How the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory stepped up to donate over 1,000 pieces of up-cycled furniture to 30 local organisations, and over 6,000 pieces of PPE to community and health care services.
The FabLab Eco Furniture Factory, supported by the MiFriendly Cities project, is Coventry’s second FabLab facility that is delivering home and community makeovers in Coventry. Nestled in an unassuming industrial unit at FarGO Village, in Coventry’s creative quarter, the FabLab aims to meet and improve the community and housing needs of all residents across Coventry, within a creative and friendly space that allows for community-led integration.
FabLabs are community maker spaces open to everyone, and provide skills, support and access to equipment to make almost anything. FabLab Coventry was established by Coventry University.
With the increasing need to live more sustainable lives, the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory supports residents to turn ideas into reality and gives new life to once old, outdated or broken furniture.
Critically, housing represents one of the most common reasons for migrants and refugees to seek support, but poor-quality housing can be a problem faced by many in our community. Through its regular repair cafés, furniture upcycling and free courses in painting, decorating and DIY, the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory is committed to promoting sustainability and integration, by involving the whole community, including asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, with opportunities to make a meaningful and positive contribution to the community. Whilst a key aim is to provide refugees and migrants with the opportunity to certify their skills in a new country, and thus increase job opportunities, participants are also encouraged to ‘give back’ by up-cycling old, outdated or broken furniture which are then donated to those most in need.
Although the pandemic put an immediate stop to all face-to-face
activities, the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory quickly switched from teaching, to
producing PPE. Staying true to the commitment to always reuse and recycle, 4,000
tension bands, produced using scrap material, were delivered to community
organisations, nurses and local NHS facilities. In addition, local hair
companies were donated PPE to support them to reopen their businesses.
Coventry business owner, Louise from Hoochie, had struggled to purchase more than two visors due the high demand, and without this donation would not have been able to open. As a testament to the Eco Furniture Factory’s high standard, Louise informed us that “[the visors] are more comfortable to wear than the ones I purchased and do not mist up due to the design”.
Coventry University Estates department also needed to make drastic changes to be able to work safely under government guidelines and consequently provided the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory with access to over 1,000 pieces of surplus furniture. The team quickly assessed local needs and put an open call out to local community organisations and volunteers via social media. The FabLab had an exceptional response with 98 requests, and so quickly got back in contact with their migrant volunteers to help clean, repair and distribute the furniture to those most in need.
Due to the unexpected nature of the pandemic, forcing us all to find new ways to work or learn from home, or in a socially distanced manner, it was found that a wide variety of local community centres, schools, arts projects and small businesses would not be able to open safely and adhere to government guidelines for social distancing without new furniture. Examples of recipients of furniture up-cycled by FabLab include: Arty Folk, who needed 30 tables in order to run socially distanced workshops for people with mental health problems; Langar Aid who work with the homeless, delivering food parcels; gourmet food kitchen, Choc N Roll; Radford Community Centre; Holbrooks Community Centre; Bishop Ullathorne School and Our Lady’s Primary School.
Regardless of this new community reach, the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory was still mindful of the needs of its local refugee and migrant community. So when the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, a partner in the MiFriendly Cities project, needed to find a way to show investors and stakeholders what a new planned building extension could look like, following investment from MiFriendly Cities, FabLab were eager to help. With no people on site due to lockdown, the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory engaged a MiFriendly Cities volunteer with architectural skills to produce a 3D model of the space as a solution.
Everyone involved with the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory are immensely proud of the Factory’s achievements.
“The work the FabLab Eco Furniture Factory project team have carried out to rejuvenate and re-distribute over 1,000 pieces of Coventry University donated furniture…is nothing short of a tremendous achievement… and are honoured to have played small part in your achievement. The passion you have for your work and how you care for our wider communities is an enormous credit to you and reflects well on everyone at Coventry University”.
Coventry University Estates team
About MiFriendly Cities
MiFriendly Cities is a project in the West Midlands supporting and empowering migrants across communities. It is delivered by three city councils and 8 other Partners from the charity and private sector. A Migrant Friendly city is one in which the social, civic, and economic contributions of refugees and migrants are unlocked and embraced. Across our incubator sites in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Coventry, the MiFriendly Cities project aims to achieve this with activities and training in employability and social enterprise, active citizenship, narrative and storytelling. The project is funded by Urban Innovative Actions (UIA/EU). You can find out more about what makes a MiFriendly City here.
This project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.