The Silverton

Greenwich: How GCDA is appealing for help in completing its community hub

Organisation looking to raise £10k to help fit out its new cafe, shop, office and training space

GCDA’s community hub will be on the ground floor of this building on Royal Hill

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Change is in the air at Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (GCDA).

Having spent more than four decades helping people in the borough through its community hubs, free training programmes, enterprise support and food projects, the organisation is set to open a new base of operations on Royal Hill.

Located on the ground floor of London Square’s Old Police Station development, the new facility will provide office space for GCDA alongside a classroom, gallery, training kitchen, shop and cafe area.

Construction training organisation Flower Skills has already contributed extensive free labour on the build-out of the unit, to get walls in place and plastered.

Now the charity is appealing to the community and local businesses via a crowdfunding campaign for help in raising £10,000 to complete the fit-out.

The hub will have a gallery, shop and cafe

“That’s our ambition and it would be fantastic if we can achieve it,” said Claire Pritchard, GCDA director.

“We launched the campaign to our members and the people who have benefited from our work in August, and achieving that total will take us a long way to getting the project finished.

“We’re doing the work in stages – the office space, which was formerly the developer’s marketing suite, will be finished by the end of September, hopefully the kitchen and training room by the end of November and then the shop and cafe space by the end of January.

“In February we should be fully operational.”

The new facility will see GCDA’s Made In Greenwich shop relocate to the new hub and will also allow the organisation to move out of its current premises at Greenwich Centre Business Park.

“The building in Royal Hill is beautiful and we’re really excited about moving from the industrial estate to a place in the heart of Greenwich,” said Claire.

“It will also give us full disability access, which we didn’t have before at either of those two buildings.”

GCDA director Claire Pritchard

The money from the appeal will go towards decorating and furnishing the various spaces, with fire doors and kitchen units also on the wish list so GCDA can get on with its work – helping support local enterprise, train local people and promote healthy lifestyles.

“We’ll be offering some of our cooking and chef skills training sessions here as well as creative courses such as sewing, hat-making, creative arts, drawing and writing,” said Claire.

“There will also be the business start-up courses, which I run.

“Helping people start their own businesses is so important – there’s a real social benefit to it.

“On the courses, sometimes as many as a third will start their own operations and we can support them in that with things like start-up space on the markets we run to help them de-risk.

“That includes food businesses,  street trading and general market trading, for example.

“People come to us for all sorts of reasons – they might want a change of career, have been made redundant or have caring responsibilities that affect what they can do.

“Beyond that, there will also be volunteering opportunities and this will be a great place to volunteer as they will be really supported – there will be up to 10 GCDA staff based in the building so there will always be people around.”

GCDA is raising money to help with the fit out

That, in fact, is the other key aim of the new facility.

One of GCDA’s main missions is to bring people together at community hubs – something it already does in Woolwich and Kidbrooke Village. 

“A lot of people have said to us they need a centre for the community, a place to hang out and be part of, so this could be a place which local people could enjoy,” said Claire.

“We want to bring everyone together.

“We spent a year working on a project called High Streets For All about West Greenwich – this area – and looking at the markets.

“We found that in come cases local communities feel displaced by change and sometimes they don’t.

“We’ve met people who love living in this historic place and others who say there’s nothing here for them.

“We have always wanted to ensure that our main hub is open to everyone and the move from the industrial unit in Norman Road will mean that we can achieve that goal.

“Moving Made In Greenwich here means we won’t have to subsidise it in commercial premises and can continue to support the artists and makers.

“I’d also love to see local artists using the gallery space we will have.

The community hub is set to include a training kitchen

“We will be able to host more exhibitions in a really beautiful space, perhaps even following our original vision, which was to focus on exhibiting works around things we especially care about such as vulnerable people, property, equality and sustainability as well as challenging the economic system

“Made In Greenwich was always a campaign – to value what is made locally and to support the people who create those products and artworks.

“We’ve had brilliant support with this from Greenwich Council, which commissioned things from us and, more recently, we’ve had talks with The O2 and a local hotel to help drive it forward. 

“We discovered that whenever the hotel has special guests, it would buy products specially from Made In Greenwich because there’s that real value in having goods created by artisan makers locally.”

