In pictures: recycling at the Remakery in Brixton

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PHOTO ESSAY: Recycling at the Remakery in Brixton.

Some garages have become the centre of a south London community, writes Sylvia Rowley.

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Two years ago, the space where the Brixton Remakery is, was just some old garages, with rubbish and fires. There were also lots of dead foxes, old cars and beer cans.

Today it is workshops, where people make amazing tables from old wood and many other beautiful things. The Brixton Remakery makes things out of old things to help local people and businesses. It’s in one of the poor areas of south London, and it’s mainly run by volunteers.

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‘It’s a new idea - a space for making things out of waste materials’, says Rebekah Philips, the co-director of Remakery. ‘It can be carpentry, bikes, IT, metal work..... But we’re also remaking people, teaching them new skills and helping them make their lives better.’

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The first job was to remake the garage block. When I first visited in the summer of 2013 to make a film, they were in the middle of building work. Ben Jackson, who had worked as a plasterer and had been homeless, likes working there: ‘My normal life is to go to the shops to get a beer in the morning and sit in a park. But here things are very different. I really feel like I’ve achieved something.’

All the work is done with re-used materials if possible. The team have used a stainless steel kitchen worktop, new bathroom units, old windows and part of a wooden gym floor.

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The work is slow because nearly all workers are volunteers, but the building is going well. The gym floor now covers a wall over part of the old garage block, and the space is separated with screens made from old windows. Hannah Lewis, the co-director, says that after the agreement with the council, they’ll get US$83,000 from The City Bridge Trust to pay people to finish the work – hopefully by summer 2014.

And the first tenant has already moved in. Joie de Winter (in the picture above) is co-founder of Tree Cycle, a wood-recycling project, and she has set up a workshop and office here. She is working on unwanted chairs from a church. ‘We want to help people connect with nature again,’ she says, ‘and to give back life to old wood. I don’t like to see it left on the streets.’ She makes and sells go-karts, sledges, swings and garden geo-domes from recycled wood. And she runs a course for a local women’s group.

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Lots of people now want to build something – furniture or a sense of community – from things that people throw away. And with thousands of hours of hard, unpaid work the team has created an amazing place for creativity, green business and for really giving value to the people and resources around us.

Hannah Lewis says that other people who want to do something like the remakery should be be flexible. ‘Things have their own rhythm and it depends on the people who are involved,’ she says. ‘You need to learn to dance with it, rather than control it.’

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, and a short video, please see: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2014/03/20/photo-remakery-brixton/