Rochdale children to ‘Meet the Pioneers’
A fun schools event at Rochdale Town Hall on 9 May will immerse more than 300 KS2 students from 12 primary schools across the town in the story of the Rochdale Pioneers.
Activities will be led by staff from the Co-operative College in Manchester and Outreach Officers from the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, which is due to reopen in summer following a major refurbishment. The day is being hosted by Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council and supported by The Co-operative Group.
The Rochdale Pioneers were 28 ordinary working men, mainly weavers working in the town’s textiles trade, who got together in 1844 to improve their lives by setting up a co-operative grocery store. Their shop, on Toad Lane in Rochdale, is now widely regarded as the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement, which today has over 1 billion members in more than 100 different countries. 2012 is the United Nations’ first International Year of Co-operatives and, with Rochdale designated World Capital of Co-operatives, what better time to look again at the story of the 28 ordinary working people who started it all, and who continue to inspire co-operatives to form across the globe.
Actors from the Shed Theatre Company and Touchstones Rochdale will bring the tale of the Pioneers to life and give students a taste of Victorian life – including the stern discipline of the nineteenth century classroom! Students will also take part in a range of interactive games and activities, from felt-making, singing and drama to banner making and co-operative drawing. In the most energetic part of the day, students will push a wheelbarrow around Rochdale Town Hall in a relay covering 12.4 miles – the distance the Pioneers had to transport their goods by wheelbarrow from the market in Manchester to Rochdale to be sold in their Toad Lane shop!
Short animation The Story of the Rochdale Pioneers, created by Lancashire-based Huckleberry Films, will be shown along with other co-operative films, and the filmmakers will be on hand to show students how to make co-operative films of their own.
Other activities include setting up a replica of the Pioneers’ Toad Lane store, taking part in a Pioneers’ treasure hunt and visiting the site of the Pioneers’ original shop.
The activity day follows the launch in Rochdale of a new teaching pack, produced by the Co-operative College, called Meet the Pioneers. The resource introduces the men behind the famous story and explores what they were like as individuals. All different types of people, of all different ages, with different interests, occupations and personalities, came together to form the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, from James Smithies the joke teller to William Cooper the avid letter writer. The resource draws on material held in the National Co-operative Archive in Manchester and contextualises the story of the Rochdale Pioneers with background information about life in the nineteenth century, from housing and living conditions to education, food and political movements.
The story of co-operation did not stop with the Rochdale Pioneers, and students will take part in activities on Fairtrade, reflecting the co-operative movement’s ongoing support for Fairtrade and ethical trading conditions.
Julie Thorpe, Head of School and Youth Programmes at the Co-operative College, said: “We are really excited about meeting all the young people from across Rochdale. We will be taking them back in time to explore what life was like in the town in the nineteenth century. But we hope they will go away inspired with a vision of how co-operatives can improve people’s lives today and in the future.”
Paul Flowers, Chair of the Co-operative Banking Group, who will open the day, said: “I am delighted to be involved in the launch of this event and especially to be meeting all the young people who will be gathering together on the day. It is really important that the co-operative movement as a whole helps young people to be fully aware of what co-operatives have done and could do in the future of our society and therefore I am delighted to be involved on the day.”
Published On: April 30, 2012
Written By: Natalie