Central England Co-op have joined with fellow co-operatives across the country to celebrate the 250thbirthday of one of the founding fathers of the co-operative movement and commissioned a special portrait of the great man to mark the occasion.
Robert Owen is one of the most well-known names associated with early forms of co-operation. A Welsh socialist and philanthropist, Owen’s impact is still felt today in the values and principles of co-operative Societies such as Central England Co-op.
Owen felt that workers should be treated properly, and he worked hard to improve the conditions in his own factories, reducing working hours, cleaning up accommodation and providing schools.
At the same time, he continued to lobby and campaign for legislation to protect workers and is credited as the first person to introduce the eight hour workday and proved production was just as successful on limited hours.
Owen grew up during the industrial revolution and though born in Newtown, Wales in 1871, it was in New Lanark, Scotland where he first made his mark taking over the village’s mills and introducing the working practices for which he has become synonymous.
He is also closely linked with The Arkwright’s from the Derbyshire mills and in particular to Belper and Cromford and the Strutt family – associated with the first Co-op in Derby.
To mark his birthday, Central England Co-op today (14 May) joined a virtual event organised by Co-operatives and Mutuals Wales, which included school children interviewing the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford about what Owen would be doing today if he were still around.
During the event, Central England Co-op unveiled a special new portrait of Owen commissioned by members from the Society’s Membership and Community Councils covering all its trading area across 16 counties.
Debbie Robinson, Chief Executive of Central England Co-op, said: “We, at Central England Co-op are incredible grateful for the vision and insight of Robert Owen that guides us today.
We must always remember our history and the sacrifices that others have made in their lives to ensure we have a Co-operative Movement fit for future generations.
“We continue to deliver Robert’s legacy and ensure co-operative and sustainable communities are always part of our decision making and that Robert Owen’s legacy carries on beyond us.
“Today we can use his life and work to showcase the current work of co-operatives as enterprising businesses with social and ethical standards and ways of being. The Co-op difference.”
Central England Co-op is planning more celebrations of Robert Owen’s life and impact on the co-operative movement during the annual Co-op Fortnight which this year takes place between 21 June and 4 July.
Here Central England Co-op Chief Executive Debbie Robinson and Vice President Elaine Dean raise a toast to mark the milestone birthday.
At the event we presented the following film in which the portrait of Robert Owen was unveiled, while our Chief Executive Debbie Robinson, Vice-President Elaine Dean, Board Director and MCRO Tanya Noon and members and colleagues in Belper, spoke about the significance of Robert Owen to our society and to the movement.