Learning from Wild Rumpus

This community-based social enterprise has something to teach christians.

Wild Rumpus

There are many Wild Rumpus organisations in the world, but this post is about Wild Rumpus in Wollongong, Australia.

Wild Rumpus, Wollongong

Wollongong, just south of Sydney in NSW, Australia, used to be an industrial city with a large steelworks, a major port (especially for coal), copper smelting and other industry. As industry closes down, cleans up or moves out, Wollongong is reinventing itself. The beautiful coastal suburbs, nestling between the escarpment and the ocean, are now attractive for Sydney commuters. But social change isn’t always easy, and Wollongong has an unemployment rate almost double the national average.

Caitlin and Lizzie were friends in Wollongong who had many creative and talented friends, but were concerned that they couldn’t find sufficient work in Wollongong and might have to leave for a bigger city. They also wanted to do community building.

So several years ago they began Wild Rumpus, a creative ‘skillshare’ social enterprise with the motto Creativity. Sustainability. D.I.Y that aims to build a resourceful, creative and sustainable community:

“it’s all about inspiring people to play purposefully. To learn new skills so that we can fix, make and create things ourselves, and consume less.”

The idea took off, and now Wild Rumpus runs a wide range of activities:

Creative classes

There is a trend, at least in affluent Australia, for people to want to move beyond the efficient provision of food (such as battery hens) or mass-produced goods. Farmers’ markets are becoming an important way for farmers to supply directly to discerning consumers who are willing to pay a little more to eat fresh, often organic, food, and pay the farmer or cooking artisan directly rather than half the price going to a middleman (excuse the sexist expression, but I don’t know an alternative).

Many people are also more interested in purchasing individual clothing, gifts, furniture, artworks, jewellery, etc, from artists and artisans.

There is also a grass roots move (small, but growing) to live more sustainably, so people want to learn ways to recycle, reduce petrol, energy and water use, and care for the world around them, in their homes, gardens and streets.

Hand in hand with these trends has been the move to learn new skills, to bake our own bread, make our own candles or learn a new musical instrument. And so Wild Rumpus finds talented and interesting people who have a skill to share and builds a small class around it.

Upcoming classes include: leatherwork, beach fishing, mandala drawing, printing birds, watercolour faces and wholefood pantry staples. Other classes have included beekeeping, arm knitting, vertical pallet gardening, soap making, pom pom making, Burmese cooking, swing dancing or pushbike maintenance.

In all these, the emphasis is on inexpensive opportunities for those who want to try out learning something new, and opportunities for those with skills to develop those skill through teaching.

Makers Markets

Wild Rumpus also provides opportunities for creatives to market their wares at a vibrant twice-yearly Makers Market. Listen to live music, buy from several food stalls, attend a creative class or browse the 40 plus artisan stalls. Or just enjoy the vibe, as I do.

Community development and social change

There is a deeper aspect of making positive change in their local community, by:

  • running “a 4-month Social Change 101 Program in Wollongong to support local changemakers to have a lasting and positive impact on their community. During the Program in 2015, local changemakers have learned from the industry’s leading business and social enterprise experts to gain the skills, knowledge and networks to bring their idea to life”, and
  • “revitalising places and spaces through innovative, fun community events”.

Other activities

Wild Rumpus also runs private classes, corporate team building and parties, but I don’t know anything more about these.

Community development and Jesus

Jesus said his followers are salt and light in the world where we live (Matthew 5:13-16). I can’t help feeling that Wild Rumpus is doing that in their community, though I don’t suppose they are doing it to serve Jesus.

But Jesus made it clear what this salt and light might look like.

  • In Luke 4:18 he said his kingdom mission included good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.
  • In Matthew 25:31-46 he said it should include feeding the hungry and thirsty, welcoming the stranger, providing clothes for the poor, and visiting the sick and imprisoned.
  • He said he wanted us to have “life to the full” (John 10:9).
  • In Matthew 5:16 he said that people would see our good actions and give praise to God.

Jesus also had compassion on the crowds because he saw them as harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

What might salt and light look like today?

We don’t have quite so much poverty and oppression in affluent 21st century countries – though we do have some, and we should be seeking to help where we see it. But we definitely do have people who feel harassed and helpless – oppressed and imprisoned by bad or broken relationships, suffering from mental or physical illness, lacking much good news in their lives, and definitely not living lives to the full.

Salt and light might look like a community of Jesus-followers living unselfishly, offering friendship and practical support where it is wanted, showing a glimpse of the kingdom or rule of God on earth, and helping others find meaningful work, use their God-given gifts, realise their potential and see the kingdom of God bring new colour to their lives.

Community gardens, men’s sheds, classes to learn new skills, community clean-ups, support groups for those doing it tough, markets, festivals, simple friendship are all ways that we might offer salt and light to our communities.

Be like Wild Rumpus?

I met Lizzie and Caitlin briefly recently, and asked how they got started, but there were no real secrets, just a wish to enrich their community, some creative ideas and a willingness to work hard and even sacrifice.

Shouldn’t the church have a little Wild Rumpus in us? Isn’t God the most creative “person” around?

What could you do to enrich your community?

What could I do?

Read a few other posts like this

Picture: Wild Rumpus website

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