Modern Face of Co-ops in Wales

This exhibition features work from contemporary Welsh photographers created from 2015-2021. Presented by the Wales Co-operative Centre to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Owen, it brings together the work of artists whose images feature co-operative businesses building a stronger, fairer, more co-operative Wales. Click here to view the Cymraeg version of the photo gallery.

1 4CG-18b
4CG (Photographer: Philip Griffiths)

1). 4CG

Photographer: Philip Griffiths

4CG is a co-operative organisation set up to “advance community development through the regeneration of Cardigan and the surrounding area”. It was set up by a small group of locals that strongly felt there were many opportunities within Cardigan to increase community cohesion, enhance the surroundings and to take small steps to help improve the local economy – and that a determined and focussed organisation could make a difference.

2). Arfon Timber Co-operative

Photographer: Mike Dean

Arfon Timber is a workers co-operative, a social enterprise owned and operated by its members. With over 65 years of collective experience in the traditional construction trade, the team have the skills and experience to create anything and everything possible in wood. Their passion lies in fusing cutting edge design with time honoured techniques; making stunning buildings that last for generations. They work almost exclusively in Welsh grown timber, cut at their own sawmill. Increasing the use of strong, durable homegrown timber, thus reducing timber miles and environmental impact is a core part of their ethos. The mill supplies not only their own workshop, but also trade and private customers.

The Arfon Timber at work in their yard in Caernarfon
Arfon Timber Co-operative (Photographer: Mike Dean)
Aura Leisure and Libraries
Aura Leisure and Libraries (Photographer: Keith Freeburn)

3). Aura Leisure and Libraries

Photographer: Keith Freeburn

Aura is a charitable, not-for-profit, organisation which, on 1 September 2017, took over the management of the majority of leisure centres and libraries previously operated directly by Flintshire County Council. Aura is a co-operative owned by its employees. Its financial surplus is reinvested into facilities and services to improve the customer experience and to sustain and enhance the offer for future generations. Managing four leisure centres – which include three swimming pools, an ice-skating rink, an indoor skate park, 3G sports pitches, a ten-pin bowling alley and a spa – and seven libraries, Aura employs over 260 staff.

4). Awel Aman Tawe

Photographer: 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.

Awel Aman Tawe
Awel Aman Tawe (Photographer: Philip Griffiths)
Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative
Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative (Photographer: James Davies)

5). Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative

Photographer: James Davies

At this 80 acre farm in Pembrokeshire, more than 100 people over the last 25 years, have learned how to live sustainably with nature, grown their own food, generated their own energy and created a co-operative community and worked towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. The benefits of collective living outweigh the difficulties; so that working together is easier and more enjoyable than working separately; and everyone can flourish and feel at home.

6). Calon Wen Organic Milk Co-operative

Photographer: Kiran Ridley

This is a group of 25 organic family run Welsh farms which provide exceptional, great tasting, organic, sustainable products. Its dedicated farmers like to keep things simple, ensuring the cows are properly looked after and graze on the fresh, clover rich pastures which have not been treated with sprays or chemicals.
It pays its farmers for the quality as well as the quantity of milk they produce, which means they’re not pushed towards high yielding systems. Calon Wen is now a leading brand in Wales, supplying Tesco, Morrisons & Waitrose, and many other independent retailers across Wales.

Calon Wen Organic Milk Co-operative
Calon Wen Organic Milk Co-operative (Photographer: Kiran Ridley)
Cardiff Taxi Co-operative (Drive)
Cardiff Taxi Co-operative (Drive) (Photographer : Patrick Olner)

7). Cardiff Taxi Co-operative (Drive)

Photographer: Patrick Olner

The Cardiff Taxi Co-operative Limited was formed by eight licensed taxi drivers in the summer of 2018. Better known as Drive, it was set up in response to the way self-employed drivers were being treated by the more established and traditional taxi firms in the city. The member drivers all felt that there was a fairer way of doing things, where drivers could feel in complete control of their own destiny. Every decision is made by the membership in a democratic way in the best interests of the company and its members.

8). Cartrefi Cymru

Photographer: Alan Denny

Cartrefi Cymru Co-op is a not-for-profit organisation. It mainly supports people with learning disabilities in Wales. Its members are drawn from its 1200 employees, 650 people it supports and thousands of friends, family members and supporters. All these people work together with the shared aim of building local communities and making Cartrefi as good a support provider as it can be. Being a member-owned co-op offers a great opportunity for people to come together in local Co-op Forums, to share their talents and ideas, and to make decisions as equals.

Cartrefi Cymru
Cartrefi Cymru (Photographer: Alan Denny)
9 Coed Organic
Coed Organic (Photographer: Patrick Olner)

9). Coed Organic

Photographer: Patrick Olner

Coed Organic is a 5-acre, organic market garden at Coed Hills, on the edge of St Hilary, near Cowbridge. Vegetables are sold to customers in Cardiff and around the Vale of Glamorgan through a veg box scheme and at the Riverside farmers market in Cardiff. It is a workers’ co-operative.

10). Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog

Photographer: Richard Williams

In the Ffestiniog area there is a community of vibrant and successful social enterprises and businesses. Many of them aim to tackle local issues head on while also contributing creatively and sustainably to the future of the area. They have come together in order to co-operate for the benefit of the whole area and to offer sustainable opportunities ranging from the creative, care, environment, building and sustainable tourism sector.

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog
Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog (Photographer: Richard Williams)
Gateway Dental Practice
Gateway Dental Practice (Photographer: Patrick Olner)

11). Gateway Dental Practice

Photographer: Patrick Olner

Gateway OHS Limited operates four NHS dental surgeries in Abergavenny. In 2016, the principal dentist Mick Allen wanted to step back and rather than sell-out to a big corporate dental firm, he made the decision to transfer ownership to the company’s employees. This enabled Mick to leave the business in the hands of people who had been entrusted with the business over the years and who were passionate about seeing it prosper.

12). Gower Power Co-operative

Photographer: Philip Griffiths

Gower Power Co-op CIC is a community co-operative owned and controlled by its members. It develops renewable energy projects (including a solar energy farm and electric vehicle charging points), puts these projects into community ownership and provides asset management and administrative services. Over the past three years in Swansea alone, it’s successfully put over £1.5 million of renewable energy assets into community ownership across three projects and helped to establish over £2m in social impact funds for the benefit of the Swansea community.

12 Gower Power Co-operative
Gower Power Co-operative (Photographer: Philip Griffiths)
13 Le Public Space
Le Public Space (Photographer: Philip Griffiths)

13). Le Public Space

Photographer: Philip Griffiths

Le Pub was a nationally acclaimed music venue in Newport, with a loyal community of customers. But in 2017 it closed its doors, when the building it was based in was sold. A group of staff and regulars decided to join together and raise the money to buy their own venue – bigger, more central, with better facilities and access for all. Le Public Space is now a premier independent live arts venue in South Wales, owned by the community, for the community.

14). Pengwern Cymunedol

Photographer: Mike Dean

The Pengwern Arms is 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.

14 Pengwern Cymunedol
Pengwern Cymunedol (Photographer: Mike Dean)
15 White Hart Inn
White Hart Inn (Photographer: James Davies)

15). White Hart Inn

Photographer: James Davies

For 250 years the White Hart Inn has been at the centre of life in the village of St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire. It was closed in 2019 and put up for sale but determined not to lose a pivotal part of the village, locals formed the White Hart Community Inn project, a community co-operative, and set about raising the money needed to buy the freehold of the pub and run it as a community. Having raised enough money to buy the White Hart, the group’s offer to purchase was agreed on 18th January 2021. It will continue to be the heart of the village as a place for social gathering, cultural activities, somewhere to meet people and exchange information, and it will promote a cohesive and friendly community in the area.

16). Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership

Photographer: Natasha Hirst

WRAP is a co-operative which provides restorative training, practice and consultancy within education, housing, families, communities, businesses and the criminal justice system across Wales. Its aim is building, maintaining and repairing relationships. To be restorative means believing that decisions are best made, and conflicts best resolved, by those most directly affected by them. Restorative practices embrace early intervention, prevention and response and include a focus on accountability and responsibility, openness, mutual respect and inclusion.

16 WRAP Adamstown
Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership (Photographer: Natasha Hirst)
17 Ynni Sir Gâr
Ynni Sir Gâr (Photographer: Philip Griffiths)

17). Ynni Sir Gâr

Photographer: Philip Griffiths

Ynni Sir Gâr is a co-operative social enterprise based in Carmarthenshire, working within its community to tackle climate change by reducing energy costs, promoting energy efficiency, tackling fuel poverty, generating clean renewable energy and keeping the profits local. It works with communities, third sector bodies, organisations, the public sector, local businesses and schools across west Wales to deliver and maintain energy projects and sustainability measures. It is also part of a network to promote decarbonised transport solutions across Wales, notably through the shared use of electric vehicles and the installation of charge points across rural Wales.

18) Trivallis

Photographer: Matthew Bevan

Based in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Trivallis is one of the largest housing associations in Wales and provides over 10,000 homes and a range of services to its customers, their families and its communities. Trivallis is a Community Mutual Housing Organisation, a form of co-operative that gives tenants more governance and control over their homes.

18 Trivallis Penrhys
Trivallis (Photographer: Matthew Bevan)
WCC logo
Wales Co-op Centre
Robert Owen Museum
Robert Owen Memorial Museum
Cynon Valley Museum
Cynon Valley Museum
Galeri Caernafon
Galeri Caernafon

Find out more about the life and legacy of Robert Owen here:-

Read more about Robert Owen :-
Overview of the life of Robert Owen
Early life of Robert Owen
About Robert Owen
Robert Owen in 300 words

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