According to the Department of the Environment we throw away 290 million tonnes of rubbish every year in the UK. We are getting better at recycling – 40% of household waste and 52% of industrial and commercial waste was recycled last year – but that’s still a huge amount heading straight for landfill. Everyone (even people like Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn) agrees that this is both a terrible idea and totally unsustainable. Remakery aims to address this problem on a community level, creating workshops and other useful spaces where materials that would otherwise be thrown away can be collected and reused.
Like the Brixton Pound, Remakery originated with a small group of interested people at Transition Town. They came up with an idea for a ‘reuse centre’ but were still wondering how to find suitable premises when local councillor Steve Bradleycame along to a meeting and suggested a possible location on Paulet Street, north Brixton.
Now, to call this particular spot an unloved corner of Brixton is being kind. A disused car park, popular only with fly tippers and dead foxes, the council were about to brick it up forever when Remakery got involved. Working with architects, the team came up a plan to make this otherwise useless space into the perfect home for a community of remakers. So the first job of Remakery – fittingly – is to recycle a building.
Project manager Hannah Lewis is one of the original team of three that first set up the project. She’s hoping that Remakery will be up and running by spring next year, but admits there is a lot of work to be done to the space to make it suitable for its new purpose. Some of the space will be workshops used by small commercial enterprises, whose business models involved creating products from scrap – so far over 90 busineses have expressed and interest, including bike repair, computer and IT reuse, furniture refurbishment, textiles upcycling. There will also be space for local people to learn new skills and try out their own ideas. As far as the team is aware, there is no comparable project anywhere in the UK, so they are prepared for the process to be a learning curve. Before the contractors move in to do the heavy work the two main jobs are cleaning up and sorting through some of the reclaimed materials that have already made their way to the former garage.
To get this work done while involving as many people as possible, every Thursday has been designated a ‘site social’, giving anyone who is interested the chance to go along and contribute to getting the building ready for its reincarnation as a community hub of creative reuse. From six to eight in the evening everyone’s invited to join in the clean up, followed with a reward of pizza and beer afterwards.
So last Thursday I found myself in a hard hat, high-vis vest, boots and gloves listening to the prerequisite health and safety chat. I was introduced to Andy, the site manager, who showed us what our jobs were. (You can tell Andy is the site manager because he seems to be able to complete most tasks while holding a cup of coffee). Some volunteers got stuck into hosing down the grimy walls at one end of the building; I began by attacking a gym floor.
The long pieces of Canadian maple wood had previously been on the floor of a sports hall at Goldsmiths, but a radiator leak had damaged one corner, and instead of repairing it the whole thing had been ripped up and was on its way to a skip. Remakery was able to rescue part of it, and it’s now earmarked to play a part in the build, possibly as panelling for a wall. So I got to work clipping out the embedded nails and sorting it into sizes so it’s ready for its second life. It was great to do something physically useful after a day sat behind a computer, even if it was possibly the most time I had ever spent with any part of a gym.
It was a fun and rewarding Thursday afternoon activity, and a great way to get involved with a genuinely interesting and inventive project. I’ll definitely be back to help out again, and it’ll be fascinating to see how Remakery shapes up.
Site socials every Thursday – follow them in Twitter @remakery