Thursday, 17 January 2013

Bikes, Bread and Birmingham

On my way to drop of some posters at Sycamore Adventure today I saw this sign:

Having met John Lane and John Guest a number of times I was keen to pop in and see their bike workshop, I’d been promising to a couple of years ago before they moved to their current base.

mmm, oily workshop smell!
Walking in I was immediately engulfed in the lovely smell of oil and workshop type things, bringing back warm memories of my Grandad’s workshop in his garage and the basement of the engineering block at Warwick University where I learned to lathe. 

John Lane warmly welcomed me, swiftly made us a cup of coffee and settled down for a chat, having introduced me to three other volunteers that I hadn’t met before. I think City-Can-Cycle is wonderful for a number of reasons: they make what some people think is scrap in to fully working and safe bikes, they thoughtfully distribute bikes (free to people they know can’t afford it, and for donations to those who can), they do all this for nothing and they have lots of ideas for the future.

I particularly loved the whiteboard (the workshop is in an old school classroom). While I was chatting John Guest amended the number of visitors on the board from 936 to 937. I was the statistic being counted. What simple monitoring: number of bikes in, bikes out and visitors to the workshop. All recorded with a whiteboard marker and updated in real time!

John Guest proudly presenting the hi-tech monitoring!

John Lane
It was wonderful listening to John talk about the history of City-Can-Cycle, their future ideas and how they manage to wangle things like a workshop space for free. I asked John how he’d feel about contributing to a Community Lover’s Guide to Dudley which Melissa Guest and I are co-editing. I’m pleased that he was interested - I showed him the Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham which I’ve read this week. 

The first story is written by Tom Baker from Loaf, and it really got me thinking. Tom's contribution is beautifully crafted and is both moving and hunger inducing! I was delighted to meet Tom on Tuesday, having invited myself along to the intimate launch of the Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham. And it was fantastic to both meet Birgit and Marcia from ChangeKitchen (another story in the Guide) and to sample their delicious food. They are having a Penny-Pinching Pop-Up restaurant once a month, I’d fully recommend a visit if you’re nearby. 

I’ve archived tweets, blogs and a video from the launch event here (I’m so glad the Community Lovers are such a social bunch online). And a little history to the Community Lover’s Guide to the Universe series was posted by Tessy Britton here, following her brilliant publication, Hand Made. Karen Strunks posted this short video clip of Nick Booth at the launch on You Tube:

Having gone on from City-Can-Cycle today to meet with Julie Dillon from Lions Boxing Club and then popping in to see Camilla Phillips and volunteers at the Hope Centre, I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that there are so many wonderful, generous and caring people in every square mile in Dudley borough. Let’s hope that our Community Lover’s Guide to Dudley will help people who don’t know all these stories to learn more. It really has been enlightening to read the stories behind projects and activities in Birmingham which I thought I knew a fair bit about. It makes a real difference reading what the people involved say about what they do.

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