Connecting neighbours, one hobby at a time

By Gina Olivieri

What do meditation, gardening, picking up rubbish, craft, reducing food waste, dancing, reading, writing, and happiness all have in common?

No idea?

They are all hobbies you can pursue within walking distance and at no cost in my neighbourhood!

No, I don’t live in a hip inner-city cultural hub, but rather in a riverside suburb 12km from Hobart’s CBD. And the reason all these activities are available close by may surprise you…

Back in February, I had an idea – what if people in my neighbourhood shared their hobbies with one another, and created their own, local versions of clubs they’d like to join? I wonder how many people would like to learn something new and meet new people, but lack the money, or the time to travel into town to do it?

And so, Hobby Exchange was born. I made a flyer, dropped it into all the letterboxes in my neighbourhood, and started talking to people about it. I roped some friends into helping me, we booked the local sailing club, and ran the event one rainy Sunday afternoon.

At the event, we introduced ourselves and shared some of the things we like to do, and the things we would like to do in future. I encouraged people to treat the term “hobby” very loosely – it could really be anything they wanted to do with others, whether that was playing chess, tending a garden, or sharing advice on raising small children.

Eighteen people attended, and 10 groups were created. I am pleased to report that neighbours are now meditating together, talking about ways to be happier, sharing their gardening goals, sharing compost buckets, hosting book club, and have hauled six bags of rubbish from the beach.

Last night, 31 neighbours crammed into the living room of a neighbour’s home to listen to Erica play the piano, to hear John talk about his research into dreams, and to share uplifting news (and great food!) at “Refresh”, a monthly event started over ten years ago but re-formed from Hobby Exchange.

Knowing my neighbours – not just their names but their passions, struggles and wisdom – makes my neighbourhood feel like a warm, safe and enriching place to live.

Is there a hobby you would like to pursue locally? Could a Hobby Exchange help you do that?

Why not give it a try?

Gina is part of the organising team for her neighbourhood’s Neighbour Day event, and was the Tell Us Your Story winner for Tasmania.