For the third installment in our series of special reports to celebrate Furniture Mine‘s 30th Anniversary, we spoke to Pam Spall, who helped set up Furniture Mine

“Over thirty years ago, I ran a social action broadcasting project on Radio Stoke. It was a not-for-profit organisation. Every hour we had a slot on the radio to help match up people with the help and advice they needed. We’d get 10,000 phone calls every year!

Very often, we’d have people calling up who needed furniture but who couldn’t afford it, so we’d do an appeal on air, to ask people to donate the items if they had them. There were people who couldn’t move into council accommodation because they’d got no furniture, and we’d try to help.

A need for storage

This worked quite well, but then we’d get people randomly ringing in to say “I’ve got this three-piece suite – would you like it?” We would try to ring round local housing organisations, to see if they knew of anyone, but we often had to say no as we’d got no storage space.

This system also meant that there was no choice: if you were living in a flat and needed a sofa, you might be offered a giant settee that barely fitted in. We also couldn’t help with electrical items because we had no-one to test them.

Finding a solution

Eventually, I got together with other local people interested in thinking about a way to solve this problem. One thing led to another, and we successfully applied for funding from the council.

Originally the Furniture Mine was going to be based on the site of a former coal mine – hence the name. That plan fell through and we found another site to store donated furniture, but the name stuck.

I think it’s great that when it got going, they took on some people being supported by the Salvation Army, as volunteer drivers. They got great work experience.

Thirty years ago, people didn’t have the internet at home, so you couldn’t just have an online list to help match people who needed things with those who were ready to donate. Furniture Mine has made a big difference, especially in those early days.”

Find out more about Emmaus Furniture Mine