Claire Bloxham

Volunteer - Claire

Volunteer baker

Tell us a bit about yourself – what do you do when you’re not volunteering?

It’s been a tough year to do the things I normally do. But when Covid is not hanging over us I’m normally out and about in London Town, catching up with friends at a restaurant or attending the gig of a new band we’ve discovered, celebrating our friendship at a festival in and out of town. When I’m not gadding about, I’m working out on Streatham Common, stretching those muscles and punching the living daylights out of my personal trainer (don’t worry he’s padded). I truly believe you need to keep moving to be fitter for longer. I’m also a keen cyclist: not the racing kind – just the discovering new places kind, like the beautiful Merton Abbey Mills and the River Wandle trail or Dulwich Village and the gorgeous houses I can only dream of owning.

What sort of volunteering work do you do with FoWG?
I bake cakes for the cafe – I make it my job to encourage all customers to have a cup of tea and some homemade cake. In this current climate sometimes tea, cake and conversation is like giving a virtual hug to someone who may be a little blue.

How did you get into volunteering with FoWG?
I had been planning to visit Brixton Windmill for some time – I knew it was there but had never been in all the years I had been flying down Brixton Hill on my bike. So back in June/July a friend and I paid a visit, she handed me a volunteer pamphlet literally as a joke and I took it home. I’d just recently lost my job due to redundancy and while I was having a closer look at the information, it occurred to me it would be a great idea to volunteer to stop me going mad with stress and boredom while I looked for a new job.

What is your favourite thing about volunteering?
Definitely engaging with the people who stumble across the windmill or come specially to buy our beautifully milled flour. I love talking about the windmill, its age, the fact it is a working mill and that we bake cakes with the flour, sell homemade jam, etc. I get a kick out of the surprise and pleasure people get from our little bit of Brixton.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to volunteer?
Just do it. You never know what friends you might make and what new knowledge you might gain.

How do you feel you have benefited from volunteering with FoWG?
It’s just a really nice thing to do and if you’re in a situation like me where you’ve been stuck at home doing a groundhog day job hunt, it really helps you get away for a few hours and recalibrate.

Can you say a bit about how Covid-19 has affected you, and your hopes for future work with FoWG?
I lost my job due to the Covid situation, and FoWG has been that little light that’s kept me going. I see great things in the future for FoWG. The Brixton Windmill Centre could be utilised for so many types of events – festivals, weddings, birthday parties, youth club, classical music and modern, etc. It’s a real community opportunity and to make the community feel part of FoWG it would be good to see the centre being used as a multi-function enterprise as well as an education centre.

Finally, tell us a surprising fact about the windmill that people may not know.

Hmm, not sure I can come up with a fact none of the volunteers already know. What I would love to see is the wooden balcony reinstated on the windmill or more pictures around the centre of the windmill in its original state, ie the original buildings that were connected to the windmill. I believe the doorway on the side of the windmill used to connect to a farm building? I love this picture [right] from the 1920s/1930s – such a shame the original buildings are no longer with us.

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