When a group of tradesmen banded together in Rochdale to create the World’s first co-op, they didn’t stop at ethical business. Their ambition was even greater: to transform society itself.
From championing rights for consumers and workers, to giving women a voice in politics long before they had the right to vote, the co-operative movement and co-operators have always been at the forefront of fighting for political change.
Marking the Centenary of the Co-operative Party, the co-operative movement’s political voice, this exhibition explores the radical ideals that inspired those first co-operators, and the challenges that in 1917 drove the co-operative movement to seek direct political representation via a political party of its own. It reflects on the Party’s achievements over the past century, and all that there is left to achieve in the next.
It tells the story of a shop assistant who served as Secretary of State, the first woman in history to do so. A blacksmith’s son who led the Royal Navy in Churchill’s Cabinet. The son of a gassed soldier who lost an eye and a leg in the First World War, who would pass the world’s first disability rights legislation. All of them co-operators.
This exhibition celebrates people, ideas and communities coming together and using their collective strength to win economic and political power – and who in doing so, have changed our world for the better.