The crowdfunding campaign is ongoing to help raise cash for the project, but Claire said funds were not the only thing needed to help the new hub come to fruition. 

“We know that times are extremely tough for people, but even a few pounds will help us make a real difference,” she said. 

“In addition, if you have any useful practical skills, then we’d love to hear from you too. We appreciate every contribution.”

Visit GCDA’s website online or via the QR code below for more details of the crowdfunder and how to get involved.

The site also offers full listings for GCDA’s various activities and facilities, such as room hire at its venues and kitchen space.

GCDA staff will also have office space at the facility

Find out more about GCDA here

Read more: Sign up for the Santa Stair Climb at One Canada Square

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Woolwich: How a council project is brightening up bare walls with murals

Woolwich Mural Trail features work by south-east London artist Ellen Strachan at local Jobcentre Plus

Artist Ellen Strachan with her work and the Woolwich Mural Trail map

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Walk down the side of Woolwich’s Jobcentre Plus and you’ll find a recently installed mural decorating a once bare brick wall.

Ellen Strachan’s Work In Woolwich mural is one of five artworks commissioned by the council to brighten up the area and showcase its heritage.

“My piece looks at the past, present and future of work locally,” said Ellen, a former physics teacher who lives in Abbey Wood and decided to pursue art full time after the birth of her daughter three years ago.

“There are three large panels that have those themes and two others that were created based on the stories and creations of local residents who participated in workshops about that theme while I was developing the work.

“Some told me about their lives, while others created their own paper cut outs for inclusion in the piece.

“I hope my mural makes viewers think a little bit about the people around them – how we are reliant on each other and that everyone’s work helps us as a community.

“I’d like them to think a little bit about the past and all the people who have contributed to where we are now, the future and where we are going.

“It’s a time of such change, with more technology coming and jobs changing quite a lot and it was interesting to look into that. 

“Environmental considerations are also very important – since we’re going to need to make a huge change in how our economy works with regard to everything from transport to heating. 

“If people look at the mural, I hope they wonder why I’ve chosen the things that are featured and ask themselves what they would choose if they were creating a piece.”

Welcome To Woolwich by The Collective Makers on Powis Street

Ellen’s work in this instance comes as printed vinyl, although she usually works in lino cut or using cut-out paper collage, which was the basis for the mural before it was digitally scanned.

“I like those techniques – I’ve always used a pair of scissors,” she said.

“Both make you think about the positive and the negative – where something is either printed or it’s not.

“The artwork for this mural has been created using paper, which  makes me simplify what I’m doing and create something quite bold.

“It feels really good to have the piece finally unveiled.”

The council commissioned the piece as part of its Woolwich Mural Trail – a series of works by local artists created with local residents, schools and community organisations.

It joins Welcome To Woolwich by The Collective Makers on Powis Street, Your Woolwich in Beresford Square by Paige Denham and Foxfield Primary School, Woolwich Scenes in Myrtle Alley by Marc Drostle and Area Of Prosperity in Barnards Close by Haffeera Cader Saul and Nightingale Primary School, to complete the trail.

Area Of Prosperity in Barnards Close by Haffeera Cader Saul and Nightingale Primary School

“These stunning murals tell the personal stories and aspirations of our community, bringing creativity and colour to Woolwich town centre,” said Greenwich Council cabinet member for equality, culture and communities, Cllr Adel Khaireh.

“It’s fantastic to see how proud the artists and the school pupils are of their artwork, and to see Woolwich’s rich history brought to life.

“On behalf of the council, I’d like to thank all the different artists, community groups, schools and people who got involved and shared their memories and ideas. I hope they will all be enjoyed for many years to come.”

For Ellen, the commission was just the latest stage in her journey as an emerging artist, having gone from designing prints to selling her work through the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency’s Made In Greenwich shop in Creek Road and Deptford Does Art in Deptford High Street under her Pigeon Loft Prints brand.

“I actually found out about the mural trail through Made In Greenwich’s May Jane Baxter,” said Ellen.

“Working with them has been really great. Initially when I gave up teaching, I was very isolated as an artist until I went to Made In Greenwich – they’ve really made me feel like I’m part of a community.

“I started by doing surface pattern designs using lino cut prints.

“I’d take them and turn them into textile designs for products, which I’d sell through the shop.

