Volunteer of the month – Anoushka Almeida
Brixton Windmill Centre Volunteer
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do when you are not volunteering?
I love everything to do with design and craft – it’s a real passion of mine. I have a background in woven textile design and am able to bring this passion into my job as an interior and furniture, fixtures & equipment designer. In my spare time I love baking and experimenting with recipes and ingredients. I also like long-distance walking and coming across new and interesting places I didn’t know about – like the beloved Windmill!
What sort of volunteering do you do with Friends of Windmill Gardens?
I have been a volunteer for about 6 months, and have mainly been involved in baking and helping with the pop-up café and the shop in the Windmill Centre, also helping the team on open days. Now that the Windmill and the Centre are able to open up a bit more, I’m looking forward to finding other ways I can help and get more involved.
How did you get into volunteering with FoWG?
As for many, the recent lockdowns were quite limiting and isolating. I’ve lived in the Brixton area for 10 years, so in my lunch breaks and weekends I decided to walk a different route from my flat for some fresh air and to get to know my neighbourhood a little more. One day I consciously followed the Windmill sign that I had frequently passed on the bus when commuting. Then I stumbled upon this beautiful building, which felt like a monument! From then on, I had to take the same route from my flat to the bench opposite the Windmill. It soon became my regular habit to sit down with a coffee and take some time out of a busy job. Then one day there was life inside the building and the café was open! I got to meet Claire, Jean and Priscilla, who were lovely, and we chatted a bit about the windmill and the café. I knew I wanted to be involved, so Jean (Kerrigan) suggested I come along to the Harvest Festival.
What is your favourite thing about volunteering?
I’m not sure there is just one favourite thing – for me it’s many things. Learning about the Windmill has been so fascinating and very worthwhile knowledge to digest and share. I take pride in knowing that I can somehow help promote a tangible piece of history that is being lovingly preserved and used. Getting to know fellow volunteers and becoming friends has been great too. Meeting café customers and seeing their reaction to the Windmill – even hearing Windmill stories from their childhood or family history – gives me lots to engage with over a cuppa and a piece of cake!
How have you benefitted from volunteering?
There are many things that are a benefit! You can learn about the Windmill, about Brixton and about people. For me, being a volunteer is a nice slice of community spirit that I was missing for a while!
What advice would you give someone looking to volunteer?
Go for it! No matter what skills or interests you have, there will always be something that would suit you – or perhaps try something new? FoWG are a very understanding group of people. Everyone takes time out of their daily lives to make it work. The good thing is you can volunteer as much or as little as you are able to – it all helps!
Tell us a surprising fact about Brixton Windmill
My fact concerns the grooves of the millstone – a version of which is embedded in the grass at the foot of the mill to demonstrate how milling works. The stone has a diagonal pattern cut into the inner face. The grooves are deliberately cut on a bias and off-centre, so that when the faces of the stones cross each other the grain will have greater contact with the opposing direction of cuts and create more traction for a finer flour – very functional, and a desirable pattern to a designer like me!