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Co-operative working

27 March 2013

Rachel Atkinson

History, archaeology and art students joined forces to create a project on the Co-op in Preston

History enthusiasts from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have worked with the city’s Member of Parliament to launch a history project on the Co-operative movement community.

Students from the disciplines of history, archaeology and art combined to chart the history of the Co-op in Preston.

Second year BA(Hons) History students Niall McDermott, Greg Chalmers, Kaleigh Wright and Will O’Rourke delivered the oral part of the project, interviewing key figures in Preston, including Mark Hendrick MP, while the remaining students built an interactive website.

“It’s been fascinating to speak to lots of people and learn about how important the Co-op was for so many people in the area during some difficult times.”

The group also worked with the Preston Historical Society and discovered how important the movement was in Preston and the effect it had on the city and its people through the 1930s right up to its decline in the 1980s.

Greg, from Manchester, said: “It’s been fascinating to speak to lots of people and learn about how important the Co-op was for so many people in the area during some difficult times.

“Everyone thinks of the Co-op as the convenience shop round the corner but when you look at how it came to be and the effect on people then it’s really something quite special.”

“It is very important to me, as I’m sure it is to many people in Preston, to still have the Co-op which distributes the profits to all the members, which is a very important principal.”

Will added: “At the start of this module, we were unaware quite how wide-ranging Co-op services are; from shops, workers clubs, sports leagues, funeral care, insurance to travel agents. As one of the volunteer’s we spoke to said: ‘It is more than a shop, it’s a way of life’ and that sums it up really well in our eyes.”

The launch event saw UCLan academics and Mr Hendrick give lectures about what the Co-operative movement means while guests from around the North West were in attendance.

Mr Hendrick told the audience about his experiences starting out in politics as a Labour and Co-op Councillor before progressing to becoming an MP and instilling the values and principles of the Co-op movement in his parliamentary work.

He said: “From its early days rooted in Rochdale, the co-operative movement has become global and there are lots of examples of co-operatives working effectively in all different parts of the world. “It is very important to me, as I’m sure it is to many people in Preston, to still have the Co-op which distributes the profits to all the members, which is a very important principal.”