We Talk to the Founder of The Sherwood Exchange Which Reopens This Weekend

Words: Rachel Jackson
Illustrations: Lily Keogh
Thursday 04 April 2024
reading time: min, words

The Sherwood Exchange is soon to reopen, taking lessons from Lockdown on sharing time, skills, and resources amongst the local community. Now, in 2024, as we battle the cost of living and concerns about the environmental impact of household waste, we hear from founder Rachel Jackson about the revival of the exchange…


It seems a life-time away since we were concerned about empty supermarket shelves and how our neighbours were getting by. Yet just four years ago, we were preparing to go into a lockdown and starting to worry about going without our favourite foods and everyday household items. Still, on March 30, 2020, I was opening the Sherwood Food Exchange: Sherwood's answer to ensuring we redistributed some of that pasta and toilet roll and anything else going spare. We came together as a community, and it was brilliant.

It all started after I'd taken my first trip out to the shops after six weeks with my leg in plaster. I remember the giddy excitement of that first trip out and the excitement of being able to leave the house, only to be followed by genuine shock and disappointment at not being able to find anything but a few onions to bring back with me. Then, whilst driving home with the fruitless results of my below-par shop, I started to wonder whether there could be another way. Some system where everybody could get their food and groceries without having to go without.

That night I began to plan a safe outdoor food exchange. The exchange, which was then called the Sherwood Food Exchange, was kindly housed, and funded by Mike Douglas from the Sherwood Business Centre, and staffed by a team of volunteers who visited throughout the day to clean it down, rotate stock, and refill it. In its infancy, the Sherwood Exchange consisted of four outdoor food containers where people could bring surplus tinned and pantry goods, such as fruit and vegetables, confectionery, household goods, and toiletries. The exchange was well used, and although it was open at specified hours, it was accessed at all times of the day and used considerably by almost all who found it.

The exchange brought people together through sharing and a sense of kindness and giving last time—sentiments definitely needed within these challenging times.

Fast-forward three years, and I found myself worrying again. Wondering how we could all come together as a community to support each other during worrying times. Seeing the devastating impact the rising costs of living were having on all members of the community, and experiencing struggles myself to afford the same standard of living I had afforded three years ago. On top of this, concern over our impact on the planet became unavoidable, I even attempted to stop watching the news to preserve my mental health. Everything was becoming stressful, and I knew I had to do something; I thought, if it wasn't me, who might it be instead.

It was clear that the exchange would need to be restarted. The exchange brought people together through sharing and a sense of kindness and giving last time—sentiments definitely needed within these challenging times. And so, the story goes, I put the word out and started to plan towards opening last year. This time, with the aid of committee members and volunteers who came on board to help us get to where we are now. We have also been fortunate enough to secure an indoor venue, The Place Activity Centre in Sherwood. 

This vibrant local community centre faced closure last year, but is now on its way to becoming an exciting and varied venue, featuring an art exhibition and community garden, alongside offering a multitude of varied classes and a recycling point in the Sherwood Exchange. Thanks to them, the exchange is now housed in a permanent base where all the donations, such as food, can be free from weather damage. The exchange has also been blessed with brilliant volunteers. Volunteers who have undertaken training to offer advice to visitors who might need that little bit more support, such as signposting to local agencies advising on health and wellbeing, finances, and housing.

The exchange will also become a place where people can share and learn new skills. Plans are afoot for volunteers to deliver mindfulness sessions and other beneficial classes in the future. Our volunteer, Cal Phoenix, a local eco and biodiversity gardener who runs the Apollo Phoenix, is developing a green space within the centre's car park. Cal's plans are to attract wildlife and grow fruit and vegetables to be available at the exchange, alongside hosting an exchange of unwanted gardening utensils.

"Due to rising costs of living, people don't have the money to be able to garden. However, through setting up my community interest company, Apollo Phoenix, in conjunction with volunteering at the Sherwood Exchange, I am trying to change this," says Cal, "I am here to enable everybody to garden. Whether that's an entire garden or a windowsill. I'm here to educate, inspire and empower people to have access to the things they should rightfully have. I'm also here for nature and wish to share skills amongst the community on how to increase nature and biodiversity within their gardens, no matter how big or small they might be."

Volunteers and visitors can also join a time bank. The time bank—run by Time Banking UK—is a scheme where people donate their time and skills for other people to access. This can range from mending or fixing items to baking a cake. The Time Bank will provide a fantastic opportunity for people to share skills and resources across the community.

The Sherwood Exchange will open officially on Saturday April 6 and will be open every Saturday from 12–4 pm. You may visit the exchange to donate surplus items and swap them for other goods. You can visit if you don't have anything to donate. You can even bring other items to recycle, such as old mobile phones or printer ink and cartridges. A trip to the exchange is strongly advised before visiting the shops to ensure money is saved and less food and resources are wasted. 

The Place Activity Centre will be having an opening day on Saturday, April 20th, where visitors can visit the exchange, listen to live acoustic music and poetry, or even try out free classes such as eco and biodiversity-friendly gardening, which will be taking place outside the centre that day.

For more information about this event, please email [email protected] or phone 07487877536

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