Blog by Community Co-Researcher Becca Snow Not everyday do you get the opportunity to have such a comprehensive understanding of such a rich history of such an inspirational movement based on just thinking a building looks cool!
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been in the right place at the right time in regards to this project. It has allowed me to indulge my love of sociological history and architecture, but it has brought together a whole new reality on the idea behind the place that people just view as somewhere to pick up your milk and bread.
Whilst originating as an excuse to look around a long since forgotten building with camera in hand, those steps through the doors of Centenary House have taken me so much further on a journey of enlightenment to what it really means to be a part of the Co-ops illustrious history and how far it has come from the little shop on Toad Lane, to the name that still is uttered as common place ubiquitously. The thought of which seems only inconceivable to those few men who started the movement all that time ago.
The project has hugely emboldened my lust for learning by bridging the modern contexts of what we see as the Co-op and how the different steps that have been taken have led to such a prevalent message being shared while being able to provide for the most basic of needs when most had so little. Bringing this new found appreciation for the simplicity of caring for one another and helping show solidarity and compassion that transcended borders, classes and centuries that has been embodied throughout the lifespan of the movement, not only for myself but for the future generations.
First visiting (read Becca's first blog here) the Rochdale Pioneers museum with the art students from a local secondary school, seeing their enthusiasm and participation with the history of the place and tangible contemporary echoes, not only seeing the history, but seeing the parallels in their own lives and how similar the ideals as well as the physical items they held from the archives.
To then be able to experience the archives first hand, seeing the level of skill and meaningful thought that went into each artistic element of the banners both in their own lives, but in support of so many others they were never likely to meet and how it became a fallible link across the movement and across not only the nation, but across the globe. The existential wonder of knowing a woman centuries ago held the same fundamental values, only served to enshrine them further into my own being and what that could mean in bringing together the community in that strength and the power of creative camaraderie and sentiment.
Taking this invigorated feeling forward into my own creativity, I dived at the opportunity to be part of the research and creation group looking into the timeline and journey the packaging of the Co-op shop, the district teas, their stamps and community outreach took and how we could use that to bring people together in the here and now with a creative twist, armed with the skeletons of tea boxes and tin can labels to spark the inspiration of the modern minds of children (and some enthusiastic parents) on how they could encapsulate the sentiments of kindness and positivity within the community into a tangible product to be stocked in the Cooperation street pop up shop housed in the studio.
Whilst sparking the creativity and sharing the messages out in the wild, behind the scenes the artists in the community took their inspirations to the max in order to create a diverse array of artworks in a collaborative effort to further bring the unity into the modern day with the cohesion of the plethora of mediums and styles all converging into the spectacular fusion of the collective histories and experiences of the Co-op movement throughout its entirety.
Serving to bring out nostalgia for some and creating new learning and memories for all, this project has encapsulated the importance and wonderfullness of having the collective voice come together and hold the values of which to benefit all at the expense of none.