Recently, we have been visiting the area around the coastal town of Leven. A fairly long piece is slowly coming to fruition. Until then, here is a short post.
Walk up Durie Street in Leven and listen out for the bees singing. Perhaps, the sound of the skep is more of a muted murmur now, but raise your eyes from street level and you may hear them.
The first hive is above what is now the town library. Our industrious and co-operative little bees swarm around their skep as they have done since 1887.
This symbolic image on a former building of the Leven Reform Co-operative Society reminds us of the Rochdale Pioneers. In 1844, with an economy in decline, wage reductions and strikes, a group of unemployed weavers met at the Socialist Institute to debate the philosophies of Robert Owen and Chartism. Whilst there are many examples of co-operative societies existing before 1844, The Rochdale Pioneers formulated a set of guiding principles, upon which, an expansive version of co-operation was founded. Looking at these principles today, it is notable how well these stand up as a set of co-operative ideals:
1. Democratic control, one member one vote and equality of the sexes.
2. Open membership.
3. A fixed rate of interest payable on investment.
4. Pure, unadulterated goods with full weights and measures given.
5. No credit.
6. Profits to be divided pro-rata on the amount of purchase made (the dividend or divi).
7. A fixed percentage of profits to be devoted to educational purposes.
8. Political and religious neutrality.
Within ten years of the Pioneers founding efforts the co-operative movement in Britain had grown to nearly 1,000 co-operatives with many adopting the symbol of the beehive.
We are back in Leven. Follow the echoes and walk further up Durie Street. On the clock of the former Co-operative department store, a golden skep, clotting the fingers of weak, ebbing sunlight:
Stand. Raise your head and look to the sky. Follow the thread of sibilant hum to the very top of the building. A change of tone – to low dissonant drone. A sign that the bees are, once again, getting ready to swarm:
Underneath the skep
intimations of new life
still sounding – echoes
of the Pioneers.
Now Playing: Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull