Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Cycling and recycling at the seafront

Want some help with your bicycle repairs? Interested in building a bike from scratch? Need some paint? Like the idea of Freecycle, but don’t have a computer? Then pay a visit to Labyrinth, an exciting new initiative recently opened up at the seafront. HOT’s Zelly Restorick spoke to Patrick Nicholson about the new venture, a store, work and activity space for community groups, run by volunteers with a focus on the environment, cycling and the arts.

Patrick is known within Hastings and St Leonards as an enthusiastic cyclist, a supporter and promoter of all things ‘bike’ and the initiator of the From Pier to Eternity bike rides. He and other members of HUB [Hastings Urban Bikes] had previously run successful bicycle workshops at The House Of Hastings on Queens Road, encouraging them to look for new, more permanent premises. Luckily, they came across a little publicised Council advert asking for new tenants for the space previously occupied by Hastings Voluntary Lifeguards. Part of Sidney Little’s concrete creation, the underground space was just what they were looking for.

The group took over the concrete bunker in October 2011. ‘It was autumn and really cold and wet,’ explained Patrick. ‘There was water dripping from the ceiling and rubble on the floor. We’ve had two work days and although it’s still a work in progress, the place looks a lot better.’

The bike workshops have been hugely successful, with high numbers of people wanting either help with bicycle repairs or wanting to build their own bike from old bike parts. ‘It’s a lovely situation’, says Patrick. ‘It’s almost worked too well and we’re sometimes struggling to cope with the number of people. We now need more volunteers to help out.

‘This is a genuine community initiative,’ says Patrick, ‘working from the bottom up, empowering people. We now have The Roomz, the Moveable Feast Community Garden and Labyrinth, creating an axis of genuine community projects. It’s an exciting connection.’

This link was confirmed the other day whilst I was volunteering at the community garden. A local family was visiting the site and whilst the younger brother, aged 5, helped out with some gardening, the older son, aged 12, talked enthusiastically about building his new bike with The Community Bike Workshop.

The workshop offers access to tools, spares and advice to help you keep your bike on the road. Or you can build your own bike from scratch from the ‘dead’ bike pile. Or you can volunteer to help out.  It’s open on Wednesday evenings from 6 until 8pm.

HUB has some space in Labyrinth, as do Radiator Arts – along with two new initiatives, the Paint Recycling Project and Give Or Take.

Rebecca Snotflower runs the Paint Recycling Project, which is open on Mondays from 6 – 8pm. This is a great initiative, where you can go to donate any paint you no longer use or need – or you can come along and take away paint for free. Her admirable goal is ‘to take waste paint out of the waste stream of Hastings and St Leonards’.

Steve LaSqueeze has started up Give Or Take, which is a free shop, a real world version of Freecycle, especially good for those people who don’t have a computer. At the time I visited, Steve had acquired a wide range of items, including a foot spa, books, a soya milk maker, magazines, jewellery, CDs, films, clothes, speakers and lots of other odds and ends.

‘You don’t have to give in order to take,’ says Steve, ‘and you don’t have to take in order to give! It’s an ideal opportunity to get rid of things you don’t need any more or a chance to pick up something you do need. The idea is to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill or to an incinerator.’

One person’s rubbish can be someone else’s treasure!

If you want to take a look or if you have something you want to donate, pay Give Or Take a visit on Monday evenings between 6 and 8pm – or by appointment. Collection of items may be possible, by arrangement. Call Steve on 07951 513503.

The building is part of Sidney Little’s concrete kingdom. Sydney Little was known along the south east coast as ‘The Concrete King’. He was involved in the creation of the first underground car parks in the UK, the building of ‘Bottle Alley’ and the open air bathing pool at West St Leonards – and the world renowned double-decker seafront promenade. In the 1930s, Hastings spent £4million on Little’s concrete modernisations, supporting his ambition to bring the town up to date, leaving behind its reputation as a sleepy Victorian seaside resort.

One thankfully unsuccessful vision of Little’s was to clear the area between the Stade and Rock A Nore, knocking down the fishermen’s church and moving all the fishing huts to the opposite side of the road and re-building them out of bricks and – you guessed it – concrete. He wanted to clear the town of many of its historic buildings to make way for road creation schemes and cars – and it’s ironic that one of his developments is now being used to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes.

Labyrinth can be found on the lower promenade, next to the children’s play area, directly opposite from Queen Victoria’s statue at Warrior Square.

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Labyrinth also has a Facebook page or you can contact Patrick Nicholson on 07538 308103


Posted 10:50 Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 In: Green Times

Also in: Green Times

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