Goldfinger Factory could very well be a David Walliams book, set in a mythical tower with a big-hearted, big-ideas person at its centre who makes special things happen. The reality isn’t a great deal different. At the base of Trellick Tower in North Kensington, Goldfinger Factory is a creative hub of up-cycling, teaching and production masterminded by Oliver Waddington-Ball, an enthusiastic and positive individual who is attempting to bring about change in one of London’s wealthiest yet most deprived neighbourhoods.
Trellick Tower has gained iconic status partly through its notoriety as one of London’s most [formerly] despised buildings. Defiant in its design, it is said to have stained the career of its creator, Erno Goldfinger, who posthumously became known as one of the greatest architects of his generation. The concept behind the tower was that people could exist side by side in buildings that would become complete communities in themselves. Through playgrounds, shops and meeting spaces on site, neighbours would interact and social, racial and financial divides would disappear. Sadly this ideal was dampened down by antipathy to the tower’s presence and also a community that didn’t want to conform. Fast forward 50 years and Trellick Tower has reached an equilibrium, but these days its population is largely united through high unemployment and poverty. Living and working locally, it was hard for some to bear and with Oliver Waddington-Ball at the helm, Goldfinger Factory was born. This is his story...
Tell us how Goldfinger Factory came about?
I worked on the London Reuse Fund [which has grown into a project with a value of almost £4million] where we established a service to allow individuals and businesses to offer up products, materials and waste for future use. This included obvious things like over-ordered building materials and by products of development, right through to the more unusual such as hundreds of rubber conveyor belts. Everything that was offered by one person was snatched up another reaffirming that one man’s muck is another man’s gold. Watching the success of the London Reuse Fund I realised that you could apply the same model to people, asking those who are able to offer up services, support, teaching and mentoring to those who need to learn and grow their abilities. Gladly Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council were in support of our ideas and we won a bid for our start up fund, competing against the British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation and The Prince's Trust for our start-up fund. It’s been great to see our ideas turn into reality.
Why Trellick Tower?
Notting Hill is an area of contrasts - on one hand you have extreme wealth and on the other, abject poverty. What generally divides the two is a lack of access to education and as such, a lack of skills. When it was built, Trellick Tower challenged the architecture zeitgeist and eventually won the battle. We’re hoping that some of its old resilience will rub off onto what we’re doing and our framework will one day be the basis for similar skills and networking programmes all across the UK.
So what is Goldfinger Factory all about?
Okay, so the way it works is this. Goldfinger Factory is first and foremost a place for people to meet, discuss ideas and think about their future and what they need to support it. This also includes the lifestyle element as well as workplace skills. We have a training school which is financially supported by business dignitaries such as Sir Robert McAlpine, Conran & Partners, Peter Jones and well-known mentors offering time to teach specific skills. These can be vocational such as furniture making and restoration, lighting, tiling, finishes or furniture upcycling which is huge at the moment and ties into our ethos to reuse. We then we have a showroom which displays and sells what is made or upcycled in the workshop. The idea of the showroom was to create a shop front for Goldfinger Factory to show what can be achieved through dedicated teaching and learning, and to give the makers/producers a platform to be recognized in their own right. We also have an acclaimed café called Redemption which serves amazing homemade food and Fair Trade coffee. We decided early on that it would be an alcohol free enterprise that would, by being consciously abstemious, welcome all cultures.
How will Goldfinger Factory grow?
Oh gosh, we have ideas for all sorts of things that we want to do. Obviously the crux of everything is to engage with the local community and offer education and job skills in a learning environment that’s interesting and engaging. In year one, we have established a furniture making, production and construction school which we are aiming to get accreditation for by year two. By our third year of operation we want to have this sited elsewhere so we can handle larger class sizes and widen our offering of opportunities and better combine our work with the London Reuse Network. In addition to our school, we offer creative classes in knitting, stitching and traditional crafts and are actively encouraging anyone in London with a skill that they would like to pass on, to use our space and share their knowledge. Later this year we will also begin engaging with professional organisations in a series of talks and forums designed to give an insight into professions such as architecture, interior and product design.
What do you do when you’re not at Goldfinger Factory?
I’m rarely away. We have a fabulous café called Redemption which serves wonderful homemade healthy food, drink and coffee that we source direct from a cooperative of growers in Ethiopia. The buzz is just starting to build and on any given night we could have a bunch of people taking a creative class in one corner while a bunch of friends meet for coffee in another. There are also quiet spaces to read and listen to music, and our shop is always open so you can browse for unique crafts and items for the home and of course our amazing furniture which has been restored, upcycled or made from scratch.
What would you be doing if you weren't involved with Goldfinger Factory?
If I weren’t involved with Goldfinger Factory I would be looking for another similar setup or organization. I think we live in such an amazing environment where there are people with ideas around every corner. If we harness some of that and share those skills, we can help to give people a greater chance of getting a job, widening their repertoire or just engaging with an audience outside their own backyard. It all sounds quite bucolic but I really do believe it’s achievable.
Domus Nova is a Local Business Sponsor of Goldfinger Factory
Discover Goldfinger Factory on the Domus Nova Design Guide
Goldfinger Factory, The Trellick Tower, 13-15 Golborne Road, London W10; golfingerfactory.com