I want to kept up to date. I've read some of it already and it looks like a practical guide.

The only thing that is still puzzling me is the Conservative Co-op Movement is at an arms length distance from the Conservative Party. If you visit the Conservative Party website you'd never know that David Cameron and the new look Tories were now pro-Co-operative. Well we'll see in the coming months.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Co-op Cons Move More

There is me checking the Conservatives website all week for the Conservative Co-op Movement. Nothing - it's been hived off to a separate site (not a dot org or even a .coop).

So let's try and find the book. Amazon have it out of stock at present. "Nuts & Bolts: How to Start a Food Co-op (Paperback)- by Amy Coyle (Author), Jesse Norman (Introduction)" 5 quid plus 1.99 sourcing fee whatever that is. 98 pages.

So meanwhile it's worth reading the Politics for People comment on the book launch - here. Best quote "They are aboard and we're glad to have them. Labour's links with the cooperative movement goes back to the 1800s. We are sure this will last as long."

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Cons Co-op Move Reaction

Dame Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operativesUK, is calling on the those in the Conservative Party that are now advocating co-ops to join with the rest of the co-operative movement to further the cause of co-operative enterprise, rather than invent something new...more

Best quote..
"If David Cameron is now signalling that that hostility is at an end, co-operators across the country will welcome that."

Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 - Part 1

Fairtrade bagFairtrade Fortnight 25 February - 9 March 2008 is only days away. The Co-operative have got off the mark early 'cos when I popped into my local store I found these fairtrade cotton bags on offer to shoppers. Expected to pay but didn't get charged. Surely some mistake as it's good quality bag complete with gusset - and you always want a gusset.

There is a 20% discount on Faitrade products. Thought I'd start with some bananas, a malbec ( red wine) from Argentina, fairtrade muesli and some brazil nuts....more

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Cons Co-op Move

David Cameron MP is expected to "launch" his Co-operative Co-op Movement tomorrow 20th February. The Co-op Party have already dissed it as a cynical stunt looking for green credentials. I look forward to reading "Nuts and Bolts" (apparently their booklet is called that) might make interesting reading and a reversal of a century of being at best apathetic and at worse antagonistic towards mutualism.
PR Newswire Story

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Tories Back on the Co-op Trail

We're expecting an announcement from David Cameron MP about the Tories plans for food co-operatives. I notice he's speaking at the National Farmers Union Conference (2008 is their centenary year) on Monday 18th February. He's on the same platform as Hilary Benn MP (Secretary of State at DEFRA) around the subject "Farming - Politically Essential". There is an article in the Observer 17/02/2008

Good quote from Jesse Norman "There's nothing in what it is to be a co-op that places it anywhere in the political spectrum." I know we don't talk about the Co-operative Commonwealth anymore, but I'll think you'll find it near enough Socialism.

Not that you need a Tory Party handbook to set up a food co-operative. There is a story in the Wrexham Evening Leader 15/02/2008 were residents have re-launched their food co-op after it closed last July.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

We Are Together Film

The film WE ARE TOGETHER (Thina Simunye) which has been championed by the Co-op Party with several showings at Conference and elsewhere is to get an UK cinema release in March. It's been shown in Manchester at the Odeon Printworks Friday 7th March until the 14th March.
List of Screenings in the UK
Website - with new Trailer

Lucy Powell on Guardian Blogs

Good to see a promising start to blogging made by our own Lucy Powell (Prospective Labour candidate for Manchester Withington). Hopefully the entries will continue, then we can all read about political activities and engagements first hand rather than just relying on word of mouth or what makes the newsprint. It's part of the Guardian's political blog series. I thought they were very short entries until I realised you had to click the title to get the full article.
Lucy Powell Weekly Blog

Friday, 15 February 2008

We're backing Arlene

The first I knew it was European Parliament candidate selection time was when the Arlene McCarthy's leaflet arrived yesterday. A prominent mention for the Co-op Party, and a short endorsement from Paul Murphy, Chair of Manchester Area Party and Secretary of Withington Co-op Party for her help with credit unions and co-operatives.

Today the ballot papers arrived. They have to be returned by Friday 7th March by post - sadly no online voting for this contest. Anyway it's no contest for us - Arlene is the Number 1 choice for all the support and help she's made as MEP for this region. The European Parliamentary elections will take place in June 2009.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Campaigning all year round

Years ago political parties turned up in April for your vote in May. Now propaganda activities only stop for xmas and the long school holidays in summer. This is a picture from the other night in an activity called "stuffing envelopes" for the Labour Party in the Hardy Lane Co-op Rooms. I noticed everybody in the photo is also a member of Withington Co-op Party. We could have organised a discussion instead of doing gossip, jokes and a cup of tea.

Picture from John Hacking - see ChorltonParkLabour.