“Then I got the chance to design the Christmas windows for Made In Greenwich, which turned out to be quite important.

Work In Woolwich by Ellen Strachan in Calderwood Street

“Greenwich Council held an open call for artists to do the Woolwich Mural Trail and so I had that as an example of working at a large scale.

“Since then, I’ve had a few more large pieces of work commissioned – I’ve just been working for the past couple of weeks on a mural in Walthamstow for Crate, which is going to open a new food hall in the central shopping centre there.

“My piece will be on the back of one of the kiosks where people enter the space and it will welcome them.

“Working with Made In Greenwich has allowed me to build up my portfolio to apply for this kind of project. 

“For example, I have another temporary mural coming up in Woolwich for the Woolwich Stories Cultural Trail, which is going to be taking place in August with some art installations and performances.

“That mural, entitled Woolwich Treepreciation will be on a disused shop front and will focus on trees – it’s showing an appreciation of the street trees in the area with hand prints and thumb prints making up the leaves.

“Local people’s words about the trees will also feature – lettering being a common feature in a lot of my work.”

Woolwich Scenes in Myrtle Alley by Marc Drostle

THE COUNCIL SAYS

>> “I’m so impressed with these special artworks and how they have instantly brightened up empty spaces in the town centre,” said Cllr Aidan Smith. 

“Alongside wider improvements, which will get under way this summer, they help make Woolwich a more attractive and vibrant place for residents, businesses and shoppers.

“The upcoming works will provide improved facilities for traders in Beresford Street market including fully accessible public toilets, as well as new planting, better seating, lighting and play spaces throughout Beresford Square and Powis Street.”

Read more: How artist Mark Taylor is capturing Canary Wharf and Docklands

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Greenwich: How photographer Lorenzo Garrido is helping people capture the area

Born in Greenwich, the 28-year-old leads small groups of snappers in tours to take in the best sites

Lorenzo’s tours cover major sites in Maritime Greenwich

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

BY LAURA ENFIELD

Photographer Lorenzo Garrido never leaves his Greenwich home without a camera. He has thousands, perhaps millions, of photographs to show for it.

Most – from his childhood holidays right through to the eerie days of empty lockdown streets – sit undeveloped and unseen.

They have taken a back seat to his career, which has seen him photograph the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and shoot campaigns for brands such as USC.

But while he is yet to fully showcase his collection to the world, he is about to start sharing the expertise he has gleaned from creating them.

The 28-year-old has launched a business, Greenwich Photo Tours, offering others an insight into favourite spots on his home turf and the best ways to capture them through a lens.

“I walk around with my camera all the time,” said Lorenzo.

“If I’m just stepping out of the house to have a stroll, or whatever, I’ll always have my camera with me. 

“Greenwich is such a beautiful, picturesque space and, when I researched, I found nobody was doing a tour like this here.

“I wanted to take my expertise from my day job and bring it into a community space and put the two areas of my life together.”

Born and raised in Greenwich, he first began capturing images as a child.

Greenwich-based photographer Lorenzo Garrido

“My dad bought me a Polaroid camera when I was like 10 years old and straight away I was pretty obsessed,” said Lorenzo.

“I have a vivid memory of taking it on a Year Seven trip to France and shooting some pictures.

“I started doing street photography when I was about 16 and it opened up into this whole other world – that this could actually be your job.

“I just kind of stuck at it and went with it.”

Photography wasn’t a course option at his college, but Lorenzo studied art and design instead and just kept on clicking.

Despite his obsession with taking photographs and having his own darkroom at home, Lorenzo said most of the photos he takes in his spare time never see the light of day.

“I have a lot of work that I can’t even remember,” he said. “Heaps of negatives and undeveloped rolls of film that I have from over the years and I have no idea what’s on them.

“I’m just sitting on an insane amount of photographs.

“I’m sure they would serve some purpose to someone down the line, perhaps when they’re trying to look back at what it was like in the mid 2000s.”

Lorenzo said it was hard to find the time to organise his archive alongside his busy career.

He went freelance full-time in 2016 and has built up a name for himself in the music and fashion industries – mostly by word of mouth.

“I think being a Londoner, you have circles of friends that you grew up with and you get referred and brought in on jobs and then, if it goes well, you get more jobs,” he said.

