Does Robert Owen’s legacy resonate in the 21st Century?|Prof Chris Williams|Chair: Ian Rees, Llafur + Q&A with Mick Antoniw MS

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Presentation by Central England Co-operative Society Ltd celebrating Robert Owen 250th Anniversary with a specially commissioned painting of Robert Owen which will tour various venues

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Group feedback by: Pat Juby, Pat Conaty, Debbie Wozencraft & Selwyn Williams. Cilla Ross, summarised by saying; “Education is so central to what we have considered today.” and thanked all for building knowledge

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‘How do we keep Owen’s ideals burning brightly?’ Short presentations, followed by breakout groups and summation: 1. ‘Telling co-operative video stories of collective action’, 2. ‘Owen & Social Development Goals’, 3. ‘Co-operative energy/radical edge innovation’, 4. ‘Why socialised enterprises rooted in mutual principles and co-operative governance?’ 5. ‘Networking Community Enterprises’

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‘What Owenite ideals descended to the modern Co-operative Movement?’ Cilla Ross, Researcher/Activist Sara Vicari, (Rome) Gillian Lonergan, former National Co-operative Archive Librarian Facilitator: Rebecca Harvey, Executive Editor, Co-op Press

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What would Robert Owen be doing today? School children interview the First Minister of Wales

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Launch with contributions from Co-ops & Mutuals Wales, Newtown Town Council and the Robert Owen Association (Japan)

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The Welsh First Minister interviewed by Co-op News Editor

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Video of Mark Drakeford & Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd

The Video of Mark Drakeford & Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd pupils is now available on our YouTube channel

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Owen’s 250th Anniversary 2021 celebrations to date

      • The Executive Editor, Co-operative Press Wales interviewed the First Minister on March 20  (See the June edition of Co-op News)
      • In March 2021 Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd pupil’s interviewed the First Minister on a ‘What would Robert Owen be doing now? theme. This was excellent and fun.
      • We arranged for the Co-op Group to provide a colourful floral tribute to be displayed at Robert Owen’s statue which is now at the Robert Owen Museum.
      • On May 12, a large birthday cake was provided to excited Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd pupil’s with the Mayor of Newtown, Museum; the Co-op Group and C&MW’s representatives attending.
      • Owen’s 14thMay 2021, 250th Anniversary Celebration more than exceeded our expectations with 64 online participants. Contributors included: the Mayor of Newtown; Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd pupil’s; Akira Kurimoto, former Secretary General, Robert Owen Association (Japan); Cilla Ross, Co-op College Principal; Rebecca Harvey, Executive Editor, Co-op Press; Sara Vicari, (, Rome); Gillian Lonergan, former National Co-operative Archive Librarian; Michael Brown, Director for Open Newtown; Dan McCullum, Awel Aman Tawe; Rory Ridley-Duff, Chair, UK Society for Co-operative Studies; Ceri Cunningham & Selwyn Williams, Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog; a Robert Owen Museum 3 D Tour; five breakout sessions on the ‘What would Robert Owen be doing now?’ Big thanks to the UK Co-op Party for funding our Zoom arrangements and other UK co-operative partner organisations who provided financial support. C&MW are now editing the raw video tape.
      • Chris Hall and David Smith supported a Newtown Labour Party event with speaker ideas on a “Best Employment Practices / Robert Owen’s Legacy’ theme with Mick Antoniw SM; with Sara Vicari introducing a video on female worker empowerment.
      • ‘Does Robert Owen’s legacy still resonate in the 21st century?’ – Prof Chris Williams,University College, Cork
      • ‘Robert Owen & the history of the Co-op Movement in Wales’ – Dr Liz McIvor, Co-operative Heritage Trust Manager & Sian Williams, Head of Special Collections & Librarian, South Wales Miners’ Library, Swansea University
      • Co-operative Learning & Methodologies in Schools with Dr Sara Vicari
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International Co-operators Day – Owen event 3rd July 2021

Join our joint event with Llafur: 3rd July 2021 at 9.30am with a 30 minute lecture by Prof Chris Williams on ‘Does Robert Owen’s Legacy still resonate in the 21st century?’ Followed by Q&A. Chair: Mick Antoniw MS 

10.35 am: (a) Focus upon the History of the Co-operative Movement in Wales and (b) How we build upon Owen’s 250th anniversary in reaching out to new audiences

Contributors:  Liz McIvor, Co-operative Heritage Trust Manager; Sian Williams, South Wales Miners’ Library, Swansea University and Sara Vicari  from (Rome) telling co-op stories of collective action.

Chair: Jeremy Miles, MS

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Annual National Robert Owen Day event/s starting 2022 consultation

What are your ideas?

Arising from Robert Owen’s birthday celebration, ideas are being developed as to how the Movement contributes to his Legacy in 2022? We aim to continue this conversation on:

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 09.30-11.35   


  • Do you think this is a good idea? Yes/No
  • What ideas / suggestions do you have for such an event(s)? If so, please state:
  • Would you be willing to participate in such an event? Yes/No
  • Could you contribute in any way? Please state:
  • Should the event be limited to Wales? Yes/No
  • Do you have any thoughts for involving schools/colleges in such future events?


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Robert Owen’s 14 May 2021 250th Anniversary event

Seventy participants celebrated Owen’s birthday with a programme from Newtown to Japan and back again, making this a memorable celebration. Activity included:

Welcome by Cllr. David Selby, Mayor of Newtown, joining us, with floral tribute from the Co-operative Group

Greetings: Akira Kurimoto, former Secretary General, Robert Owen Association (Japan) Organising committee, ICA Global Congress, Seoul, December 2021

  • What would Robert Owen be doing today?’ School children interview the First Minister of Wales
  • ‘What Owenite ideals descended to the modern Co-operative Movement?’

Cilla Ross, Researcher/Activist,

Sara Vicari,, (Rome),

Gillian Lonergan, former National Co-operative Archive Librarian

Facilitator: Rebecca Harvey, Executive Editor, Co-op Press

  • ‘How do we keep Owen’s ideals burning brightly?’

Sara Vicari, (Rome),

Michael Brown, Director for Open Newtown,

Dan McCullum, Awel Aman Tawe,

Rory Ridley-Duff, Chair, UK Society for Co-operative Studies,

Ceri Cunningham & Selwyn Williams , Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog

We are very pleased to acknowledge financial support received from several UK Co-operative Societies and other Co-op Member Education organisations. Thanks are due to all those who have contributed to making Owen’s Birthday celebrations possible. Special thanks  are due to Rebecca Harvey, at the Co-op Press, who at our suggestion interviewed the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS; and recorded Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd pupils interviewing our First Minister in March 2021. A short publication is being prepared to capture presentations and participant views with an edited video of event highlights.

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Newtown school children from Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd who recently interviewed Mark Drakeford about Robert Owen

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Was Robert Owen a Radical Visionary or just a very canny businessman? Owen’s 250th Legacy Celebration. What lessons can we learn for the 21st Century?


Participants wishing to attend our Friday 14th May & Saturday 3rd July 2021 events please see two separate Eventbrite links.

For Friday May 14th   
For  Saturday July 3rd 

English and Welsh messages follow with  a programme for each event.

 2021 marks Robert Owen’s 250th birthday. This anniversary celebrates his ‘bankful of ideas’ about alternative ways of organising society from pre-school play to the co-operative movement. As opposed to competition, his central purpose was to support democracy, self-government and co-operative advance through ‘voluntary association’, with education seen as the primary driver of social change.

 ‘Voluntary association’ was based upon the common interest and the public good being able to deliver “goods for members/associates now, rather than everything for everyone but … after the next election, after the revolution, in the afterlife.” (Stephen Yeo) ^

 Owen’s work led to co-operatives, mutuals, trade unions, building and friendly societies. These developments have had global reach as recognised in the 2012 UN International Year of Co-operatives. Continue reading

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Robert Owen’s 250th Anniversary raised in the Senedd today

Here is Huw’s great contribution in the Senedd today and the Minister (Rebecca) response – Huw Irranca-Davies | Member of the Senedd | Wales ( Many Senedd members generally seemed agreeable to his remarks. No reference is made to the idea of a National Robert Owen Day but its time will come! 

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This is the most important clip you’ll ever see!

We have never seen a stronger case advanced for the role and values of the global Co-operative Movement

 full version on  

 Here is Dr. Mike Ryan speaking at a @trocaire event speaking about the catastrophe we’re walking into.

We genuinely think this is the most important clip you’ll ever see. So true. Robert Owens work is still unfinished in his 250th anniversary year. Watch this space for future events.

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Everything you need to know about Fairtrade

“For two weeks each year at the end of February and start of March, thousands of individuals, companies and groups across the UK come together to share the stories of the people who grow our food and drinks. mine our gold and who grow the cotton in our clothes, people who are often exploited and underpaid.

In 2021, Fairtrade Fortnight will feel very different. 2020 has been a hard year for everyone and we know that physically campaigning and meeting people will continue to be challenging in 2021 but we have also heard from so many of you that you want to continue to support Fairtrade through this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us more than ever how interconnected we are globally. This interconnection is at the very heart of the Fairtrade message and is where your role begins. You are part of the Fairtrade movement and you have the power to drive long-term change, not only with your shopping choices but with your support in spreading the message. We just have to do this a little differently in 2021!”

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Celebrate Robert Owen’s 250th Anniversary

Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a great man of history who pioneered modern socialism, the trade union and co-operative movements. He has never been given the recognition he deserved and many of his ideas from enlightening the “dark satanic mills” around the world to Early Years Education are still fresh today. His ideas have changed the world wide over. This is more than amply demonstrated by a series of excellent videos produced by

In this 250th anniversary ideas we are championing the idea of a national Robert Owen Day in our schools. We are very pleased that the Wales Co-operative Party have included this in their Welsh General Election Manifesto. Could other political parties please note!

