The early chapters also brought home to me how central such Co-operative stores were in towns and places. In the 1980s we often talked about ‘grounding the capital’ in retail development, particulary in the context of out of town superstores. Here though the book shows how the Co-operative Movement grounded not only its local retail capital but also built for social capital. Large buildings, multi-functional spaces, halls above the ground floors and so on, these were central, town, community hubs of the sort we have lost and now desperately need. Retail (and other services) has become too divorced from its community, and the need to bring that community together.
The photographs also show how cutting edge the Co-operative Movement could be over the decades/centuries, both in design as well as organisation. From the remarkable large central shops (and other uses for the town), through the art-deco and design leading shops that came later, the architects and architecture made a Co-operative statement, something that has perhaps only been seen in Manchester more recently. But there were also the symbols (in brick and other forms), the artworks and the mosaics and murals (see graphics below). Whilst Ships in the Sky has gained a degree of notoriety over its (non) listing and the threats it faced, there are other examples that need protection.