Sadly Pippa, one of our fantastic Directors, is heading back to Australia so we are taking this opportunity to recruit for a couple more members of our Director’s team.
If you would like the opportunity to contribute to the Remakery’s strategic direction and have at least one half day per week to give, please have a read of the job description.
We are specifically looking for people with experience in communications, PR, events planning, IT systems and training and youth programmes.
The deadline for applications is Friday 31st May. Following this we hope to appoint candidates the following week and hope they will get stuck in straight away!
To express your interest please contact Rebekah on email@example.com, applications will be by CV and covering letter.
Now that we’re well underway with renovating the fabric of our site, our attention is now turning to how it’ll look inside….
In true Remakery fashion we will be holding three big co-design days to help us design our space.
These events will be facilitated in co-ordination with Architecture for Humanity who helped us co-design the layout.
Come along on Sunday 19 May, 2 June and 16 June from 11-4pm to help design the interior of the Remakery space.
Who is this for?
Anyone is welcome! We need people with a design eye, those that know about workshop layout and people who are planning to use the space, all to help bring together a great look and feel to the Remakery that is also practical.
You don’t need to attend all three days, but it would be great if you could.
Make what you design
Following the Co-design days we’ll be holding regular making sessions over the summer where you can come and make furniture, workbenches and bring to life your designs.
We are hugely grateful that the Tudor Trust has given us a grant of £60,000 towards the renovation of the Remakery site.
Our initial £100,000 funding from Lambeth Council- which we got via a public vote- was only part of the amount needed for our site renovation. Through a volunteer-led build, and re-using materials, we’ve managed to keep costs low, but still there are some things you just have to pay for….
Thanks to the Tudor Trust our shortfall now is pretty much covered. Big sigh of relief all round!
Attention local residents, makers, artists, businesses interested in using the Remakery! Tell us what you need from us…
This online survey will be open until 21st April 2013.
From the answers we receive we will:
finalise our membership prices
finalise course costs
decide what courses we will offer
decide how the space will be divided down (what space will be allocated to carpentry, metalwork, sewing etc)
decide what tools we will equip the site with
We need to hear from all potential users of the space. Entering the survey doesn’t commit you to anything.
Tell us what you need!
All those who complete it will:
be entered into a prize draw to win a month’s free membership of the Remakery
be invited to our “give and make’ day in May. A big scraphead type challenge and a way to dispose of extra materials we’ve gathered during the build.
Click here for the survey
We are looking for a number of people to join our growing team:
A budding architect or designer to design and make our onsite signage;
A graphic designer to support us with regular design work and help finalise our ‘look’;
A volunteer organiser to help look after our growing band of volunteers (see job spec below);
Skilled volunteers to join our plumbing and electric working parties.
If any of these sound interesting please get in touch with Kathe Jacob either by email or on 0779 668 5241.
Free screening of French comedy Micmacs
Thursday 21st March, 6.45pm
Instead of our usual site social, come along on Thursday 21st to watch French comedy Micmacs, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, of Amelie fame.
This event is part of the first ever Camberwell Free Film Festival which takes place from 14-24th March 2013.
This will be the second ever event hosted at the Remakery site, following the great Loughbourough Junction Action Group consultation day last month, and it’s sure to be a great one! Come early to also get a tour of the Remakery site and hear about our plans.
We hope to be able to offer some free food to cinema goers, at least to those that arrive early enough, salvaged from food that would otherwise have been wasted.
MicMacs is a great fit for the Remakery as key to the story is what you can do with waste materials.
It tells the story of avid movie-watcher and video store clerk Bazil, who has had his life all but ruined by weapons of war. Losing his job and his home, Bazil wanders the streets until he meets a band of eccentric junkyard dealers.
When chance reveals to Bazil the two weapons manufacturers responsible for building the instruments of his destruction, he constructs a complex scheme for revenge that his newfound family is all too happy to help set in motion. Dir Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France, Cert 12A, 105 mins.
Screening at the Remakery
This is a free event. There is no advance booking.
The Remakery is still ‘in construction’ so don’t expect plush theatre seats or luxurious surroundings. Rather you will be on seats rescued from being wasted in the local area, and watching on a screen from salvaged plywood painted white. This is cinema-remade!
Come along early to take a tour round the Remakery site and hear about what we will have on offer when open.
We hope to be able to offer some free food to cinema goers, at least to those that arrive early enough, salvaged from food that would otherwise have been wasted.
Sign up to our facebook event page if you are planning on coming, so we know how many seats to set up and food to prepare!
We’re looking forward to the shiny new kitchen that contractors Keepmoat are currently designing for us and will soon be installing at the Remakery! This will create training opportunities for volunteers and costs us nothing, as it’s part of Keepmoat’s drive for social responsibility and investing in the communities where they work. They are delivering lots of work on local estates over the next few years as one of the main contractors for the Lambeth Housing Standard programme of improvements to housing stock.
In the mean time, Keepmoat have kindly been keeping us stocked up with safety supplies for our workers and volunteers. Boxes of new gloves, goggles, and ear protection were delivered by their Community Investment Manager, Neal Allison, who’s been a staunch supporter since first visiting the Remakery in November last year.
It’s also a good moment to say thanks for the large sheets of perspex they donated back in the autumn - previously covers for outdoor artwork, these have done invaluable service over the winter at the Remakery, as a temporary screen covering the gates and grilles at the Lilford Road end, making a big difference to the temperature on site by blocking out draughts.
Thanks Keepmoat for all your support and for recognising and adding to the value that grassroots initiatives like the Remakery can bring to communities. Working in partnership is helping us make it happen.
Andy Lockwood and Winford Dalrymple from the Remakery receive the delivery from Neal Allison of Keepmoat
The first few weeks of 2013 were chocked full of activity on the Remakery site: We have gone from a gloomy grey suite of garages to ones that are gleaming white; walls have started going up, and the bones of a kitchen, bathroom and office are starting to appear; doors are being attached in useful places and we’ve acquired equipment by the bucket load. But most of all we’ve all learned loads of new skills and have had a great time doing it.
There is still a lot to be done in order to sign off the build and and start fitting out. If you’re interested in learning a building skill, or have one to pass on, you’ll always find a warm welcome on site from Jake and Winford, our tireless site managers. Contact us if you’d like to find out more.
Painting, painting and more painting
Who would have thought a lick of paint would make such a difference? And be so fun to apply?!
**Thanks to our fantastic paintbrush-, polyfiller- and sandpaper-wielding volunteers, mostly fuelled by cheesy rock and pizza, we now have almost finished painting the workshops. Going from grimy sooty, graffiti-ed grey to a brilliant shade of white. The whole space seems twice as big now.
Thanks to a fantastic donation from Community Repaint we are now able to continue our painting marathon and now will move onto the other zones (the storage and office/reception areas).
We have walls (almost)
The fun bit has started. Now that walls are going up the site is starting to take shape and we can get a glimpse of what the final place will look like. Thanks to some fantastic volunteer local carpenters- Pere and Colin- wall-building is steaming ahead. We have been able to re-use a lot of donated wood, as well as the old door frames from the garages for the stud-work.
