Many local cyclists miss the Bike Kitchen that took over Jacksons in 2014. There was no such thing as a quiet time when the doors were opened, and there was a lot going on behind the scenes when the doors were closed too.
From the moment we tentatively opened the doors one Saturday in June in that first year we were pretty much flat out.
It was a busy enough scene, and many people worked their socks off to keep it going. It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had, except none of us really worked. It was entirely run by volunteers.
In the three years we were there we helped people use the workstands 8000 times, and at a guess we had 4000 people through the doors. When we were closed we spent hours fixing up old bikes for sale, 850 went back on to the streets of Reading, 1500 were sent onwards to other recycling projects.
286 people gave up their time for free to help make the project run. It was a truly remarkable enterprise which is currently on ice.
We had to leave the building as it was about to be redeveloped. When we moved in we expected a few months. We had nearly three years, and actually that time took its toll on some of us. Working often 40 and sometimes 50 hours a week to keep the project alive was too much really, especially for a pensioner!
People exploiting it became wearying too, I trusted everyone, but some folk exploited that trust, inevitable but painful.
Now, without any premises it is just ticking over, but we do still do stuff. Every Monday our workstands spring up in the Global Café for a couple of hours. We are often but not regularly somewhere on the University Campus. If we can get a slot we are occasionally at the Farmers’ Market.
Soon we will pop up in other places too, but really we are just kicking our heels until we get a new place to be. We have a few promising leads, but as a project that doesn’t generate a ton of cash we need somewhere very cheap, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the cost of renting in Reading.
One day though we’ll be back with a vengeance.
Adrian Lawson, RCC Chairman