Barter or Buy
It was a warm sunny day on September 21st when we met at Mills Cafe with our items for the ''Buy Or Barter Brunch'. People had brought a mixture of food, drink and professional sessions to barter. The local currency for the day was dry butter beans. As people arrived they paid £2 and were given 10 beans, they were then able to swap what they had brought for something else or exchange it for beans.
There was enough food to go round, beans to help us move things along a bit and even a song or two from one budding super star. Many lessons were learned about how the economy works (or doesn't). Emily brought some pictures she had printed, Max brought a coaching session, Molly brought bread left over from her party the evening before and was going to give it away free as people arrived and then realised that she would be undercutting the currency of anyone who had brought bread to barter. The person who had brought the most food should have been, in effect, the richest person there and yet the person who had brought the least (or so it seemed) ended up the 'richest' person there (or the one with the most beans anyway) ... and only had to sing one song. At the end of the afternoon we were left with a handful of beans and a discussion about what money really means. The day was friendly, lively, amusing and a great way to talk economics. Maybe this is the way to teach children in schools (and out of them)?
After the success of the barter Brunch we decided on a Barter Market on December 7th. As it was just before Christmas people made a real effort to bring home-made presents. The tables were decked with mince pies, luscious bread, chutneys, willow Christmas tree hangings, cards, material and many other delightful items. This time the currency for the day was Thistles - a small ticket with a thistle printed on it.
As people arrived they paid £2 and were given 10 Thistles. With this they swapped, bartered and paid their way to an excellent collection of Christmas gifts. One family brought swords, beautifully hand made, and 'sold' them almost as soon as they put them out on the table.
This time people were so intent on getting some great Christmas presents that very little time was spent on talking about the economy. However plans were made to continue the bartering and several of us are continuing to make beautiful home made gifts which can only make the credit crunch that we are now experiencing much less of a fearful monster.
Not only did we have a good time coming together and eating Maggie's wonderful mince pies (5 thistles each) but we discovered how creative we are and how, come the end of the credit system as we know it, we will have something that will work for our good.
We will continue to arrange Barter activities in the future to lead up to us setting up our own local currency. We might even contuinue after we have a local currency as we have enjoyed them so much.