The next job is insulation. We’ve been on the look-out for insulation offcuts, or pieces we can re-use, for a while now and have already had some good donations (thanks to Kingspan and many freecyclers!). At the same time we have been developing our own carpet-tile insulation prototype, thanks to a donation of tiles by Interface Flor, the first Remakery product development. Any suggestions of sources for more insulation- please let us know!
Our carpentry team have also been busy round the site creating doors to satisfy the fire and electrical safety departments. Thanks so much for all your help guys!
Boots, hats….more boots…. and a life jacket?!
With the closing of much of the local probation service’s training programmes Andy and Winford (two of the Remakery site managers) have managed to rescue bags and bags of steel-capped boots and hard hats. Also tables, cupboards and various other paraphernalia. We weren’t as lucky getting hold of their workshop equipment, which was ‘removed for disposal’ by a local contractor. Hugely disappointing for us as we could have kept the tools for use by the community.
One of the strangest items we picked up from the Probation Service’s workshops was a life-jacket. Presumably there in case the Thames flooded!?
Volunteers by the dozen
We’ve had loads of people down to help: at site socials on Thursdays, and during the day. Volunteers have been coming from a variety of different backgrounds- we have those that would like to develop their skills, or get more experience on site, such as students from Camberwell Technical College. We also have volunteers that are inbetween jobs, or getting back into work, or those that just like somewhere to engage with people. The Community Payback crew help us three times a week. And from next week we’ll have volunteers down from the local job centre.
Our next tranche of activity will be electrics and plumbing. So we are on the look out for volunteers who would like to develop or improve their skills in those areas under skilled supervision.
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes the Remakery directors are working away developing the Remakery. This includes fundraising; developing a new website; improving our social media; exploring partners to work with on our social programmes and finalising the membership offer among many, many other things!
The rest of the year is going to continue to be a roller-coaster of activity as we build up to launch.
I decided to take full advantage of the amazing offer of a grant to travel to San Francisco (see previous post, and thanks again to the Surdna Foundation) by booking an extra 10 days after the conference to travel around the Bay area visiting interesting and inspiring projects that the Remakery could learn from. (The grant covered the flights and first few days’ accommodation, I topped up the rest – and it wasn’t all work, I also relaxed in some beautiful hot springs overlooking the Pacific… but that’s another story!)
Co-working and makerspaces are mushrooming in the Bay area – a bit of advance research found more than enough destinations to fill the time, and when I was there I kept finding more – so this is by no means a comprehensive survey, but the best I could do while also learning my way around!
At the DLYGAD conference I met Randy Sarafan, Tech Editor from Instructables (and author of the techie upcycling book 62 Projects To Make With A Dead Computer), who kindly invited me for a tour of their office – a bit of a makerspace in itself, where Instructables staff invent and test new ideas and sets of instructions to post on their website. The space includes a well-equipped tool room, sewing room, kitchen (where an ice cream cake had recently been cooked up – mmm!) and a cupboard of treasures waiting to be mailed out to participants in their sponsorship programme – 3D printers, CNC machines, sewing machines, electronics kits and the like. I was excited to learn that if the Remakery crew can put together 10 sets of instructions into a guide for Instructables, we too could earn ourselves one of these fabulous bits of kit! Watch this space…
Randy at his workbench in the Instructables office
Also sharing the Instructables sofa was Bilal Ghalib from GEMSI (the Global Entrepreneurship and MakerSpace Initiative), who boggled my mind with his sheer energy, enthusiasm and the audacity of his plans to plant the seeds of makerspaces across the world, especially the Middle East and North Africa, “to foster a culture of innovation, creativity, problem solving, sharing and making”. He’d just returned from a trip to Beirut and Baghdad (the latter an especially powerful experience since his family comes from Iraq, so he was meeting long-lost relatives as well as bringing together a group to form the beginnings of a Baghdad hackerspace). More about his work in this recent Wired article
Bilal (centre) at GEMSI’s 3D printing workshop in Baghdad with TEDxBaghdad
Nearby in central San Francisco I visited a branch of TechShop, one of the first of a growing chain across the US. TechShop is a membership-based shared workshop, similar to a hackerspace but operated on a commercial basis (in stark contrast to the anarchist ethos of Noisebridge, see below). Described as “Part fabrication and prototyping studio, part hackerspace, part learning center”, TechShop offers an impressive range of tools and classes, and a small but well-stocked materials supplies store. It was quiet the day I went (post-Thanksgiving), but the posters and sample products on display suggested quite a lively community of makers creating everything from guitars to bamboo bicycles to Red Bull racing vehicles and 3D printed masks.
I managed to catch Noisebridge (the SF equivalent of the London Hackspace) on one of its busiest nights, the monthly 5 Minutes of Fame, when a crowd of perhaps 300 people were crammed into every corner of the space to watch a series of intriguing 5-minute talks that ranged from a 9-year-old’s interpretation of Egyptian mythology, to various Noisebridge members explaining their work, including the WikiSeat “platform for open source furniture design”, Puzzlebox software for brain-controlled technologies (using headsets that read brainwaves to control model vehicles and robots), and “Terrible things to do with Piezoelectric Sensors”. The most rousing speech was from Alex Peake of Primer Labs, whose passion for hackerspaces echoed (and if anything, expanded on) Bilal’s “irrational optimism”, with a vision of hackerspaces as catalyst for a renaissance of global culture and education: he stirringly invoked the planet’s “2 Billion Under 20” (as opposed to the elite “20 under 20” competition for young entrepreneurs), asking “What would the world be like if 100% of humans were literate coders, makers, artists, scientists, thinkers and doers?”, noting the recent exponential growth in hackerspaces (from around 50 worldwide in 2008 to 1000%2B now) and proclaiming that “The future of hackerspaces = the future of humanity”!
Snaps from my evening at Noisebridge
Noisebridge wore its anarchist heart on its sleeve, with posters proclaiming the principle of “Do-ocracy” (if you want something done, do it) and the space’s one and only rule (“Be excellent to each other”), and everyone called upon at one point to grab an instrument and sing along with the “Hackernationale”. Its Aladdin’s cave of geeky tools was hidden away up a minimally labelled dark staircase in the Mission district, a bit like Dalston before it got trendy.
I stopped for while outside the BART (tube) station to listen to some passionate young spoken-word poets who apparently hosted an open mic in the square there every Thursday. A black guy in his 60s who’d performed earlier in the evening began chatting to me and spoke of his fears of growing racism nurtured by economic hardship, and the lack of educational or employment opportunity for young people like the crowd gathered with their beers and poetry (who were ethnically diverse and probably a mixture of both students / graduates and the less educationally privileged). Much of the spoken word reflected this narrative of constricted options, of struggles to survive and make meaning. I thought he might be exaggerating the racism, but on the way home I heard the n-word used twice. I felt like the hackerspace movement had a lot of growing to do (in the sense of growing up, not just exponential growth) if it is to develop from being a niche for geeks to fulfilling the vision articulated by Alex and Bilal, of providing inclusive learning opportunities for rising generations (both here and in places like Iraq) who bear the brunt of the precariousness and slow collapse of existing economic and educational systems.
