£55k for Blackburn initiative tackling digital exclusion and e-waste

The Making Rooms project receives recognition and award from Time After Time fund, from Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub.

Based in the heart of Blackburn, The Making Rooms provides laboratories of small-scale digital manufacturing machinery – such as 3D printers and laser cutters – so that anyone can develop their own artwork, designs and products. The site, which opened in 2016, also offers meeting rooms, workshops and courses.

A sign saying The Making Rooms being manufactured at The Making Rooms

Photo courtesy of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

It has also pioneered the ‘Repair Space Blackburn’ project, which collects otherwise unwanted old laptops from local organisations. Community members and young people are then taught to repair and refurbish these devices, teaching them useful skills. This refurbished equipment is then donated to young people who otherwise lack access to such devices, so they can be trained in digital literacy.

That means the initiative tackles two major issues at once: the growing problem of e-waste from outmoded digital devices and the continuing ‘digital divide’, where those without access to devices and connectivity are increasingly cut off from modern life.

Now, this work has recognised by the Time After Time fund established by Virgin Media O2 and the environmental charity Hubbub specifically to support innovative approaches to digital inclusion that makes use of e-waste, surplus devices and the circular economy. Some 120 organisations entered the latest round of funding; The Making Rooms is one of eight to share in the total £500,000. The panel of judges included TV presenter and environmentalist George Clarke.

Thomas Macpherson-Pope, Director of The Making Rooms, says: ‘We saw during the pandemic just how wide the digital divide is between young people in the borough. This funding from Time After Time will allow us to bridge the divide and give excluded young people a solid platform to engage with all the digital skills training opportunities that are available in Blackburn with Darwen. Partnerships like this create a unique opportunity for us to effect change in young people’s lives, whilst reducing and bringing attention to the issues of e-waste.’

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, adds: ‘When we first started The Making Rooms eight years ago, we wanted to create an opportunity for people to get their hands on equipment and meet up with like-minded people. As a Council, we took the view that we would attempt to achieve Net Zero by 2030 and started a variety of activities in that context, including working with The Making Rooms. Repair Space Blackburn brings alive the idea of repurposing and getting people to think about how they can live sustainably. What’s going on in The Making Rooms and the Repair Space project is about how we turn big global ideas into a small story for our borough.’

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