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Lab Notes #6 | Trade School Dudley

On 1 November the fifth season of Trade School Dudley classes began. Trade School is great way of inviting people who live near each other to  share skills and talents. Anyone can teach something they are skilled at, or passionate about. Learners ‘pay’ for class with a small barter item.

Trade School started as an experiment in New York in 2009. It celebrates local wisdom, mutual respect, and the social nature of exchange. Trade School was introduced to people in Dudley in 2013 at a free open workshop on How to Start a Trade School. Residents in Wrens Nest were  first to try the idea, then in 2016 we supported residents in Dudley and Coseley to run Trade School classes, and then in Halesowen during Share Fest this year.

The following are notes on some of the classes run between 1 and 9 November, accompanied by beautiful short videos of class teachers made by Lab Team member Thom Bartley. The notes detail how local people became Trade School class teachers, some outcomes of the classes and some learning in relation to Trade School Dudley.


Introduction to Sign Language with Siobhan

Siobhan was in gather coffee shop drinking tea when she overheard me planning a Trade School class with a teacher, and asked about it. She has since taught a popular class on Introduction to Sign Language three times this year!

This was the first time I had taken part in Siobhan’s class, and I was blown away by her preparation, knowledge and teaching talents. She is currently studying British Sign Language in evening classes, and when she has more qualifications she would like to teach it. Trade School Dudley has been a way for Siobhan to experience teaching. Learners from her classes earlier in the year have contacted her when they have used their sign language basics.

Siobhan’s barter items include: interesting tea, an unusual cake recipe, anything handmade or homemade and a cool notebook.


What is a Portrait? with Janet

Janet is retired and got in touch with CoLab Dudley last year seeking ways to get involved, after reading an item in Dudley CVS’s newsletter. She has taught three Trade School classes: Learning to look at Modern Art; Growing Herbs and Vegetables for Complete Beginners, and What is a Portrait?

There were five learners in Janet’s class this month. She brought along lots of art books and even more fantastic questions, which really got us thinking and sharing views, the discussion was lively, inspiring and wide-ranging.

Janet told us about a relevant exhibition currently on the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham; Portrait of the Artist: Kathe Kollwitz. Some of us are going along to it, then meeting up at gather with Janet to share experiences of it (anyone is welcome to join us, 2.30pm on Wednesday 29 November). I mentioned to Janet that I’d been talking to another gather coffee shop regular, Martin, about bringing people together to visit local galleries and museums… we’re now cooking up a project around it (get in touch if you’re interested). This is the first time I’m aware of a Trade School Dudey class leading to a further meet-up, which is an interesting unexpected outcome, catalysed by Janet.

As a result of learners she met in her Trade School Class on growing in February, Janet was recommended for a part time job with a local voluntary organisation where she is now helping people to create a garden and start growing.

Janet’s barter items include: found rusty things, interesting bits of old broken crockery,  string, picture postcards, and an old brick.


Space Painting with Guy

Local creative Guy came along to a CoLab Dudley TED Talk screening in 2016, and has since become a member of the Lab Team and has taught three Trade School Dudley classes: Operation UP-Cycle, Operation Paste-UP, and Space Painting.

This short lunchtime session on Space Painting hadn’t lured in learners with a week to go, so we reached out to likely learners in our networks, and soon had 4 people signed up. Guy is a fantastic teacher, he took us step by step through a process which feels back to front, but which quickly had us producing the most amazing paintings using spray paint.

This class, and others earlier in the year were possible thanks to a small grant through Dudley Police Active Citizens Fund which paid for consumable resources like paint. Most Trade School classes simply need a welcoming, functional space to take place in.

A colleague who took part would like to commission Guy to run the session as a workshop with young people she works with.

Guy’s barter items include: black marker pens, dust masks, a Lottery scratch card, wood, and “a  random item from that random draw in your house where you just randomly throw things in every now and again…. mom calls it the useful draw.”


Basic Music Theory with Matt

Matt first heard about Trade School Dudley when he came along to gather’s first Acoustic Night and asked about gather and what happened in the space. Matt lives locally, currently studies at Birmingham City University and writes and performs his own songs.

Though a number of people expressed interest in this class, they didn’t have a guitar they could bring to practice on. By the day of the class we a had one learner signed up, but she cancelled at the last minute. On the day I was sharing the challenge of needing guitars with colleagues at a public health meeting and two people offered use of 5 guitars! Matt and I have now learned that we need to put a call out in advance if people need to use instruments in a Trade School class. We will try again!


Notes by Lorna Prescott
Videos by Them Bartley

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