Accumul8, a social enterprise set up by local resident Marice Cumber, aims to build the employment skills, confidence and sense of hope for long term homeless residents at North London’s YMCA (NLYMCA) as they try to move forwards with their lives.
Accumul8 grew out of NLYMCA’s desire to become involved with the Crouch End Festival, of which Marice is co-director. With a background in design and developing creative start ups – including support courses in prison – Marice decided upon making jam and chutneys with the residents in order to sell and raise funds to put on their own photographic exhibition at the Festival.
Marice put word out to the local community and was overwhelmed with local donations of fruit and vegetables from allotments, back gardens and vegetable patches. This allowed her each week to take a group of NLYMCA residents to the kitchens of the Church of the Holy Innocents to make chutney and jams.
Every step of the process proved a challenge. The residents were often battling with backgrounds of poor mental health, substance dependency, histories of abuse and dealings with the criminal justice system. Coupled with this, they lacked any cooking experience and had very low basic skillsets.
Despite the challenges, a morning spent making chutney quickly became popular. Garfield (age 26) said “Its the highlight of my week. It makes a change to watching TV, visiting the dole office or just hanging out at the YMCA day in day out.”
An initial grant was given to Accumul8 by the New North London Synagogue Social Action Project to help fund the labels and initial costs of having a stall at local craft fairs. As the Synagogue became more involved, more fruit was collected from the congregation and links were subsequently forged between two different faiths and two very different communities.
The jams and chutneys proved to be a sell out success. Firm favorites include Moroccan apple and date chutney, apple pie jam and Membrillo quince jam. One month saw the sale of 300 jars at £5 each.
With the funding from the sales of the Accumul8 chutneys and jams in place Marice invited Crouch End’s creative community to get involved. Local photographer Kit Oates took on the role and ran weekly photographic workshops at the YMCA. Two BA photography students from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication have also provided support, giving them their valuable insight and experience.
The workshops have encouraged the residents to observe the world around them, outside the physical and sometimes mental constraints of the YMCA. With professional DSLR cameras they explored their creativity, engaging with one another and found pride in their practice. The process installed a sense of purpose and self worth in each individual, not only developing their creative skills and abilities, but also building a fresh confidence and outlook on life.
Shaun (age 29) who comes from an offending background has been involved with Accumul8 since its inception. His involvement has built his employability skills, illustrated his commitment and ability to manage himself and others to such an extent that the North London YMCA now employs Shaun as a case worker.
The finished photographic projects will be shown at an exhibition across two venues during the Crouch End Festival – Hot Pepper Jelly Café on Tottenham Lane and the foyer of the NLYMCA Gym, Elmfield Avenue until 15 June 2014.