Meeting Jay Blades, the co-founder of Out of the Dark leaves quite an impression.
I had read about the charity and the support they were receiving from the likes of Heals, John Lewis and Farrow & Ball. High Wycombe was not too far away from Central London. Another adventure to add to my growing list, supported by my trusted iPhone maps application (between you and me, without that app, I would still be driving around High Wycombe looking for my destination).
I pulled into what looked like an old warehouse and knocked on the door to be greeted by a rather tall man sporting a cap and a large grin. “You must be the blogger” he said. Before I had the time to respond I was told to “Come on in”.
I mention this because his warmth and personality are central to this story.
Jay Blades, admits he was “a bit naughty” growing up. There was no need to elaborate.
Like many young people from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds, it is easy to slip into a life of petty crime, drugs and offences that progress to larger crimes and offences, and eventually prison. Jay had been there and done that.
Fortunately he chose a different path and enrolled in University where he studied Criminology and Psychology.
With his wife Jade, the couple set up Street Dreams, thirteen years ago with the aim of helping disadvantaged, disengaged, and disruptive young people achieve a sustainable and productive life. Out of the Dark became a program of the charity.
Out of the Dark restores and revamps salvaged furniture as a means to train, educate and employ young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The premises house a large workshop on the ground floor and a showroom above where the young people’s finished work can be showcased and sold.
High Wycombe was once the furniture manufacturing centre of the United Kingdom. The decline of the furniture industry, in an area where it was once a leading employer, has seen a number of factories close down completely or relocate overseas.
Out of the Dark works with master craftsman who once were part of this thriving industry. They, in turn, pass along their knowledge and skills such as caning, re-varnishing, french polish, re-upholstery, and repairing.
Young people are learning practical as well as life skills. At the same time they are building their self-esteem. Mr & Mrs Blades are inspirational. Their work in the community has touched a chord. In the past 18 months, they have worked with 25 young people on the practical side of the project. 6 of these young people have now gone on to full time jobs. 6 are currently on the project as trainees, and five of them are paid workers.
Paint, fabrics and many of the supplies and trade materials used at Out of the Dark are donated by individuals and companies. Participants and graduates of the program are breathing new life into furniture that was headed for the skip, charity shop, or forgotten about. If you are thinking of re-decorating, or have a piece of furniture that could benefit from a tweak or a twist, call Out of the Dark. No job seems to be too small for these folks. It could be repairing the wobbly leg of a table, painting a piece of furniture or re-caning a chair. Out of the Dark, may be your solution!
Just click here to see examples of their work.
Out of the Dark
Unit 6, Abercromby Works