Sheffield Co-operative Development Group (SCDG), Aizlewood Business Centre and numerous co-operatives in South Yorkshire would like to join many others in the Co-operative and Labour movements in paying tribute to Mike Bower who sadly passed away on 1 April this year.
Mike was not only the inspiration and driving force behind many remarkable developments in Sheffield such as the Heart of the City redevelopment, the Millennium Galleries, the Peace Gardens and the Winter Gardens to name but a few, but for co-operators the renovation of Aizlewood’s Mill was the greatest contribution that he made to us.
This was due to the fact that the city council were unable to continue to provide SCDG with the temporary accommodation in the mid 1980’s that they had been able to allow them to occupy previously and so for Mike the hunt was on for new premises.
This is, however, the measure of the man that because SCDG were no longer going to be able to have office accommodation for themselves he went ahead and developed offices for fifty other organisations as well.
Through his vision, passion and determination he transformed the rat-infested ruin into a prominent and highly successful workspace facility. This, in turn, allows SCDG to nurture and provide ongoing support for co-operatives across South Yorkshire and has proved to be his abiding legacy to those of us in the world of co-operative development and sustainability.
Our own sustainability does, of course, uniquely give us the confidence to provide support to co-operatives often on a pro bono basis. This is further evidenced by the Group enjoying its fortieth birthday this year, which also marks the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of Mike’s brainchild Aizlewood’s Mill.
The continuing success of Aizlewood’s Mill is undoubtedly down to the professional way that it is managed by Aizlewood Business Centre.
This Grade 2 listed building, saved from demolition by Mike is a shining example of how an unloved eyesore can become a self-sustaining venture, supporting local communities and individuals whilst providing income for the benefit of others.
Offering more than just office accommodation for all sectors of the community, the reception and management team follow Mike’s lead in considering the needs of others both within and outside the Mill. This can range from free advice and guidance, secretarial support and the team’s many charitable activities. Recently they had a very successful collection for the local food bank, offered free rehearsal space for a local group preparing for a production at Sheffield Theatres, and held a bring and buy book exchange for Sheffield’s local cancer hospital.
We were delighted to honour Mike in 2017 with the naming of the Mike Bower Board Room, the regular meeting place of the Board of SCDG and used so frequently by our occupiers and non-residents. Our tribute to Mike hangs proudly within the room as a reminder of our gratitude to him.