Happy free-for-all at Islington’s unusual swap shop

OLD phones, storage cabinets and office files may not be everyone’s “must-have” item for 2011 - but they were all the rage at a swap shop with a difference on Thursday.

Sexy shoes and little black dresses were in short supply at Islington Chamber of Commerce’s first ever Business Give or Take Day, but charities and community groups looking for an office revamp could not get enough of the goods on offer.

Twenty chairs, 18 tables and desks, 11 cabinets, four bookshelves, two coat stands and a variety of TV’s, printers and telephones changed hands at the Assembly Hall in Islington Town Hall, Upper Street - and five rubbish bins even found new homes.

Clare Matheson, from the Islington Chamber of Commerce, said: “I was initially worried that it might be a free-for-all and turn into an event similar to the opening of the Edmonton Ikea, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Instead it was a very civilised affair with charities and small businesses enjoying rummaging through the items on offer.

“There were a number of items that I didn’t think anyone would want but even these found a new home. It just goes to prove the old saying, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

Among the local charities to benefit were Centre 404, Culpeper Community Garden, Rowan Arts, Book Power, Nafsiyat Inter-Cultural Therapy Centre and Hanover Play School, which was picking up furniture in preparation for its move from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, in Donegal Street, Angel, to the nearby Priory Green Estate.

Gillian Brady, manager of Hanover Play School, said: “We don’t have much money and everything we do have goes on the children so to be able to pick up three new desks, a coat stand, a notice board and some envelopes and files was great.

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“Often voluntary organisations have rotten desks and chairs for the adults, but now we will have a nice room where the parents can sit and chat to staff if the kids are upset and unable to settle.”

Jill Pack, from the Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile, a new charity that moved into Manor Gardens, Holloway, at the end of last year, said: “Events like this make a world of difference for small charities like us.

“We only got simple things like paper clips, staplers, hanging files and a couple of telephones, but we need these things to do our work with young refugees and asylum seekers who have left their home countries because of political violence

“It wasn’t a scramble, it was very civilised. Hopefully they’ll be more to come.”

The event was the first of its kind in London and aims to divert over 10 tonnes of reusable office items from landfill and incineration.

Ms Matheson said: “Running the Business Give or Take Day was great and so rewarding. Knowing that all the items went to good homes makes the event so worthwhile.”