We can all find resilience in outdoor life
London Green Wood is a small, agile business and we work outdoors. These two factors meant that we have been able to adapt to living with this coronavirus and have no fears about the long term risk of the pandemic to our cooperative.
In mid-March, as we realised there was a looming lockdown, we cancelled all our courses with the aim of keeping the workshop open to coop members for as long as we could. A week later, lockdown was imposed on the UK and the workshop was shut, unable to open for over three months.
Once we’d finished cancelling all our courses and sessions, the first thing we did was to write some tips for carving at home. We knew there were a whole load of people taking up carving for the first time in lockdown and we wanted to help people be safe whilst using knives at home. We updated our resources page, with tool recommendations, advice on choosing wood and links to our favourite instructional videos. These were shared widely, as people across the UK took up new hobbies whilst they found themselves at home.
The second thing we did was to negotiate weekly access to the workshop for one volunteer each week. Every Monday one of the coop would saw and split up a box of wood to leave at the workshop gate for people to take home for free. The response was incredible, one week Dave arrived to a socially distanced queue of people waiting to collect spoon carving wood. Despite limiting the offering to three pieces of wood per person, a whole box of wood (sometimes two) disappeared in a couple of hours every week. We still give away bits and pieces of wood for people to carve at home, now it’s by pre-arrangement and we suggest giving a donation to the workshop in return.
After initially dismissing online courses as impossible, we came to realise it was necessary to help people keep creative and busy in lockdown, and to prepare LGW for potential future lockdowns. We created an online wand making class for families and spatula carving class for adults. We teamed up with The Woodsmith Experience to provide knives, and prepared dogwood and hazel sticks and lime spatula blanks at home. We posted wood and the customers bought their own knives. Demand was high, but the post was oh so slow. Still, with a lot of rescheduling, Jo taught basic knife skills online to about 80 people in a three month period with remarkably few injuries.
We started risk assessments for reopening the workshop as soon as lockdown restrictions started to lift. We were finally able to reopen to members only from 6th July and begin teaching in-person courses on 28th July. All our risk assessments are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and are available for other organisations and people to use and edit for non-commercial purposes.
We are currently developing a new partnership with another local organisation, Women after Greatness (WAG), a grassroots social enterprise on a mission to empower and equip young women and girls in East London to conquer negative cycles and build great opportunities. WAG has not been able to deliver their usual programmes because of coronavirus, but the need is greater than ever. We are seeking funding for a unique woodworking project for young women to learn heritage woodwork and bushcraft skills in inner London. Through learning these skills young women will be encouraged to spend more time outdoors, and enjoy the mental health and confidence benefits that are associated with being in a natural environment. Our outdoor workshop will also provide a safe space for young women to meet and for WAG to continue their mentoring support work.
Since the lockdown, interest in our cooperative as soared. We are running more courses than ever and have noticed an increase in people wanting to join the coop and be involved with all aspects of the workshop. Despite the isolation of recent months, we all know that we are stronger together and this is a key time to cooperate.
We have always enjoyed working outdoors but now our outdoor space is more valuable than ever. The workshop provides an opportunity to help other groups and individuals to get outside and be with others in a safe social space. We would like to share our space with others and through basic woodwork and bushcraft activities, help other community groups adapt their offering to outdoor living. We are willing to joint-fundraise to do this. We believe that being outdoors, in a natural environment and working with others (physically but not socially distanced) can give us all the resilience we need to survive this crisis.