Still feeling the swell of excess from the holiday season? Or perhaps you’ve committed to reducing clutter or improving your consumption habits for 2017? Either way, Vancouver has a market for that.
Founded in 2011 by participants of Vancouver’s Occupy Wall Street movement, the Free Market is a community-building event that offers citizens a chance to rid their homes of material goods, pick up functional items, and, most of all, engage with one another and their surroundings—all at zero cost.
“Much of what we need already exists,” Ethan Earl, a longstanding organizer of the gathering, tells the Straight by phone. “And if we shared, we could probably use them over and over.”
Entirely volunteer-driven, the Free Market celebrates “life without money” by bringing Vancouverites together every two weeks at East Vancouver’s Grandview Park to share products, talents, and skills.
Attendees are welcome to contribute to the event however they are able to—for example, by passing on unneeded tools or appliances or offering up onsite bike-repair or face-painting services—though they may also come (and leave) empty handed.
“That’s the thing: you don’t have to bring anything or take anything to be a part of it,” says Earl. “You can just come hang out, enjoy yourself, and connect with others and talk about your week.”
The Free Market bills itself as an inclusive and non-oppressive gathering that welcomes people of all ages and from all walks of life. Each biweekly event also includes a potluck, so attendees may prepare a dish to share. To help reduce waste, people are encouraged to bring their own reusable plates and utensils.
Popular items at past markets include clothing, books, tools, appliances, and toys, though a general rule of thumb, Earl notes, is to bring “only things that you yourself think that people would find use for”.
Musicians—both experienced and amateur—may also come with instruments to participate in jam sessions. Earl shares that many past markets have included live music from visitors and volunteers.
At the end of each function, attendees are encouraged to clean up after themselves so that no trash is left behind. Any material goods that are not claimed must also be cleared. For this reason, Earl suggests that people bring smaller items that they are able to carry home if needed.
For one of the Free Market’s upcoming spring events, Earl is working on organizing a small carnival. There, Vancouverites will be able to share objects, skills, and experiences while enjoying entertainment from local speakers, artists, musicians, and even a clown troupe.
For now, however, he’s hoping the Free Market will help people break away from a consumer-driven lifestyle. “We just want to invite anyone and everyone to come enjoy life without money,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”
The Free Market takes place this Sunday (January 29), from 12 p.m. to 4:20 p.m., at Grandview Park (1657 Charles Street). The event happens every two weeks thereafter.
For more information about the Free Market, or to keep up-to-date with its schedule, click here.