How do you make something from nothing? The Flitched Making Yard at the Canning Town Caravanserai is trying to do just that.
Materials, wherever possible, are scavenged (see my ‘Art of Scavenging’ post) Everybody on site is volunteering. The commitment depends on people’s availability; most of the volunteers have a part time job. The reasons people commit to Flitched are all quite different – as diverse as their past histories and backgrounds. The motivation is impressive, but liable to the stresses and strains of surviving in London. When things need to be done on site, how do we help each other tap into that inner motivation and keep energy levels up?
Conventional management techniques are inappropriate, lacking wit and transparency.
The Caravanserai is all about being positive and managing good energies, regardless of how many people are involved. Obviously commitment on-site varies. The appetite from the project is volatile and just as numbers might fall off, the right environment can instantly reverse that trend doubling the attendance from one day to another.
That is the reason why I hit upon the idea of a daily menu with tasks as dishes. The menu provides a list of daily tasks to tackle on-site depending on the ingredients available. It is all about offering rather than dictating. At the same time I became know on-site as ‘the chef’, which in French means ‘the boss’ – as well as the cook.
When you go to a restaurant, you partly pay for the luxury of the choice. It is a pleasure to see what is available and pick one dish that matches your tastes. It could be something you know or something you never tried before! On site, the menu offers to each volunteer an opportunity to learn something new everyday or lead a task in his/her own field of interest.
The chef is responsible for the proposition, offering his clients some tasty dishes.
Every morning in the train, I write a menu with the tasks of the day. It could be digging foundations, finding palettes, finish the WCs flooring, designing connections or tidying up the site. Every dish is made with fresh ingredients, usually depending on the scavenger’s harvest. But wannabe chefs be warned! If the menu is not good enough, or if the dishes are not renewed every once in a while, you might lose your clients.
Starters, Mains, Desserts give an idea of the duration of each task. If you are very hungry, go for a 3-course-meal. If you rather keep your appetite for another day, just go for a starter!
We are 10 different nationalities on-site, and food is surely a common ground for everybody. It is a universal language and there is no need to explain that if you don’t finish a dish, you can expect left-overs the next day!
by Antoine Carrier