Co-op Women’s Guild Horticulture and Craft Shows were a highlight of the Co-op social calendar for decades until the late 1980’s. They began to dwindle as society’s grew larger with mergers (largely unsuccessful attempts to fend off the rise of supermarket chains like Tesco), Co-op shops were less and less the hubs of their communities, and the members of women’s (and men’s) guilds grew steadily older. The Co-op Women’s Guild was finally wound up as a national organization in 2017.
These photograps were taken at the Oxford Co-op Society Horticultural and Craft Show at the Co-op’s own hotel in Iffley, Oxford in the autumn of 1985. They show a white working class community who valued the principles of co-operation, enjoyed each others company, and recognised the importance of the social dimensions of political engagement in the labour movement. The Labour Lord Mayor, John Parker and his wife attended and handed out the cups and medals, along with the Chairman of the Oxford & Swindon Co-op Society, Norman Fisher. Anongst those who appear in the photographs are Andrew Smith, with his wife Val. Andrew worked for the Co-op at the time, and later went on to become Labour MP for Oxford East. Val became a Labour councillor for Blackbird Leys and Lord Mayor of Oxford. Click on each ’tile’ to see the full picture.