The Modern Face of Co-ops in Wales

This online exhibition features work from contemporary Welsh photographers created from 2015-2021. Presented by the Wales Co-operative Centre to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Owen, it brings together the work of artists whose images feature co-operative businesses building a stronger, fairer, more co-operative Wales.

14 May 2021 marks the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Owen in Newtown, Powys. A Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer, Owen was one founder of socialism and the co-operative movement. Throughout his life, he championed workers’ rights, led the development of co-operatives and the trade union movement, and supported the passage of child labour laws, free education and early-years child-care.

Owen’s legacy is alive today, carried on by the 474 independent co-op businesses which currently exist in Wales and the countless community groups which operate in accordance with values such as self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.

At a time when there is considerable interest in ‘building back better’ and taking a more co-operative approach to community regeneration and economic development, the photographs reflect a vibrant and dynamic movement which is already present in Wales. The works presented here challenge the perception that co-operation and co-operatives are a historical idea which died out in the mid-twentieth century. In a post-Covid environment, it is imperative that we understand the modern relevance of the co-operative movement, and these works provide an opportunity for that conversation.