By Nicole Thompson

Free stuff is a staple of student life, but it can also spread a greater message.

The Really, Really Free Night Market at Dovercourt Park last Saturday showcased free exchanges by inviting attendees to donate and take items without paying. The event was part of a worldwide movement inspired by the anarchist idea of a gift-based economy.

The organizers scheduled the market during Nuit Blanche in order to frame the act of giving as a sort of performance, head organizer Erika Hennebury said.

“Take what you need and give what you can,” the Craigslist ad for the market said. The ad said that all items had to be small enough to be “walkable or bikeable” because there was no car-access to the park. Somebody took that literally, and brought a bike to give away. Others brought books, clothes, and toys to donate to the market.

Attendees gathered around a campfire at the free market, singing songs and staying warm. Children roasted marshmallows over the fire.

“It feels like a kind of ritualistic getting ready for hibernation,” Hennebury said. “I mean, the fall colours here are so beautiful.”

Susan Smith and her daughter Katherine Smith brought books (including a Buffy the Vampire Slayer novelization), clothes and a lone VHS to the market. The Smiths live in the neighbourhood, and Katherine saw a sign advertising the event on her walk home from school.

“I got a stuffed kiwi… the bird, with the really long beak. Not the fruit,” Katherine said. She promptly sent it home with her dad, so nobody else could take it.

The star of the night was pretty clearly the Easy Bake Oven, Katherine said. “I should have grabbed it. I’m pretty sure the same girl who took my Buffy book got it, though.”

All of the leftover donations will be given to local charities. “Everything is totally going back into the community,” Hennebury said. The items will predominantly go to Sistering, a neighbourhood organization that supports low income women.

Nicole was the managing editor for print. She graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015, with a focus on newspaper reporting and investigative techniques, and a specialization in philosophy.