One Man's Rubbish...

Viv Ellis pays a visit to upcycling social enterprise Accession

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Upholsterer Alex Watson (second from left) with some of the Accession team with a chair recovered from donated fabric as diverse as jeans and a tweed jacket.  




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Accession Social Enterprise, based in West Ealing, has been shortlisted for two big awards.

In the U.K. Social Enterprise awards (where more than 300 organisations entered) they have are ‘One to Watch’ and the West London Business Awards have put them forward for three separate categories; Innovation, Training & Development and Corporate Social responsibility.

Accession chairman Simon Brooke says: “We’re thrilled. It’s a testament to the team who have worked hard this year to help us move towards a more commercially sustainable model.

Accession began in 2009 to explore ways of finding work opportunities for people with disabilities or disadvantages which led to the Community Shop in Hanwell.

There are now seven businesses in Ealing, including printing, picture framing and upcyclng as well as two hugely successful community shops. They all provide training opportunities for people with mental health or learning disabilities. Currently there are 85 trainees spread across all of the businesses.

I have long been a fan of their two shops (well the whole enterprise) and leapt at the chance to have tour of their distribution hub in Greenford where I was shown round by Olivia who’s their Retail Distribution Manager.

The hub handles donated items like clothing, bric-a-brac and furniture, nothing gets wasted. The clothes are sorted for Accession’s two shops, then “vintage” items are taken to more specialised outlets like Portobello Road, and some are even “Car Booted” at local sales (along with bric-a-brac).

Olivia told me how she keeps up with trends by using social media like PInterest etc and always makes sure she’s ready for times like Halloween and the party season at Christmas.

They have a great team atmosphere, with Accession staff, volunteers and trainees all pulling together and contributing ideas. One such volunteer is Alex Watson who runs an upholstery business in Acton. She showed me chairs and cushions which have been restored using entirely donated “waste” items.

A lot of ‘charity shops’ refuse to take upholstered furniture unless it is up to date with fire regulations. But here, as Alex explained, everything is stripped right back and they then add fire suppression elements. So they can take anything.

I sat in a corner and watched another volunteer, Belinda, cut strips from an old party dress to make piping for some cushions. Kirsty Allsopp’s got nothing on this lot.

Some donations like DVDs and books take up too much room in the shops but Olivia makes sure they aren’t wasted. They are sold on to third parties.

Find out more here

Viv Ellis



13th October 2015