“I’ve been quite lucky, I’ve not really had to chase work much or really rely on using things like social media.”

The tours cover a range of styles including street photography

In fact, search online and you won’t find much evidence of his commercial work, as he prefers to operate discreetly.

But recently he has shot a documentary at the Dr Martens factory in Northampton and was waste-deep in a lake in Snowdonia to shoot a campaign for brand USC.

One of his biggest clients is Sony Music.

“I do a lot of album artwork and press shots, headshots,” said Lorenzo.

“You do end up rubbing shoulders with a lot of people but I avoid name dropping at all costs, so I’ve probably just taught myself to push it all down.”

When nudged he does reveal a pretty big name though.

“I was on a job with Cristiano Ronaldo last week and he turned out to be a nice guy,” he said. 

“The other 95% of the time, people have diva behaviour but I just keep my head down”.

He is now adding another string to his bow with the launch of his tours, created with support from Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (GCDA).

Customers will be taught the basics such as how shutter speeds, apertures, depth and exposure can affect a photograph.

Lorenzo will also give guidance on how to alter composition using techniques such as angles perspective.

He will then lead clients on a route around Greenwich, starting at Borough Hall and ending at the market.

“There’s no end to the different types of characters that are about during the weekend,” said Lorenzo.

His most visited spot – the Old Royal Naval College – will also be included.

“It’s hands down my favourite,” he said.

“Especially this time of year when the autumnal light is  low and gold and dances around.  You can’t really take a bad picture there.”

Lorenzo is confident he has explored every part of Greenwich but said it still holds his interest and probably always will.

“I wanted to keep the tour very specific about the local community where I live because Greenwich is just such a beautiful place,” he said.

“It hasn’t been touched by gentrification too much so it’s kind of old school and I’m a bit of an old soul so I think that kind of works out.

“But London is always changing. When it does, you can rediscover it, which is pretty cool.”

Canary Wharf viewed from Greenwich Park

THE NITTY GRITTY

The two-hour tours are for those with their own digital or film camera.

They run every Saturday from 11am-1pm and cost £60 per person with a maximum of four people per tour.

The three-mile route starts at Borough Hall clock tower in Greenwich High Road and skirts around the market so people can try out street photography.

Next it will head to the Cutty Sark and along the riverside to the Old Royal Naval College.

Here the focus will shift to architectural photography and composition and clients will have five minutes to wander around.

Then it will be over to The Cutty Sark pub for river views before heading up Maze Hill and through the park to the observatory for a hill-top lesson on landscapes.

From there the tour will head back down into town for more street photography at the market.

Read more: How Bureau is offering creative workspace in Greenwich

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Greenwich: How GCDA is celebrating the breadth of its activities in the borough

As Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency marks its 40th, we chat to CEO Claire Pritchard

GCDA CEO Claire Pritchard
GCDA CEO Claire Pritchard – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency this year celebrates 40 years since its creation.

It was founded with a stated central mission to support the establishment of community owned, democratically managed cooperatives to boost employment, improve local economic opportunities and protect or provide local services. 

In short, it’s spent four decades working to make the lives of people in the Royal Borough Of Greenwich better and there’s much more to come.

For the last 20 years, Claire Pritchard has worked for the organisation, taking over as director in 2010.

She said: “In our 40th year we really want to celebrate and highlight what we do. It’s still very much about community development.”

That might seem like a pretty open-ended statement, but Claire deserves some sympathy, because efficiently conveying the sheer breadth of GCDA’s activities is no easy task.

It supports, trains, educates, connects, sells, communicates, promotes and gives a platform to a Chinese Women’s Association to perform fan dances. It runs a community centre, a shop, markets and a commercial kitchen.

It hosts Yoga, boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, Mencap, a Vietnamese Women’s Group and provides space for a nursery and a domestic violence drop-in service.

It offers courses in starting businesses, community development, catering, feeding kids, crafts and horticulture, among others. Oh, and later this year it intends to open an art gallery.

It’s a complex web of industry, with threads woven right through the borough connecting entrepreneurs, makers and residents through the likes of GCDA’s operations at Woolwich Common Community Centre, Made In Greenwich and Greenwich Kitchen.

