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John Henshaw joins cast of Rochdale Pioneers, about birth of Co-op movement

It started with 28 men in Rochdale in 1844. Now there are over a billion members of co-operatives worldwide - with combined turnover each year in the UK alone of £33bn. A new film from the British Youth Film Academy, funded by the Co-Operative Group will tell how it all began. Filmed in the Greater Manchester area as part of The Co-operative’s activities to highlight this year as the International Year of Co-operatives, the 52-minute feature tells the story of - and gains its working-title from - ‘The Rochdale Pioneers’ and their vision for a better social order which established the co-operative movement.

Actor John Henshaw plays the role of John Holt, one of the original members of The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, in the film. Well known for roles in Early Doors, Born and Bred, Looking for Eric and Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, John Henshaw said: “I am delighted to be involved with "The Rochdale Pioneers”. It’s a brilliant initiative, BYFA brings together talented people from all backgrounds and all levels of skill to work hard together to make film - it’s good fun, a pleasure to work on, I am really enjoying it. The application, dedication and professional standards is inspiring and, it bodes well for the British Film Industry that the wealth of talent out there is being supported, encouraged and nurtured by The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy.”

British Youth Film AcademyThe new film is inspired by the 1944 film ‘Men of Rochdale’. It is funded by The Co-operative Group – the UK’s largest mutual business – and is being filmed and produced by The Co-operative's British Youth Film Academy. The co-directors of the new film, Adam Lee Hamilton and John Montegrande, along with its producer, Kevin Atkinson, worked together on the BYFA movie ‘Julius Caesar’ which was selected for the international Raindance Film Festival in London, October 2011. Kevin Atkinson, Operations Director of The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy and producer for the new film, commented: “Through the medium of film, we are bringing the spirit, heart and belief of the original pioneers to a brand new audience.”

The original 28 ‘Pioneers’ were all working men. After a year of trading (1845) membership had increased to 74 and total takings for the year reached £710. Soon the Pioneers’ fame spread overseas and today, there are one billion members of co-operatives worldwide and, in the UK alone combined sector turnover exceeds £33 Billion. Mark Robinson-Field, The Co-operative’s National Co-operative and Membership Manager, said: “Over 160 years-ago the original Rochdale pioneers set out the ideals which became the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world still operate to this day. 

“Now, with one billion members of co-operatives world-wide and a thriving co-operative sector enjoying international attention, we believed the time was right for this inspirational story to be re-told.” 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