Across the Bay in Oakland, I found further examples of creative co-working, each with its own angle. Sudo Room is a hackerspace at a much earlier stage of development – recently moved into one room in an under-used office block in downtown Oakland, equipped with a small 3D printer, a drill, and not much else but an enthusiastic bunch of founder-members, primarily techies with an activist strand also evident. Their debate about how to upgrade the door access system – “hack” it themselves with a second-hand RFID system, or pay the landlord’s professional contractors – was comfortingly reminiscent of the Remakery’s ongoing internal discussions about the benefits of a DIY “community self-build” approach to construction versus, or combined with, skilled contractors. (Passion lies with the former, but practicality and speed sometimes call for the latter.)
Sudo Room as it stands, and some “5 year visions” for its future
Next up was the Crucible – in comparison with the spaces above, a staggeringly large (50,000 sq ft, almost ten times the size of Noisebridge) post-industrial building in Oakland that houses a bewildering range of facilities for working with metal (TIG, MIG, Arc and Oxyacetylene welding, blacksmithing, jewellery making); glass (blowing, casting, fusing and slumping, cold working and flameworking); ceramics, woodwork, bicycles, kinetics and electronics, neon, and even a fire performance room. Overall it functions more like a kind of open-plan college than a hackerspace – most of its income comes from classes rather than membership fees – but there is a contingent of open-access members through the CREATE program (CRucible Extended Access to Tools and Equipment), as well as an area of private rental studios on-site, whose occupants have access to the tools too. The number of members was only 20, compared to hundreds of people doing classes – it seemed the demand on the space for education limited the appeal of membership, since members couldn’t be sure they’d be able to use tools when they needed them if a class was going on.
These pictures give a partial indication of the scale and diversity of what’s on offer at the Crucible
While the Crucible, with its massive scale and fire fixation, harked back to an industrial era, the next venue – the Place for Sustainable Living (PLACE stood for People Linking Art, Community and Ecology) – evoked a neo-agrarian future, with courses including “handcrafting skills (brewing, clothing and textiles, fermentation), permaculture, appropriate technology, homesteading, theater and arts, urban gardening, homemade health care, and herbalism”. From the outside its high-fenced corner plot in a residential neighbourhood was unprepossessing, but there was a surprising amount going on inside – a flourishing permaculture garden taken over from a neighbouring church who couldn’t manage it, several intriguing hydroponic contraptions and greywater re-use systems, a busy bike workshop (Spokeland), a main building that could open up like a stage for events, a cob (earth) oven for making pizza, and of course – yet another shared workshop space (which they referred to as a Fab Lab, though the focus was on mechanical rather than digital tools). The smallest such space I’d seen (a shed equivalent to about 3 garages in size) with a community of users that consisted of 2 regular users and a handful of drop-in members (with no formal membership fees, but an ad hoc pay-as-you-go mode) yet it had a high density of innovation – one user was building solar-powered “artisan electric vehicles” - bikes, rickshaws and trailers (Tyson Webster of Vessel Bikes), another specialised in greywater treatment systems (Nik Bertulis of DIG Cooperative). A few blocks away were friends at All Power Labs, creators of “tools for power hacking”, including the Gasifier Experimenter’s Kit. The PLACE site was shared by a community of people who spent summers touring festivals and colleges with their “sustainable living roadshow” but had decided to settle and create a home for the alternative ways of living they promote. It was early days, but there seemed to be lots of potential.
Views of the PLACE
Rock Paper Scissors, sadly, was closed when I passed by, but looked intriguing. This “community arts space” is volunteer-run, with a membership system that doesn’t involve payment but a form of participation they describe as an “intense commitment”. Its facilities include a shop selling members’ work (clothing, crafts, zines and music), gallery space, free and low-cost classes, an Arts Lab with sewing and screenprinting equipment, youth programmes, and a Zine Library.
Rock Paper Scissors
Also worth a mention are co-working spaces that don’t involve any tools (except the ubiquitous laptop). Tim Nichols, who I worked with on the launch of the Brixton Pound in 2009, relocated to set up the Hub Bay Area (on two sites, in Berkeley and San Francisco). I met up with him at the Hub SF, an impressively large space that formerly belonged to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. It was packed for a networking event after the Greenbuild conference, bringing together people from all sectors of B-Corps (social enterprises, the US equivalent of CICs). I sampled fairtrade coffees and local beers, and heard about biomimicry meet-ups, a rumoured San Francisco city-wide currency, and the existing neighbourhood-level currency Bernal Bucks, which has its own debit card. Around the corner I also spotted a branch of WeWork, another co-working space that seems more commercial than the Hub (less focus on “changing the world”) but takes a similar approach to “building great spaces and connecting interesting people”.
Hub events and office use, and WeWork’s window graphics
I also kept an eye out for how re-use and recycling are dealt with. The municipal recycling systems operated by Recology seemed pretty efficient – 78% of San Francisco’s waste gets recycled, with more separation of materials into different bins than we see here, and they’re aiming for zero waste by 2020. There’s even an artist in residence programme at the dump, to demonstrate some of the more imaginative uses so-called waste can be put to. Since 1999 residents have been offered financial incentives for reducing their trash volume, leading to a 90% increase in diversion to recycling and composting.
I also spotted a Community Recyclers depot where people could drop off specific types of recyclable waste in exchange for money (“buyback”) – a facility utilised by some of the city’s (noticeably large) homeless population. On several occasions I saw people wheeling trolleys around laden with bags full of bottles and cans on their way to the depot. The rules on the sign outside included “Please recycle sober; No profanity; No soliciting other customers”.
Another well-established re-use route is through Goodwill, a national chain (or rather a confederation of local chapters) of charity shops whose profits go to support training and employability programmes.
Closer to us in size was Creative Reuse, a scrap store primarily supplying schoolteachers, but also open to artists and makers, and popular with the general public. Every square foot of the store was crammed with stuff of all kinds – from packaging to postcards, electrical parts to pottery kilns, DVDs to plastic lobsters. They’ve found effective ways to maximise the use of limited space - tightly packed shelves, stacking containers, and wheeled trolleys (helping staff quickly move things around) were much in evidence. A separate warehouse is used for their humanitarian re-use operations (supplying food, shelter and clothing in response to emergencies and poverty). In their 30 year existence they have obviously learned a lot about how to channel materials to new uses, and still run up against problems - such as boxes full of ring-binders that won’t sell even when reduced to 5 cents. Yet overall, the business seemed to be on a good footing - having recovered from a rocky patch a few years back, when an injection of funding and a relocation rescued it, it’s now financially self-sustaining with a dozen staff. (Note: Creative Reuse is in Oakland, but San Francisco has its equivalent in SCRAP).
Images from Creative Reuse - thanks to Pete who showed me around!
On a larger scale, Urban Ore in Berkeley was a huge warehouse and salvage yard filled with every imaginable type and size of windows and doors, baths and sinks, pieces of wood, stone and metal, containers, furniture and homewares, music and books, tools and fixings, in fact anything that can be salvaged. They employ 3 staff at the nearest landfill site, pulling out re-usable items; in all there are 40 staff, and it turns out to be run as a for-profit business; staff are paid a sales commission on top of their hourly wage, although Urban Ore is about as far from a shiny corporate store as you can get. It’s a company on a mission “to end the age of waste”, with the website proudly proclaiming that “On an average day, Urban Ore prevents nearly 20 tons of waste from entering local landfills”. (A similar organisation I missed visiting was Building REsources in San Francisco, which sells re-used building and landscaping materials and also has its own tumbled glass manufacturing facility for on-site recycling of broken glass).
