Trade School Dudley — a simple thing but no small thing.

49 times people have come together to swap a skill for simple things.

Exchanges like

Jane’s Demystifying Crochet where you learn basic crochet in exchange for bringing her random buttons.

Janet’s guide to Cracking the Code of Modern art as a swap for teaching another trade school or a finding her a piece of rusty metal.

Thom’s Let’s talk about shots baby, where you learn photography skills in exchange for a good old vinyl record.

Trade Schools tend to take place in Gather Dudley, a social enterprise and cafe committed to creating welcoming space on Dudley High Street. 

These interviews are part of how we at CoLab Dudley are very deliberate about understanding what happens when people bring themselves together. Jo Orchard Webb has written about this in detail in her Lab Notes #14 — a #detectorism dive into Trade School Dudley. In it she finds…

The magic unlocked through Trade School Dudley includes: meaningful connections with strangers; inspiration for more doing; peer to peer counselling and affirmation; behaviours that support more doing & sharing, such as, generosity, respect, celebration of all types of knowledges, or self organising; and the personal feelings of self worth, belonging, confidence and purpose that result from these connections and behaviours.

For Siobhan Trade School has shaped her and possibly her future…

When I think about how much I’ve grown as a person, a lot of that is down to what’s I’ve been involved in in Gather, without that I wouldn’t be the person I’m am or heading in the direction I am in life.

She has been teaching British Sign Language in exchange for a piece of fruit (but not banana!) or a surprise. That simple swap is reshaping her life.

For Poppy her laughter class and Greek for your holidays school have given her something she craved: a space to connect.

I was always looking for ways to bring together the local community and trade school was exactly what I was looking for.

And in that space people started to share with each other in a way she described as “cathartic”. In return Poppy asked for a hug and kiss as you arrived and as you leave.

Rick teaches people how to turn an old jacket into a tote bag.

He sees it as one way to reverse how technology can make it harder for us to be together and pay attention to each other.

have fun, do something practical and make personal connections.

Trade school is just that, someone shares a skill in exchange for something from you.

It’s a simple mechanism that really has only one purpose, using sharing to connect people. And as Jo observed from her #detectorism conversations about Trade School Dudley:

The teachers noted how our usual fear of talking to strangers dissolved in their learners when they had the common purpose of learning together in the context of an informal and welcoming setting.


Sharing skills and knowledge you have used to improve your own quality of life (e.g. mindfulness, laughter based support therapy, de-cluttering, slow living, action for happiness) seems right at home in a framing that rejects a consumer/ transaction based understanding of learning and instead prioritises the social nature of this exchange.

and also

Trade School teachers around free access to learning and concerns regarding helping fellow doers respond to mental and emotional health concerns, loneliness, and our need to take better care of planetary resources through recycling and re-purposing materials. The stewardship of the social commons was also manifest in terms of teacher motivations for giving back to, and gratitude for, the benefits (emotional, knowledge based, & relational) they have personally derived from the different platform spaces and experiences over the last year.

No small thing then, this small thing.

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