Monday, July 11, 2016

Swindon Pulse Wholefood Co-operative

Yesterday we were pleased to host Swindon Pulse Wholefood co-op's 40th anniversary celebration. If you haven't yet discovered this Swindon gem, go along to the great little shop in Curtis street. (You can now park opposite) writes Andrea Hirsch on the Friends of Lower Shaw Farm facebook page.

So in view of this auspicious occasion I am publishing an article written in March 2013.

The premises at 27 Curtis Street has a long history of retail. In 1971 Jack Trueman ran the long time family butchers shop. Before the Trueman family butchery Thomas H. Cave was a greengrocer at this address and today it is the home of Swindon Pulse Wholefood Co-operative.

Co-operative member Cath talked to me from her Bond villain chair in the office behind the shop where Madeline James was busy weighing out and pricing lentils.

Swindon Pulse Wholefood Co-operative began in 1976 out of the back of a Morris Minor van pitched up in Swindon’s old market.  The initiative of residents from Lower Shaw Farm grew out of a demand for vegetarian foods and an increasing interest in healthy eating.

“In 1976 vegetarianism was a bit alternative, a bit radical,” said Cath. “It’s totally different now, vegetarianism is pretty mainstream but in those days it wasn’t and you couldn’t get as much stuff for it.” This was the heyday of the worker’s co-operative, Cath explains with several of Pulse suppliers founded during this time.

Pulse was soon up and running at a short term let property near the Town Hall.  In 1977, with seven members and a growing consumer base the co-operative moved to 105 Curtis Street.  Trading continued at this address for the next ten years until a demolition order was placed on the property and they relocated to number 27.

Today the co-operative is run by five members.  “Because we are a limited company your input is a pound, when you leave you take your pound with you,” explained Cath.  “Whilst you’re here you are running the business, you make the decisions – what we’re going to do.  We all get paid the same.”

Cath has been involved with Pulse since moving to Swindon in the late 1980s, first as a customer, then a volunteer and now a member of the co-operative.

“You see a lot of changes in what people buy,” said Cath. “Products that come and go; products that become more mainstream.  At the moment it’s gluten free things, special diets, all that sort of thing.”

Over the years people have also come and gone and the link with Lower Shaw Farm no longer exists, although Matt Holland and Andrea Hirsch are still regular customers.

The shop bell tinkled and within a few minutes customers were browsing the shelves.

“Here we are, Swindon Pulse, going strong and I hope we’ll still be here in ten years time,” said Cath as it was back to business.

If you would like to know more about Swindon Pulse Wholefood Co-operative visit the website on – or better still, pop in the shop and have a look for yourself.

Cath in her Bond villain chair

The shop in Curtis Street waiting for it's second coat of paint

photograph published courtesy of Madeline James.

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