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Organise Your Own Creative Recycling Event

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Our Guest Blogger Jenni Wraysbury is a former Travel Writer, who now freelances and has a huge interest in environmental issues.


Organise Your Own Creative Reusing Event!

As well as running scrapstores, members of Reuseful UK (formerly known as ScrapstoresUK) also get involved in organising all kinds of community events. The aim is to get more people of all ages discovering the fun of being creative – and turning 'rubbish' into something worth keeping. One recent event was Oxford's first 'swap'n'fix' event, where scrapstore charity Orinoco had a stall and showed how to turn an old video cassette into a new yo-yo!

If you have a passion for arts and crafts, it is a lot of fun to arrange an artistic happening and enthuse others. It could be something as small-scale as a coffee morning at your home for a few friends to try out new craft ideas. Alternatively, you may want to stage a full-scale fair or fete with artists and teachers demonstrating a whole range of artistic activities, from spinning recycled yarn to building giant junk models and collages.

There are many different possibilities to choose from, and you might want to tie your event in with Voluntary Arts Week, which will be held from May 9 to 18 in 2014. This year's VAW will include a national Craftbomb drive, with the idea being to decorate open areas of your local town or village with colourful temporary creations to inspire and excite the community. Of course, it is essential to get permission from the relevant authorities before going ahead with this.



Crafting Your Event

Whatever type of arty or crafty event you decide on, there will be a lot of organising involved, and it is a good idea to start by getting a group of fellow-enthusiasts on board, so that you don't have to do everything yourself. The first step is to decide on your date – checking that there are no clashes with other similar events in your home area – and to work out what sort of numbers you expect. One of the most important considerations for any event is to book your venue well in advance, making sure that you have visited it first to see exactly what is available there and note any problems. You don't want to discover on the day that the kitchens are out of action, or that there are no facilities to wash off paint and glue! You also need to make arrangements to get hold of all the equipment you need, from tables for stallholders to clean scrap materials from your local scrapstore.

Beyond this, Volunteering England has put together a useful bullet-points guide to planning an event, which gives lots of pointers and suggestions. Most important is to make sure you have a realistic timescale and budget, and set up regular real or virtual meetings with your fellow organisers so that everyone knows exactly how the arrangements are going. It might sound old-fashioned, but taking minutes is a good way to keep track. Circulating round-robin notes by email can also keep everyone up to date, or you could set up a social media page for the event. Make sure any paperwork is sorted out well in advance, such as organising an event insurance policy in case of cancellation, damage or other problems, and getting any necessary permissions from the local authority. It's essential for a specific person to take on each task, however small, because otherwise there is a risk that some jobs just won't get done, while people could double up on others, causing confusion and wasting time.

Getting Inspiration

There are many different sources of inspiration for recycling or upcycling waste materials to turn them into works of art. Artists and small manufacturers specialising in this field could give you ideas to explore. For instance, Max McMurdo of Dragons' Den fame turns waste into furniture and accessories – with weird and wonderful creations including stools and see-saws made from bike parts and chairs made from shopping trolleys. Artist Michelle Reader, based in London, makes amazing colourful sculptures from waste materials.

You could also take inspiration from the items you have available to use at your event. For instance, if you have a lot of paper to hand, you could suggest that people bring along old wooden boxes or similar items and decorate them with decoupage, giving them a whole new lease of life. Creating a striking piece or two in advance of the event could help to spread the word, giving a great image to use in publicity material.

After all the weeks of planning, your event will be over all too soon, and of course it is important not to waste any clean materials which are left over. They can be recycled through Scrapstores, or saved for your next crafty initiative!


Jenni Wraysbury - February 2014.

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