Features Leyton

Better living through carpentry

A Leyton furniture manufacturer is teaching young people the joys of woodwork

By Victoria Munro

Aspiring set designer Reese Campbell

A Leyton furniture manufacturer is introducing the borough’s young people to the “healing power of making things”.

Thinkfound is based in the Argall Avenue industrial estate and sells furniture made from recycled materials, such as wood found in skips.

Founder Chris Barrett always knew he wanted his business to help people, in addition to selling sustainable goods, but fell into working with the borough’s youth almost by chance.

After allowing his neighbour’s son to come work with him as a favour, Chris told the Echo the boy’s friend knocked on his door and asked for work too.

He said: “That boy later got expelled from school – he had learning difficulties and anger management problems – and this was a place he could come to learn skills while he got himself sorted enough to go back into college.

“There’s a healing power to making things and doing meditative jobs like sanding, people really relax here. The UK also doesn’t do too much manufacturing anymore[…] so we’ve lost a lot of jobs suited for people who don’t do well in academia.”

The boy eventually returned to college but unfortunately ended up in a young offenders institution after throwing acid at a group “that were after him”.

Chris said: “It’s a fine line where things can go in London if you are an angry teenager with not much thought of the future, I can relate to that. He was an incredibly nice lad but he suffered from a lot of rage.

“In a way, we failed him but we also gave him tools which he used later. He left London and got into the construction industry and his time here helped with that.

“Certain sectors of society might say ‘how dare somebody throw acid, get him in jail’ but Thinkfound doesn’t think like that. Someone might have a difficult past but we want to facilitate them to have a better future with no judgement.”

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Founder Chris in the workshop in Leyton

Thinkfound now offers free training and work experience to a wide range of “at-risk youth”, which Chris notes is “essentially everyone” in a city like London, including young offenders, care leavers, young carers and those struggling to find employment.

They have taught 15 people so far this year and hope to have 50 to 100 people through their doors by the end of the year.

Chris said: “For many of the young people, it’s not really about the woodwork, it’s about turning up and getting used to a workplace and to working with other people.

“We [also] have a sly green agenda. We’re trying to get young people attached to reusing and remaking, although we don’t preach or push it.”

For those that do discover a passion for woodwork, Thinkfound has solid links to the construction industry and the creative sector, in areas like set design.

Reese Campbell, 19, said she found out about Thinkfound from Waltham Forest Council’s Future Formed team, which aims to help young people into creative work.

She said: “I want to get into set design so it’s helpful to learn how to use tools, construct things and read a plan. I definitely want to work in the arts, maybe in theatre or TV.”

In order to raise more money to support the free training, Thinkfound also plans to start offering paid-for courses for the general public on weekends and evenings.

Find out more about Thinkfound on the website here: https://thinkfound.co.uk/

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