south road hockleyMany years ago, Green Party members in the city and others gave donations or loans to help the members of the New Education Project to buy 24 South Road, Hockley and for a few years the writer watched the ups and downs of the project, set up in 1986, with interest.

The cornerstone was Roger Hallam, who had a fine head for business and began to extend the network, helping to set up Zebedees, a ‘greasy spoon’ café in Small Heath, supplied by vegetables from their allotment and setting up a veg box scheme.

A search for other references in those largely pre-PC days found a reference in the papers of the Indian Workers Association to a flyer for a showing of the banned film ‘To Die for Ireland’ at Zebedees Cafe, Alum Rock Road, Birmingham; 1986.

The network took the name Radical Routes in 1988, and in 1991 it became a legally-registered secondary co-operative which Patrick Nicholson treasurer of Radical Routes at the time, described as a network of radical co-ops whose members are committed to working for positive social change.

24 South Road was sold in 2000 and some members of the co-op relocated to a semi-rural area 15 miles north of Swansea in the Upper Swansea Valley in July because of a change in aims and direction. The New Education Project remained an associate member of Radical Routes which

Paul G 2Paul Gosling explained in The Independent (1993) that Radical Routes came together with the common aim of developing alternative educational and housing projects using the co-operative legal structure. It became a legally-registered ‘secondary’ co-operative, ie a “co-op of co-ops”, providing support and services to its member co-ops.

The organisation is now a registered industrial and provident society, supervised by the Registry of Friendly Societies. It raised funds and started issuing loan stock.

Roger Hallam said: ‘Our experience is that the homeless or unemployed and co-ops have difficulty in getting loans from banks because of the social prejudice they encounter. One of the main motivations was in taking control of our own finances. We are cutting out the middleman, and can cut out about 8 or 10 per cent for the borrowers. It’s about supporting alternative living options, which combine work and housing.’

The present day

Radical Routes Ltd – Information Services is listed as operating at 28 Hamstead Road Hockley, but no more information is available online.

However, living up to its title, a Radical Routes member, Gung Ho, is a co-op of five living in Selly Park, Birmingham.  To read more about this co-op please go to the about page.

In November 2012 there was a vacancy. Those interested in living communally with other people who are committed to radical social change and to contributing to the running of Radical Routes should get in touch with Gung Ho to find out more.

Email them on brumcoop@gmail.com or give them a call on 0121 472 6309.

 

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