It is not widely understood that co-operation goes well beyond ‘doing good’, ‘wellbeing’ or High Street shops & funeral parlours. At a time of rapacious capitalism Owen’s greatest legacy has been pioneering economic democracy and  Co-operative values in a rapidly changing world threatened by extinction.

Eddie Butler in his BBC Wales and history of the world series captures a brief picture of Owen from 12.16 to 15.29 minutes. – you may need to register.

The Robert Owen Museum have crafted a well balanced contribution on Owen’s view of slavery which is well worth a read.

Shortly, we will be providing a listing of Robert Owen 250th anniversary events. If you plan an event, or require support please do get in touch.

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Co-operation and a 21st-Century Food Strategy for Wales

At a time of declining wages of cotton and woollen workers failing to improve wages and conditions, the Co-operative Movement grew out of the efforts of early Owenite socialists and chartists and the need for pure, unadulterated goods, keen pricing and a member dividend on purchases. At first the shop only sold five basic items – butter, flour, sugar, oatmeal and candles – but after very many difficulties expanded very quickly. This is our co-operative contribution in developing a food strategy in Wales.

Food is the cornerstone of existence, tying into multiple other policy areas across the whole of devolved government (health and social care, education, anti-poverty, wellbeing, agriculture and environment, to name a few). It is therefore critical that we have a food strategy fit for purpose, one that is collaborative in its approach. However, the Welsh Government’s current food strategy is disconnected, with insufficient collaboration across the devolved policy spectrum. 

One way to support our vision of a food and farming, circular and foundational economy (key tenets of the current Labour administration) would be to ensure collaboration through the creation of a Wales Food Commission. This Commission would direct and monitor a new cross-departmental food system strategy which will deliver for our health, environment, economy and society. This new strategy would drive and reward sustainable Farm & Fishing to Fork supply chains, address food waste and promote healthy, sustainable diets and consumption for all. 

One key part of this strategy will be public sector procurement. Procurement will be a central driver in ensuring collaborative working, focussing on significant areas including: 

• Nutritious Food for all – A food strategy must ensure the 70,000 children in Wales that live in poverty currently not eligible for Free School Meals, receive them. This would help reduce long-term health inequalities, particularly in terms of preventable diseases, including diabetes (which costs the Welsh NHS approximately £500 million annually, 10% of its annual budget), strokes and coronary heart disease. This approach would also remove stigma and administration processes associated with means testing.

• Food for public health – School food standards should be aligned to the Eat Well guide and public procurement and increase sustainable production capability/potential of healthy food in Wales, with similar attention to be given to NHS catering. This alignment is already being considered. 

• Food Literacy – This would require schools to offer experiential food literacy education to equip pupils with essential life skills and the knowledge and confidence to grow, prepare and choose healthy food that will support positive health outcomes and help reduce health care costs.

• Net zero food system and farming for nature and the climate – Public sector procurement standards should be aligned to environmental standards/targets to drive much needed change.

• More sustainable seafood – Welsh seafood should be sustainably incorporated into school and NHS food standards.

• Sustainable food sector jobs and livelihoods – We need sustainable and fairly paid jobs in farming, fisheries, food manufacture and public sector catering, including the school meal service. Rural, valley and coastal communities have been suggested to be the hardest hit by Covid-19; jobs should be targeted to these areas. 

• Food Justice -. During Covid-19, councils, community initiatives and food operations demonstrated what benefits can be achieved when we work together and co-ordinate action in ensuring food access. To embed that extraordinary effort we support the appointment of local food champions and the development and co-ordination of locally based approaches to food access, including support for community food projects and social prescribing. Let us also highlight the importance of what use to be called ‘meals on wheels’ an essential service that works really well, for example, in Cardiff. 

• Co-operative solutions have much to offer. Government should support: food processing and distribution such as food hubs and worker co-ops to foster local economies; small and medium sized enterprises and co-op producers to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and enable better use of resources; further development of secondary co-ops in agriculture and tourism to promote economies of scale and joint marketing; and fresh food co-ops and co-operative community initiatives such as Incredible Edible, including making land available for community growing. 

• Healthy Start Scheme in Wales – Government should actively consider whether the scheme is the best vehicle for supporting low-income families with young children to access a healthy diet. Government should gather evidence to see how we can strengthen delivery and continue to work with the UK Government to increase the uptake of the scheme, including through digitalisation. 

In conclusion, food and farming are being overlooked as a way to drive economic recovery in Wales. We need to learn from the Covid-19 crisis to develop a resilient, fair, sustainable system of food, farming and fishing that works for everyone. A food system which provides everyone with healthy food and also fit to tackle food poverty, climate change and restore nature, whilst providing good and safe livelihoods. The creation of an independent, representative Wales Food Commission would direct and monitor a new cross-departmental food system strategy to bring about a food system fit for the 21st Century in Wales.

David Smith is a former Gwent Tertiary College Catering Lecturer, served on the Food Standards Agency (Wales) Advisory Committee and the Main Group Board Director at the Co-operative Group.

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