KAT’S CRADLE Co-Work@One founder Kat Slater
COULD it be the country’s most remote co-working centre? Certainly Co-Work@One at Louisburgh’s innovative Books@One – an initiative of the One Foundation – has a communal, creative and an entirely home-away-from-home ambience. Hot-desking is lending a whole new meaning to the cooperative ethos already espoused at the community bookshop. This new development is the brainchild of blow-in to the wild west, Kat Slater. (And no, she’s not that gobby Eastenders star in another life.)
The Surrey native has a long association with Co Mayo. She has been visiting Muingdoran in Geesala since she was 13 years old and, indeed, tripped across her Dublin-born boyfriend there.
“His family have a holiday home there and coincidentally I used to come on holiday with his cousin from Surrey and gradually became like an honorary member of the extended family. I hadn’t seen him for years and then, serendipitously, we met again four years ago and have been going out since,” she tells The Mayo News.
To add to the happenstance, a move to the west suited both of them about three years ago. After a stint in Geesala, where it was very quiet in comparison to her life in London, they relocated to the bright lights of Westport Quay in the spring of 2017.
“He’s doing a PhD on marine life and I’m a researcher of behavioural change: He studies fish and I study people,” Kat says laughing.
Her work has largely involved campaign and service projects for the UK’s NHS and the Home Office, and has included research about obesity and the snacking patterns of children. But now she wants her working life to dovetail with her new quality of life – sea swims, cliff walks, outdoor yoga – far from the high rents and cost of living that her London lifestyle had dictated. And, moreover, she also wants the rather anarchic weather patterns of the west to dictate when to work and not work. This transformational change means she now wants to move her work projects away from commercial market research to more social and environmental issues.
WE ARE sitting in one of the co-work rooms, an attic room flooded with light from a huge ceiling-to-floor window overlooking the back garden. Like the rest of the Books@One building, it has been renovated and furnished so subtly that it merges modern chic with a homely warmth.
Working from home can prove to be a lonely experience, and, according to Kat, you can find yourself distracted, filling the dishwasher and hoovering the hall rather than completing a project.
It so happened that she started volunteering at Books@One earlier this year as a way of meeting people and trying to learn how to surf – Louisburgh provides a gateway to some ‘savage waves’.
“At the time I was thinking of quitting my job as I felt so isolated working from home, but while on a yoga retreat in India I had that eureka moment and the idea about creating the co-working space. I have always worked with creative companies that offered homely environments,” she says.
So she put the idea to the co-coordinators of Books@One, Tricia Hudson and Anne O’Leary.
“I guess they loved the idea and they said, ‘If you can make it happen, go for it’. I then sent a full analysis of the idea to the One Foundation and they came back with a very complimentary response,” Kat explains.
Now, some six weeks after opening there are eight regular co-workers using the hot-desk space, which can actually cater for 12 with room for further expansion.
The coworkers are varied too, from a local woman who works for an international financial organisation to a writer penning her first book to a woman who commutes to her job in Dublin and spends the other days working from the centre. The kettle is always on the boil and the couch in the kitchen area free for chats and networking.
WHEN Colm Kenny, a Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh, past-pupil and Kilsallagh resident, returned home from his travels with his Thai wife and child, the broadband speed in his parents’ home in a valley beside Croagh Patrick quickly became a problem. Colm teaches English online to Chinese children who live in the cities of Shanghai and Beijing.
“When we moved back home to Kilsallagh, I had the space to work in my parents’ home but not the [broadband] speed,” explains Colm. “In this day and age there are so many opportunities to work from home and, from studies I’ve read, to work way more productively.”
Colm heard about the hot-desking at Co-Work@One by chance while talking to a local accountant.
“I’ve been here now for four weeks, working Monday to Friday, skyping my students in Shanghai and Beijing for their lessons. I work through a Chinese agency called Dada and each class is between 15 and 30 minutes in length, depending on the course. I could be teaching a five year old about zoo animals and then a 12 year old about comparative-adjective sentences,” Colm Kenny says.
Books are the buzz
BOOKS are the buzz in the other side of the building. A customer fills the kettle for coffee and Tricia Hudson chats about how busy the second summer was for the community initiative.
“Over the summer months we had about 105 people in here every day. There are a lot of people who have had holiday homes here for a long time and they have become regulars, as well as all the passing tourists. Seventy percent of our books are second-hand now, and people seem to love ‘the joy of the find’ or the discovery of ‘an old gem’. We sell a lot of Irish interest, Irish authors and particularly Irish history – as well as crime novels,” Tricia Hudson says.
Now as autumn arrives, the beat of the footfall will change and it is time to start organising the winter schedule of workshops and gatherings.