Rochdale SOUP

Earlier this year the Rochdale Pioneers Museum held a stakeholders meeting which included individuals from the trustees, the Co-operative Heritage Trust, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and volunteers.

Throughout this meeting it was discussed how to improve our standing within the local community. We, as a museum have been very passive of recent and this was evidenced by the fact that Elena Rowe, the Resilience Project Co-ordinator with Jordan over the course of a couple of days went into Rochdale Town Centre and asked locals about the museum and where it was. The results showed that not many people knew who or where we were, with the overwhelming majority only knowing Touchstones Museum.

From this meeting, our aim was to improve our activity within the local community and as we are the home of the Co-operative Movement, we wanted to do something beneficial and that would create change whilst adhering to co-operative values and principles. The idea that was put forward was a soup event.

Based on a model originating from Chicago and working effectively in Detroit, U.S.A, Clare Hirst, Elena Rowe and Jordan Diggle started to look at how soup can be moulded to meet Rochdale’s needs. We travelled to Liverpool to meet Patrick Hurley who is part of the Social Enterprise Network  for the city centre, he had already successfully ran a couple of soup events. He gave us honest advice and also the confidence we needed to move this forward in Rochdale. Together, with the information supplied off the Detroit Soup website we called for a community meeting at the museum on the 31st March to discuss the potential of this idea (this was filmed by Andrew Hirst and can be viewed on YouTube).

At the meeting, there were representatives from the local council, Rochdale Town Hall, The Co-operative Group, Co-ops UK, the Co-operative College, St. Mary’s and the Baum Church, Touchstones Museum and Faithful Neighbours to name a few. Jordan gave a presentation about the idea and we held a q and a session afterwards. The outcome was very positive and as a result, the first meeting is to be on Tuesday 31st May, 6-8pm at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.

Soup is a regular grassroots micro-granting event which supports new enterprise projects within the Rochdale Borough. We believe that from this we can create a community hub where likeminded people can start conversations about current problems, new or ongoing projects and ideas with new audiences, create new networks, share resources, co-operate and fund new ideas.

Applying for a grant is simple and un-bureaucratic in order to encourage broad participation, allowing people with ideas who may not be eligible for formal funding a chance for other forms of support, whether that is financial, resources, advice or new networks. This is a non-profit event and 100% of the donations raised on the door will be given to the winning pitch on the night. The grants are completely unrestricted and will be awarded at the discretion of those who have donated.

Since the meeting, we have created an emailing account as well as launching on social media. On Facebook we have gained over 100 likes and over 400 followers on Twitter. We have featured in the local news, Rochdale’s Business Matters and Northwest Hub on Twitter have featured us and who have a following of over 11,000.

The reception from Rochdale has been great too. From the initial meeting on the 31st March, Jordan was invited to the Local Co-operative Forum to present the idea to them with great feedback again. We have had a number of people into the museum to discuss soup too, including the local business connector, Petrus, the Prince’s Trust, Rochdale Jelly, Groundwork, Vintageworx, Pendle Soup (to discuss their event) and the director of Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Circle who also is the chair of Rochdale Hornets.

Speaking to all these people both in person and online, we believe we have seen benefits already. Not only is the museum become more proactive within the community, from conversations with people we have seen the want for this type of action and co-operation. This has always been there but there has never been any unanimous effort and we believe that we have started this. People are willing to come because of what we are trying to achieve – to create this community hub and network with other people whilst being involved in community funding of new ideas and enterprises.

The multi-cultural nature of Rochdale is something that we want to embrace and in order to fully achieve this community hub; we want to have people from all backgrounds to be truly representative of Rochdale. Though this wasn’t reflected in the first initial meeting, we have onboard some very great individuals who have connections into the various multicultural communities in Reverend Mark Coleman, the Vicar St. Chad's and St Mary's in the Baum as well as Carlo Schroder who is part of the faithful neighbour’s organisation.  Jordan has however met with Khalid Javed, a local shopkeeper in Rochdale and who saw Rochdale Soup and decided to come in for a chat and donated £5. This is a commitment that we have and will be continuously worked on to achieve this.

We have so far managed to raise £30.00 from both physical and online donations before we have begun. Our aim is to copy the success of Detroit who have been going for a number of years now, though this won’t be an easy ride! Since 2010, they have raised well over $100,000 in over 100 soups – this is a long-term project that we want to be cemented within Rochdale, be a regular meeting and be a continuously developing movement that branches out into other various social movements/activities that is controlled by the people of the borough.