Urban Ore’s warehouse, and just a few of the thousands of re-used products for sale inside and outside!
Though not directly Remakery-related, food – and its socio-political context – was another topic that kept coming up. In a Berkeley theatre window I spotted the “Faces of Hunger” exhibition – a series of photographs that jarred with America’s image of consumer bounty, picturing people of all ages and races from across Alameda county queueing at (and volunteering in) food banks and distribution points. The YMCA around the corner displayed a food bank donation barrel in the window. I narrowly missed a community forum event at the Place on the topic of “Land, Food %2B Power”, featuring Melvin Dixon from the Black Panthers and co-hosted by Occupy the Farm. Outside Mandela Foods Cooperative in West Oakland – an oasis of healthy produce in a notorious “food desert”, a predominantly black area neglected by mainstream food stores – a table was set up offering passers-by advice on what foods to eat for different parts of the body and health conditions.
Food issues and community responses
I dropped in on the “Peace Blowout”, an evening at the People’s Grocery (a community organisation focused on food education, food justice activism and supporting access to healthy, organic and locally grown food in West Oakland) where residents were invited to “blow out the obstacles that prevent our communities from thriving and unifying!” – with a shared feast, poetry, ceremony, and a brainstorm focused on food challenges and the social justice issues surrounding them.
Peace Blowout participants, and drawings from the brainstorm
West Oakland was somewhat reminiscent of Brixton, not only in the presence of a strong black community (I was proudly told that all the houses within several blocks of where I was staying had been built by black people), but also in the palpable presence of a self-reliant, creative spirit actively contesting the sometimes difficult circumstances. Clearly the area had its issues – a fellow passenger on the train issued warnings about getting off there and asked me to call him when I’d safely arrived; a church displayed a graveyard full of wooden crosses representing the homicides in Oakland that year; empty, run-down post-industrial buildings were common – yet a sense of local pride and will to change things for the better showed up in a variety of ways, not least some of those mentioned above. A roadside bench challenged “Do something positive for Oakland or please leave!”, while “Love Oakland” posters from the Oakland Grown loyalty card (their alternative to the Brixton Pound) and the Downtown Holiday Shopping Guide encouraged shoppers to support local independent businesses. As we are also finding here though, there seems to be an ambiguous relationship between genuine local-rooted community development, and the dynamics of “gentrification”.
Surreally, a message from “Oakland’s Guardian Angel” appeared in a downtown window, prophesying that “the future of Oakland is far beyond human imagination…” (it turned out to be a quote from a utopian early 20th-century book, Who Made Oakland?)
Oakland community spirit
More evidence of social innovation could be spotted everywhere, from the visibility of Credit Unions (generally bigger and more commonly available than here) to posters advertising a Dump the Pump phone app (encouraging drivers to quit their vehicles in favour of the BART), a Berkeley Lab event on Solar Fridges and Personal Power Grids designed for use in the developing world, and a series of Health Through Art posters that refreshingly replaced advertising with exhortations to “Slow down. Feel your heart. Breathe.” Orange posters by Spotmojo were placed in the windows of empty commercial premises, inviting passers-by to imagine “What do you want here?” If even a few of them get filled with creative projects building on the examples of those I’d visited, the future of the area really might be beyond (current) human imagination…
Posters and signs indicating some of the social change initiatives in the area
We’re delighted to announce that the Remakery – as presented by Alasdair Dixon of Architecture for Humanity (AfH) London – was awarded the Design Open Mic prize yesterday at AfH’s global conference, Design Like You Give A Damn.
Alasdair’s presentation at DLYGAD
I’m lucky enough to have been invited to San Francisco to take part in the conference – thanks to a grant offered by the Surdna Foundation to help AfH’s clients and community partners to attend the event. Following the recent final hand-over of architects’ drawings from our AfH team in London, this trip is a fantastic culmination to AfH’s 18-month involvement in the Remakery project. Their team of volunteer architects have shown amazing commitment, patience and thoroughness throughout the process of designing the Remakery as a space that will work for all its members, getting us over the big hurdle of planning permission, and preparing for the construction work that is now underway.
A big thank you to our project architect, Isabel Hankart, colleagues Taus Larsen and Alasdair Dixon, and all the other AfH team members who have contributed so much throughout the course of the project (names listed on Alasdair’s last slide – his presentation can be downloaded here: )
Thanks to the privilege of being here in person, I even got to give an acceptance speech – which came as a slight shock since the standard of the Open Mic was very high and we certainly hadn’t predicted a win. In fact when the prize was announced, I was out of earshot chatting to somebody about the Remakery, and only gradually realised that my name was being mentioned! Even when I got up there to give the speech I had to turn round and check that we had actually won… Scroll through to minute 52 of this video to see the prize announcement and my speech (which also gives a handy summary of the project history):
(Oddly enough, immediately afterwards, the guy I’d been chatting to had his name drawn out as the Raffle winner, being awarded a trip around the California vineyards! Our prize of AutoCAD software was less fun, though pretty useful for AfH London. Many thanks to Autodesk, who provided the conference venue as well as the prize.)
AfH’s own report on the Design Open Mic is here, along with the other winning presentations - an inspiring bunch, all on the theme of “innovative, community-centered design that is both inspiring and buildable”:
On Thursday 13th December, instead of our usual site social we will be holding a Christmas party for all Remakery friends. This will be a chance to thank all of those that have worked so hard on site, update supporters with what is going on and and introduce new people to the project.
In true Remakery style there will be some remaking activities going on.
Come along from 2pm to (re) make decorations for the party and try out some re-use based Christmas gift and decoration ideas.
Here’s a little bit of Remake Christmas inspiration:
From 7pm we will get out the decks, food and drink and celebrate a fantastic year of activity.
Some food and drink will be provided but please try to bring something to share. We look forward to catching up with all friends of the Remakery and those wishing to get involved in the future.
If you have something specific you’d like to offer for the party please contact Rebekah or Hannah.
Regular site socials
This Thursday (4th October) and the following one (11th October) we are holding the first Remakery Site Socials from 6-9pm. We hope this will become a regular event, bringing together members of the Remakery community to help on the construction site and meet each other for pizza and a few drinks.
Who is this for?
Everyone is welcome to come along, no construction experience necessary, just RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you are coming so we know how much pizza to order.
Between 6 - 8pm - Work will commence cleaning the site and getting on with key tasks for development. It will also be possible to find out about progress at the Remakery for those wishing to drop in and volunteer in the future.
Between 8 - 9pm - Socialising with pizza and drinks supplied!
What to wear?
Wear suitable clothing for helping out on a building site. Wear hard boots if you have them. Waterproof clothing (jackets and trousers or overalls) are useful for protection during the cleaning work.
Come along at 6.00pm to the Remakery construction site - Garage Block 1, Paulet Road estate, London SE59HZ. Enter via the back gate at the end of Penford Street (cul de sac opposite Minet Library).
The Remakery is now in the process of officially becoming a BenCom Co-operative! Exciting times…
As such we need to recruit the Directors (up to 12 posts) who will lead the Remakery, through the incredibly important development, construction and set-up phase and into being as it opens its doors in Spring 2013. The Directors will hold their posts until our first AGM in Spring/Summer 2013 when there will be an open vote for the following year’s Directors.
