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What Ragged University Is About

Hello All, Firstly to welcome all those who have joined the Ragged University meetup since the close of the last years events.  I am sorry not to have had time to individually welcome everyone, but there is not the time in the day, nor the hands on deck to hold all the conversations which I would like to.  I am Alex Dunedin, the main organiser of Ragged University.

There is no funding, and no paid staff; only a drive to make sure that there are free and open spaces in which we can learn through teaching and conversing – taking inspiration from the community schools of the Victorian times, also known as the Ragged Schools.

Alex Dunedin Portrait
Alex Dunedin

The idea behind the project is that we can all learn from each other.  We meet in social spaces, share food, company and ideas, and try and grasp what lights up each others worlds.  It is not a space to evangelise, sell things or lobby; much more the events are spaces where we can have fun being taken into other people’s lives and understand what each individual has invested their time in.

Anyone can do a talk.  I am not a gatekeeper, nor a self appointed paladin of knowledge defining what is right and what is wrong.  I dont decide what goes on, in what order; more the self-motivation of people who step forward does that.  I am much more a simple janitor who believes that there should be many social spaces to chew the cud, and that we learn through socialising around knowledge.

So please see each event as one where we all have something to learn and share.  It is healthy to step out of your own life view and be drawn into another way of seeing the world. It is healthy to learn about something new and exercise the brain.  Two talks are put on to try and introduce diversity of thought and awareness, and in between we get the chance to put food on a table and have some merriment.

I do what I can to put cheese and biscuits, fruit and edibles there so that everyone feels welcome and no-one goes hungry.  What really helps is if you bring an item of food to put on the table to share, and at the end of the evening, help take away leftovers so that nothing goes to waste.

The rooms are private and the compulsion to analyse who comes to the events is strictly avoided; your privacy is sacred to me.  That is why you dont see any questionaires, nor demographics or personal questions.  Rather like any social space – like pubs, libraries and cafes – these are owned, in a sense, by all of us and what goes on in them is constantly being negotiated and re-negotiated by you/me/us.

I would very much like to see a community evolve where we can support each other learn how to talk in front of a room full of people, and volunteer what we know to others who have similar interests – or even different.  This year it looks there are a lot of interesting talks coming up, but also the chance to learn about computers and watch films together in Edinburgh. In Manchester, the community has taken ownership of the idea independently of my involvement which makes me very happy.  This is an idea which is not owned by any one individual, nor should be.

I always welcome help if you would like to be an active part of creating the events, advertising them, writing guest blogs for the website (https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/), put local free events on the What’s On page (https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/events/), or do the media recording etc.  I can offer help if you want to create your own events…

The events in this project are ALWAYS free, open to everyone, informal and should ideally always be fun and warm experiences for all concerned.  If you have any questions, please get in touch.  I am very happy to answer them, and chat over coffee if you like.  Please spread the word if you like it so far.

Everyone is a Ragged University; a unique and distinct body of knowledge, accredited with their life experience and with a membership of one.  Come along and broaden your horizons, make new friends, make new thoughts…

Kind regards

Alex

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