Claire outside Made In Greenwich
Claire outside Made In Greenwich – image Matt Grayson

“This is what we’ve grown into,” said Claire, who joined the organisation in a role focused on food in the borough. “There was a big change about 15 years ago when we had to go from being a grant-funded organisation to one that could fund all of its own activities.

“That was really tough, but it enabled us to go back and see what we really wanted to do – what people’s needs were and how we could respond to them.

“For example, six years ago we found Woolwich Common Community Centre, which was one of the lowest occupied venues of its kind in the borough, located in one of the poorest wards in London. It was an area where people wouldn’t go in the evenings – but now it’s fully occupied.

“We really responded to what people asked us to do, so now there’s everything from table tennis to food growing, boxing training and much more.

“We’ve also always wanted to celebrate small businesses and support them. 

“We wanted to do something called Made In Greenwich as a platform for local artists and makers that was sustainable.

“We’d been looking for years and eventually managed to secure a shop right in the centre of Greenwich.

“We now stock products and works of art from more than 100 makers in the borough – supporting fledgling businesses who don’t have the money to market themselves so they can grow and refine their operations.

“Made In Greenwich has just won the 2021 award for retail at the Best Of Royal Greenwich Business Awards and it’s a brand we really want to develop.

“Our strategy as an organisation is not necessarily about us having practical projects, but about looking at and celebrating what and who we’ve got in the borough – to promote those businesses and their sustainability because that’s how you create local wealth.

“Now we’re pursuing a gallery space, which is in a prime position just around the corner from our shop, because exhibitions are a great way to make campaigns whether it’s around equality, refugees or any other topic. We hope to open that in the autumn.

“What we’ve worked out is that, being local and knowing where we work is really important – we want  people who work with GCDA to be part of that community.

“We also know that in the future we don’t want to get much bigger as an organisation.

“The way to achieve what we want is to have a series of buildings where that work can come from – a gallery, a community centre, a shop or even a pub – so we can curate more activities to serve the needs of local residents.

“We have developed a very particular model for doing this, and we’d like to find a way to support other areas to do it too – not doing it ourselves because we don’t want GCDA itself to get really, really big.

“I did present to Tower Hamlets the other day, for example and Greenwich University have some funding in place to work with North Kent council to replicate our community centre model around food, social enterprise and sustainability.

“Where we have been successful in supporting communities, we would like to support other organisations to replicate this in the next 20 years.

“In Greenwich we want to help our communities thrive socially and economically, whether that’s by creating a nicer environment for people, training them in cooking skills, helping them access affordable fruit and veg or campaigning for more social housing and to protect public assets.

“In the 20 years I’ve worked here, one of the things that has made me most proud has been how everyone involved in GCDA has responded to the pandemic, turning our services on their head in a single day after the first 2020 lockdown and working out how to care for the very vulnerable, something we’re continuing to do.

“We’re a small organisation – there are fewer than 40 of us – but I think we’ve provided more than a million meals to those in need and we continued to support the traders at our markets, local businesses and our makers. 

“If people would like to get involved, they can look at our website or find us on social media, but they can also come and see us at Made In Greenwich or at one of our markets. 

“We’re always interested to talk to people and you can always join as a member. It’s through talking to those using our services and our members that we’ll define what we do in the next two decades.”

Read more: East End Community Foundation unveils Life Chances Campaign

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Greenwich: Why Sew On The Go is a celebration of making and travel

Made In Greenwich curator Mary Jane Baxter’s is the story of her journey through Europe in a van

Sew On The Go author Mary Jane Baxter
Sew On The Go author Mary Jane Baxter – image Matt Grayson

Sew On The Go is many things. Travelogue, inspiration, maker’s guide, cautionary tale, creative outlet. It’s Mary Jane Baxter’s third book and, while it’s packed with crafting projects just like The Modern Girl’s Guide To Hatmaking and Chic On A Shoestring, it embraces something else in its 250 pages – the adventure of a journey.

Six years ago, its author left her job at the BBC after 14 years working across Europe, bought and converted a small van, rented out her flat in London and set off on a trip with the aim of combining her love of travel and making things. The resulting book is the story of that expedition.

“I spent a lot of time building up to it – I did a trip for Newsnight in 2009, which involved travelling around Britain and doing make do and mend tasks in exchange for bed and breakfast with viewers,” said Mary Jane, who curates craft and art shop Made In Greenwich for the Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency.

