Tony Flower writes
Talkback UK is proud to announce that our brand-new workshop was opened in High Wycombe on 4th April 2023.
The Accessible Workshop is a Social Enterprise which enables people with learning disabilities or autistic individuals to build real-world work skills, through woodworking and practical sessions. We create, repair, and upcycle, with any income generated reinvested back into the enterprise, or used to aid our charitable partners.
From humble beginnings in Aylesbury, the original workshop consisted of four benches, a couple of rusty saws, a drill that lost charge after ten minutes, and a load of old paintbrushes. The group were best known for upcycle projects, like tidying-up old tools and painting them. Whilst the members found it enjoyable, it was obvious that they were capable of much more.
With better structure and plans added, groups evolved through various venues, including Tool Shed in Wycombe and Queens Park Arts Centre in Aylesbury; with the aim to work on projects that could be sold.
Now it’s truly inspiring to see their efforts come to fruition. Some who joined during their college support have transitioned to our adult provision, and they continue to develop and progress.
The venture has involved full training and development of staff, the creation of a website and online shop, coupled with increased social media presence. And along the way, we gained a celebrity customer, when DJ, Chris Evans, commissioned some planters for his garden.
What began as a dream is now a thriving Social Enterprise. The new workshop in Wycombe, fully equipped through over £10k of grants and external funding, will provide many further opportunities for people with learning disabilities or autistic individuals.
Much of the money raised was through the amazing efforts of Tom Chettle and his team from Buckinghamshire Council, who conquered the Three Peaks Challenge in memory of their colleague Andy Leach. Tom was thrilled to continue his involvement with Talkback and to saw (of course) the ribbon at the opening ceremony.
“Ever since I’ve had the privilege of being part of Talkback and The Accessible Workshop, I’ve been blown away by what they do for autistic people and those with learning disabilities. Providing opportunities to develop skills and promote increased independence is at the heart of a truly remarkable organisation. So, I could not have been happier when asked to open the latest workshop. And, of course, to catch up with the amazing Talkback members.”
Jeremy Hay, CEO of Talkback, was delighted to welcome guests to the opening, he said:
“The Accessible Workshop is a truly fantastic part of what we do at Talkback. It is a privilege to provide our members with a space to develop and showcase their talents. And to have Tom join us to officially open the space was wonderful. We remain incredibly grateful for all his efforts in helping us bring the project to life.”
There are plenty of exciting ventures to look forward to. In January we started our intern programme, where we now employ a former student and member, to develop his skills as a paid employee. We have agreed a partnership with Fairhive Housing, who will provide work experience for our members; and Aylesbury Town Council asked us to build a floating duck house at Walton Pond.
It’s been quite a journey, from Tool Shed to a successful Social Enterprise; and the future looks bright for The Accessible Workshop.
With thanks to the dedicated Talkback staff, past and present, who have set up and supported the enterprise and to the following organisations that have donated funds to make it all possible:
Ocado Foundation for Good
The Shanly Foundation
The Co Operative Community Fund
The Arnold Clark Community Fund
The Accessible Workshop in High Wycombe does have a few places left for students who would like to join in September. You can find out more here.