Sunday, January 06, 2013

Really Really Free Market

Community events carry a higher than normal risk of being either a great success or a total bust. There doesn't seem to be much room for grey space in between. The Really Really Free Market is a rather brilliant concept that, unfortunately, fell rather short of expectations. The idea is simple: take the idea of a potluck and turn it into "shopping". Instead of donating gently-used items (or services) to second-hand stores for resale, people bring these to a community space on the 1st Saturday of every month and take whatever they want from the items donated by others. There is absolutely no money exchanging hands.

Having embraced this concept as a much-needed one, I set off this weekend to check it out. After an initial hard time finding the place where I took the wrong bus (due to confusing labeling on the part of TTC) and then proceeded to miss my stop because I was expecting to see the community centre off the main road (it is rather tucked away off the main roads and does require one to carefully consult a map in order to locate), I retraced my steps determined to see this through and finally located the place tucked away deep inside the residential area. Initial reaction: the market itself definitely fell into the bust category for me. The space was small and cramped, there weren't that many items available (I am comparing this to SWAP events, which have a much higher participation rate), and to complicate things, there were people's personal items scattered around (the space was a community change room for the skating rink), making it difficult to figure out what was part of the market and what wasn't. While great in theory, the reality of the Free Market was that it's simply too small to function effectively at this time. It is possible that there is a greater turnout and better organization in the summer months when they can set up outside, but that is not a judgement I can make based on my experience yesterday.

Everything has a bright side, however. Despite the purpose of my trip being a disappointment, Campbell Park Community Centre itself is rather adorable. While the space is tiny, it looks like a well used one. There is a collection of worn-out board games, flyers announcing community events, benches for people to change into their hockey/skating gear and leave their bags inside, a very inexpensive snack bar (that was quite busy while I was there), and a small park with a nice playground and a skating rink attached to the building. There is a definitely a feel of a hidden community space and it was lovely to see.

WHAT: Really Really Free Market

WHERE: Campbell Park Community Centre, 255 Campbell Ave

WHEN: 1st Saturday of every month

COST: Free

INSIDER TIPS: The market itself is too small to warrant a separate trip. If you do want to go, I would recommend trying the summer months in nice weather. If you do live in the area, however, I would recommend the community centre itself. You can learn more about Campbell Park and see upcoming events here.

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