What was once a disused former high street bank, is now the Sound Lounge – a café and plant-based kitchen by day and a grassroots community music venue by night – thanks to a community refurbishment project completed by Volunteer It Yourself and local Master Builder companies.

The venue, which is located on Sutton High Street, showcases new music as well as running extensive social programmes and workshops, including training and education for vulnerable young people. The project was made possible through funding from Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London, and with support from (and many thanks to) Travis Perkins and Dulux through donated materials, tools and supplies such as paint. Sutton Council was also a key supporter of the project, helping to carry out the crucial enabling works at the venue at the beginning of the project, and later referring young people to the volunteer project as well.

One of the most impressive aspects of this transformation is the different organisations and people who came together to make it happen. The project was led by Volunteer it Yourself (VIY), a non-profit charitable organisation that helps people aged between 14 and 24 by teaching them trade skills while helping to repair old or disused community buildings. VIY's projects range from youth clubs, community centres, schools and colleges to sports clubs, music and arts venues and supported housing.

It is not just the local communities that benefit from these projects. Local young people have the opportunity to work with and be mentored by seasoned professionals to carry out refurbishments, while working towards earning City & Guilds trade accreditations.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) partnered with VIY on the Sound Lounge project, with local Master Builder companies volunteering their time and skills. Together they worked with the VIY volunteers to mentor the young people and pass on their extensive experience. Thank you to the FMB member companies and tradespeople that volunteered their time including: Jewel Group Ltd, Amic Ltd and Carl Construction Ltd. The team at Jewel Group Ltd made a significant contribution by ensuring a volunteer was on-site every day during the build phase. Thank you also to Annie Summun from Kisiel Group, Gary Olsen from Create For You, and Jan Etchells, the FMB’s National President, for visiting the team on site.

Amic Ltd Director David Gutierrez commented on his time helping out on the project:

“It was great to meet a group of enthusiastic young people who were keen in getting hands-on with various jobs. I found it very rewarding to teach my trade to others, especially when they showed such interest with asking questions and even using their own initiative to think ahead,” said David.  

Atma Amin, who project managed the refurbishment for VIY, explains how important it is to collaborate with organisations like the FMB.

“From an on the ground perspective, it’s an amazing partnership to have, both organisations operate with very similar aims in trying to address the skills shortage of trades within young people within the UK. Best utilise the amount of skills that we have in slightly older generations to help address that and the FMB does that really well when it takes part in projects like this,” said Atma.

The brief for the Sound Lounge refurbishment included building a stage, a bar, a kitchen counter and the decoration of the entire space.

Throughout the three-week project, 25 young people took part with 15 earning globally recognised City & Guilds qualifications. Sutton Council’s Youth Skills Team helped to refer on young people, who are not currently in education, employment or training, to take part as volunteers. The project saw young people referred by Sutton NEET Forum, Sutton Youth Offending Team, Limes College PRU, YMCA, Raynes Park School, Carshalton College and South Thames College.

Caroline Ekoku, a representative of Sutton Council said:

“Recently two of my young people had the opportunity to work with VIY at the Sound Lounge in Sutton. The support they received from the site manager and other mentors working on the building, was invaluable and helped them feel comfortable working in an adult They were guided through each task that they were asked to do in a helpful and patient manner. This enabled them to improve their skills in carpentry plus painting & decorating.

“Both young people thoroughly enjoyed this experience. It has given them more motivation to find work and they now have something else to put on their CV's along with a reference. It is great to see experienced tradesmen working and teaching young people who might not have had the same educational and training opportunities as others.”

One of the young people taking part was Trey Bakas from Carshalton College, who welcomed the opportunity to work on the project and learn new skills.

“Participating in this project has really helped me as it has given me a first-hand experience on working on an actual work site and trying out different activities like painting,” said Trey.

The Sound Lounge are delighted with the finished product as Hannah White, co-founder of the Sound Lounge states: “Now our music venue looks better than any of our spaces has ever looked! It is welcoming, interesting but also safe and extremely functional as well as accessible to wheelchair users”.

The completed venue is an example of what can be achieved when the construction industry works together with charitable organisations to improve local communities and pass on their knowledge to the next generation of Master Builders.

To find out more about VIY and their recent projects, visit www.volunteerityourself.org, or if you’d like to know what it means to be a Master Builder, visit www.fmb.org.uk/become-a-master-builder.html

If this story has inspired you to undertake your own renovation project, try our free Find a Builder search to find a Master Builder in your local area and build with confidence.