Swapping and socialising

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This month saw the first Recycle Swap Shop of 2016 – in the Tilling Green Community Centre – but it may be the last in that building, which is due to be knocked down and replaced with housing and a new, smaller centre if planning permission is forthcoming.

However concerns over potential flooding on the site and the ability of local water works to cope with more housing may cause delays – or changes.

Last November the Recycle Swap Shop celebrated its third anniversary. The swap shop is currently held at St Mary’s Centre and Tilling Green Community Centre and has attracted over 3,000 visitors in its time. Dan Lake interviews Mike Pepler of Transition Rye about its success.

Where did the initial idea to set up the swap shop come from? 

I used to live in Wheatley in Oxfordshire, and the county council there promoted Swap Shops through its Community Action Group network. I helped run a regular Swap Shop there, and when I moved to Rye I knew it would work here too – it just took a while to find enough other people interested in running them.

Who is involved in running the events?

In addition to myself, the core team at Tilling Green is Dan Lake, St Mary’s Church volunteers and Myra Keegan who has done a great job running the kitchen, while at St Mary’s the core team is Diana and Kyriacos Hajikakou, who took over last year from Fanny Baldwin and Janet Waddams. But this is only a small fraction of the number of people who come to help run the event on the day, who are too many to name here. We’re grateful for all their help though – the event would not work without them.

Is there the same enthusiasm as at the start – volunteers, “clients” etc?

Yes, in fact I’d say enthusiasm has increased over time! Both volunteers and visitors enjoy the event – it is good for the environment, saves people money and is a fun social event. People like to see their old stuff being taken away by someone who’ll put it to good use, and everyone loves finding something unexpected that will be useful to them. The donations made usually cover the cost of putting the event on.

In the past year there have been five events, and the total weights and percentages of where items brought ended up were – 1,270kg taken by people (64%), 490kg given to charity shops (25%), 120kg recycled (6%) and 103kg went to landfill (5%). So, as you can see, about two thirds is taken by visitors, about a quarter then goes to charity shops, and then a twentieth is recycled.

A twentieth goes to landfill – but the latter is partly broken or worn out stuff that should not really have been brought to the Swap Shop in the first place.

The first Recycle Swap Shop of this year was held at Tilling Green on January 16 and it was the highest attendance at the venue since November 2014. The upcoming closure of the Tilling Green Centre will mean that events will be run solely at St Mary’s Centre until the new Tilling Green venue is ready.

How do you rate the sociability factor – providing refreshments etc?

It’s important to get people to hang around as, while they’re sat having a drink, other people are bringing new stuff, so they can then take a second look at the items available for collection. So serving refreshments has a practical purpose, but it also makes it more of a social occasion, and it’s a good chance for people to catch up with friends and acquaintances that they don’t see every often.

Do you get support from villages around Rye? How far?
We don’t survey where people have come from, but we know we get visitors from Peasmarsh, Camber and Hastings. We think most of the visitors are from Rye though. It is the kind of event that would run well on a smaller scale in surrounding villages even if it was only a couple of times a year – anyone interested should come and see how it runs in Rye, and ask for our advice in setting up something similar where they are.

Are you still an unincorporated organisation – do you have a treasurer and accounts?  

Recycle Swap Shop is run by a partnership between Transition Rye, Tilling Green Residents’ Association and St Mary’s Church, at their respective locations. Transition Rye is unincorporated and has no funds of its own. It is run by volunteers, and the website hosting is kindly donated by Domain Support http://domainsupport.co.uk/.

Other activities that Transition Rye is involved in include Green Drinks, the Community Garden, RX Energy and RX Power. There are more details on our website: http://transitionrye.org.uk/activities/.

The donations and expenses relating to Recycle Swap Shop events are managed as ring-fenced funds within the accounts of Tilling Green Residents’ Association and St Mary’s Church respectively.

Which venue is the more “successful”?

St Mary’s Centre has the advantage of being located near the High Street, so we are able to get a lot of passing trade, which raises the profile and encourages stuff to be taken away. Tilling Green has the advantage of being much larger and having easy parking. So both venues are important, and people who don’t drive will tend to just go to the one that is nearest to them, especially if they are carrying stuff to donate.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the events?

We’ve often allowed third parties to have a stall or display at a Recycle Swap Shop, such as (most recently) the Neighbourhood Plan group, Rother Responders (our local Community First Responder charity), RX Energy (offering energy bill advice to visitors) and the Community Garden. We’re always willing to consider other any community-focused groups who might like to co-locate with us at an event, although space is somewhat limited at St Mary’s Centre.

You can catch Mike and St Mary’s Church volunteers at the next three St Mary’s centre swap shops which are being held on the following dates:

Sat 9 April (St Mary’s Centre)
Sat 18 June (St Mary’s Centre)
Sat 15 October (St Mary’s Centre)

Doors open 9:30am-12:00pm, but items being given away MUST BE THERE BY 11am! Bring along stuff you don’t need any more, and take away stuff other people have brought. There’s no charge for this, though donations to the cost of running the event are of course welcome.

Remember, you DO NOT need to bring stuff, we’re very happy for people to come and just take stuff away – in fact we need people to do this, or there’s too much left over at the end… Please don’t bring anything that’s dirty, broken, dangerous, illegal or too big for one person to carry, and NO MAINS ELECTRICAL ITEMS please.

Photo: Ray Prewer

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