Beds, Herts & Bucks

Charity restores Wycombe's furniture-making history

A High Wycombe charity is helping disadvantaged young people into work.

Run by registered charity Sweet Dreams, set up 10 years ago by husband and wife Jay and Jade Blades, the Out of the Dark project recycles and revamps salvaged classic furniture.

Everything from chairs to cabinets, bureaux and cots are restored by the teenagers and given a modern twist.

Their work has already been exhibited locally, with another show planned in London.

The young designers are encouraged to take ownership of their work, beginning at the ideas stage through to making a sales pitch on exhibition night.

Jade Blades said: "The exhibition offers buyers a chance to pick up a piece of work that is not only unique - but could ultimately help change the lives of these young people who have been working so hard to show why they are our future."

Industry decline

High Wycombe was once the UK centre of furniture craftsmanship, with furniture manufacturers such as Ercol, G-Plan and Parker Knoll based in the town.

The decline of the furniture industry, in an area where it was once a leading employer, has seen a number of factories close down completely or relocate overseas.

"It is fitting that an industry, which meant so much to employment in the area, is now working to get disadvantaged and disengaged young people off the streets, motivated, into work and making the most of their lives," said Mrs Blades.

Practical skills

Out of the Dark is funded locally by Wycombe District Council, John Lewis, NatWest, 4C and the Austin Hope Pilkington Trust.

Councillor Richard Scott, of Wycombe District Council, said: "Wycombe is renowned for furniture manufacturing. Not only does the Out of the Dark project teach practical skills and encourage self-confidence in those taking part, it is a fantastic link to the district's long established industry."

The Out of the Dark team is keen to receive any donations of old or unused pieces of classic furniture. The money raised by the sale of the furniture goes to help other disadvantaged young people in the area.

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