In Summer 2022 we embarked on our first heritage project inspired by our hopes and ambition to see the predominantly derelict former Co-op department store redeveloped and opened for community benefit. Working with the Co-operative Heritage Trust and Morecambe Heritage Centre the Co-operation St project aims to capture as much history about the Co-op Centenary Building, the Co-operative Society and the West End as possible - from the time when it was better known as the ‘best end’.
For over 20 years the Centenary building has been in a state of disrepair and mainly unused. Our overarching aim is to build interest and capture knowledge of the building and continue to grow support and build a case for its restoration and the opportunity to return it to active use as a thriving creative, community hub for the West End of Morecambe.
welcome to Cooperation st
Heritage learning and inspiration visits:
Our project team of staff, artists and volunteers set off to Rochdale with the GCSE art group from the local secondary school, Bay Leadership Academy. We visited the Pioneers Museum managed and run by the Co-operative Heritage Trust, which is based in the same building the very first Co-operative store was set up, so it has history coming out of the walls! Cat led us in some brilliant hands-on activities, a chance to see artefacts from the archive and a walk around the town looking at all the fantastic murals it has, many inspired by the banners of the Co-operative Society.
For our second visit we took members of our project team volunteers and community members across to the Rochdale Store to see the banners and then across to the National Co-operative Archives in Manchester. Here we were hosted by the brilliant Liz McIvor who led a session introducing us to the archives and guides to our research. All in all a grand day out!
Creative Workshops to share and discover heritage:
Working with local artists we designed, developed and delivered a series of creative workshops making banners, fictional products, a pop-up shop and a pen-pal project to interpret and share heritage but also to build interest and connections with the project.
Co-op inspired products and packaging with Charlotte Done
Intergenerational pen-pal project with Steve Fairclough
Banner Making with Wendy O'Hara
Cooperation St project stories
Led by our experienced oral historian and creative facilitator Steve Fairclough and supported by a growing group of community members we started to gather and record memories of people that remembered shopping or working at Centenary House.
We were lucky. Morecambe folk did take an interest and brought us their interesting, warm, funny, and very heartfelt stories, all providing a wonderful glimpse of the past.
We feel like we have only just started to scratch the surface of this project, and that there are many more stories to tell and connections to make with old and young members of our local community, and beyond. Thank you to our participants for sharing your memories, and to you for coming to read and listen to them. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
Cooperation St Heritage Exhibition
Hosted at and in Morecambe Heritage Centre | 26th Nov 2022 - 28th Feb 2023
During the 6 month period for which the project ran, we saw a new wave of co-operation unfold in Morecambe before us as we worked together to research and discover more about the heritage of the West End, and the Co-operative Movement. We have become increasingly aware of the parallels between our journey today, as a grassroots community organisation, and the ideas of the Rochdale pioneers and others in the first co-operative movements. Those early struggles are as relevant today as they were almost 200 years ago and have become a source of inspiration and hope for us and our community as we form new connections, plans and possibilities for the future.
A real co-operative effort in putting this together with special thanks to Morecambe Heritage Centre, the Co-operative Heritage Trust, Bob Pickersgill for his fantastic mural contribution bringing Yorkshire St to life, the many volunteers from the collective in making the exhibitions possible and our young collaborators at Bay Leadership Academy.
the art of cooperation exhibition
With over 30 contibuting artists - some professional, some having never exhibited before and some still at school - The Art of Co-operation was certainly a highlight and a clear demonstration of the community spirit and inspiration and action spurred by the project. A true demonstration of what can be acheived when people come together.
This exhibition sits alongside the ‘Cooperation Street’ display in Morecambe Heritage Centre. Both elements form a part of our heritage project inspired by Centenary House and the synergy between its heritage and our future vision.