Joel Gray

Volunteer - Joel

Volunteer miller

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

I’m an artist and a stone mason, I work for another artist managing a stone yard and I share a studio with my partner Alice. We have a business that Alice runs making sustainable underwear made to measure in our studio in Brixton.

What sort of volunteering work do you do with FoWG?

I have been trying to get involved over the lockdown period and have done a little milling and delivering to shops and food banks, which is great. I’ve most recently had the opportunity to ‘dress the millstones’ which has meant working with the millrights Paul and Carl in recutting the grooves in the mill stones, which I really enjoyed.

How did you get into volunteering with FoWG?

I’m local to the Windmill, we moved here about 3 years ago and we take our kids to the park. I first met Jean and Annick selling vegetables in the park! Then I did some milling with Abs and Jeff and that was it!

What is your favourite thing about volunteering?

I think the whole thing! The Windmill is an exciting local community resource and space. I like the relationship with food and the land, so it has been great learning about the history and where the grain is grown, how it’s milled, and what we make from it.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to volunteer?

Don’t be shy! But, really, it is such a great group of people, it’s a safe and gentle space – and I mean, look at it, it’s a crazy windmill in the middle of the city! And you can mill your own flour.

How do you feel you have benefited from volunteering with FoWG?

I have met lovely inspiring people, it has allowed me to take part safely in volunteering during the lockdown, it’s been a help to me to help others. It has given me an insight into how community spaces can work and a lot of hope for the future.

Can you say a bit about how Covid-19 has affected you, and your hopes for future work with FoWG?

The pandemic has been a disaster. I am so sad and overwhelmed by the numbers of people who have died. It is truly devastating. I have been cheered by the mutual aid networks and volunteering – the community work that goes on, and I think that is where my hopes for the Windmill and the new Brixton Windmill Centre lie. It is a great space to rebuild our bonds as people, through a working resource – the mill, and food and festivals. Hopefully, at the next harvest time, at the end of the summer, we can start that good work.

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

As a mason I’m drawn to the millstones which are made of an exceptionally hard stone, French Burr. The millstone face itself is made of interlocking pieces of the french burr backed with rubble and plaster of Paris. This is all held together by two metal bands that are heated on, like cart wheel. The base stone is completely flat but the top stone has a very shallow dish to let the grain in between the stones.

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