Skill swap brings smiles to soggy Southcote

It was smiles all round this morning in Southcote despite the soggy start to the day as Southcote Skill Swap got underway with its official launch.

A Skill Swap is a way for people to share skills with others in their community and be rewarded for it – in time. For every hour of time a person gives providing a service for another participant, they will receive one time credit, which can then be exchanged when they need something. There are four similar schemes in Reading including the Southcote scheme, co-ordinated by Circles Network, a voluntary organisation renowned for building stronger communities.

Anne Lancaster who co-ordinates the Southcote Skill Swap explains “The Skill Swap (or Time Bank) has over 30 members in Southcote and there are another 70 members in Whitley Wood, Katesgrove and Oxford Road Time Banks. Skill swapping is a way to help each other in local communities and make friends. People have used it so far to get a lift, pick up a prescription, get a haircut and have sewing alterations done, all for free.”

Along with Southcote Primary School Co-Head Mrs Sue N’Jai, pupils gathered around a tree in Southcote’s Coronation Square this morning for a formal “label hanging” ceremony, such labels having been marked up by children and Time Bank members alike denoting the skills they are willing to give.

Madam Mayor and her skill label

Councillor Marian Livingston, The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Reading, was on hand to lend her services to the children in label hanging and also to endorse the initiative. Speaking at the conclusion of the celebrations, Madam Mayor added, “Time Banking is very welcoming and I am so pleased to see them being opened across the borough. This is the second such event I have attended recently; and I am just so pleased to see so many people signing up for it. There are people out there who just want to go and do good deeds for others.”

John Ennis, Southcote Councillor endorsed the project: “The Time Bank being set up in Southcote is very welcome as it brings together people in the community by gaining benefits from others and by helping each other, caring and sharing.” Skill Swap Members can earn credits through exchanges such as gardening, car washing, cooking a meal, shopping, and other neighbourly tasks or even just by having a coffee with someone.

One local skill swapper said “The reason why I wanted to join is I live on my own, and that with my disabilities and my sight, I find that I now can’t do the things I need to do, like put up a shelf, or put a hook on my bedroom wall. So if someone can do that, I can do things for them. I make cards, make jewellery or I could teach children to do things. You could also go and talk with someone if they are lonely, so make friends as well”.

Sally has just joined the scheme, and would encourage everyone to join “it’s such a brilliant idea. I registered today – it’s all free. I would swap my DIY for anything! More people the join the better.”

For more information about the coming week contact: Anne Lancaster on 07824 598 475, connect via Twitter: or like their page on Facebook at: Alternatively, for more information visit their website

Main photo: Madam Mayor of Reading (l) pictured with children from Southcote Primary School and Co-Head Mrs Sue N’Jai (r) and Southcote Time Bank Co-Ordinator Anne Lancaster (far right).

Pictures: Lynda Bowyer