I've been hearing a lot about "open source learning" lately. First with iTunes University, then the Temporary School of Thought in London where a group of folks started out by squatting in a mansion(recently evicted) and holding free workshops/classes/lectures for anyone in the community.
There's a similar idea going in LA called the Public School where anyone can propose a class, and based on the interest, the class takes place for a small fee (~$20) to participants. So far classes range from "Disaster Capitalism" to "Guerilla Gardening." I'm pretty sure the fee goes towards maintaining the "school", not for profit. Personally, I like the concept and am interested in thinking about it more and how it might fit in with other communities. Sure, this is not a new model and it's basically a formal way of providing a physical space for folks to come share/receive knowledge about whatever. But, I think it's valuable all the same.
(Holy Ghost) An interview with some members of the Temporary School of Thought.
HG: What exactly is the Temporary School of Thought?
LB: A school based on the ideal of the exchange of free knowledge, letting people come in, attend various workshops. If you feel there is something you would like to share then this is the place to voice that. Originally it was an artistic space to exhibit work, it has evolved though, there is no artistic discrimination here.
HG: How did you come across the house and find your way inside?
LB: Well I wont delve to heavily into detail, basically we walked around the area and then we noticed what we thought were open windows, they weren't! We found another way...which involved a lot of climbing. But NO criminal damage!
HG: You live here right? How many of them are you?
LB: We live in the stables here, the other building is where we do the lectures. There's roughly 15 people living here right now. We met at the last place we lived. We're like a jigsaw piece without any sides, people come and go, its always evolving.
HG: You study?
LB: Yes but not very well at the moment, this house is like a vortex, devouring time and space. In fact I haven't been in, in a while!
HG: What happens in the other building?
LB: Loads of stuff! Really physical things, dance workshops, juggling workshops. Then we had a laughter workshop, a sleeping and dreaming workshop. We had a tree-house workshop. numerous lectures...de-schooling society, economic chemotherapy, art school failings! Relevant! Talks on architecture, puppet making!
HG: You guys are also in the middle of court proceedings, is it all over?
LB: Not necessarily, we'll move on to another building. We have loads of different projects in mind.
HG: Why Lucky Jimm?
LJ: Well it connects me with my blog..
HG: You write?
LJ: I studied English Literature for degree, masters and half a PHD, and i didn't have any funding. Journalism is what i'd like to get into.
HG: How did you end up living here?
LJ: For a couple of months id been moving towards squatting, i was fed up with flat sharing. I was staying on friends sofas, I had a job as a courier, then after that id been reading into it. I went and opened up the squat on park lane with the guys from the squatters advisory service. We found a basement door open and i moved in a couple of days later, that's how i met these guys.
HG: What's the plan after Tuesday?
LJ: Stay with the group. I feel more secure in this community than anywhere else ive ever lived. The spirit of the group moves on, there's no shortage of empty buildings.
HG: You'll stay in central London?
LJ: We wont stay in Mayfair, its too hot right now. I do love the building though, it allows us to do whatever we want with the space we have.
HG: Who runs the classes here?
LJ: Various people, most of the classes are done by outsiders, we do put some on ourselves.
HG: Is money something that worries you here?
LJ: Yeah definitely, I think the way we avoid arguing about it here is by living without it, Which is actually a lot more feasible than you would think in central london. The food we dont pay for, we go skipping, taking supermarket food that would otherwise go to waste. The only thing we spend money on is booze, cigarettes, tea, milk and sugar.
HG: Can you imagine yourself living back in a flat share?
LJ: Well its difficult, I always felt like i was missing something in flat share. Living with 2 miserable flat mates working 9-5, ignoring each other in-front of the tv in the evening. The social experience of squatting is something I would miss, but am i going to be doing this in 10 years time? I doubt it. I want to have made it in some way.
HG: Tell us about the experience you've had living here.
LJ: Temporary school of thought is a way we can engage with a community, its a positive way of using this space, they can get involved and put stuff on themselves. Yesterday was the best day I think weve had here at the temporary school. I walked into the building and it was just really nice you know, people playing the piano downstairs, there was a self defence class upstairs, a lovely enviroment. I sound like such a fucking hippy!
HG: Hello, would you mind telling us your name?
V: Vinay Gupta
HG: Could you tell us a little bit about the The Temporary School of Thought and what your role here is?
V: Sure. Basically I came down here to meet some friends, I had no idea what it was before hand. They were talking about setting up the classes for people to teach and I had all kinds of crazy ideas I love to talk about, which they thought sounded cool.
HG: Are you a squatter yourself?
V: No, i'm a NGO infrastructure engineer, but I do all kinds of work.
HG: Are you going to move on with the group come tuesday?
V: From my perspective, ill go anywhere people want me to teach. This is a particularly savy group of people. They're having a good time, but there also getting a ton of work done.They have very good operational manners, they dont give each other a hard time. Theres a good vibe here, its been very easy for me to come and collaborate with them.
??: The thing that strikes me, having been involved in several squatting centres all over the country, is theres a real pragmatism and outward desire to work together and do really interesting stuff here. Were as in a few of the things ive been involved in have turned to inward looking and turned to fighting over the micro policitcs of the house. This is why its generated a lot of energy and bought together all these people.
HG: Who are you?
DH: Dougald Hine, I have a blog called changing the world and other excuses for not getting a proper job and I run a company called school of everything which is building alternate education systems, i'm currently trying to get people to invest in that. I've done a couple of talks here over the past few weeks, i did one of de-schooling society.
HG: Is the lack of drugs a factor here?
DH: You get different scenes, like the guys on the front of the Sun the other day from Park Lane I think you'd find that was quite a different atmosphere. I mean there are so many different kind of squats I wouldn't like to generalise but what you have here is they're younger than your average social centre or political squat, there's enough people who are political, however, there are also people here for creative reasons. Art school kids and recent graduates doing decent stuff, that's why there's such a range of practical workshops. I mean first time I came down here they were all teaching each other welding! I thought this is interesting.
HG: Thank you very much. (source)