john boyle croppedThis is a brief summary and celebration of the work of John Boyle for the Midlands Co-operative Society in Birmingham.  The city’s loss is another’s gain. John described himself to the writer, many years ago, as a co-operative ‘missionary’. Perhaps – because he conveyed his enthusiasm with earnestness tempered by a great sense of humour – a more fitting term would be ‘ambassador’ for the movement – ‘warts and all’.

He has an encyclopaedic knowledge for co-operative history and more recent achievements and is a particular enthusiast for football co-operatives. John made his mark as chairman of FAB (Fairtrade Towns Birmingham), encouraged the Co-operative Film Society and the Energy Saving Co-operative, organising many events, such as a debate about elected mayors,  introducing co-operatives to medical professionals and as an invited speaker to schools, UNA etc.

andrew only-waitrose-awardSeveral years  ago, he loyally defended to members – as best he could – the Midlands Co-operative Society’s abrupt closure of the profitable Birmingham Dairy – which left hundreds of people in the city shocked and unemployed – and its denial of these plans a few days beforehand to its farmer suppliers, including the late Andrew Hemming – right.

A Fairtrade enthusiast, John became chairman of Fairtrade Association Birmingham (FAB) and worked hard to ensure that the city was able to meet the criteria to become a Fairtrade city. The group held many BMI bestmeetings in the Member Relations Centre (left) and John was often invited to give presentations about Fair Trade in which he also communicated co-operative values. In one such, he compared the “honest” scales the Rochdale Pioneers used for protecting consumers from unscrupulous traders in 1844 with the scales used by Kuapa Kokoo Fairtrade co-operative in Ghana today. An account of numerous events organised for Birmingham Fairtrade Fortnight is given here.

Support was given, in a number of practical ways, to the Birmingham Co-operative Film Society right from the start; John said, “When I first heard about the film co-op idea I was chuffed as I saw it as an ideal member group. The Western Region Member Relations Committee was happy to support it with a start-up grant and agreement for running costs.”

With Localise West Midlands he held an event to introduce the Energy Saving Co-operative which is providing households and communities with a ‘Fair Green Deal’.

Mayoral-Debate-24th-March The debate about elected mayors

co-operative & NHSMany events took place last year, including his Diana Stableforth Memorial Lecture (Birmingham United Nations Association): ”Can shopping save the planet?” and the introduction  of co-operatives to medical professionals in June.

Our celebration ends with those two events in 2012 – we wish him well in 2013 and thereafter in his work for the Wildlife Trust.