Highgate woodwork studio carves new start as social enterprise

Shannon Cammock, nine, at Wood That Works

Shannon Cammock, nine, at Wood That Works - Credit: Wood That Works

A community woodwork workshop in Highgate is becoming an independent social enterprise after relocating to new premises last year.  

Wood That Works opened at an underground, converted car park in Stoneleigh Terrace in September after its former home at Highgate Newtown Community Centre in Bertram Street was demolished as part of an ongoing redevelopment.  

Founder Ricky Jefferson launched Wood That Works 15 years ago and has since offered classes to schools, children with learning difficulties, women’s groups and young offenders.  

Team member Honey Halit said: “We’re really enjoying our new space and the new opportunities that come with being an official social enterprise in our own right.   

“Even though we’ve always worked with the community, this really allows us to drive forward with the local work that we do.”  

MP for Holborn and St Pancras Sir Keir Starmer visited the workshop to help officially open the centre in September. 

Ideas have been planned and developed for around a year, and after the first lockdown a women’s group was created. 

It offered free workshops to women which sought to empower them by building practical skills in the workshop.  

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Honey said: “You don’t traditionally associate women with basic DIY skills, putting up shelves or doing plumbing outdoors.  

“But there needs to be a re-education and building of confidence and we are personally interested in empowering these women.”  

In December, Wood That Works hosted a women’s Christmas event which raised over £1,300 to go towards providing free spaces for women who find themselves in financial difficulty due to Covid-19.   

The organisation also set up a foodbank for those in need on the Whittington Estate during the pandemic.

While Covid-19 has presented a number of challenges, Honey said it has also created new opportunities for the team to focus on the community.  

She said: “The first thing we wanted to do was to give back to our immediate neighbours of the Whittington Estate.”  

The result was the Doorstep Project, an initiative which provides free woodwork sessions for children and adults from the local estate.  

The participants make planters from upcycled wood from the area, while getting to know their neighbours.  

“The children get to understand about upcycling and develop real life skills as well as learning about sustainability,” Honey said.  

The project, which was partially funded by Highgate Newtown Community Centre, has been piloted with the Whittington Estate, but the team hope to extend it further to other communities.  

“We are absolutely certain it’s going to be a success,” Honey said.  

Wood that Works has also partnered with Highgate Cemetery, which has given the social enterprise donations of wood for its workshops.  

“That’s a beautiful new relationship that is growing between us and our neighbourhoods,” Honey said.   

“We are a local organisation and Wood That Works has always held in heart and mind the local people.  

“We’re just amplifying what’s always been done and it’s a community space really at the heart of this.”  

The pandemic might have created a number of obstacles in launching Wood That Works, but the group said it was looking forward to the possibilities ahead once lockdown was lifted.  

Team member Camilla Maxwell-Comfort said: “We have a lot of things that we want to hit the ground running with when we are able to open again.  

“But what we’ve done already is quite amazing.”   

Harley-Rae Jago, eight, at Wood That Works

Harley-Rae Jago, eight, at Wood That Works - Credit: Wood That Works

Wood that Works hopes to partner with a number of locally-minded organisations in the future, while encouraging everyone to get involved and enjoy the benefits of woodwork.  

“Working with wood is highly therapeutic and enables people to find a space for themselves to be creative,” Honey said.  

“We encourage anyone who has some furniture not to take it to the dump, but to either come and upcycle it with us or make something new yourself. 

“The opportunities are endless.”