Press release

Celebrating 150 years of co-operation

A free public facing festival, a new grassroots training programme, colourful new branding and a glittering awards ceremony are just some of the ways Co-operatives UK plans to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2020.

The celebrations kick off at the Co-operative Retail Conference (28 Feb-1 March) where founding member coops will be presented with an illustrated print celebrating 150 years together, everyone will receive a commemorative pin badge, ‘Spirit of Cooperation’ gin miniature, and a slice of birthday cake featuring the playful 150th anniversary branding.

‘It’s a perfect opportunity at the start of the year to thank the retail co-ops who together founded the co-operative union which later became Co-operatives UK, all those years ago and who’ve worked with us to champion co-ops for an amazing one and a half centuries”, said Ed Mayo, Secretary General.

This year is a double celebration as it is also 175 years since the Rochdale Pioneers founded their co-operative store that is widely recognised as the model for the modern day co-operative movement that spread around the world. To mark this historic milestone, a free Festival of Cooperation will be held in Rochdale outside the town hall in June.

Sponsored by The Co-op and Power to Change, the festival will celebrate Rochdale as the home of co-operation, sharing the remarkable story of its working class co-operative founders and challenging public perceptions of co-ops. It will feature interactive demonstrations and activities showcasing a diverse range of co-ops, free family activities, heritage actors, public debates on today’s big issues, live music and entertainment, and much more.

The weekend will see the launch of a new pilot ‘Co-op Champions’ programme, which has the ambitious aim of training 100 grassroots ambassadors in one day, giving them the skills, knowledge and confidence to spread the word about co-ops in their own communities and networks.

Ed Mayo said, “During our 150th anniversary year, we’re shaking up the format of Co-op Congress, which has traditionally been held on this weekend in June. We’re looking forward to going back to our roots in Rochdale to showcase all that’s great about today’s co-op movement, and inspire the next generation.”

The Co-op of the Year Awards will be presented the evening before the festival, with several individual awards honouring the people who have had a significant impact on the UK’s co-ops and who embody the co-operative values.  The celebration of all things co-operative continues with the annual awareness raising campaign, Co-op Fortnight, from 22 June to 5 July, which this year is calling for people to #JoinACoop.

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