Due to the critical nature of the next few months, these are very important roles. And they will be more hands-on than Directors will be in the coming years, taking responsibility to ensure that everything happens that needs to happen so that the Remakery develops and opens as planned.
Please see the attached pdf for more information on what the roles will entail and the attritubutes we are looking for.
Invitation to apply
Representatives of the following stakeholder groups are invited to apply to become Directors:
- Remakery Founders, other Remakers and active volunteers
- Transition Town Brixton nominees
- Local residents of Paulet Road and the surrounding neighbourhood
- Residents of the wider area (Brixton, Camberwell and neighbouring areas)
- Potential members of the Remakery Community Network and Business Network
- Lambeth Council staff and/or councillors
- Experts / skilled people with the skill sets identified in the document attached
DeadlinesIf you are interested in applying to be a Director, please send a CV and covering letter detailing why you are applying, and why you would be good for the position, to Hannah Lewis, project co-ordinator:
email@example.com. If you would like an informal chat about the position please ring on 07919 038778.
Deadline for applications: 6pm on Wednesday 12th September
Appointments will be made: w/c 17th September. This may, or may not, involve a formal interview process.
First Director’s Meeting will be held: w/c 24th September
The Remakery’s first ‘picnic’ at Myatt’s Fields Park on Sunday (29th July) had to retreat to the local pub, the Prince of Wales on Denmark Road, due to rain (which of course stopped as soon as we’d settled down with our pints). But there was a great atmosphere, with a mix of long-term members from the Steering Group and new people looking to find out more and get involved. And we even got free cups of delicious spicy seafood soup from the pub (left-overs from a birthday party)!
Picnickers gathered around the laptop for the Festival Village show-and-tell
The focus of the afternoon was a show-and-tell from architect Andrew Lock of Lyn Atelier, the man behind the South Bank Centre’s Festival Village space which opened in May after a very full-on couple of months of what they called Comake: a design and build process involving hundreds of designers, artists and other volunteers.
The design process kicked off in January. Among the first steps were some participatory design days focusing on three questions: who will be using the space, why are they there, and what do they want to get out of it? A variety of “days in the lives” were generated, describing the experiences of different users in order to understand what the space needed to provide for them.
Packages of work were created focusing on different zones of the space, and each package started to develop with a mood-board of images on Pinterest.
The core team included two designers (one of whom, Andrew, was also responsible for everything from finances to social media and in his words, “nearly died” in the process!), plus one organiser and support from two Southbank Centre project managers.
The length of the preparatory stages outweighed the build: Planning, Building Control, health and safety, method statements, risk assessments and so on were all essential precursors to getting their hands dirty on site.
But once the Comake process got underway, it was rapid-fire. Each Wednesday they held a design night focused on one zone of the space; on Thursday and Friday there was a rush to find or buy the materials needed for that zone, and on Saturday, they built it! (In practice, zones often took longer so they ended up overlapping; but having one package of work as the main focus each time helped to keep the process clear.) Up to 40 volunteers – mostly architects, designers and artists – came to each session, with hundreds contributing over the course of the project.
Views of the Festival Village
Re-use, though not the main focus, was a feature of the build and contributed to the aesthetic of the space. But partly because of the fast pace of the project, “harvesting” of re-used materials only worked if it was on an industrial scale: 3 tonnes of bricks from Freecycle, or large quantities of high quality timber and board left over from exhibitions at the British Library and museums. Many times people contacted the team offering a few scraps of wood in a skip, but the time required to respond to such opportunities outweighed the value of the materials. Re-purposed items such as whisks made into lampshades, and wheelbarrows as chairs add to the “upcycled” look of the space, but for practical reasons they were bought new.
Andrew commented that “localising” tasks meant they got done more effectively: once a small team took the lead on a particular zone, they felt responsible to each other and became a self-managed unit. All they needed was basic health and safety training at the start, and they were away! However, volunteers learning unfamiliar skills were sometimes “painfully slow” and “didn’t have a builder’s head on”, so as the time pressure mounted professionals were increasingly brought in to instruct and supervise teams.
Tools “got a pounding” so Andrew’s advice was to invest in good quality ones – cheap imitations got destroyed!
The creation of the Festival Village provides an inspiring model for planning the Remakery’s own process of interior design, fit-out and furnishing. The main stages were:
Briefing – understanding the users of the space and the functions it will serve
Imagining – generating a rough picture of what each zone could look like
Looking for materials – gathering the elements needed to make it
Designing with more precision, and building, using the materials you’ve got (which are probably not exactly what you imagined!)
The construction underway over the next few months at the Remakery is preparing the basic “shell” of our building – demolishing walls, levelling the floor and insulating parts of the walls and ceiling, installing electrical and water supplies, heating and ventilation, glazing the front. (At the Festival Village, most of these things were either already in place or weren’t needed because it’s a temporary space.)
Once the Remakery’s shell is complete (autumn for the front zone, early 2013 for the rest of the space) we will be co-designing and fitting out the interior following a similar process to the Festival Village. It’s exciting to see an example of how this co-creative process worked in practice.
There are also many specific features of the Village that we can learn from: flexible use of the space is key, as it will be at the Remakery, so the way they’ve employed mobile and fold-away furniture and floor markings to indicate different uses of the space has got us thinking about how we can apply design to make optimum use of our space at different times…
Mobile screens and furniture in action at the Festival Village
We are very pleased to announce our first two donations of materials from local businesses for the development of the Remakery site.
Thanks so much to our first two donors:
Pearl Pharmacy, 310 Clapham Rd, London who donated plasterboard, metal frames, plinths and building timber.
Kingsbury Construction, Brixton Rd, London, who donated plasterboard, plinths, mineral wool and kooltherm insulation board.
We have a long wishlist of materials that we need for the redevelopment and fit-out of our old garage site. Check it out if you think you have anything we might need.
The more materials we can ‘harvest’ and re-use the better: both in terms of keeping the costs of the build low and ensuring that in the building of the site we are saving as many materials as possible from landfill.
Over the last few days the Remakery site has been cleared of everything that was stored there by member groups while awaiting planning permission. Hundreds of bikes, tonnes of wood, furniture and bric-a-brac has been shifted!
The space is now almost ready for the next steps: demolishing some of the internal walls to create larger spaces, and giving it all a good jet-clean to remove the sooty grime left over from its days as a garage. After that the real construction work will start…
We’re just awaiting the official go-ahead from the planning department (we’ve been told to expect good news but of course we need to have it in writing, and confirm what the conditions are before we can actually start building).
Watch this space for opportunities to get involved - volunteers and trainees will play a big role in the construction and fit-out.
View of the interior with the last few items waiting to be moved
Empty garage units ready for work to begin!
Hannah in the room we’ll be using as the site office
Yesterday’s site meeting with the construction team and architects on the grass outside
Our Remade Social workshops took place on Saturdays throughout March at the Transition centre - offering tasters of some of the activities that will be on offer at the Remakery in future.
Comments from participants included:
“Great to learn by watching and doing.”
“Lovely to work in a traditional way and go away with something.”