“In order to have a comfortable night’s sleep, I would do a task, so I made trousers for a stilt-walker, created a hat for somebody to wear at Ascot and swapped a night in a hotel in Edinburgh for hats.

“It was about frugality in response to the last recession and it went down really well. At the time I had a second-hand Nissan Micra. It was quite clapped-out but I’d had the idea for this trip and thought it would be really interesting if I had this really crazy vehicle to do it in.”

Having inherited a few thousand pounds following the death of her uncle in 2014, she decided to take redundancy from the BBC and test-drove lots of “really gorgeous vans” that were all too expensive. Then, while walking through Greenwich Park she spotted a man with a curious-looking vehicle.

“He said it was a Bedford Bambi and told me I could test drive it, so I took it round the park and thought: ‘Yes, this could work’,” said Mary Jane. “I saw one for sale down in Southampton, took the train, bought it on the spot, drove it back to Deptford and started doing it up.

“At the time I was working pretty much full-time in the newsroom at the BBC and, at the time, I lived in a tiny flat, so the van gave me an extra crafting space. I felt like I was building an escape pod – I spent every day working on Bambi.”

The makeover included covering the van’s exterior with wallpaper samples (rescued from a Brighton skip) and varnishing them to protect them from the weather.

“Then Bambi was ready to go and so was Mary Jane, having put together a plan to visit and stay with various friends, mount pop-ups at markets, sell the things she’d made and, most importantly, experience the untold possibilities of the open road.

“It was: ‘Let’s throw it up in the air and see what freedom feels like after working for so long from eight in the morning until seven at night’,” she said. “Setting off on St Gerorge’s Day in April 2015 felt brilliant – it was amazing. 

“I packed everything I needed to craft on the road into Bambi – hats I’d made to sell, books I could offload to help fund the trip, haberdashery and my trusty hand-cranked sewing machine.

“I also had no electrics in Bambi – no interior lighting, no drainage, no water, no loo – it was basic camping. I did have the hob for a fry-up on the go, however. Bambi looked incredible and she got so much attention – people waved as we went off.

“I got to the ferry and it was just that feeling that there was no agenda, no commitment – nothing on the horizon that I had to do. What person in their mid-40s wouldn’t want that? To lock the front door and just go.”

Multiple adventures followed over the next four months as Mary Jane made her way through Belgium, France, Italy and up to northern Scotland. 

Readers can expect plenty of picturesque escapism as well as moments of drama including an encounter with an ageing campsite Lothario and dicing with the terrifying sheer drops while driving through the Gorge du Verdon. It’s also a tome stuffed with ideas for makers of all levels.

“The book contains 26 upcycled craft projects interwoven in the story,” said Mary Jane. 

“There’s always an element of my work that’s about re-using, recycling and creating beautiful things out of stuff people chuck away – everything from no-sew projects to more complicated ones.

“It’s also a rip-roaring travel read, which is an honest and exciting account of how it felt to be in that position of not being able to stand being at my desk anymore answering emails and deciding to bloody well go off and do something interesting instead. It’s light-hearted but it’s also about the creative process and about those life decisions that come your way – you don’t get married or have kids – things you might have expected, but don’t happen.

“What do you make of a life that’s balanced between being creative and being responsible for yourself and how do you make that work?

“The book is about trying to answer the question: ‘What are you looking for?’. I still don’t know the answer, but I’m glad I took this journey in an attempt to find out. 

“Often people have ideas but they don’t follow them through. A lot of people, especially women, don’t travel on their own – I talked to a lot of women in their 40s and 50s and they said they would never go off on their own like that.

“I have to say that, as the trip went on, it wasn’t all plain-sailing. There were real episodes of loneliness, and wondering what on earth I was doing. But I’d had the idea, bought the van and I did it.”

Published by Unbound on a crowdfunding model, the book came out in May.

Mary Jane said: “It took six years of hard work, fundraising, writing and journeying. Of all the books I’ve written, this one does hit the nail on the head. Bambi happened and I’m really pleased that I produced something out of my imagination and got it out there.” 

Sew On The Go: A Maker’s Journey is available to buy at Made In Greenwich in Creek Road or online for £16.99, published by Unbound.

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to our regular newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life