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Time banking

  • Date: 14 August 2012
  • Artform: All
  • Area: London
A man sits paintaing while another man looks on, standing The Timber Wharf time bank, Matt McStravick

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This project set out to test whether 'exchange' can be a compelling driver for local people to access the arts. The idea was that, using the notion of a 'bank', people would contribute their skills in exchange for products and services from arts organisations.

Due to a delayed start, the full extent of the project's legacy will not be known for some time however, it has already resulted in successful exchanges of individuals' skills and time for arts products and services supplied by local arts organisations.

During a six-month period to July 2011 arts organisations; Arcola Theatre, Hoxton Hall, Shoreditch Festival and Rich Mix Arts Centre, together with 64 individuals, joined the bank and 26 hours of volunteering were carried out at arts organisations in Hackney, London.

One assumption about the responses of local people to arts offers is proving wide of the mark in that the theatre ticket offer has not proved as popular as had been expected. This challenge has been overcome in two ways; by concentrating on more informal offers such as arts workshops and classes and by initiating exchanges with other time banks in Hackney, Islington and Camden.

This project links participating arts companies to a much more expansive set of cross-sector networks including social housing, youth, community and voluntary sector organisations.


Individual participants who exchanged their skills for arts products and services through the Time Bank were positive about both the banking system and their arts experiences.

Members have graduated from informal arts activity to theatre work and this edging-in to more formal arts experiences is guiding future project development.

Timber Wharf Time Bank is now set to be the hub of non-monetary exchange within the borough and has been endorsed by the borough council in this role.

Key learning

  • use traditional hard copy promotional and sign-up material at community events (including market stalls) in conjunction with a well focused web presence. This is essential in order to maximise recruitment of local people from the Family and community focused and Dinner and a show segments
  • if a relationship is to be built, an individual's first encounter with an arts organisation has to be comfortable and reassuring. Seek to create a journey from the informal to the formal maintaining a relationship which is always about choice and exchange
  • in order to build commitment from organisations to the bank make the bank easy to access and efficient to use particularly through a user-friendly website that illustrates the experiences of both individuals and organisations through filmed case studies
  • recruit organisations from as many sectors as possible. This broadens the bank's appeal to individuals and also makes possible organisation-to-organisation exchange as an additional banking service