Sunday, September 8, 2013

An elephant in the street

Many strange and wonderful things happen in our pedestrian street: last week saw one of the strangest. An elephant gliding along the street and around our common house, carrying our children on his back.

Rajah the mechanical elephant was guest of honour for the opening of Halton Mill, the low carbon workspace we have created out of the semi-derelict industrial building we acquired, unintentionally,
when we bought our site.

A decade ago, Halton Mill housed Luneside Engineering, a family run engineering works started by Colonel Bernirski, an eccentric Pole, just after the second world war. As one of the group of Luneside Engineering workers who turned up for the opening told me: “It was a brilliant place to work. We could turn our hands to anything.”

One of the things they turned their hands to was these 7ft high mechanical elephants, made to carry children along the seaside promenades of Britain. Chris, who oversaw the refurbishment of Halton Mill, tracked one down to the Crosby Lions In Liverpool, who kindly agreed to bring “Rajah” back home for our opening.

We somehow magically got the Mill fit for the opening - we didn’t have a budget to pay for most of the decorating, so it was a cohousing all hands to the pump job (with help from some soon to be Mill tenants as well). 

It was also a chance to showcase the talents of the people who will be working out of the Mill. Stuart, our resident magician, exhibited The Strange Thing, and made a bowling ball appear out of nowhere.  Mike, Myette and their children from Whirlwind Theatre showed off their hand crafted costumes.  Kate helped people make five minute books while Lucy did five minute massage. Miles played keyboard, Fiona the accordion. Canoe England brought kayak simulators for dry land races and Frances filmed the whole thing.

More than 250 people turned up: villages, former Luneside workers, future tenants, friends and even the son of the man who designed the mechanical elephants. It was wonderful.

Halton Mill is aiming to translate our cohousing philosophy into the workplace: mixing private with communal space, reducing the environmental impact of our activities, and sharing resources, ideas and facilities. We hope it will be as brilliant a place to work as Luneside Engineering was, full of ingenuity and camaraderie. If the energy, enthusiasm and talent displayed at the opening is anything to go by, we are on our way.

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