Film Tribute to the Spirit of the Rochdale Pioneers


Posted by: Andrew Torr, The co-operative

on January 20, 2012 13:27

A major new film tells the ‘pioneering’ story of the birth of co-operatives

The “inspirational” story of the birth of co-operation more than 160 years ago is to be shown in a major new feature film.

The 52 minute movie is funded by The Co-operative Group – whose own origins trace back to the original ‘Rochdale Pioneers’ – to celebrate the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives, 2012.

Made and produced by The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy, the film – whose working title is “The Rochdale Pioneers” – tells of 28 working men whose vision for a better social order inspired them to form the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society in 1844 – recognised as the birth of the co-operative movement.

This year’s activities to mark the International Year of Co-operatives will highlight the significant contribution of co-operatives to world-wide socio-economic development.

After a year’s trading (1845) membership had increased almost three-fold and the Pioneers’ fame soon spread overseas – today there are one billion members of co-operatives worldwide and, in the UK alone sector turnover exceeds £33 Billion.

Mark Robinson-Field, The Co-operative’s National Co-operative and Membership Manager, said: ”In 1844 the original Pioneers set out the ideals which became the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world still operate to this day.

Inspired by the 1944 film ‘Men of Rochdale’, the team behind this re-telling – Kevin Atkinson, its producer, and co-directors John Montegrande and Adam Lee Hamilton, were behind The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy movie “Julius Caesar” which was selected for the international Raindance Film Festival and premiered in London in October (2011).

And, with one billion members of co-operatives world-wide and the sector enjoying global attention, we believe the time is right for this inspirational story to be re-told.

Kevin Atkinson, Operations Director of The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy and producer for the new film, said: “This is an exciting project which, through the medium of film, will bring the spirit, heart and belief of the original pioneers to a brand new audience.”

The cast includes John Henshaw – known for roles in Early Doors, Born and Bred, Looking for Eric and, Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal – who plays John Holt, one of the original members of The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.

And, stage and TV actor John McArdle – known for roles in Brookside, Merseybeat and Gallowglass – who plays Dr. Dunlop who agreed to rent his premises, an old woollen warehouse, to the Rochdale Pioneers.

The film will be distributed internationally and plans are in place for it to be screened at the co-operative world festival and expo at Manchester Central in autumn 2012.

To follow the progress of the film or for more information visit

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