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How does food tie communities and cultures together, and what kind of stories can we learn from this? What do our guests have to say about how food offers a sense of place and belonging?

And how will the newly refurbished Touchstones create a space where food and the historical collections can combine?

Join us as we chat to guests Mark Doyle and Laura Mansfield about our future plans in developing a lively museum collection, exploring the culturally rich world of food!

UPDATE: We are delighted to announce that we’ve received the National Lottery Heritage Fund support to make The Dining Room (new working title) a reality. Keep your eyes peeled on our website for more!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by:

Mark Doyle – Director of Arts, Culture and Wellbeing at Touchstones

Laura Mansfield – Independent creator and writer

Feast –


Mark – recipe book made by family for his time away at university.

Laura – small ceramic plate made by Aaliyah Hussain.

This podcast was produced by Carlie Foster for Audio Always, thanks to support from Audio Always’ Manchester Amplified programme.

Listen on Spotify Listen on YouTube

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 3

On this week’s blog post, our Marketing Assistant Zaynab Saleem delves into one of Rochdale’s most valuable and influential movements in history – The Rochdale Pioneers and the Co-operation movement. By covering the reasons as to how, why and how successful this movement was in giving food to those who needed it most, we can detect the importance of food intertwined with our community – and how a story can be told through both alike.

In Rochdale’s history, the establishment of the Cooperative is undoubtedly one of their most well-known and inspirational projects. As the topic of this month’s episode is how we are trying to bring together food, culture, and our collections for the public in a vibrant setting, it can be instructive to revisit the ways in which food has influenced our community.

Who were the Rochdale Pioneers?

The founders of the Co-operative Movement, Rochdale Pioneers, had a capital of £28 (equivalent to £4387 today). The Rochdale Pioneers are best known for creating the Rochdale Principles, a set of cooperative values that serve as the cornerstone for the values that coops all over the world still operate by today.

A group of tradesmen decided to create their own store selling food products they could not otherwise purchase, as the Industrial Revolution’s mechanisms drove an increasing number of skilled workers into poverty. Having learned from previous failed attempts at cooperation, they created the now-famous Rochdale Principle and, after raising £28 of initial capital, over a four-month period, raised £10 (or £1,566 in modern currency) to rent premises in Toad Lane, Rochdale.

How did the Rochdale Pioneers begin their mission?

When they first began their business on December 21, 1844, they had a very little assortment of butter, sugar, flour, and oatmeal for sale. In just three months, they added tea and tobacco to their menu, and they quickly gained a reputation for offering pure, superior products. The Pioneers had eighty members and £182 in capital by the end of their first year in business.

The Pioneers had a clear set of objectives: Voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education training and information, co-operation amongst co-operatives and concern for the community.

By 1900, the British Co-Operative movement had grown to 1439 co-operatives covering virtually every area of the UK.

Why were the Rochdale Pioneers successful?

The Rochdale Pioneers were successful due to a combination of innovative principles and community-driven strategies. Their success can be summarised in several key factors.

The established set of principles laid the groundwork for their success. They created a fair and inclusive system that empowered members, ensured transparency, and distributed benefits fairly. Moreover, their cooperative met a genuine social need. In an era when many working-class families struggled with the quality and affordability of essential goods, the Rochdale Pioneers provided access to affordable, high-quality products. This immediate and tangible benefit generated strong local support and membership growth.

Also, their commitment to democratic governance was a pivotal factor. Every member had an equal say in decision-making, fostering a sense of ownership and participation. This democratic structure made members feel invested in the cooperative’s success and motivated them to work together for their mutual benefit. The cooperative movement resonated with people who saw the potential for a fairer, more just economic system. This support inspired the replication and spread of the cooperative model worldwide. As other communities saw the benefits of the cooperation, they established their own cooperatives, contributing to the cooperative movement’s growth and success beyond Rochdale.

How does the Rochdale Pioneers and the Co-Operative Movement link to the concept of food and culture?

The Rochdale Pioneers and the Co-Operative Movement are deeply connected to the significance of food and culture. They promote access to quality, affordable food while embracing cultural diversity. Cooperatives, inspired by the Rochdale model, prioritise equitable access to essential goods, including culturally significant foods. By pooling resources and negotiating better prices, cooperatives can make diverse and culturally important food products accessible to their communities.

Food is a crucial component of culture, reflecting traditions, values and identities. Cooperatives have the potential to preserve and celebrate cultural diversity through the availability of culturally relevant foods. They can source and promote such products, helping maintain cultural traditions and connect members to their heritage.

Furthermore, cooperatives often focus on sustainability, ethical sourcing, and community building. These principles align with cultural values related to food and the environment. Inclusivity and economic empowerment through cooperatives can foster cultural exchange and the sharing of culinary experiences.

In summary, the Rochdale Pioneers and the Co-Operative Movement supports the importance of food and culture by ensuring access to culturally relevant foods, promoting sustainable and ethical practices and fostering a sense of community and inclusion, thus enriching the cultural tapestry of society. As it is a strong part of Rochdale’s history, it is important to enrich our knowledge on this as we go forth with our plans for the Dining Room in the new Touchstones redevelopment, as the impact that food has reaches further than nourishment, yet can unwrap societal values and delves into the heart of our community. This community that we are lucky to have in Rochdale, where we are proud to celebrate diversity on all levels and to instill others with the stories that our past leaves behind. The importance of this story and many others from all cultures and backgrounds are the ones we wish to portray in our new Dining Room project to showcase collections, history and stories that are not often told, through the powerful medium of food.