Our plans for the future
September 2022 will mark 30 years since launderette opened for business, (planning and fundraising started in 1989 after consultation with residents), and as we intend to stay open for many years to come we will be marking this special anniversary in a number of ways. We plan to redecorate the premises, restore the frontage (which will allow us to replace the shutters) and redesign the space and replace washing machines as they are all the same age as the launderette! We will provide internet information point, Wi-Fi, refreshments, and to raise funds cover the initial employment of a community business manager to develop and increase our services especially focused on providing space for community projects and groups to meet.
Who we are
We’re more than just a place to wash your clothes in the east end of London, we’re an award winning not-for-profit community enterprise set up by residents for residents in the heart of the first council estate built in the UK. We opened in September 1992 and since then have managed to keep the business running, keeping our costs low and providing employment for local residents. Over the years the neighbourhood has changed – the Shoreditch and Brick Lane are much sought-after places to live – but the ethos of launderette remains the same.
In 1990 the Boundary Estate Tenants Association was approached by the Environment Trust who had funding available to set up a community enterprise. After some deliberation and consultation the launderette idea was formed, and a year of feasibility studies followed. Funding was given by charitable organisations and businesses to help purchase machines, refurbish the premises and provide finance for other set-up costs.
We opened at 8am on September 14th 1992 as a not-for-profit community business, set up and run by a team of six volunteer directors all of whom were resident on the Boundary Estate. We employed a team of three people to run the launderette, and later that increased to four. Sadly over the years, for various reasons, the number of directors has dwindled to three, two of whom were involved at the beginning, one of whom has been involved since 1995 and we welcomed a new director in March 2020. We’ve had great staff over the years, many of whom stayed with us for many years, and Maire, our longest serving staff member, has been with us since day one.
In March 1994 we won a British Urban Regeneration Award for ‘Best Practice in the Community’, in recognition of our ‘bringing a sense of community’ to the Boundary Estate and in 2012 we received a donation of £5,000 from Colomer International as a result of achieving second place in the public vote in their Creme of Nature Community Action Award. The money was to be used for the purchase, installation and associated costs of a new large washing machine.
We have received numerous mentions in various publications, from Time Out to London Housing News, we have featured in TV and print advertisement campaigns, and been used in photo shoots for pop stars, actors and media darlings. The launderette has also been a backdrop and gallery for art exhibitions, and we’re quite often in the background of numerous TV dramas, films from Bad Girls to Lock, Stock, and even in pop videos – but admittedly this is due to us being so close to the very photogenic Arnold Circus!
Over the years we have helped raise money for the Clifton House playground on the corner of Camlet & Old Nichol Streets, through selling second-hand books and videos. This feature has become an integral part of the launderette, and all money raised is donated to charities and emergency appeals as suggested by our customers. This has included St. Joseph’s Hospice on Mare Street and the Sickle Cell Society, through to various DEC appeals.
The ethos of the company has always been to provide a service for the all of the residents of the Boundary Estate and the local area, which has meant that because a large number of people are in receipt of benefit our prices are kept as low as possible. The prices we charge do, in fact, only cover the day-to-day running of the launderette. For major redecoration and refurbishment, replacement of machinery and heavy-duty repairs, we have to raise money through charities and grant funding. Each year this means applying to numerous charitable funds or the local authority, not always successfully. A major part of our being able to operate has been the fact that, when we opened, Tower Hamlets agreed a peppercorn rent and a favourable lease. This has been looked at again by Tower Hamlets, and we have agreed a rent increase that will include a percentage of any profit we make as part of a new lease to guarantee the future of the launderette.
The launderette, opened at a time when Calvert Avenue, and indeed Shoreditch, were very much less salubrious than today, has become a firm fixture of the Boundary Estate. It is well used, and even loved, by a large number of residents, and admired and recognised far beyond the Shoreditch area as being much more than just a place to wash your clothes The launderette will continue to play a part in the ever-changing and always beautiful Boundary Estate and the surrounding area.