Chorlton has a long history of cooperation.
Here are some of the cooperatives thriving in Chorlton now, starting with latest start-ups Red Brick Language School and Chorlton Bike Deliveries.
Red Brick Language School
Red Brick Language School is a worker collective established as a result of two TEFL Teachers’ disenchantment with the UK EFL (English as a Foreign Language) industry and an opportunity presented by the COVID pandemic.
Initially on furlough, and with redundancy looming in an industry renowned for its exploitative working practices, an alternative vision of an online school blossomed over the summer. Since then, Bernie and Lucy have been working on setting up Red Brick to address some of these issues, such as, unfair wage practices and excessive demands on staff members’ personal time, not to mention the poor value offered to the majority of students.
Some of Red Brick Language School’s key values are:
The coop is currently working on their business plan, spreading the word on social media to an international audience and will be looking to offer some classes from January 2021. It’s hoped when student numbers at Red Brick pick up more jobs will be created for underpaid and poorly treated EFL teachers in Manchester. In addition, they hope to partner with overseas cooperatives and unions to provide discounted English lessons.
Chorlton Bike Deliveries
Chorlton Bike Deliveries operates in Chorlton and nearby areas. We deliver shopping for people staying home or otherwise unable to shop, a green alternative to home deliveries by diesel van. We also offer an alternative to anyone shopping by car, by using our cargo bikes to deliver bulky items for example.
This will help people choose our large range of fabulous, locally owned, independent shops and businesses. And we all know how important this is for supporting the local economy and protecting jobs!
We also offer business-to-business deliveries too where these can be done by e-cargo bikes.
Our riders (currently over 20 people) work in a voluntary capacity for Chorlton Bike Deliveries, though as we grow and develop, we will start to pay commercial arm riders for their time at living wage. We are in the process of setting up as a multi-stakeholder co-operative and are members of Co-op Cycle, the Europe-wide federation of cycle courier co-operatives.
As well as helping the local economy, bike deliveries protect the environment. Fewer cars on the road means lower carbon emissions, a reduction in people with breathing problems from pollution, less traffic clogging up roads for journeys needing to be done by car/van and more freedom for children to play out and walk or cycle to school safely. These are truly benefits for all!
Twice named the nation’s ‘Best Food Retailer’ at the BBC Food & Farming Awards, Unicorn offers its Manchester customer-base a range of affordable, fresh and wholesome food with an emphasis on organic, fair-trade and local produce. It's the size of a supermarket but it's run as a workers’ co-operative, owned and democratically controlled by the staff you see in the shop.
Unicorn was established in 1996 by a small group of people committed to social change, who had a vision for the kind of place they wanted to shop in themselves. They wanted a wide range of wholesome, tasty food, sourced with care, but at affordable prices. And from the start Unicorn was owned and run by motivated employees - creating a friendly, diverse and welcoming space that has become a hub in the community.
Unicorn has grown a lot since then - but the worker-owners have stuck to those pricniples. They have proved that they can compete with national chains and provide a genuine alternative.
Unicorn was named 2017’s Best Food Retailer at the BBC Food & Farming Awards and the Soil Association’s 2018 Best Independent Retailer, followed in 2019 by Lancashire Life’s Independent Retailer of the Year award and Manchester Food & Drink Festival’s Food & Drink Retailer of the Year. It also came top of Ethical Consumer’s national supermarket ranking.
The workers at Unicorn say this demonstrates what a worker-owned business with values can achieve. Not despite those factors, but because of them.
Chorlton Community Land Trust
Chorlton Community Land Trust has its roots in a meeting of local residents held in late 2017. This was in response to a proposal by Manchester Metropolitan University to sell the land at Ryebank Fields for executive homes.
The core group, became Chorlton Community Led Housing Group and attracted members with a range of expertise and the energy to drive forward the Ryebank Fields discussion with a range of stakeholders.
From the outset there has been a strong commitment to community participation and involvement and there have been meetings, workshops, surveys and conversations across our membership of over 250 people.
The formation in April 2019 of the Chorlton Community Land Trust (a not-for-profit Community Benefit Society) created the potential of widening the vision to other projects. This came into sharp focus when it emerged in late 2019 that the Co-operative Group were planning to sell the funeralcare site on Manchester Road, which put the historic building under threat.
In response, Chorlton CLT setup the Stayin' Alive campaign and submitted a community-led proposal with a developer to save the historic former cinema, which was the scene of the Bee Gees first ever live performance, from demolition. By raising investment directly from the community and partnering with a developer who shares our vision for the building, we want to give it a new lease of life as the heart of Chorlton and its community.
Following our initial bid, The Co-operative Group has given the CLT some time to firm up our plans for the site which we're in the process of finalising with the hope that we can go out to the community in the Autumn to draw-down the pledged investments they committed too.
Stitched Up's core mission is to inspire the community to take practical action on sustainable fashion.
"We exist to help the people of Greater Manchester make more sustainable clothing choices, and to make those choices creative, social and accessible. By ‘sustainable clothing choices’ we mean keeping clothes in use for longer – reusing, swapping, mending, upcycling and making your own clothes."
Stitched Up encourages creative expression through clothing, embracing the positive impact of ‘making’ and craft on mental wellbeing, bringing people together to foster community cohesion.
It aims to educate people on the negative impacts of the mainstream fashion industry and empower them to make a positive difference.
The Stitched Up manifesto:
Stitched Up's work has received widespread acclaim. In January 2019 it was featured by BBC Radio 5 Live, appeared twice on BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours and was included in the British Council’s City Stories piece about Manchester.
The Co-op has been trading in Chorlton longer than anyone else. The Co-op at the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Hardy Lane has been a Co-op since it was built some 85 years ago.
Now there are three Co-op food stores and two Funeralcare outlets in Chorlton.
The Co-op has a long and complicated history. The Co-operative Group is based here in Manchester and runs around 80% of the shops in the UK. With its head office in Angel Square, the Co-op is one of Manchester's biggest employers. The rest of the shops in the UK are run by other 'societies' - such as Midcounties Cooperatives, which operates shops in the midlands. Midcounties also runs The Phone Coop and Coop Energy.
The Hardy Lane store used to be run by the Manchester and Salford Equitable Cooperative Society. Through a long series of mergers that became part of the Co-operative Group. Between the wars, CWS - the ancestor of the group - became a big manufacturer, making the famous 'Defiant' radios. The was even a Co-op car. It's said that they were made - guess where? - in Chorlton. But difficult to find evidence.
Chorlton and District Coops is organised by a group of concerned members of the Co-op. We aim to promote collaboration between members, Co-op stores and other cooperatives in Chorlton.
This site is not published by The Co-operative Group.