Thoughts on the Really Free School

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about how the values of openness and sharing, popularised by the web, have bled into our real lives, and created spaces that echo that network of shared knowledge and information.

Along with a couple of friends, last week I went to a place called the “Really Free School”. It’s a huge squatted building near Bloomsbury Square that is open for anyone to come and teach/learn/share/talk… anything. I’ve been once or twice since, and it is one of the most interesting places I’ve been to since I came to London.

The talks I’ve been to have ranged from philosophical debates on whether we own our consciousnesses (that was DEEP) to a workshop that consisted of trying to make stuff out of Lego that related to what the talker was saying (and that was awesome). The breadth and depth of what I’ve seen so far has kind of amazed me, and the beautiful thing is that most of the best things I’ve seen could only be possible in such a setting – temporary, unofficial, free of institutionalised curriculum.

I think the best talk I saw was called “Third Places, Web 2.0, and First Life”, done by a guy called Dougald Hine. He was talking exactly about this kind of stuff – how the places we socialise and exchange ideas in (“third places”) are being shaped and influenced by the web, and how we can use the web to inspire more direct action in the physical world. It was amazing, and if you want to see it, you can here:

Granted, it’s an hour long, but if you want to spend an hour listening to a really interesting guy talking about really interesting stuff, I would strongly recommend it.

Unfortunately for the Really Free School, the occupiers of the Bloomsbury building have very recently been moved out, and I think this is a real shame. Never have I seen a squatted space used so positively – for the good of its community rather than its occupiers. Hopefully the Really Free School will find a new space in which to continue doing what it does, inspiring others and promoting discussion of new ideas. I’ll be keeping an eye on it, for sure.

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