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Restoration Station: The Shoreditch workshop mending lives as well as vintage furniture

PUBLISHED: 15:40 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:00 19 June 2017

Sheona Alexander (founder) & Rhys Pritchard Manager of Restoration Station in ShoreditchRestoration Station in Shoreditch
Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Sheona Alexander (founder) & Rhys Pritchard Manager of Restoration Station in ShoreditchRestoration Station in Shoreditch Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A shop selling restored vintage furniture in Shoreditch might not sound like something that would save lives. But Restoration Station in the high street doesn’t just fix armchairs.

Restoration Station in Shoreditch
Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel SuttonRestoration Station in Shoreditch Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Volunteering in its workshop are recovering addicts, getting their lives back on track with a bit of elbow grease.

The social enterprise operates out of the offices of the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), a Hackney charity that has been fighting homelessness and addiction through support and training for 50 years.

After realising the workshop where it ran woodwork courses backed onto Shoreditch High Street, the SCT decided to open a shop selling restored vintage furniture, and in 2015 Restoration Station was founded by Sheona Alexander.

“It’s about giving people the opportunity to try and gain new skills and help their recovery,” said manager Rhys Pritchard. “We started with two trainees. Now we aim to have seven at any one time. We run a development programme to give people in recovery those kind of work experience opportunities.

Volunteer Laurence Evans restoring furniture at Restoration Station in Shoreditch
Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel SuttonVolunteer Laurence Evans restoring furniture at Restoration Station in Shoreditch Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“It brings an element of normality, by extending their social interaction beyond the recovery community.

“It’s giving people the opportunity to get back into a productive way of life – volunteering, training or work. They can build confidence and skills.”

One of those people is 44-year-old Paul, of Plaistow, who enrolled on the woodwork course two years ago with no confidence and no idea how to talk to people.

He also “hadn’t touched a piece of wood since school”, but he soon got the hang of it and was also inspired to get his Level 3 plumbing qualification.

Restoration Station in Shoreditch
Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel SuttonRestoration Station in Shoreditch Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“I’ve been doing it for two years now,” he told the Gazette. “I know how to deal with normal people now. When I stated I didn’t know anybody and made some mistakes, but people will help you out and say ‘try it this way’.

“I’ve come out of my shell a lot. It’s given me confidence and helped me talk to people, the are the two biggest things.

“I’m a bit of an all rounder, I make and repair stuff, go out on deliveries, the only thing I don’t do is drive.”

Every Thursday and Friday the workshop opens its doors to the public to sell its donated products, from antiques to mid-century furniture and even vintage toys, tools and ceramics. People can also bring bits and pieces in for restoration.

Restoration Station in Shoreditch
Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel SuttonRestoration Station in Shoreditch Restoration Station is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by the addiction recovery charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A Google grant has helped, and Rhys said there’s been a big improvement in the quality of pieces over the last year or so.

“It’s all high quality stock,” he said. “We are pretty damn cheap, it’s very good value. We just sold a 60s chair for £75 which was an outrage. We’ve not sold anything for more than £1,000.

“I’m always trying to get out without taking anything.

“People bring in their own stuff too. If a leg has broken on your favourite chair it’s good value to get stuff fixed. It’s good for the customer, and for us.”

Housing is another way in which the SCT helps recovering addicts.

Above the workshop is accommodation with 16 beds, where anyone who needs a place to stay can do so for as long as they need.

“It’s not a 12-week stint,” added Rhys. “It’s an open ended stay. People might stay for three or six months. It’s a caring, stable home environment for people to get back on their feet.”

Paul can’t recommend Restoration Station, or the SCT, enough. “I would tell people who were in my situation to go for it.

“It doesn’t even matter if you do the woodwork course. There’s computers, arts, music. Whatever takes your fancy, just do it.

“I’m very grateful to this place and it’s helped me a lot.”

For more information on Restoration Station, visit sct.org.uk/restoration-station.

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