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Co-operatives in the Cultural Industries

Marisol Sandoval, Jo Littler, Robin Murray, Rhiannon Colvin, Sion Whellens, Tara Mulqueen


This podcast is a recording of a roundtable discussion on Co-operatives in the Cultural Industries, that took place at City University London on April 1, 2015, organised by Marisol Sandoval and Jo Littler.

Speakers were Robin Murray, Rhiannon Colvin, Sion Whellens and Tara Mulqueen.

The lives of cultural workers are complex and contradictory; often combining work satisfaction, pleasure and autonomy with job insecurity, low pay, long hours, anxiety and inequality.
The roundtable discussed the potentials and limits of worker co-operatives as an alternative way of organizing cultural work. It explored how worker co-operation might contribute to new collaborative forms of cultural production; how they do, or might, strengthen a 'cultural commons'; and the role cultural co-ops play in the wider context of movements for workers' rights.

Questions that were discussed include:

To what extent can worker co-operatives be a means to confront precariousness and individualisation in work in the cultural sector? Do worker co-ops open up new possibilities for the collaborative production of cultural commons? What role can worker co-operatives play within a broader movement for creating more just, equal and humane cultural work and an alternative to capitalist economies? Where lies the boundary between neoliberal calls for self-help and individual responsibility and a radical co-op movement? What is the relation between worker co-ops and other forms of progressive politics such as the union movements, social protests and civil society activism? Can cultural co-ops contribute to reinventing the meaning and practice of work in the 21st century?

About the speakers:

Marisol Sandoval is a Lecturer at the Department of Culture and Creative Industries at City University London. Her research critically deals with questions of power, responsibility, commodification, exploitation, ideology and resistance in the global culture industry.

Jo Littler is Senior Lecturer at City University London's Department of Culture and Creative Industries. Her work explores questions of culture and power from an interdisciplinary, cultural studies-informed perspective.

Rhiannon Colvin after graduating in 2010 to find the world of work competitive and brutal, Rhiannon founded AltGen to empower young graduates to get together and create their own work.

Tara Mulqueen is a PhD candidate at Birkbeck College School of Law. Her thesis concerns the development of legislation for co-operatives in the 19th century.

Robin Murray is an industrial economist. He was Director of Industry at the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1980s, and has been a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, the Director of Development for the Government of Ontario and co-founder of Twin and Twin Trading. He is an associate of Co-operatives UK and author of Co-operation in the age of Google.

Sion Whellens is a member of the graphic design and print co-operative Calverts. As part of the Principle Six partnership, he also advises and supports co-ops in creative industries.

Full Text: MPG

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