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A Bitesize History of The Ragged University

Where it started ?….  The whole thing crystalised around a table in Stoke Newington in London.  I had been asked to help out the Street Performers Community Organisation with sorting out their office.  James Tonner and Roy Gurvitz had been thinking about doing a festival in Hackney Marshes.

The question was asked what would be a good thing to do which was interesting, fun and brought people together.  Around that table three other friends agreed on the idea and after some background work, I left to set it up in Glasgow whilst Jes Haley, Grant Crozier, and Will Bentinck did the first events at the Palatine Bar in Dalston.

Jes and Grant first RU

What is the Ragged University ?

The Ragged University is the concept of free education and self learning – everybody is a Ragged University sums it nicely.  The Ragged project is something which is delivering free, fun and informal talks in pubs, cafes and libraries around the country.  The idea is simple – anyone can do it.  In fact that is how the Ragged Schools started, as did many other free education like the Chautauqua.

With a few ales and chewing ears off, we discussed the theory of taking the origins of the Ragged Schools and update them using available infrastructure (i.e. pubs, cafes, restaurants, businesses) and available technology (internet, libraries, books, open access learning).  Whatever your passion, if you love a subject, the idea is to create a space to share insight into that. There is no money involved, there is no registration nor accreditation. Just plain old pleasure in learning and a confidence with knowledge comes power, however it is only power when it is shared.

Who wants to talk ?

Many people build up a considerable catalogue of intricate knowledge but do not always get the opportunity to share in conversation about that subject.  Lots of people develop expert understandings of an area which has absorbed their attentions. Many people have multiple sides to their lives.  People have lifetimes to pick up all sorts of knowledge.  You never know who you are talking to…

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