Radio — Remembering a radical experiment: The Vancouver Mental Patients Association of the 1970s

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, activist Jackie Hooper and historian Megan Davies talk about the radical early years of the Vancouver Mental Patients Association in the 1970s.

In the early 1970s, the so-called mental health system was busily shifting people out of institutions, but doing far too little to support them in their new lives on the outside. The system was very hierarchical and many people had experiences with it that were far from positive. At the same time, it was an era of radical possibility, with many social movements that were strong and growing. One such movement that is often forgotten in histories of the New Left era is amazing self-organizing that happened among people who had experience of the mental health system — mental patients or ex-inmates, as some people identified in that era, or psychiatric survivors or mad people as some identify today. One of the earliest and most inspiring of these experiments in self-organization and mutual aid was the Vancouver MPA, which until its structure was forced to change by governments later in the decade, was democratic, largely non-hierarchical, radically political, and most important of all, incredibly effective.

Hooper was an activist with the MPA in those years, and one of the group that actively shaped the recent film project. Davies is a historian at York University in Toronto who was centrally involved in making the film. They talk about the radical early years of the Vancouver MPA, and about the film, called The Inmaes Are Running the Asylum: Stories From MPA.

For more information about the film and about the early MPA, click here. To watch the movie online, click here. If you wish to set up a viewing in your town, you can email Davies at daviesmj[at]yorku.ca.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.

You can also learn more about ways to listen or go to the show’s page on Rabble.ca. To learn more about suggesting grassroots groups and organizations for future shows, click here. For details on the show’s theme music, click here.

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