When Dorrell Bravo was forced to close Tumbles, his laundrette-cum-community centre in Railton Road, Brixton lost a beacon of support for many of its residents. Bravo went out of his way to serve local people, developing a system for collecting clothes from elderly folk, pregnant women and mothers with young children: individuals who find it difficult to lug laundry back and forth. Bravo would then wash the garments and then bring them back to their owners, at no extra cost than if they had walked in.
It provided precious help for many people struggling to cope on their own or with young children. However, the lifeline provided by Tumbles was brought to an end when its original site was developed into flats, an all-too-familiar story in Brixton today.
Bravo has since looked elsewhere to find a place to find homes for his huge washing machines. And at last, he has found a new location raising hopes that he can resume business and once again provide wash-day help for locals – though these plans are by no means certain. Tumbles still needs approval from the council and searches for funding have yet to get up and running.
Nevertheless, Bravo says he is extremely pleased he has managed to find another location on Railton Road as “it is important to me to stay part of the community”. Among the hurdles he faces is the need to get planning permission from the council to use the space as a laundrette and dry cleaners.
Bravo also needs to install his machines and remove the dirt and rubble from the new location which is in poor condition and needs thousands of pounds of work to make it functional. “I’m looking into a loan or to find an investor,” says Bravo who insists he wants to raise the money in the right way as he wants to maintain control of Tumbles. So much of what he does is not for profit but is community based, he adds.
In the meantime, Bravo is still maintaining the service for some of his least mobile customers. It means taking the clothes to another laundry in Stockwell, at a cost to himself.
Clean laundry is an essential, he insists. “It is often overlooked, but it is important for people to wear clean clothes every day. The elderly customers I bring clothes to are struggling and unable to do it themselves, but they want to put on a clean shirt in the morning.”
The key point, he adds, is that he wants to help people. “The richness is not in money,” he says, “quality service and appreciation, that is the richness.”