“The first Swap Shop was held in 2010 and was born out of an idea my friend Jacquie Garstin and I had in the early days of environmental group Transition Chichester. We have now held more than 30 Swap Shops, four times a year,” explained Sue.
“It is a free exchange of goods - everything from clothes, books and tools, to toys, homewares and garden items - and there are no rules. You bring as much pre-loved unwanted stuff as you like and take as much as you like away. No cash is involved which comes as a welcome relief in these money-driven times, and there is a happy atmosphere at the event because of that.”
And there are some of the lovely stories that emerge from Swap Shop. Telling me about the bike that was wheeled in only to be snapped up immediately by a delighted woman whose neighbour’s bike had just been stolen and a young dad who was struggling to make ends meet being thrilled to come away with a bundle of good quality baby clothes, Sue herself has many great Swap Shop items.
“Beautiful Venetian glasses, a pair of Doc Marten’s and a lovely blue beach bag which I use all the time,” she said, explaining that the idea is to promote reusing and recycling.
“We have kept a mountain of stuff out of landfill over the years. We also use Swap Shop as an opportunity to collect for good causes: The Four Streets Project for Chichester’s homeless, The Warehouse in Bognor which takes clothing vouchers for those in need, and Portsmouth’s Red Cross drop-in centre for refugees among them. We have also sent off a huge amount of clothing to Calais.
“The Swap Shop team are brilliant - so enthusiastic about the cause - and we have a great Fairtrade pop-up café there too with the best homemade soup, bread and cakes in Chichester in my opinion!”
A popular Swap Shop spin-off is the free exchange community clothing rail. You bring an item and take an item, again with no money exchanged.
“Kay Mawer at Draper’s Yard in Chichester and Maggie Haynes at Tuppenny Barn organic smallholding in Southbourne have been very supportive and have hosted the rail.
“I get so much pleasure from people’s reactions when they find something that is perfect for them and they don’t have to get their purse out. It feels very freeing and is all about being kinder to each other and realising this is the way to help strengthen communities.”
The free exchange clothing rail is at Tuppenny Barn in Southbourne on Fridays in August (3, 10, 24) where there will be a pop-up café too, and at Draper’s Yard, The Hornet, Chichester, on August 16 and 18. The next Swap Shop, at the Newell Centre, Tozer Way, is in October. See www.transitionchichester.orgfor more information.