Reflections from DoFest Dudley

DoFestLast Monday-Wednesday I took part in DoFest Dudley, an inspiring festival of doing and creating.

The festival was packed with activities to get people thinking about the skills, resources and passions that they can share to bring vibrancy and real wealth to their communities; from learning labs, lightning talks, bartering skills and knowledge to making things together. It was infectious! In fact, I’d only booked for Monday’s activities and ended up joining in for parts of Tuesday and Wednesday, such was the contagion!

I saw lots of smiling and sharing, people supporting each other and having a go. A bunch of us put together a wiki wendy house, a fun, exhilarating (and noisy!) activity that demonstrated how open source design can help provide solutions to housing (visit DemoDev for more). We quickly organised ourselves and shared hammering duties to create a cosy little space in Gather Dudley.

It was lovely to join the Coseley Crafternoon session, where we made cards. I’ve never been particularly crafty, so it was good to be gently helped with ideas and suggestions from someone who’s an expert. In fact, I found that dynamic to be analogous across the whole three days – one moment someone was learning a skill, the next, they were sharing it with others.

For me, all of this culminated in Pam Warhurst’s wonderful and provoking talk at the DoFest Dudley Summit about the power of small actions, of getting on and doing things without waiting for money, without complaining about the status quo or waiting for someone else to do something (incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk). This was really powerful stuff, demonstrating a clear link between growing free food for all and resilient communities and wider system change; and I’m sure many of us in the room were inspired to do more in our neighbourhoods. Thanks to Anneka Deva and Andrew Lightheart for getting me along to this!

Since DoFest (and at times during it), I’ve been thinking increasingly about how I can relate this to my work supporting groups, and I’d love to have more conversations about how we can encourage and nurture this kind of activity. In some ways, perhaps I have already started: I often say to groups ‘Let’s imagine there is no funding’ because traditional funding can encourage deficit thinking (needs, gaps, insufficiency of something), competition. Funding can create dependency in some cases, and what happens when the grant comes to an end? It also creates bureaucracies and red tape that could be avoided when all sorts of people come together to make something happen – whether it’s someone with a bit of space going spare, skills, knowledge or equipment. The Incredible Edible movement didn’t begin with a need for funding. Instead it began with people and their willingness.

Of course, some things do need to be paid for. But through starting something lean that’s free to do, making the most of what’s already there, perhaps you could start to make a demonstrable difference and create an impact that will resonate with people, maybe even people with money!

DoFest Dudley has certainly given me lots to think about! Please feel free to share your thoughts with me too.

Trade school – barter for knowledge

jam making 2Have you ever wanted the chance to try something new? Do you know someone that can shabby-chic, build or mend and do you think ‘Oh I wish they would show me how to do that!’? Do you know any amazing makers, bakers, growers, creators and think they are so awesome they should share their skills and knowledge to inspire others? Can you do something amazing and would love the opportunity to share how to do it with others? If so Trade School Dudley is just the thing for you!

Be a teacher, learner, co-founder or all three! Join me on Tuesday 7 June 10am-1pm at DY1 Stafford Street, Dudley to find out more!

Trade School is a non-traditional learning space that runs on barter where anyone can teach a class! People with a skill or talent that they can teach to others propose a class and ask for a small barter item from learners. For example, if you teach a class about making butter, you might ask students to bring cream, jars, bread, recipes, music tips, or help with something like finding a flat.

Learners sign up for classes by agreeing to bring a barter item for the teacher. Everyone has something to offer!

You could learn how to bake bread in exchange for potted herbs, teach basic bike maintenance in return for recipe suggestions or books, and learn how to use social media and the internet by bringing wool or materials. You can teach a class about anything you are passionate about –and say what you’d like to receive in exchange.

The Trade School network is made up of self-organized barter-for-knowledge schools across the world. It started in 2010 with a small group of friends in New York, but they now have Trade Schools in over 50 cities internationally. You can read more about trade school by visiting their website.

trade-school-postcard-ann

Residents in Wrens Nest, Dudley have run a number of pop up trade schools and how to session over the last 3 years. This summer we are hoping you will help start Trade School Dudley and Trade School Coseley, because wow people can do incredible things and have the most amazing skills to share!

A magic moment for me is when Wrens Nest ran a trade school so people could learn how to make jam. I got chatting to Stuart, a local resident, about growing and he explained how his garden is overflowing with plums that he didn’t know what to do with. I told him about a baking project that a seven year old girl had started and said that I was sure we could make use of his surplus supplies!

The following week whilst the Seed and Feed growing gang were meeting, Stuart popped along with bags and bags of plums. One of the gardeners had harvested some beans from his garden and shared these with Stuart as thanks for the plums. We all sat staring at the ample pile stacked before us and thought ‘Right, what can we do… ‘ Steve, one of the gardeners, suggested that they would make great jam and it just so happened that he knew how to make it, which was a good job ’cause the rest of us didn’t have a clue! So Jam Trade School popped up.

Steve asked that learners brought barter items that included jars to put the jam into, anything that supported the gardening project, anything useful for baking or a surprise. People brought barter items including jars, tomato feed, pots, flour and one lady shared her grandmother’s recipes.

jamOur youngest learner was just five and our oldest was in their seventies but everyone came together to learn, have fun, share and take home some of the best jam ever tasted! There was even time to make upside down plum pudding! And Stuart who had donated the plums in the first place got a bowl of pudding, a jar of jam and some new friends in his community.

Other Wrens Nest Trade Schools have included gardening, crocheting, seed balls, how to make an insect home and relaxation techniques. There is something magical in seeing someone who has a skill like crocheting or jam making showing someone else how to start, the spark of passion being passed from one person to another, the patience and encouragement, the laughter and fun. It really is quite wonderful!

So come on, who’s up for bartering knowledge and getting Trade School Dudley on the go?!

Join me on Tuesday 7 June 10am-1pm at DY1 seed ballsStafford Street, Dudley. This session is for anyone interested in being part of starting, or teaching or learning at Trade School Dudley or anyone simply curious to know more. It will be a friendly, informal chance to find out about how Trade School started. Find out what types of activities you might do as part of a Trade School founding team or join a conversation about what the first season of classes could be.