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A volunteer speaks

"Why I joined the Brighton Community Workshop Project"

By Tristram Burden

“A bad workman blames his tools.” My dad taught me a lot before he died in 2010.

But this overused phrase always stuck with me. It echoes when my computer doesn’t co-operate, or when another string on my mandolin breaks.

Dad would say it in response to my complaints about a saw that wasn’t working right or a drill that made crooked holes. We would spend time together making benches out of tree stumps or building birdboxes, toy trucks, tiny boats and house signs.

Aged 11, dad had me chopping firewood, trimming hedges and gardening.

As a member of Generation Rent, the urge to create bookshelves, build a desk, a magazine rack, or spend time in a garden is difficult to accomplish. Like many, not having space to make a mess with a set of tools to do the job right limits our options.

This is why the Brighton Community Workshop Project is so important to me and why I was compelled to Volunteer as soon as I heard about it.

This is why the Brighton Community Workshop Project is so important to me and why I was compelled to Volunteer...

These things take time.

Founding Director, Garry Meyer, told me that the concept was discussed with friends in back in 2017 and after some initial prospective Facebook posts, things began to take shape. From a small group strategising in community halls it eventually becoming a constituted, not for profit, Community Interest Company in June 2019.

The Tool Library opened in 2021, and already has thousands of donated tools, gradually being reconditioned, catalogued, photographed and uploaded to the tool library system, with nearly 400 tools available to borrow and use at home right now.

But BCWP is more than just a Tool Library. It’s a makerspace too, a small workshop to repair things and a place to share skills.

Ultimately the aim is to grow out of the current location in the basement of St. Georges Church, Kemptown to somewhere that can hold a larger collection of tools and more comprehensive facilities to Make, Learn, Share, and Repair.

Aspirational examples of huge community style makerspaces around the world include;

  • The Bodgery in Madison, Wisconsin, USA is 1,300m² (~14,000ft²),

  • Whilst nearer to home Bloqs in London boasts 2,900m² (32,000ft²) in an old factory!

Both of these organisations charge $50 a month to £36 a day (respectively) - whilst the Brighton Community Workshop's current annual membership fee is just £30 a year - a real bargain!

Many tools purchased are barely used.

Whilst one of humanity’s greatest talents is making things we’ve sadly become a disposable culture - Someone makes something (usually on low pay) and we discard it without much thought.

We have forgotten how to make things, things that last, or are unable to repair what we already have. A recent discovery concluded that concrete, metal, plastic, bricks and asphalt exceeds the overall living biomass on Earth - we really do need to re-think how we make stuff.

Spaces like BCWP are a perfect step in this direction. Community-run, owned and affordable.

I’ve spent most of my volunteer time there restoring some tools to their former glory.

And when I’m ready to make another bookshelf or magazine rack, everything is available there to make it happen.

Every time I mention the BCWP initiative to someone, they all say the same thing - “What a great idea!” - and like all the best ideas, if it didn’t exist then someone would have to invent it.

Thankfully someone did.



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