This exerpt is taken from an article published in Good Woodworking, describing the work of Out of the Dark, a social enterprise based in High Wycombe that brings together young people and cast-off brown furniture. The result is an alchemy that creates a particoloured vision of C21st Modernism.

Into the light

“It’s called Out of the Dark,” Jay Blades is explaining, “because we bring the furniture out of the dark.” In the old factory space all around are stacked cast-off chairs, tables, sideboards, dressing tables, wardrobes and chests of drawers - the raw materials of the social enterprise which restores and revamps furniture from the heyday of British Mid-Century Modern. And on the slopes around the site - where the Chilterns come down to Britain’s erstwhile furniture-making capital, and the Wye winds largely unseen beneath the town’s ‘60s concretions - are the housing estates of High Wycombe. From here come some of Out of the Dark’s essential materials: the young people that it brings into the light by giving them the confidence that comes through learning skills and developing a sound work ethic that’s directed towards a positive purpose.

Colour-fuelled champions

If your world view doesn’t include urban, multi-racial youth and the perspectives afforded by, say, the margins of mainstream education, or backgrounds that may be NEET but not neat and nuclear, or even by brushes with the law, then it’s going to take more than a day or two’s well-intentioned interest to discover what Out of the Dark (to save time, OotD hereafter) really means to those who’re part of the programme. Heck, you could spend that long fathoming the rap lyrics with their racially explosive epithets that are part of the workshop’s busy soundscape.

However, when Six Fitzroy Square, the home of the specialist estate agent The Georgian Group, was used as a backdrop for an OotD photoshoot, the group’s marketing manager, Rob Kouyoumdjian, perhaps offered a way to begin understanding the enterprise’s significance. Speaking of the revamped furniture, he said: “In times where multi-national corporations are mass-producing, these objects are a true representation of our culture and deserve to be given a new lease of life.” And there’s an obvious parallel - one that it’s probably better not to overstate, but which is there all the same - between OotD’s furniture and the potential of its young people.

In a society where the brittle superficies of consumerism and television’s unhealthy obsession with celebrity hold too much sway, many things that don’t conform to their questionable values are discounted and discarded, and their other merits overlooked. Now, when you’re talking about throwing away solid furniture that only needs repair and an imaginative revival, this attitude is merely wasteful; when you’re talking about people who for whatever reason aren’t comfortably buoyant in society’s mainstream, it’s not only unfair but, arguably, dangerously alienating...

In a society where the brittle superficies of consumerism and television’s unhealthy obsession with celebrity hold too much sway, many things that don’t conform to their questionable values are discounted and discarded

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© David Roberts 2019