Photography exhibition celebrates 250 years of co-operation in Wales

A brand-new photography exhibition goes online on Tuesday 11 May 2021 reflecting the vibrant and dynamic co-operative movement which exists in Wales. Launched to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Owen in Newtown, ‘The Modern Face of Co-ops in Wales’ brings together the work of photographers whose images feature co-op businesses building a stronger, fairer, more co-operative nation.

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The exhibition is presented by the Wales Co-operative Centre, in partnership with the Cynon Valley Museum in Aberdare, the Robert Owen Museum in Newtown, and Galeri in Caernarfon.

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.

The exhibition has been curated by Catherine Evans, Policy and Communications Manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre, who said: “Although he was born 250 years ago, 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 movement which is already doing this in Wales. The photographs 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 vital that we understand the modern relevance of the co-operative movement, and this exhibition provides an opportunity for that conversation.”

Nine photographers have works included in the exhibition, including James Davies, Mike Dean, Keith Freeburn, Philip Griffiths, Natasha Hirst, and Patrick Olner.

Catherine said: “During the last 12 months many organisations and freelancers in the cultural sector have faced enormous difficulties. We wanted to celebrate the Robert Owen Anniversary in a way which supported those working in this sector. Highlighting the work of nine brilliant photographers and working in partnership with three community-led venues, felt like a fitting way to honour Owen’s memory and values.”

Amongst the co-ops featured in the exhibition is Awel Aman Tawe (photographed by Philip Griffiths). Awel is a co-operative which owns and runs two 2.35MW Enercon wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwrhyd, 20 miles north of Swansea. These turbines produce clean, low carbon energy – estimated to be 12,558 MWh of clean energy a year, enough to supply over 2,500 homes. Profits support projects tackling fuel poverty and developing other renewable energy projects. The team behind this co-op also manage Egni Solar Co-op which has installed 179kW of solar on seven local community buildings, the largest rollout of solar in Welsh history.

Also included is an image of the Pengwern Arms (photographed by Mike Dean), a community-owned pub and hotel in Llan Ffestiniog. In 2009, the pub was closed, but a determined group of local residents decided to purchase the building and re-open it as a community co-operative. It is now a successful business offering a pub, restaurant and hotel/B&B. As a co-operative, it is run as a democratic community initiative for the benefit of the village and surrounding area.

The exhibition can be viewed at:

Modern Face of Co-ops in Wales- A Virtual Exhibition

The Modern Face of Co-ops in Wales


Join with us in celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Robert Owen's birth

14 May 2021 marks the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Owen. Owen is widely acknowledged as the father of co-operation, and the Wales Co-operative Centre is running activities to mark the event.