Interview- Sam Attard tells the story of SHARE and why sharing strengthens community.
Last week I got in me wheels and drove up to Frome, Somerset where another sharing library is leading the way in organised sharing. A long haired, thoughtful Sam Attard gave me some time over a card table surrounded by tools, camping equipment and electrical items.
So tell me the story of SHARE?
Share was started at the beginning of 2015 by a bunch of students. There were 10 of them. They had all done a course by edventure frome. The students went out, they crowdfunded, they found the location, they got members of the community to loan items and set up a library of things, inspired by one in Berlin! At the time, there were none in the UK and the Guardian had just done a piece on the other one. and so SHARE was born. I've been in since spring/summer 2018.
I moved to Frome a year or so before that. I ran a website called ethical revolution which promotes discounts on ethical products. Usually shopping ethically is expensive so I was trying to find all the discounts on ethical products and put them into one place. So I went to the "welsh mill hub" which is a local hotdesking space. When I moved to Frome, the share shop was the first thing I saw and when I moved into my new house I borrowed all sorts from it while I was decorating. I even borrowed a tent to sleep in during the first few days when we couldn't sleep in the house. Ladders, drills you name it. We got to know the people who ran it, a vacancy came up and I applied and got it.
What about sharing in general? Why should people share?
Whumph. That's multi-layered really, isn't it?
It makes you feel good when you help other people, definitely. So from a selfish point of view ...haha. It's good for the soul, it's one of the best things you can do to care for the community really. Communities thrive if we are all helping each other. In relation to a Share shop, there are other benefits. You don't have to store stuff you'd only use once in a blue moon. You can try things before you buy them. So if you if arent sure if a crepe maker or a slow cooker would be something would want to splash out on but you want to give a go first, you can do that. It saves you money! So here, even though you pay to borrow stuff, it costs much more to rent it from a hire shop. You can save space. And the effect on the planet too. We've recently had an impact report which shows how much greenhouse gases and how much money we've saved people.
So I think its something stupid like £68,000 in a year which is if our residents had bought all the things they borrowed in a year, that's how much they collectively saved.
Give me some other stats!
We've got about 500 active members at the moment.
There have been over 1000 signed up over the 5 years.
We've got nearly 1000 items in stock.
We have had 7643 completed loans. Although that figure, I wouldn't rely on. In the beginning times, a lot weren't recorded.
Currently, 46 items are out of the shop.
Clare Krige and Sam Attard from Share in Frome.
You would say this is a community hub. What does that mean to you and can you point to some examples?
Definitely, I mean, people come in for chats sometimes and so the people who work here get to know them as they come in. They get to know each other too. Just last week this happened and it's happened a few times. Someone comes in asking for something obscure and we don't have it and then someone else comes in and goes "oh, I've got that" so yeah, there's that sort of thing.
We used to have workshops here. We want to reintroduce them. The next one will be a 3d printing workshop because a few of our members are hot on that sort of thing. We've had sewing workshops, we run a repair cafe once a month in a different location. With tea and cakes while you wait. And Frome is very community orientated anyway. The political set up has meant a lot of community initiatives like this have sprung up. Lot's have come up out of Edventure. And we might not have had them if we didn't have a strong independent councillors setup. So yeah, a lot of the community know each other from different pockets as well. Fair Frome, fair housing for Frome, sustainable Frome. They all sort of overlap each other in places.
I think people tend to come in with a different attitude than if they were coming into a shop
It's more of a "hey, how are you" thing with us. A slightly different level than a shop.
What are some of the most popular items that people want to share?
So, most borrowed are tents despite them going out only in the more pleasant months. The stat we quote often is that a drill is only used for 13 minutes in its lifetime. That's so true and drills are the next most popular item. Then, off the top of my head, other popular ones are projectors screens, pressure washers, sanders, so some of the other similar tools to drills. and then in the summer lawnmowers and hedge trimmers. Gardening power tools. Secateurs are quite popular too! haha, we've only recently got the crepe maker in but that's been very popular too.
Tell me a story of when you have felt like "yes this thing is flying!"
I wouldn't say flying yet but it's always been on an upward trajectory in terms of the number of borrows, the amount of money we get from it. We were on Countryfile last February and straight after that there was a huge spike and you get people coming in and saying "oh, I've walked past this for four years and never known what it is and now that I saw you on TV I know what it is!"
My next-door neighbour, he knew I started working at a Share shop and aside from that, he invited me round a few months after I just started and he said "oh look at my decorating job, I took this wallpaper off, I bought this wallpaper stripper for £40" and I said "you know we've got them in the shop, you could have borrowed it for £3." and he kicked himself. So one of the problems is, even though people know we are here, it's a new concept still so the thinking is still like "I need a new wallpaper stripper" so you don't suddenly think "oh I'll get that from the share shop". But I think we are getting to that point now where people are thinking that more.
What is one book everyone in the whole world should read?
Goodness me, there's plenty isn't there? One that stayed with me is the ragged trousered philanthropists. By Robert Tressell. It was written, I think at the end of the 19th century but wasn't published till after he had died. It's one of those books that, well, changed my outlook maybe. I've not read anything for ages really.
Lastly, what is the dream for SHARE?
I want to be a beacon for others. Which it currently is. I constantly get requests. This year, I have had at least one every time I've come and checked the emails which is 4 times a week! I also want to be proving what I have said, you know? So if we'd have to pay proper rent and rates in commercial rates, then we can do that. and just being part of the collective conscious transition to not wasting, not throwing things away and respecting how much resources are left and that we can do all that while still living the lives we want to.
Thanks so much Sam and thanks to Clare Krige (on the left in the picture) who is coming to share the story at our launch event on 20th March. Make sure you RSVP here if you want to come.