National Co-operative Film Archive

Still from Advance Democracy, workers voting by show of hands

The co-operative movement in the UK has been using film to inform, educate and entertain members and employees since the last few years of the nineteenth century.

During a major film project in the early 1990s, the National Co-operative Film Archive was set up. It now forms part of the National Co-operative Archive. Original films have been deposited with dedicated film archives so that they can be suitably preserved. The National Co-operative Film Archive has copies of films and can advise on the films that exist and their location.

The Archive holds viewing copies of films, mainly on VHS format which have been converted to DVD.

Copies are also available to broadcasters on Betamax tapes.

There are conditions and charges for the use of films.

Men of Rochdale

Men of Rochdale was made in 1944 to commemorate the centenary of the Rochdale Pioneers, telling the story of the opening of their first store. The film re-enacts this story based on G J Holyoake’s The History of Co-operation. After the success of the store, the story charts the development of the Society, and the growth of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. It ends with individual Pioneers commenting on the present state of the world and that much work needs to be done before a ‘co-operative commonwealth’ can be achieved.


Starring Stanley Holloway, Co-operette was made in 1937 to promote shopping at co-operative stores. The CWS band perform musical numbers and show scenes of shopping for co-operative brands. A routine is performed with ‘Co-operettes’ dressed as different CWS products. The film has a comedy element, with Holloway’s character from the Holloway monologue getting into trouble for making noise on the set of the film. This is one of many CWS promotional films.

Advance Democracy

Advance Democracy is a propaganda film made in 1938 and calls for workers to unite against Fascism. The film begins with scenes contrasting rich and poor, and a dock worker considering the concept of co-operation and the prospect of war. The worker becomes converted to the cause of peace after hearing a speech by Cooperative MP A V Alexander, and ends with a scene of people taking part in a march for peace.

Peace Parade

This film was made in 1937 and shows a peace demonstration organised by the London Co-operative Society Political Committee. It shows the procession route past the Houses of Parliament and onto Hyde Park. The film shows addresses from Alfred Barnes, MP and Reginald Gosling, president of the London Co-operative Society.

Out of the Box

Made in 1942, Out of the Box tells the story of the Fenwick Weavers who began in 1769 in Fenwick, Scotland. This is the earliest documented co-operative society. The film begins with the weavers discussing the problems caused by the introduction of new manufacturing processes. They decide to begin a mutual savings scheme by putting money into a wooden box. The film continues with an address by Alexander Campbell, a Scottish pioneer advocating co-operation for the working classes. This continues to the establishment of the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society and charts its progress up to 1941. It was the first film commissioned by the SCWS.

Song of the People

Made in 1945, this film stars a young Bill Owen as a factory worker singing a song about various characters and events in British history from the fourteenth century to recent conflicts, showing how the lesson for the future lies in co-operation.

Co-operative Advertisments (12 Clips)

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