“Working wood is pleasant, active and relaxing at the same time.”
“Free resources, great instruction and wonderful skill building.”
“Lovely people, lovely teacher, a sense of community, a non-judgmental relaxed atmosphere.”
Here are some pictures to whet your appetite…
DIY Solar Panel Making, Sat 3rd March
Newspaper Basket Making, Sat 10th March
Experimental Printworkshop, Sat 10th March
Creative Cardboard Construction, Sat 17th March
Green Woodworking, Sat 24th March
Kite Making, Sat 31st March
The Remade Social was funded by the GLA and the Reuben Foundation as part of the Team London volunteering programme: www.london.gov.uk/teamlondon
The Remakery and Architecture for Humanity London (our project architects, a built environment charity), submitted our planning application for the Remakery site, a 1000 sq m garage block in Paulet Road, back in January.
Following on from our community engagement events in spring last year, attended by 60 local residents, we are now holding two drop-in public events in advance of the official Planning consultation period.
These events are primarily aimed at local residents from the neighbourhood around Paulet Road, but everybody interested in the Remakery is welcome. Come and find out more about the project and the difference it will make to the area, meet the architects and Remakery steering group members, discuss your ideas and concerns, and discover ways to get involved.
The drop-in events will be held at Minet Library, 52 Knatchbull Road, SE59QY on:
Saturday 3rd March 2012, 1-4pm
Monday 5th March 2012, 5-8pm
The exhibition, including the Remakery’s full Planning Report, will remain on display in the library foyer from 3rd – 19th March.
Above: Proposed South elevation (Lilford Road end), from the Remakery Planning Report
Flyer for Remakery Consultation events:
Our Planning Report and Appendix, prepared by Architecture for Humanity on behalf of the Remakery and submitted to Lambeth’s planning department on 12 January 2012, are available to download here.
Click here to download:
In the last few weeks I’ve been spreading the word about the Remakery in a variety of settings, both close to home and around London. Here are a few pictures and links from my adventures (starting with the most recent…)
London Transition Groups Gathering, 1 December at City Hall:
Where I told this large circle (the photo shows less than a quarter) of people representing no less than 24 different Transition initiatives from all over London, about the Remakery. (Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Network, was there too talking about his new book the Transition Companion).
I also re-met Jenny from Tooting (who came to a Design Day at the Remakery site back in the spring), who just happened to have with her this very impressive giant chilli remade from crisp packets:
Publicising the Remakery membership scheme, exhibiting Linda Ecalle’s wonderful cardboard furniture, Velo-Re‘s bike tyre belts and other remarkable remakes, and showing passers-by on Brixton Station Road how to make tetrapak wallets…
Where after a lovely shared meal, myself and Chris Hardy of UpCycle both gave talks about our projects and their different approaches to creative upcycling (see my presentation here: Remaking it Together) with about 30 people in attendance, followed by a sewing session where people shared skills on fixing holes in jeans and jumpers.
An extravaganza of “civic entrepreneurship, impact venturing and change making”, where I offered a workshop about Urban Permaculture (having recently done my Permaculture Design Course), and a presentation about the Remakery – attracting a fascinating cluster of folks including an Egyptian designer who’d previously developed a textile upcycling project in Cairo, and a fellow Transitioner (Paul Mackay from Transition Belsize) whose work with online databases suggests some exciting potentials for skill-sharing and stuff-sharing (see his amazing Skills Base and Sharing Base…)
A few weeks ago I attended the University Project event at Hub Westminster – led by curiosity about how the Remakery might fit into the “giant wave of ‘new learning’ spaces… co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators” described by John Geraci (referenced in Dougald Hine’s TEDx talk about the University Project). Geraci predicts that such spaces will radically disrupt the world of higher education, and while the Remakery is primarily a workspace it is also going to be an educational one in many ways – through formal training courses, self-directed learning by members, and partnerships with academic institutions – so it was good to get different perspectives on what that might look like.
I also made some great contacts at the event – one being John Parman, a professional fundraiser setting up a project called Activation Institution, who has subsequently volunteered to run a 7-week fundraising training course for the Remakery’s emerging Development & Funding Team.
It was also a great pleasure to meet Habib Lesevic and Benedikt Foit of vicventures, a pair of “pirate venturers” (their words) whose approach to “avant-garde venture philosophy” caught my attention when Habib told the story of a jazz bar in a less than swinging area of Berlin, whose business suddenly took off when they stopped charging an Eintritt (entry fee) and substituted an optional Austritt (exit fee). The local population, with little knowledge of or interest in jazz, were enticed inside by the free entry – but having heard the quality of the music, most were happy to pay the Austritt, and sometimes even a bit extra.
I chatted with Habib about the Remakery and he liked the project enough to want to come down to Brixton and check it out! He and Ben kindly offered a couple of hours of their time to help me think through what they call the Remakery’s “value system”, which means a kind of expanded version of a business model. While a business model typically focuses on financial transactions only – modelling income and expenditure in monetary terms – a value system is a map of all the different types of value that an enterprise creates, with the inputs and outputs including money but also (for example) workspace, materials, other people’s work, support, experience, access to networks, opportunities… Basically, whatever forms of value the participants recognise as valuable, which motivates them to participate in the system.
This idea is interesting to me, partly because for most of us participating in the creation of the Remakery, the primary motivation is not financial. Two of us were paid as part-time project managers earlier this year (and thankfully, I’ve recently secured a second round of project management funding which will see me through until the Remakery opens); but I’ve also done several months on a voluntary basis, and the Steering Group all attend meetings, design sessions and occasional volunteer days (when we cleaned out the garages, for example) with no payment. While this is partly because they see the Remakery as an opportunity that will help them to establish or grow their businesses (reaping longer-term financial benefits), most are not purely profit-driven companies but social enterprises – focused on reducing waste and cultivating skills and opportunities in the local community.
While it is clear that in order to sustain themselves as businesses, they need to make enough money to cover their costs and have some in reserve, there are also many other types of value that they stand to gain by being involved in the Remakery – the value of participating in a community, accessing networks of expertise, innovating through collaboration, gaining a track record, being appreciated by others, making a difference. To design our “system” wisely, it seems to me that in the same way as we are designing our business model to be financially sustainable, it makes sense to account for these other types of value and make sure we can keep sustaining them over the long term too.
With that in mind, I diligently carried out the homework set by Habib and Ben – to map the “value system” of the Remakery with all the “sub-systems” it’s made up of, and for each sub-system to answer 3 questions:
Who is participating?
What value is being created for them?
How can we make sure that the value created is appreciated? (traditionally speaking, this would mean some form of financial payment – but in a value system, appreciation can take a much wider variety of forms)
In the interests of being transparent and inviting the possibility of some open-source contributions, I’ve decided to upload this document here. It’s in tabular form with brief bullet points, and was written mainly for my own use, so please excuse if some of the notes are too brief to be understandable! Most should be quite clear. If you have experience or interest in either traditional business planning or this broader framework of “value”, and are interested in getting involved with designing the Remakery’s value system, please do have a read and get in touch.
Remakery Value System (pdf)
This exercise has already helped to shape the emerging team structure of the Remakery – if you’d like to know more check out the page Co-Creators Wanted.
