Obituary: Sean Moran and Dave Brooks, leading lights of Radical Routes

Cath Muller remembers two stalwarts of West Yorkshire’s worker co-op movement

Two wonderful West Yorkshire co-operators from the Radical Routes network of co-ops died in the last few months – Sean Moran of Catfish Housing Co-op and Dave Brooks of LED Fantastic Workers Co-op, both in their early 50s.

Although their involvement in Radical Routes was in different decades, their stories echo each other and their lives touched each other.

Dave Brooks of LED Fantastic

Dave was a founding member of Zion Housing Co-op (now Nutclough Housing Co-op), acquiring the Nutclough Tavern, Hebden Bridge in 2001. Having lived as a young family at Townhead Housing Co-op near Holmfirth, Sean, Cath, their four sons and a circle of young friends, fought for several years to get a house for Catfish, with prospective properties falling through again and again. In late 2018 they succeeded and the co-op now houses the younger members in an end-terrace in Marsh, Huddersfield.

Dave’s partner in crime, Em, moved into Nutclough and together they set up the Weirdigans Cafe, left the Nutclough to run Mama Weirdigans (Hebden Hostel) and got heavily involved in producing the Green Gathering.

Sean and Cath were a regular fixture in the Permaculture Area at The Green Gathering, extolling the virtues of co-ops and communal living on their stall. Em and Dave catalysed the Co-op Camp at the Green Gathering, creating space to promote radical co-ops. Sean was the secret source of 12V phone & laptop charging, keeping the Co-op Camp powered and communicating. Dave’s workers co-op, LED Fantastic, provided twinkly night-time illumination.

Dave had fingers in many pies in Hebden Bridge and a great knack for getting people involved in projects. He loved cricket, beer and music, so naturally he joined the committee of the Hebden Cricket Club, the Fox & Goose co-op pub and the Trades Club Co-operative Society – and he put on ‘Crickstock Festival’ to celebrate all his loves. He believed that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth getting other people to do it as well.

He loved walking and exploring – he knew all the Hebden paths, fields and woodland routes and did multiple long-distance walks. One of his legacies is the Hebden Bridge Loop on the Pennine Way. He was absolutely committed to developing Hebden’s co-operative identity and was an organiser of the Calderdale Bootstrap initiative. I remember one midnight walk involved getting into the local cemetery to check out the grave of Joseph Greenwood, a founder of the Nutclough Fustian Society.

Sean Moran of Catfish Housing Co-op

Sean was larger than life, endlessly curious and caring about people, managing to set people at their ease. His affinity with those excluded from society let him into drug and alcohol support work. His enthusiasm for Radical Routes and for making the setting up of co-ops accessible to all was infectious. He and Cath standardly turned up to help the day before RR gatherings, and welcomed early-comers warmly with an ever-brewing pot of tea in the camper van. Sean had an unstoppable desire to learn and to communicate that learning to others.

He joined the RR Legal Group and Rootstock Committee, challenging himself with legal documents and spreadsheets. I well remember a RR day on developing secondary co-ops, where he insisted that we explained things in intelligible language – hosted in Nutclough Housing Co-op. Subsequently, he and Cath produced the ‘Jargon Busting Guide to RR Meetings’ to help folks new to the legal and financial language of co-op development.

At Extinction Rebellion’s Spring Uprising in April, he took a microphone for the first time, to tell people about radical co-operatives as solutions for housing, inequality and social transformation.

Sean Moran – died 21/3/2019;  Dave Brooks – died 14/6/2019. Two big-hearted, inspiring men, who lived with integrity, commitment and fun.