December’s Guardian Spotlight: Tom


Tom_Workshop (1)This month we caught up with Tom Hepworth; volunteer at the Rural Arts Centre at Stepney City Farm.

Having joined Dot Dot Dot in October, Tom has already given over 50 hours of his time assisting at the wood workshop, helping to build and organise projects and workshops for the local community as well as developing  the Rural Arts Centre’s workspace itself.

Completed in 2013, the Rural Arts Centre is a unique facility amongst all of London’s City Farms. It aims to preserve and promote those trades, crafts and arts which were once an intrinsic part of our daily lives but are now at risk of being lost from today’s society. It hopes to achieve this through environment, observation, engagement and education. A working city farm, in one of the poorest and most crowded Boroughs in the UK, Stepney City Farm is a valuable community asset. It helps the local community in a variety of ways including; providing volunteering  opportunities, open green areas for neighbours to meet and children to play, and a stimulating setting for schools to provide an alternative to classroom­based learning.

Every Saturday Tom facilitates the open studio, where the public are invited in to learn about the rural arts and traditional woodwork that Tom specialises in. Most recently Stepney City Farm held a ‘Craft your own Christmas’ Crafty Saturday where people joined Tom and other resident artists to make Christmas gifts and cards as well as hand carved Christmas Elves. Tom also works closely with the Rural Arts Centre delivering free workshops for unemployed residents of Tower Hamlets.

Crafting Christmas elves at Stepney City Farm Crafty Saturday Crafting Christmas elves at Stepney City Farm Crafty Saturday

Crafting Christmas elves at Stepney City Farm Crafty Saturday Crafting Christmas elves at Stepney City Farm Crafty Saturday

Tom told us a little more about his experience volunteering: 

“The variety of jobs and projects I am involved in is great, however it’s the interaction with the public and other farm volunteers, particularly on Crafty Saturdays, which I find most satisfying and rewarding.  Children love the workshop space; the sight of tools and old wooden machines that they’ve never seen before, the chance to pick up and play with wood shavings, the experience of seeing people working and making things that they wouldn’t normally get to see, and the overall sensory excitement of workshop. It’s a real pleasure to see their faces light up and to answer their questions.

A similar childlike joy is visible in the adults who enter our space and have the opportunity to try wood turning on a traditional pole-lathe, or to make a functional spatula on a hand-built shave horse. These open studio sessions spark inspiration for further involvement and an excitement at the possibility of learning new skills or pursuing alternative forms of employment. They also help the farm to provide a positive and interactive space for local people to spend time, for free, as families or as individuals. Children and adults alike have the opportunity to engage with sights, people and ideas that they might otherwise never have, especially if they have lived their whole lives in the centre of London.”

Get involved
There are number of volunteering opportunities at Stepney City Farm ranging from weekly drop in sessions lending a hand with whatever is needed, to time spent developing the farm’s garden, undertaking  animal duties or getting involved in the farm’s youth and education programme.