Barter Market sees fun exchange of services for anything but cash at Singapore Coffee Festival

The crowd at the Singapore Coffee Festival on Aug 5, 2017.
The crowd at the Singapore Coffee Festival on Aug 5, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

It looked like a typical indie street market - an eclectic array of handwritten postcards, cartoon prints and various knick-knacks laid out on tables as stallholders cajoled passersby to take a look.

The only difference - price tags and posters with dollar signs were notably absent. In their place, wooden stands that stated various commodities that could be offered in exchanged for a service or a product, such as coffee, handwritten notes and funny jokes.

Welcome to Barter Market, where goods and services are exchanged for anything but cash.

From noon to 3.30pm, 24 vendors bartered with Singapore Coffee Festival visitors at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Freelance artist and undergraduate Tristan Lim, 23, offered live portrait drawings of festival goers in exchange for them doing a drawing of himself. He said: "The stakes here aren't that high and it's a lot less stressful compared to a traditional market. With such a casual setting, it really encourages an exchange of ideas."

Another vendor, full-time national serviceman Benjamin Pek, 18, who goes by the moniker Kedtwo, said: "The entire experience is really quite fun. We get to interact with others, and in the process of bartering, understand them better and get to know what kind of items they are looking for. There really is a focus on social interaction and forging meaningful relationships." He was giving out handwritten calligraphy quotes in exchange for snacks and coffee beans.


Festivalgoer Ms Elizabeth Lee, 25, said: "The experience was honestly quite unexpected. It was really quite a refreshing change and is unlike anything that I've done before. I do hope to see more of such events in the future."

Artist Samantha Lo, 31, whose non-profit social enterprise Indigoism organises Barter Market, says the turnout was better than expected. The first Barter Market was launched in December 2015 and this is its largest one to date.

There will be a second Barter Market taking place at the festival today, from 4.30 to 6.30pm.