When Fabric set up Hand Made in Bradford we did so in the hope that people would want to get involved? When we finally got the keys we had just four weeks to turn a tired former Virgin Megastore into a shop fit for the work of artists and makers and in time for the launch of Bradford’s City Park. Using social and more conventional media we put a call out for volunteers. That was when the Queens of the High Street started to appear: cleaning, painting, building furniture and contacting makers. If you want to see the transformation visit our Tumblr.
Now nearly one year on, and following cuts to our budget, we’ve had to ask them to take on more and more and each time they’ve stepped up, to the point now when they are effectively running the place. Now they organise the volunteer rota needed to staff the shop five days a week, devise the systems for managing stock, record sales, take deliveries and send sales reports to makers. They respond to the daily questions from visitors about getting their work in the shop, patiently explaining who they should contact and what to say. They do the merchandising and window displays – recently shifting overnight from Valentine’s Day to celebrating Bradford City’s visit to Wembley.
As well as all this they staff the shop, often when our inadequate heating doesn’t quite take the edge off the cold, some of them carrying on making things for the shop whilst sitting behind the counter. I know its not strictly best practice, in terms of customer service, but the charm of seeing someone knitting the hat that’ll be on the shelves tomorrow I think outweighs this. Our Queens of the High Street range from 16 to 68 and come from across the district, from inner city to leafy suburb. Some come week after week, others helping out when we’re short. All I know is, without them, we wouldn’t have made it this far and on 23rd March, when we celebrate our first birthday, I’ll be saying a big thank you to every one of them.