New graphic novel uncovers radical roots of UK’s Co-operative movement

Date published: 03 October 2012

A new 80 page graphic novel has been published to shine a new light on the origins of the co-operative movement and how it is has grown to become the most successful grassroots campaign the world has ever known.

It is well established that 28 weavers and artisans got together and established a co-operative shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale in 1844 – and this went on to kick-start a global co-operative movement that is now a billion strong - the novel is published as part of the celebrations to mark the United Nations 2012 International Year of Co-operatives.
What is less well known is the links between the Rochdale Pioneers and the radical politics of the day – their aim was so much more than the provision of unadulterated, affordable food. Friends and family had fallen at the nearby Peterloo massacre and they were determined that the failing campaign of ‘votes for all’ would not be for nought.

In addition to the new historical context, the Novel tells of the incredible diversity of the 1.4million co-operatives that now operate across the world (from snake catchers in India to the supporter-owned FC Barcelona) It also explains how scientific thinking has evolved in recent years to recognise that co-operation is a major driving force in nature – equalling the power of selfish genes.

The novel ends with a glimpse of a vibrant, sustainable and optimistic future, in which a 'Co-op spring' has transformed society. Set in the year 2044, the bi-centenary of the Rochdale Pioneers, the Novel visits a world poised on the brink of a manned Mars landing, as the staff of Rochdale Aerotech Co-operative wait with baited breath to discover if the enormous supersonic parachute they have manufactured for the mission has withstood the fiery descent to the surface of another world.

Newhey resident Paul Monaghan – who is Head of Social Goals and Sustainability at The Co-operative, commissioned the project and said: “The story of the Rochdale Pioneers is incredibly relevant to the challenges the world faces today. Back in the nineteenth century, the political establishment would not tackle the ills of democracy or poverty, and so the Pioneers and thousands of communities took action themselves. Today, the world over, new revolutionaries are tackling everything from feeding a growing population to generating clean renewable energy.

Author Paul Fitzgerald said: “As a social justice campaigner, and an active member of the Co-operative movement, bringing this story and its characters to life again was an intense and often moving experience- we hope the end result will resonate deeply with everyone who craves a sense of hope and optimism in these challenging times.” The graphic novel is available in paperback and e-book formats.

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