This article is part of a series being shared to highlight activist struggles across Europe and grassroots response to health and economic crisis. These articles are shared in preparation for the event ‘Reclaiming the commons: From austerity and debt to public space and health as commons’ which will take place next Wed 27th Jan.
Tom Stewart is a mental health advocate and a founder of An Áit Eile (Another Place), a solidarity cooperative based in Galway in the west of Ireland. Among a range of projects, this past year (2020) Tom has been deeply involved in a partnership, working with local communities and mental health services, in the co-design of peer led emergency mental health supports, the Galway Community Café. The café is just starting and is supported by the HSE, Ireland’s public health service.
Hi, my name is Tom. I’m mostly based in Galway (Ireland), I’m probably easiest understood as a mental health advocate or self-advocate who drifted into social enterprise in order to try and get anything done. I’m mostly interested in the areas and sort of intersections between care, culture and carbon, but I’m using carbon as a complete shorthand for a liveable earth. I’m super interested in how co-ops can be ways to try and deal with those, in my head anyway quite intertwined problems. I’m a co-founder of a solidarity co-op and a lot of our stakeholders are either arts or mental health types with a background in peer mental health organizations. Our current business as a co-op has been around the design by people with lived experience of profound emotional distress and having them design and co-design an emergency mental health service, which is just spinning up at the moment. Staff have just arrived, and we’re getting towards the doors being open. I’m also kind of involved in trying to push out and establish the idea of community land trusts in Ireland, which goes back to this sort of way you could achieve housing, and you achieve care, and you could achieve all sorts of benefits. I think James Connolly said something like this ‘our demands are moderate we just want the earth’. I really like the community land trust form because I’m into de-commodification and I think if we’re going to de-commodify things, it makes a huge amount of sense to start first with land.
For a detailed discussion on the café – https://youtu.be/rtEU-oA-cNw