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A Word From The Janitor

I thought I would let you know a bit more about me and what ‘Ragged University’ is.  I am Alex Dunedin and I am the principle janitor who does the organising and advertising of the events, using meetup to build a community of people (amongst other things).  I have noticed the odd email enquiring about what the ‘project’ is or who does the organising so thought I would write this.

Ragged started about 2010 when I got an idea from two friends who were retired educators – Eileen Broughton and Roy Wilsher.  Not only were they friends, but they always mentored me in various ways, particularly their own subjects of Economics, History and Education. They suggested that the Ragged Schools movement brought people together and that the Madras Peer led teaching method which Andrew Bell developed where highly effective making everyone’s lives richer and better.

Alex Dunedin Portrait

Then I talked with other friends in London to see if updating the Ragged School movement with a bit of fun would be something others would want to share in and support. We tried it in Hackney, and it was more popular and fun than we expected.  Over the next years I set out on a mission talking with educators, business people, and communities as it was clear that there was a desire to have much more ‘eclectic education’ and document all the aspects of ‘Ragged’ so others could do this where they are and run their own Ragged events (forming their own Ragged fuzzy communities).

Now a long time down the line, after much ‘doing’, after putting on so many events with so many people, I am still coordinating the events in Edinburgh and website (with the kind help of others).  The events are all free because formalising as a charity has been a bureaucracy beyond me so far.  The consequence is that there has been no funding/money/filthy lucra involved – just goodwill.

The important part of this is that it is free for everyone to take part in any part of it; the organisation does not take in a penny – just gifts in kind (such as a projector screen kindly donated by Ray Miller).  I am not interesting in changing it to some monetised ‘social enterprise’ as this is antithetical to the notion of free education and free association in shared spaces which I have.  I also love the idea of mixing music with social learning, and also coming together around something to eat.

All the events are informal, and you can come and go as you please :). I dont get time to always have the conversations I might like to at the events,  as I feel that my role in all of this is to make sure that each event is a seemless, relaxed and entertaining event for all there.  So please accept my apologies for not finding the time to chat and find out more about you as individuals, I am always happy to meet and chat over coffee if you get in touch outside an event.

Most importantly, this all happens because individuals are choosing to share their knowledge and what they have invested their lives in.  I have got so much from learning to stand in front of other people and talk – it is nerve wracking and I get better each time I do a talk.  After doing a number myself, I am not so nervous (having found that people are very supportive and friendly) and also my presentation skills get better.  I also find that it helps me better express what I know, this comes from the act of sitting down and planning what I would like people to walk away having understood – also, getting so much helpful feedback.

I hope that people enjoy the experience of doing a talk, in the sense that I make it as easy as possible for people to simply turn up on the night and do their talk how they have chosen to do it, on what they have chosen to do it on.  I have tried to avoid pushing structures and my ideas of how I think people should present what makes them tick.  I always think this is like hiring a brain surgeon and then telling them how to do it – people know themselves best.

Lastly, the current website which was been given (by Radrooster, Anthony Ellis) to support all the activities ‘Ragged’ does on the condition that it is free and supports all communities.  So I have been trying various ideas out over time, pushing and pulling the WordPress site in different ways to achieve a website which enables the social knowledge building at the heart of Ragged.  When I get told about a great free knowledge resource on the internet, I check it out and list it…

I invite people to put their articles, essays, theses, etc on there and then put large links out to the authors webspaces.  Also, I had an events system installed so, in theory, we could all list free and inclusive stuff to do on the website – effectively pooling our knowledge on what there is to do and where there is to go, even if you are skint.  The website it not monetised at all, and it will not be – it is being built more as a signpost than a clubhouse (I personally dislike all these names and passwords, and obstacles).  Thus we have professional website is there to do all sorts, what would you like it to do ?

Anyway, I hope this gives you an insight into who I am. Thanks to all who do so much to make this all possible, such as bringing food, doing music, sharing talks, writing articles, spreading the word about events, listing other free events, researching history, or simply coming along and chatting to someone new.  I really do love what happens when we all come together, and I hope to be doing this for a long time to come.

Here are some more bits and pieces on what Ragged is and how it came about: Always happy to meet and answer any curiosities you have…

Kind regards


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