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Webber Street’s new Goodlife Centre provides practical and creative classes

Albert Evans

Tools for the terrified is just one of the courses on offer at the Goodlife Centre, a new training centre run by Jo Behari and Alison Winfield-Chislett whose aim is to present trades and the way people learn them in a different light.

Webber Street’s new Goodlife Centre provides practical and creative classes
Webber Street’s new Goodlife Centre provides practical and creative classes

Behari is no stranger to media attention, primarily for her all-female building firm Home Jane and more recently for a channel 4 daytime show Make Do and Mend.

The Goodlife Centre came around as a spin-off from Home Jane. The pair met while working for the firm and share a passion for practical skills and crafts.

"We started doing classes as a way to make money during the recession and it has just spiralled from there," says Behari.

Both have taken interesting routes in to the world of trades with Behari leaving a career in marketing and Winfield-Chislett working as a designer in a wide range of areas and then working as a carpenter for Home Jane.

However an area like SE1 with so many other educational institutions close by you could think that the market is somewhat over-saturated. Behari sees the Goodlife Centre as a good middle ground between 'learning it yourself' and more accredited learning.

"We want people to come here and get their hands dirty and have fun... they may find they enjoy it so much that they then want to go on and do a more conventional course."

Another factor in the Goodlife Centre's inception is a move away from a gender-specific brand.

"When we did courses under Home Jane the attendees were all women but I know there is a generation of blokes that don't know anything about DIY," says Behari.

"It's a strange paradox that 20 years ago you would never see a woman at a DIY course and now we are trying to encourage men to come!" says Winfield-Chislett.

The current climate of austerity and eco-awareness may also play in the centre's hands. While many people watch their waste and outgoings the centre gives people the skills to refurbish old furniture and to be able to take on DIY tasks themselves.

All the furniture in the centre has either been made or refurbished by them and they regularly bring in items for the attendees to work on.

Channel 4's Make do and Mend is based on similar principles with Behari and two other experts travelling the country showing people how to save money on their food, clothing and homes.

"It's very 'of the now' as many people are doing things themselves...I realised that this centre can really help people who don't know how," says Behari.

However the pair seem to see manual skills as more than just a means to save money but also as a creative and relaxing activity. The courses are all tailored towards a wide range of abilities and based around the attendees enjoying themselves and trying different things as well as taking home applicable skills.

"We can get people who are terrified of drills to use them very competently before lunch."

The pair believe being based in SE1 is key to their centre. "this area still has a concentration of workshops and trade companies. We can bring in expert tutors from round the corner," says Winfield-Chislett.

"And no one can say they can't get to Waterloo," she adds.

The space itself is impressive, complete with work desks, refurbished furniture and lots of space . With plans to expand the range of courses on offer the space will undoubtedly expand.

"We want it to remain a flexible, multi-use space," says Winfield-Chislett. "We are even going to teach relaxation in here."

The minimalist style fits in with the ethos of the Goodlife Centre and the pair see what they are doing as a reaction to the disposability of modern 'Primark culture'.

Winfield-Chislett uses a quote from Steve Wright to sum up her views: "You don't want it all... Where would you keep it?"

The Goodlife Centre is at 122 Webber Street

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