The Teach Solais LGBT Resource centre on Merchants Road will be able to stay open into 2020 following the successful raising of close to €5,000 by a Galway gamer.
Earlier this month, Galway gamer Casey Explosion ran a marathon gaming session, which was also streamed online, and saw involvement from academics, journalists, and online personalities, and netted a total of $5,355 (€4,750 ) for Teach Solais, which is currently in financial difficulties, following the refusal of a number of funding requests
There were fears Teach Solais would be forced to close in November, after the HSE turned down an application from AMACH! LGBT+ Galway, the group running the centre, for funding for a full-time resource centre manager, outreach worker, and running costs Two previous applications for stable core funding were turned down, while another did not meet the centre's funding needs.
Casey Explosion is a one of the many people who avails of the centre and argues that Teach Solais is of vital importance to Galway’s LGBT+ community. “There is an LGBT centre in Cork, Dublin, and Belfast, but here in the west, this is all we have,” she tells me. “A lot of people LGBT can be socially isolated. There is an expectation people can find resources online but that comes with problems of privacy and harassment. A lot of LGBT people get hate online and you can be exposed to trolls, so to have a physical space is vital.
“Having a place like Teach Solais can make quite a difference. You don’t feel so alone. It offers a space to many groups, including to older people who are not so active online, as well as providing a space for parents' groups. Facilitating face to face encounters is very important. I’d describe myself as very online, but you still need person to person as well.”
The threat of the centre closing by the end of the year led Casey to undertake a funding initiative, one inspired by a similar situation in Britain, when Mermaids, a UK charity providing support for transgender and gender-variant children and young people, was denied lottery funding in 2018 after an email campaign which former Father Ted scriptwriter and now anti-trans activist, Graham Linehan helped orchestrate.
“An internet friend of mine, Hbomberguy, who would be quite well known in gaming circles, did a charity stream in aid of the Mermaids, playing Donkey Kong 64 without end over the course of a weekend and it raised more than $340,000,” says Casey. “I was involved in facilitating a lot of the back-end stuff on that, in terms of getting people on as guests to be part of the stream, and it snowballed. We raised far more money than anyone expected. Everyone involved said, ‘Wow! That was quite something. We can all do our own one.’ So that’s where the ideas came from. As someone said, it’s like reinventing the telethon for the internet age."
Casey set up her own weekend gaming marathon and streamed it on gaming platform Twitch. Hbomberguy was involved as were Anita Sarkeesian, the Canadian-American feminist media critic, blogger, and public speaker; Jim Sterling, the well-known video game journalist; and John Romero, the American video game director, designer, programmer, and developer.
The event raised more than $5,000 with donations going straight to AMACH’s PayPal account. “It was really cool, I was delighted with how it all turned out,” said Casey. “It will help keep Teach Solais open longer, but one of the reasons I did this was not just to raise money to keep the space open, but to raise awareness of Teach Solais and by doing so hopefully get them a more permanent solution for funding.”
Casey is encouraging people to help continue supporting Teach Solais by donating to its GoFundMe campaign at https://ie.gofundme.com/save-our-teach-solais.