PRACTICAL: The Remakery – Brixton

This week the Bristol Pound held their first open skill-share day to encourage people to share their skills and keep local economy strong in Brixton. Here Hannah Lewis describes the philosophy behind TT Brixton’s new Remakery centre, where “upskilling” can be learned and old stuff  remade into the useful and the beautiful.

The Remakery is a new kind of shared workspace – set to open in September 2012 – designed to support and develop re-use and upcycling enterprises.

It all began with the optimistic vision of the Remade in Brixton group I co-founded in 2009 – foreseeing a post-oil future for this busy, diverse urban community as a place “where there is no such thing as waste.” The vision demanded a home – a physical space to expand the range of materials that could be re-used, repaired or creatively recycled. A simple two-page proposal for a “re-use centre” attracted a local councillor’s attention, and in early 2010 we were offered a potential site: a block of 40 disused garages.

During 2010 we gathered a steering group of existing and emerging local re-use businesses, working with bikes, computers, wood, textiles, furniture, pianos, and more. Shortlisted for Lambeth’s public voting project “Your Choice”, we received over 3000 votes, and were awarded £100,000 of capital funding to refurbish the garages.

The design process, in partnership with Architecture for Humanity, has involved painstaking consultation, and confronting knotty practical issues of making the garages fit for purpose. Now we are awaiting planning permission, and preparing the site for construction work. Meanwhile our business plan is on its third iteration, as we get to grips with how this hybrid of co-working space, business incubator, and training provider will sustain itself financially.

Throughout a journey that’s been both exhilarating and exhausting, my determination has been sustained by the enthusiasm the Remakery attracts from people of all backgrounds and ages. People want to see things they no longer need go to a better use. And as the trend for crafts shows, there’s a hunger for up-skilling too. By bringing together wasted resources and neglected skills of repair and re-making, the Remakery demonstrates the permaculture principle that “The problem is the solution”.

 Hannah is a member of Transition Town Brixton and project manager of the Remakery, a shared workspace for re-use, repair and upcycling enterprises, opening later this year. Previously she was a co-founder of the Brixton Pound local currency and spent 6 years curating exhibitions and events on design for sustainability.

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