Absolute Beginners is a new kind of factory on Park Royal Industrial Estate, north-west London, where young people can learn how to make basic goods in radically sustainable ways.

Over 9 months in 2021, three groups of local 17-21 year olds learnt how to make one product from the estate’s past, in a manner fit for the uncertain economies of our future. Working with talented makers, the beginners made A4 paper, clay cups and tyre sandals - all all made by hand, using off-grid power, and abundant local materials.

At the end of the project, the products were sold in a Factory Shop on Park Royal, as part of London Design Festival. The young people were paid London Living Wage for their involvement, and received 50% of the proceeds.

The project aims to help young people learn how to produce real, useful products - and at the same time, open up a space to talk about what we consume; where our stuff comes from; and how we can build a different economy, fit for the climate emergency. We’re currently trying to set up Absolute Beginners 2, in which we’ll set up a real factory, and produce these radically sustainable products at scale.

You can find more on the project's website here, and read more about the ideas behind the project in this interview. Absolute Beginners is part of my drive to make work about the climate crisis that’s actually real and actually useful and actually hopeful, for real people, now and in the future.

Absolute Beginners is a project by Tom James, commissioned by the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) as part of In The Making, and funded by Arts Council England & National Lottery Heritage Fund. Youth engagement by Cam Jarvis (When It Works). Workshops led by Lucy Baxandall, Lauren MacDonald and Camille Biddell. Graphic design by Jon Cannon. Banners by Rachael Clerke.