Story of the men who battled for fairness and honesty in hungry years

IT was a time known as “the hungry forties”, when severe poverty and deprivation blighted millions.

Now a Bolton actor is starring in a film which tells how a group of workers — including flannel weavers, cloggers and joiners — battled for fairness in the 1840s.

Jordan Dawes, aged 24, from Westhoughton, plays Samuel Ashworth in The Rochdale Pioneers, about the birth of the co-operative movement in 1844.

The film, based on the true story of hope, determination and principals in a time of poverty and prejudice, will have its television premiere this Sunday on Film4. Fed up with dishonest and corrupt shopkeepers selling poor-quality goods, the 28 pioneers pooled their resources and opened a shop in Rochdale selling food at fair prices using honest weights and measures.

Jordan, who went to Westhoughton High School, said: “I think it’s relevant for today.

“Some of the values and a lot of the trust that goes on in the film is pretty commendable.

“I think the message should still ring true, even though it’s from the 1800s.”

Jordan graduated from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama last year, where he studied with the film’s co-director, John Montegrande.

The film, made by The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy, also stars John Henshaw, known for his roles in sitcom Early Doors and film Looking for Eric, as well as Octagon Theatre patron John McArdle, who played Billy Corkhill in Brookside.

Jordan first became aware of the Co-op’s film academy when he was studying drama at Wigan and Leigh College and has since been involved in four films.

Jordan said: “I don’t think there’s anything else that exists like it. I think it’s incredibly important.

“You get people from all backgrounds banded together to do something that’s pretty much impossible.

The 52-minute film has been commissioned by The Co-operative Group, owned by more than seven million consumers, whose own origins can be traced back to the Rochdale Pioneers.

The TV screening follows the film’s international premiere in Manchester on November 1, close to the site of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 which involved friends and family of some of the Rochdale Pioneers.

The Rochdale Pioneers will be screened tomorrow at 5.45pm.

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