A great little video (under 2 mins) documenting our Brand Day on the 15th September. With many thanks to film maker (and Remakery steering group member) Mark Ovenden, and to all involved with the creative process on the day from Good For Nothing, Innocent and our own steering group.
On 15th September, Piano House in Brixton was the setting for an unusual creative event that’s never been tried in quite the same way before!
Brixton Reuse Centre was lucky enough to bag a day of time from the team of a dozen graphic designers and other creatives who are responsible for the witty, playful style of Innocent Drinks. This was organised thanks to an innovative project called Good for Nothing, who make connections between creative professionals looking to do some “good for nothing” (i.e. free!), and organisations who can benefit from their skills.
I’d heard about the great atmosphere and results generated by Good for Nothing’s previous turbo-charged creative blitzes and thought BRC’s branding could do with a bit of that, so contacted them to ask if they could help us.
We were delighted to hear they had got the Innocent team on board! This was slightly different from Good for Nothing’s usual format, where they bring together a large group of creatives from lots of different companies for a 48-hour challenge. We had only 8 hours – but with a team who already know each other and work together daily, perhaps making the process a bit smoother.
We owe a big thanks to all involved – it was fantastic to watch so many creative ideas emerging in such a short space of time.
The Name Issue!
Being given this opportunity prompted us to reconsider BRC’s name. We realised that, with only one day to develop the visual brand, the designers needed to be given the right name to work with! So a couple of days beforehand, the BRC steering group met for a lively debate about re-naming ourselves.
The name Brixton Reuse Centre has been a good “working title” – attracting people to the project who are interested in reuse and see themselves as local to Brixton. But there were some important arguments for choosing a different name:
What if we want to replicate the BRC model in other places? This won’t work if Brixton is a key part of the name! We want a name that can be used with different locations.
The name “Reuse Centre” is used for lots of other reuse projects that aren’t like BRC. What is unique about us is the co-operative structure and co-working space – several reuse organisations and projects under one roof. There’s also an emphasis on repairing and remaking things, not just reusing them as they are. We want a name that reflects those things.
Are we really in Brixton anyway? Some residents see the site as closer to Camberwell. Maybe Brixton should be less emphasised in the name.
We came up with a “long list” (yep, a really long list – which will remain secret!) of name options, but in the end we managed to narrow it down to two: Remakery, or Remade in Brixton.
Remade in Brixton has been used for 3 years as the name of Transition Town Brixton’s working group on waste prevention, www.remadeinbrixton.org. But BRC has now become Remade in Brixton’s main project, so it could make sense to merge the two “brands”.
Then again, the point was made that Remade in Brixton might work well as a “label” on products… On the other hand if you are talking about the working space, Remakery fits better. Bakers work in a bakery, remakers work in a Remakery!
So, Remakery stuck and the designers focused on developing a visual identity around that name.
The Creative Process
Above: Checking out other logos, colour books, and the architects’ research… Debating and sketching… Presenting Round 1!
The first part of the day was quite competitive – with 3 teams working rapidly to generate a variety of early options. Everyone voted with ticks for their favourite concepts, resulting in 3 winners and the teams re-arranged to take those ideas forward.
So by the time the BRC (or Remakery!) Steering Group arrived at lunchtime, 3 different design directions had been developed for us to vote on:
Stencil Shapes – a pick’n’mix of shapes that can be formed into letters and pictures, sort of like “remade” objects being put together into something new.
Chaos to Order – a squiggle or scribble, drawn out into a decisive straight line!
Lots of Dots – dots clustering together to form letters or shapes, evoking both the materials and the community gathering together at the Remakery.
Above: sketches and the different teams presenting their ideas to us; a well earned pizza break!
We voted again and elected the Dots!
Several further variations on the theme were generated, and the group split again into Logo, Web, and Interior teams who all presented their outputs at the end of the day.
Above: dots in development; the last minute rush; illustrator Pam Williams sketches the designers at work.
Above: final presentations of the logo, interior colours, and web layouts.
I was very happy with the logo, which expresses what the Remakery is about in a simple, spot-on way. Dots gravitate in at one end, like the materials being drawn into the Remakery… then they radiate out at the other end, like the transformed final products going out into the world! It also feels a bit like a community coming together to make something bigger than the sum of its parts.
There might be a few tweaks to the logo as it stands… possibly making the ends more rounded rather than bracket-shaped… Watch this space and we’ll unveil the final version soon!
The proposed use of dots and colours in the interior space was very effective and versatile and will integrate well with the architects’ designs. The web layout work was also great – some really clear thinking about what is needed for the website to showcase the Remakery and its member companies effectively.
Much appreciation to the Innocent team for their hard work and sensitive approach to interpreting the brand. It was a great opportunity for us to have such a big team of professionals giving us a full day of their attention and we are really chuffed with the results.
A group of architecture students from London South Bank University are working alongside Architecture for Humanity to help design the reception area at BRC.
Their brief is “to research, design and construct an exemplary reception desk, made almost entirely from re-used materials. This multifunctional element will act as a focal point for the open plan reception as well as a workstation for a number of staff working at the centre. The design of this piece will need to confidently showcase the benefit of engaging architects and designers to create re-purposed solutions and ensure that all visitors, volunteers and staff passing through the centre realise this potential.”
They are kicking off the project by researching what waste materials are produced by local businesses and on local construction sites, and how these could be used in the design. Their research will inform not only the reception desk project, but also the AfH team’s efforts to incorporate locally reused materials into all aspects of the construction of BRC.
The students are part of LSBU’s Humanitarian Hub – founded by Zohra Chiheb to bring together students and academics from across engineering, architecture, planning and social policy to discuss and research humanitarian design and international development.
The event I attended on 13 July (accompanied by Isabel Hankart, our project architect from Architecture for Humanity) could hardly have been better tailored to answer the questions we are currently grappling with.
Matter-of-factly named “Starting up a Community Reuse and Resource Centre” (that’ll be us, then)… it was the subtitle Making Ourselves Unstoppable: Overcoming the Challenges that really caught my attention, instilling a sense of potential that here we might discover the magic recipe to turn BRC from a promising mix of ingredients, into a fully-baked and perfectly risen cake (err, that is I mean a fully developed, successful business model. I just happen to have cake on the brain since our last Design Day, mmm!)
The first heartening thing about it was simply walking into a room that contained 15 other people in the same boat (or at any rate a range of similar yet unique, heroically hand-built reuse-rafts)! They had travelled from far and wide – Bicester, Peterborough, Coventry and Northern Ireland, as well as several from London and the south-east – for this opportunity of mutual support and learning. Their work had a variety of different focal points – including furniture reuse, wood recycling, reused insulating materials, retrofitting, recycling waste from music festivals, organising a Zero Waste conference, work with schools and businesses, and a Re-Store project with Habitat. It was good to know they are all out there and sprouting into life, or in some cases already going strong. I begged our facilitator Katy Anderson (from the Local United project, who’ve produced a handy Action Pack for Community Led Reuse) to organise more events like this – the importance of feeling “we’re not alone in this” is not to be underestimated, and knowing what else is out there reduces the chances of reinventing the wheel.
Above: me giving a short talk about the partnership support we’ve received from LRN and other networks; the delicious spread of food laid on by Trudy was as important a part of the event as the round-table discussions!
