4th Feb 2019
Based in Blackbird Leys, RAW workshop does not see itself as a charity or even a social enterprise - rather a commercial organisation with a meaningful mission - ‘to help people become exceptional rather than being the exception’ and to build a social business that thrives on merit, not sympathy. Through their wood recycling service, using only timber which would otherwise be discarded, RAW makes a range of high-quality commercially viable wooden products and in the process transform lives!
RAW employs, trains and supports people from our communities who face prejudice and barriers to work. Over 85% of RAW’s team are striving to succeed in the face of issues such as physical or learning difficulties, mental illness, recovery from addiction and criminal histories.
When we discovered RAW Workshop, online, we were excited to find that there was a parallel ‘us’ out there ‘Doing Good with Wood’. Sure enough, when we went to visit them, were so many similarities. People who LOVED making beautiful things from wood, cared about their surroundings and wanted to work in an environment where ‘Doing things Differently’ was encouraged rather than disapproved of.
We knew that these kindred spirits at RAW had so much to teach us and wondered if in return we might be able to help them in some way. Rick Mower, the organisation’s innovative founder and director, was clear that although RAW Workshop is a registered charity it stood on its own two (commercially astute) feet. Rick, looking for collaborations rather than sympathy or donations, was happy to show us around and let us work out for ourselves where we might fit into the organisation.
A vital cog in the RAW team is Charlie, a trained counsellor – who, in real life, looks more like a rock roadie (as he in fact really was - for the Clash!). Charlie explained that he is setting up a branch of the organisation ‘RAW potential” which will focus on young people who are struggling to find their place in the world. Charlie says, “currently after ten one to one sessions they find themselves back facing the world on their own" and in his mind on-going support is essential. What Charlie needs is a space for the RAW Potential ‘tribe’ to ‘be’, where help is always on hand… and this is where the Barr Group come in.
When the call went out, at the Barr Group end of year get together, staff were keen to help. The plan was for a skilled team to build a ‘RAW Potential Cabin’ within the current workshop, in which life-skills, woodworking skills and support can be imparted in equal measure.
The project set-up is now well underway – with structural designs in place and the maxim of re-use at the forefront. However general and specialist build materials were still needed and this is where things began to reach wider than the Barr Group. We turned to our trusted local building suppliers and specialist contractors for help - and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Firstly the amazing team at Blanchford offered to fill the gaps with roof hangers, ply and screws. Blanchford’s neighbouring Oxford Branch, in Headington, is just a stone’s throw away from the RAW HQ. Ruth Fenton, Blanchford Sales Director says, “we are delighted to be able to help with this great local community project”
In addition, the wonderful team at Jewson, Wheatly, jumped on board, providing and delivering 120m timber to the RAW workshop, ready to build the frame. Fabulous Travis Perkins, both Abingdon and Littlemore branches, are generously providing the OSB cladding, Oxford Brewers - the 'Jack Black' paint, Horspath Howdens - the door and frame and Lamps of Long Crendon the corresponding black lighting and sockets - to be fitted by our trusted electrical subcontractor Emmett of Quod Electrical Woodstock (thank you everyone!).
The build is set to take place on Saturday 16th Feb and Saturday 2nd March. Members of the Barr Group team (led by Contracts Managers Jamie Osborne and Tom Shanks) are giving up their own time and offering their skills to make this happen. With back up from the RAW team and Barr Group staff who will be putting their painting and decorating skills to the test (as well as making bacon sandwiches!). Stuart (Barr Group MD) will be back on the tools - but don't fear - our apprentice Richard will be carefully checking his work!
"A huge thanks to all at the Barr Group and all of the suppliers who are helping to make this happen. We're absolutely delighted and very excited about working with you all on the birth of RAW Potential,” says Rick in his last email. In response “The Barr Group team can’t wait to get going!”
You can get in contact with Rick and the team by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting their website: https://raw-workshop.co.uk/