News, People, The Last Word

The Last Word: Laura Swidzinska – co-founder, Gather

Laura is one half of the duo behind Bellenden Road’s, Gather, the first refillery and sustainability hub to open in the area. Alongside her Peckhamite co-founder Tash Gorst, they’ve opened Gather to make it easier for local people to live a life which produces less waste and harm to the environment.

How long have you lived in the area?

I’ve been a South Londoner all my life. My Babcia (grandma in English!) has been in the same house in Balham for 70 years. I took the ‘big’ leap from SW to SE 3½ years ago.

What brought you here?

The greenness, shops run by locals rather than big corporates, and a quick train ride to my parents.

What do you value most about the area?

The community – it’s super strong here. People really care about where they live and do things together to make it better. Take the East Dulwich Forum for example – that’s where I met my friend and business partner Tash, and Gather was born.

What one thing would you change?

I’d love to see all shops, restaurants, cafes, everywhere, stop using single-use plastic and choose alternatives instead. Check out Plastic Free East Dulwich and Plastic Free Peckham to see what they’re doing to help local businesses.

Your favourite place to walk?

The Green Chain. From Nunhead Cemetery to Crystal Palace. Perfect for contemplating which wonderful world-friendly products to stock in the store!

Cafe, pub or bar?

Love a good pub – preferably one with big chairs and a lot of ales.

What is your favourite place to eat?

Tandoori Nights. So happy they’re back and better than ever.

Coffee or Tea? Where?

Coffee, hands down. When I’m at work, Anderson’s or the General Store on Bellenden Road. At home, Kanella. All make a mean oat milk flat white (and let me bring my own cup).

Your favourite place to go for a drink?

After a hard day turning old furniture (donated by lovely locals) into bits and pieces for the store, Tash and I can often be found in the Victoria Inn on Bellenden Road. Or Hop Burns and Black – their ale selection is epic.

Where are you likely to be found on Saturday? 

In Gather. For the last few months we’ve been sanding, painting and sawing our way to a fitted-out store, almost entirely using repurposed furniture donated by locals. (Our till’s a couple of old doors.) That’s been our weekends and weekdays. I’ve learnt a lot!

If money was no object

Tash and I would’ve opened Gather a long time ago!

My secret ambition.

For our little store to have the same impact as Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough.

Gather, 121 Bellenden Road, SE15  @wearegather_uk

www.wearegather.uk