The second heartening thing was finding out more about the venue we were in. Based in suburban Aldershot, Hampshire, Bricks and Bread looks deceptively like any other warehouse building… but behind the low-key exterior is an innovative, dynamic business on a mission to “make it easier to live, work and build sustainably” – and it looks set to grow rapidly through a network of franchises.
The founder of Bricks and Bread, Trudy Thompson – a gutsy, inspiring entrepreneur who ended a lucrative career in motorsports to run a successful eco-building practice for 8 years, before founding this “Sustainable Living Centre” – took us on a tour around the building and talked us through the key elements of the business.
Its three main services are:
Training – including courses, events, and business incubation
Advice on eco building and sustainability – “hiring out” experts
Waste management / reuse – primarily of building materials, and to a lesser extent furniture, household items and a “scrap store” of materials for arts and crafts
Some interesting facts and figures from Trudy included:
Above: Trudy Thompson (far left, first photo) shows visitors around the Bricks & Bread warehouse; products on display and for sale range from salvaged church pews, reused furniture and eco building materials, to delicate jewellery made from cans
The cornerstone of the business is the knowledge of its founder and her network in the field of eco-building and sustainability. Described as a “hub for experts”, Bricks and Bread hires out members of its network to advise on eco building projects, and hires its space to organisations running sustainability events. Weekly advice sessions offer the public free access to impartial expertise on which eco-building specialists and products have the right credentials.
Its growth seems to be happening organically. Two new businesses, focusing on eco kitchens and children’s furniture, are being incubated in a wing of the warehouse. A scrap store where disabled school students get work experience sorting the beads and fabric has led to some of the parents rediscovering their sewing skills, and starting to run sewing workshops and sell hand-made products locally and online. Reused materials move rapidly through a network of thousands of donors and customers (with Linked-In and Twitter key tools of communication), and a network of temporary storage sites allows flexibility of scale.
And importantly, it’s making money – though being a Community Interest Company, all profits get reinvested in expanding its services. Trudy explains the business model this way in her RSA Fellow Profile: “Our construction-waste reuse area enables us to generate an income from selling recycled products to local suppliers. In addition, we charge suppliers for advice on sustainable techniques and materials: it’s worth their while because we’ll subsequently promote them via our Sustainable Business Network. We plough all the income we receive (excluding the salaries we pay our interns) into providing services for the local community, from free training and advice sessions on sustainable living to work experience for young people from nearby schools.”
Above: a large room in the warehouse is dedicated to educational activities – including inspiring kids by revealing the monetary value of the materials used in packaging; brainstorming with school groups on all aspects of sustainability and resourcefulness; business networking, career advice events, and eco building advice sessions
Bricks and Bread is a model BRC can learn from – whether through simply observing, or perhaps by becoming part of their franchise network (which offers a “modular” approach, meaning each franchisee can choose which services they want to offer). I’ll update on this in a few weeks time, as I’m hoping to take members of the BRC Steering Group to visit Bricks and Bread to explore this possibility.
After Trudy’s tour, we heard a presentation from Kelvin Hughes of the Community Furniture Project in Newbury – a more “traditional” type of reuse organisation, but one that is also thriving and expanding. That, however, is another story (spanning several more pages of my notebook)! What struck me most was that its core motivation was emergency provision for people in real, urgent need, often in dire circumstances – it began operating from two garages to provide furniture for women moving out of a women’s refuge where they had escaped domestic violence. Still today many of its customers and trainees are referred by social services. While at BRC our starting point has been different – based on a wish to make better use of wasted resources and cultivate skills – I felt moved and humbled by this example of reuse as an “emergency service”. I hope that BRC in its own way – as an incubator of social enterprises, and a training provider, as well as through selling affordable reused products – will be able to bring support and open up new possibilities for people in need.
Thanks to Isabel Hankart for all the photos used in this article
Architecture for Humanity (AfH) London, a charitable organisation concerned with the built environment, has been working closely with the BRC Steering Group since late March 2011 to design the BRC workspace.
At the end of June AfH completed their Stage A-B Feasibility & Briefing Report, which describes the preliminary design investigations and appointments carried out to date, and has been forwarded to the Planning Officer for review.
Highlights of the design process so far have included:
Visioning Day – March
Prior to the appointment of AfH, a Visioning Day was held on 12th March 2011, with the aim to generate the content for a clear and comprehensive brief for potential architects. Attendees included the BRC Steering Group, individuals and organisations interested in being involved with BRC, and Transition Town Brixton supporters, some with architectural, building, recycling, planning or legal expertise.
The discussions established ambitious aims for BRC’s design:
To support the creation of a vibrant collection of successful and sustainable enterprises
To be a key part of the community, both in street presence and reputation
To showcase the re-use process to the benefit of both the public and the enterprises
A first layout option was established which identified the key ingredients of the centre: an arrangement of enterprise spaces, defined as workshops and storage units; delivery and sorting bays with vehicle access at the back end; a shop, office and training/meeting room at the front end.
Design Workshop – May
With the benefit of a few weeks spent gathering imagery and precedents, analysing questionnaire responses, and discussing layout options, a second design workshop was organised by the architectural team on 7th May 2011. This presented a visual and architectural vision for the BRC and generated discussion about use, both spatially and in terms of servicing and management.
The first plan arrangement, as originally sketched out by BRC Steering Group, was presented alongside five different options in order to draw out the benefits and challenges of each. Holding the workshop on site was invaluable to communicate the physical realities of each of the plans.
Preferred Option – June
Following Client discussions, stakeholder consultation and consideration of relevant statutory matters, the plan shown below will form the starting point for continuing design development. The key drivers informing this plan are as follows:
To enforce clear zones with specific boundaries between levels of conditioning, finishes and fire rating.
To provide flexible internal space within those zones by designing open plan shared spaces.
To ensure ease of access to a continuous, well marked fire escape route.
Design Precedents and Inspirations – ongoing
The architectural design of the spaces, furniture and the external street presence is focussed on creating an inspiring place for people to work and visit, and the flexibility to accommodate change and growth.
Together with precedents from comparable projects, these aims have led to a number of particular inspirations which will be explored further in the next stages of the design process, including:
Signage at the entrance to animate the street.
A small cafe furnished by re-built furniture for sale; a cafe show room.
Walls, partitions, curtains which can be moved to create different spaces.
Painted signage and floor markings to bring colour and graphics into the use of the space.
Furniture which can be moved around on wheels.
Moveable ‘pods’ for particular activities.
Stacked shelving and fold-away storage and desk elements
Material selection is a key part of encouraging the ambitions of the BRC to inform the building. It is intended that the re-use of materials which drives the philosophy of Remade in Brixton extends to the design. Re-claimed building materials will be used where possible, both reducing the carbon footprint of the project and allowing the skill and possibilities of re-use enterprise to be showcased in the building fabric.
A Big Thanks!
BRC would like to thank the following volunteers from AfH London for their ongoing commitment and contributions to this project: Isabel Hankart, Taus Larsen, Kirsten Bevin, Cameo Musgrave, Simon Rochowski, Alasdair Dixon & Katherine McNeil. Additionally we would like to thank Peter Boyce and Sam Endsor of Ramboll for their early direction and commitment to the project.