A new term begins at the Design Camp

As the posters around The Marylebone Project say, ‘We’re back’. This is our sixth ‘term’ at the project which means, as Shannon reminded me yesterday, September will be the second anniversary of the Design Camp. Expect something involving cake!

Even though I hated school, and the start of a new term used to fill me with dread, I actually quite like the rhythm of activity followed by rest, followed by activity. It allows space to reflect and re-focus, try something new over a limited period of time, ring the changes or just respond to seasonal opportunities like Christmas.

Over the Easter break we reviewed the Design Camp and decided to try some new ideas this term. This may come as a surprise to some of the women who love their weekly fix of beads and wire but we hope they will also embrace the opportunity to try something else and, as we found with making jewellery, I’m sure we’ll discover hidden talents.

So we started this term, making earrings, an old favourite, but with plans to try out a few new ideas; lampshades, gift bags and tags, and sweet smelling, pretty lavender bags. All made using some of the scarfs that have been collected. We will be grateful for the sewing skills of Katie Sampson and Shi Dolor, two of our regular volunteers who take time out from their own businesses and family life to help with the sessions.

It was good to see some familiar faces returning last week, and three new women to welcome. We’ve met around 15 new women at the design camps since January, over just 10 sessions, which reflects the turnover at the hostel but is also a challenge for us as we seek to build relationships and develop the women’s skills.

The rhythm, terms and seasons; rest and creativity, reminds me of one of my favourite hymns:

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pray with me that this term we would have our eyes open so that we can witness and celebrate God’s faithfulness, mercy and love at work in the lives of all involved with the design camps.

– Polly

From the DIY stores of France to the DIY stores of London

So… less than a week since we returned to London a handful of us trotted across town to help Rachel Jordan paint her bathroom. The reason for this paint job is that Rachel wants to get her house ready to sell, on the market and find a new place in Wapping. Currently, while intricately part of our community she lives about an hour away in Clapham, south London… still in London … but just not local!

There are two things that excite me about this… or two things that this demonstrates that I love about MH. One is the commitment to one another. I find that the commitment and care for one another in MH is extraordinary. We don’t get it right all of the time but we are really trying to figure out what loving well looks like.

So whether painting bathrooms, doing up properties in France, delivering meals for new parents, helping others move, taking in people without homes or simply eating meals together we are demonstrating love in both practical and radical ways everyday. In a time and city where people are more and more isolated this demonstration of love for one another and hospitality is profoundly counter cultural and transformative.

The other thing that excites me is that people are really feeling this pull to move east, to move into the neighborhood. God seems to be uping the ante here.

Revelation 21: 3-4
“Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone — all the first order of things gone.”


Like many others when it comes to cooking, I fall into the category of I-like-food-so-I-think-I-can-cook-whereas-really-I’m-much-better-at-eating. So it was a delight to find myself having a one-on-one tutorial with a professional chef during Chateau Duffy April 2012.

We were tasked with feeding the many hungry mouths returning from a long and damp day on the building site. This should have taken the pressure off, since we probably would have washed our red wine down with just about anything after such a day, but by this point in the trip we had all become used to chef Richard’s lavish and authentic four course dinners.

Trusting that he would be able to un-do anything I did badly, I concentrated partly on the task in hand, but mostly on gleaning as much culinary information as possible. We covered everything from exemplary chopping technique to vineyard classifications, spaghetti handling and the perfect plate presentation (If we eat first with our eyes, then in France we ate very well indeed). I even acquired a tailored four course dinner party plan, including a recipe for gin marinated salmon (yes!).

By the time dinner was served, I was already full – mostly due to sampling the entire menu throughout cooking, but also with the many gems of gastronomical insight I had gained.

My name will be first up on the list for sous cheffing come August, and until then, where’s that gin…

– Lindsay

More than a house is being built through Chateau Duffy

All the friends sat down on wooden benches to a sumptuous feast they had cooked together. There was the best cheese in the world. There was bread and wine.

One friend stood up to share about how special it is to thoughtfully eat bread and wine together. There’s more to it than tastebuds tingling and then digestion. Something spiritual happens. It’s like a metal spiral through the notebook of history.

I was one of those friends. We were resting during the building of a friend’s house. Most of us had been doing this work with our bare hands. We fell through floors, stacked tile after tile, wore holes in our shoes and trousers, burned hay (and ourselves!), pulled up weeds and balanced along roof-beams. All of us – such as a former manager to the stars, a trainee vicar, a web content editor, a psychotherapist, a typographer – had more dignified jobs back home. But we happily pitched in together among the dirt and the laughter.

Why build a home together?

Because, like communion, there is far more to it than 400-year old bricks and home-made lime mortar.


– Rachel Nunson

Home from Chateau Duffy

A week may be a long time in politics, but it’s always too short a time at Chateau Duffy. That’s not to say we didn’t achieve our roofing goals – far from it, the roof is present and felted – but that we leave wanting more.

Well, perhaps not more work. Our bodies, generally unused to day after day of physical exertion,are broken and aching and couldn’t take much more. But we would love more time together, and plenty more of Richard’s fabulous cooking.

On our last evening work continued late into the evening, with the last piece of felt nailed in as the sun began to set. This momentous achievement was celebrated with champagne at the site and a swift return to the gites for showers and a final meal together.

Using a beautiful artisan loaf of bread, each of the group made a toast to the week and the future. Listening to the ways in which this project has touched people was truly inspiring & uplifting. The words I’ll take away from that moment were from Eric our Texan builder who had spent a week monkeying about over the roof:

“Thank you Lord for building so much more than a house.” 
He’s right. Something that is so much more than a house has been, and will continue to be, built.