News | 28 April 2022
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‘Sew’ good to be creative in the capital

Both wasted materials and wasted space are an issue for Wellington city – and repurposing is a great solution.

A dimly lit room with a dozen or so people working with fabrics and textiles over sewing machines.
Creative Mending Circle workshop, 104 Courtenay Place. Photo by Markuza.

More than 80 percent of Wellingtonians attend or participate in the arts in the capital each year. While engagement is high, Wellingtonians in the creative sector say that access to affordable venues and spaces to work, play, collaborate and bring communities together is challenging.

After hearing this, Aho Whenua – places, spaces and venues, our city is alive – became a key focus area of the Council’s Aho Tini 2030 Arts, Culture and Creativity Strategy.

“Improving access to affordable, accessible and fit-for-purpose spaces is fundamental in the implementation of the strategy,” says Sophie Jerram, Wellington City Council Aho Tini Programme Manager.

“Having a great working relationship with organisations like Urban Dream Brokerage, and having a staff member, Daniel Webster, at Council working on matching unused or under-utilised public spaces with the creative sector, are great steps to meeting the needs of the sector, and to make our city vibrant and alive.”

Two sets of hands mending small items at a sewing bee.
A Creative Mending Circle held in an unoccupied space on Courtenay Place. Photo by Markuza.

Urban Dream Brokerage, which is part funded by Wellington City Council, works with property owners, managers, artists, individuals, and community groups to broker temporary use of space, be it public or commercial, empty, or underutilised, for innovative projects.

One example is the unoccupied space at 104 Courtenay Place, made available rent-free by Urban Dream Brokerage and the property owner, to artists Adam Ben-Dror and Xin Cheng (with support from Grace Ryder) for their co-creative hub A Place for Local Making.

Urban Dream Brokerage provided the artists with seed funding, and the project is also supported by the Council, and various not-for-profit organisations.

Re-fashioned as A Place for Local Making, it inspires Wellingtonians to recreate, rather than to put in the bin. In a climate of overflowing landfills, the artists strive for creative making which gives ‘waste’ a new life.

It is also bringing life back to central Wellington following two years of intermittent Covid-19 restrictions.

A Creative Mending Circle over the long weekend formed part of the hub’s public programme.

Two young people with short dark hair wearing masks looking down at a table of sewing supplies including a pin cushion.
Stella Carruthers (right) co-facilitated the Creative Mending Circle workshop, with artist Xin Cheng. Photo by Markuza.

“Our Creative Mending Circle workshop is about mending textiles and preventing them from going into the landfill," said workshop co-facilitator Stella Carruthers.

"It’s about people coming together to learn textile skills, to socialise and support each other, to be both teacher and learner together. It’s about community and connection, and it’s about doing that through sewing.”

Jerram says: "Both wasted materials and wasted space are an issue for Wellington city – and repurposing takes this kind of conscious, adaptive thinking and practice."

Making affordable spaces available for use by individuals and groups in the creative sector is key in revitalising Wellington, in bringing vibrancy back to our streets post covid, in keeping creatives in our city, and making Wellington the place where people want to be to work, live and play.

Lisa, who attended the workshop, says it's nice to have a space where she can find community and connect with others.

"With a one and four-year-old, I haven’t been out much recently, so this is lovely. I had an idea for a patching project at home but hadn’t been able to get to it."

A large glass sliding door with the words 'A place for local making' along with a website written on with pink pen.
What was an unoccupied space on Courtenay Place is now a hub buzzing with creativity. Photo by Markuza.


A Place for Local Making is running three more workshops between 28 April and 5 May. For more information and to register visit Events – Local Making

Ben-Dror and Cheng will continue to run Creative Mending Circle workshops, and A Place for Local Making, to give waste ‘new life’ while fostering convivial and resilient communities, if they can find another home in the city.

Everyone is invited to bring in surplus materials and electronics to 104 Courtenay Place, and to transform them into useful and enjoyable things.

Do you have a space available?

Wellington City Council invites building owners and managers with (temporary or long term) empty or under-utilised spaces to get in touch with either:

- Jason Muir at Urban Dream Brokerage:

- Daniel Webster at the Council:

They can match available spaces with community groups or individuals, to bring innovative projects, creativity and connection to our suburban and city streets.