Modern Pioneers #1 – Marc Jones, Saith Seren
Co-operatives Fortnight runs from 21st June – 5th July. This year, we’re paying tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers who, along with Robert Owen, were among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
We’re doing so by showcasing the work of 14 ‘Modern Pioneers’ from the Welsh co-operative sector, through a series of blog posts. Today’s post looks at the work of Marc Jones, Co-owner of the Saith Seren pub which is a community co-operative.
“I chair a community co-operative Welsh Centre in the heart of Wrexham, which has a café bar, regular live music, fundraising events, rooms upstairs for community meetings, a toddlers group and language lessons. We re-opened a historic listed building that had been a pub. We’ve been open for more than two years now without any grants – just the hard work and funds from our members and volunteers.
Big corporations and councils are increasingly pulling out of serving smaller communities in Wales, especially rural areas. Co-operatives and social enterprises are the one way that communities can battle back and take control of their local shops, pubs, services and factories. Co-operatives have to be given far more support to get off the ground, both practical and financial, but the will to develop them is there.
It’s a great way to involve a lot of people in a community project but it can also be deeply frustrating because some of the banks and other institutions, including some local authorities, often don’t understand the nature of the enterprise. We have had to make money from day one and our 150 members have sustained us during some lean times. I’m incredibly proud that we have kept going during an incredibly difficult period of trading, both generally and specifically in Wrexham town centre.
One of our regulars turned up covered in paint splatters one day and we asked what he’d been up to. His response was that he’d just finished painting the pub toilet walls! We’d been talking about giving them a lick of paint but he went ahead and did it off his own bat. We’re very lucky that our customers will often help out with small jobs and use their trade skills to do the job for mates’ rates.
We employ six people, three full time, and re-opening the pub has helped, in a small way, to revitalise the town centre economy. We also work with other co-operatives and social enterprises locally – North Wales is something of a hot spot for community pubs and Wrexham FC is also owned by its 3,000 members (of which I’m one).” (More from Wrexham Supporters’ Trust later in the Modern Pioneers campaign!)
“We are a bridge for Welsh learners, supporters of the language and others whose Welsh may be rusty, to regain confidence and use the language in a social setting. This is particularly the case in a town just 10 miles from the border. We are also a community hub for many voluntary groups and community meetings.
The co-operative movement has a strong tradition here in Wales, with Robert Owen being seen as a pioneer in his own right by many of us. It’s important that our history is remembered.”
Find out more about the Rochdale Pioneers through a special, interactive photo.