Forget cash or card, you just need to ‘bring a thing’ for the bank holiday barter (Saturday 25 May)

Long gone are the days when you’d exchange your chickens for a newspaper subscription. Traditional bartering was replaced by banknotes a long time ago, making way for a commercial western society that thrives on spending money. 

Not only can this take its toll ethically and environmentally through trends like ‘fast fashion’ - often condemned for slave labour, and the world’s biggest pollutant after the oil industry - studies also suggest it’s bad for our psyche: in our quest to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, we give material goods more priority than we should. 

That’s why NOMA is challenging the status quo this bank holiday with an experimental market that’s completely moneyless. Niftily called Stock Exchange, the inaugural event invites visitors to ‘go off the books in an exploration of a simpler and more enjoyable economic model - the barter system.’ 

2019 05 20 Bartering Us Library Of Congress
An 1874 newspaper illustration from Harper's Weekly, showing the aforementioned chickens v newspaper subscription barter US Library of Congress

Say organisers: ‘The success of our current economic model relies on infinite growth and consumption in a finite world. This system is confusing, worrying and, above all, boring. Stock Exchange acknowledges deep-seated consumer conditioning that gives us a buzz to acquire new things, despite the very real fact that we all have more than enough stuff already, and hopes to sate the need for consumption without putting any additional strain on our wallets or the planet.’

The concept is simple: bring something to trade (pieces of art, tools, fresh produce, raw materials, clothing, books or vouchers for services to be rendered), then find something you’d like in exchange…and swap it (owner willing of course). As the blurb says: ‘The value of your item is dictated by the deal you do. An old saw for a pizza? Sure! A map of the Far Eastern fells for a candlestick? Don’t mind if I do.’ 

2017 11 1 Clothes Swap  Image Credit Artificial Photography
Items to trade can include everything from books to clothes Artificial Photography

As this is something of an experiment, however, organisers do suggest you be open-minded and play nicely: ‘we don’t encourage you to aggressively trade your way from a paperclip to a superyacht (please don’t bring paperclips or superyachts).’ Fair enough.    

Trading commences at NOMA’s Sadler’s Yard at midday and will continue until all goods are swapped. There’ll also be DJ sets, outdoor seating, beer tasting and talks throughout the afternoon about the sharing economy; as well as ‘one for one’ stalls where you can directly trade a book for a book, top for a top, or tool for a tool.

All being well, it’s hoped Stock Exchange will be an annual event; reflecting an area that truly does things differently. Somewhat hidden behind the Printworks, and just out of the city centre nucleus, much of NOMA (coined from the words North Manchester) was occupied by Co-Op workers for over a century. Now, following their departure to 1 Angel Square, the area is being both renovated - and reanimated through creative initiatives like Old Bank Residency.  

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Standard Practice, the brains behind Manchester’s moneyless market, also run Old Bank Residency

Launched in January, this is ‘a twelve-month occupation of a disused bank, allowing space for creative practices to experiment, collaborate and grow.’ Funded by NOMA, it’s run by design consultancy Standard Practice: pioneers of the quirky Pilcrow Pub, which was built with the public through workshops. Already at Old Bank, they’ve launched Manchester’s first dedicated documentary cinema Now Showing Club and will soon be opening a Pilcrow-style café called One Dish Room.

Stock Exchange, meanwhile, is the latest in a series of events they coordinate in the adjoining Sadler’s Yard (named after England’s first balloonist, who made an ascent from there in 1785 accompanied by a cat.) As we said, NOMA does things differently.    

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Events are held in Sadler’s Yard throughout the year

So, if you fancy trading your standard pastimes for something a little more original this bank holiday - with a social conscience to boot - you’d do well to ‘bring your thing’ to Sadler’s Yard and see what’s on offer. You never know what you’ll bring home… 

Stock Exchange takes place on Saturday 25 May, 12-6pm, at Sadler’s Yard - Hanover Street, NOMAM60 0AB. Registration is free on eventbrite. Follow @SadlersYard on Twitter and Instagram for updates on food and drink, DJs, and house traders