New BBC Wales drama to bring co-operatives to a wider audience
Author: Mark Smith
If you watch one TV programme this weekend, make it Baker Boys on BBC One Wales at 9pm on Sunday night.
The new three-part drama follows the story of a Valleys bakery’s workforce, faced with the stark prospect of its factory closing down due to the recession but triumphing over adversity by taking over the business as a co-operative.
I’ve already had a sneak preview of episode one and I can tell you that it strikes the perfect balance between the romantic ideal of a community ‘doing something for itself’ on a grand scale, with the reality of the arduous journey that such a group has to go on in order to achieve an employee buy-out and form a worker co-operative. It doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t sacrifice excellent acting for the sake of conveying what could have been a complicated storyline.
The writers and actors need to be congratulated for getting it just right and bringing the issue of co-operatives to a new and much wider audience in Wales than ever before.
One of my colleagues has told me about the community-owned shop in The Archers on Radio 4, where the residents of Ambridge came together to save its local store. It’s a story that we’re familiar with at the Wales Co-operative Centre, mainly due to the exploits of the Llanmadoc Community Shop in Swansea; however, it seemed that storyline led to positive action in the ‘real’ world, with more community-owned businesses being set up.
This has made me wonder whether ‘Baker Boys’ will have a similar ripple effect in Wales, leading to many more co-operatives being set up here, across all different sectors and industries.
Who knows, maybe Pobol y Cwm could sustain the story, by setting up its own community co-operative. One thing is for sure, while we and other organisations in the co-operative sector work hard to promote alternative, ethical and sustainable business models, without having the media on board we’re only ever going to reach so many people.
I hope the Baker Boys is the start of something new, something big, that we can work with – maybe the time is right for high-profile social action media campaign, based around co-operatives, social enterprise and the ideals of the ‘Big Society’ agenda.