Hannah Lewis, Project Coordinator of the Remakery Brixton told Ruth Waters about her experiences of transforming an empty space.


Where is Remakery Brixton based and what do you do?

We are based at 51 Lilford Road, SE5 9HY. The space is a former garage block (1000 sq m floor area, previously containing 40 garages) beneath a block of flats on Paulet Road Estate. We have converted the space into shared workshops for makers, artists and businesses that re-use, repair or upcycle waste materials.

We’re not fully open yet as building work is ongoing, but some re-use projects (including wood recycling, furniture upcycling and re-upholstery) are already underway on site.

How did you end up based in this space?

In late 2009 a group called Remade in Brixton, part of Transition Town Brixton, wrote a proposal to create a re-use centre, a space for collaboration and innovation to reuse and repair resources that would otherwise go to waste. We sent our idea to some contacts at Lambeth Council, and at our next meeting, councillor Steve Bradley told us about this disused garage block in his ward which had been derelict for several years and was attracting crime and anti-social behaviour.

When we saw the site we were excited about the potential, and brought together a steering group from an assortment of local re-use projects working with a wide range of resources: wood, textiles, furniture, bikes, electronics and more.

Was it a challenging space to build your enterprise from?

Yes, definitely!

Remakery 2

What were the main challenges you encountered?

The space was pretty grim when we first got access to it. It was full of flytipped rubbish – mounds of rubble, a burnt out car, a dead fox, and some garages containing what looked like all of a dead person’s possessions, were among what we cleared out in 2010.

One ongoing issue is that it’s naturally dark – it’s on the lower ground floor and is very long, so only the two ends get daylight – the darker areas were unpleasant to work in until our new lighting got installed! Also, it was designed as a garage block not a workspace, so there were engineering and building control issues around issues like ventilation and fire safety. Being located below flats, we’ve also been careful to lay out the space in a way that will minimise noise disturbance.

What do you hope your transformation of the space will give to the community?

The aim of the Remakery is to gather people to share ideas and uncover the value in all of our overlooked and wasted resources. What will emerge can’t be predicted, but on any given day you might find an orchestra of musical instruments made from scrap, benches for a local park being made from reclaimed wood, an inventor refining a pedal- powered washing machine or a new bike trailer design.

Locals can drop into repair sessions to get a hand fixing everything from a kettle to a garden shed. Classes in sewing, carpentry, bike maintenance or computer repair aim to give the people of the community the knowledge and confidence to be more savvy consumers.

This article is part of a feature on Transforming Empty Space in Brixton.


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