Actor John Henshaw joins cast of new movie telling pioneering story of the birth of Co-operatives

January 06, 2012

A major new film marking the birth of co-operation is being 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 in 1844.

The 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 British Youth Film Academy.

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.”

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

Additional Information:

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over six million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas. The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at

The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy (BYFA) offers students a unique and hands-on film-making experience. Mentored by professionals from film and education, students are offered opportunities in everything from acting to make-up and, from wardrobe to camera and post-production to experience all of the thrills and challenges of professional feature-film production.

Students or colleges wanting more information about The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy should visit

Contact Information:

Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5622
Mob: 07702 505551