When Graham Polhill arrived at Grassmarket Furniture he told us he had experienced a childhood of not being recognised and feeling undervalued.  He was a quiet, withdrawn and lacking confidence. He experienced bullying and felt alone. He attended a school for children with behavioural problems and was left much of the time, in his words ‘doodling’ as long as he didn’t misbehave. He describes a school and childhood with little to stimulate him or interest him and certainly no one seemed to care. When Graham left school he left with no qualifications and little confidence. He left with a dislike of classrooms and education. Coming to Grassmarket Community Project and supported by our team he discovered a talent and a passion for woodwork. More importantly, he discovered a group of people, staff, volunteers and fellow members, that were proud of any and all of his achievements. He discovered a place where he could learn and contribute to other people’s lives. Graham went on to achieve an HND in Carpentry at Edinburgh College, winning ‘Student of the Year  2 years ago and this week Graham graduated with an Honours Degree in Furniture Design at Oxford Brookes University

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The Grassmarket Community Project are so happy for Graham. We are also grateful to our workshop, events and cafe customers along with the our social enterprise model to enabled us to have supported Graham throughout his journey. This model of funding enabled us to be there with Graham free of time limits and not according to where he was at in his development but throughout his entire journey, whenever he needed us and for as long as he needed us. Graham attended the Workshop during all his college and Uni holidays – often teaching Tommy and Susan (our workshop managers/instructors) things they didn’t know! Graham maintained contact throughout the last 5 years with us at all times sometimes expressing his feeling that we were like his family. Graham’s passion for woodwork is exceptional and is well illustrated by this funny story from Tommy Steel, Senior Manager at the project:

“We were delivering some furniture to a church in Gretna. There was myself, Graham and another member of the team in the van. We were almost at Gretna and Graham hadn’t stopped talking about woodwork the whole journey. As much as I like woodwork, it still becomes a bit monotonous when someone doesn’t stop talking about it. I tried every technique to change the subject but no matter how hard I tried Graham always brought it back to woodwork. He would talk about the kind of furniture he would make in the future. He would describe the layout of his workshop and the service he would provide for his customers in incredible detail. Eventually I said, “Right thats it Graham. Is there anything you are interested in other than woodwork? Have you any other interests?” He thought for a while then said: “Well, yes, computer games.”  Great, I thought. “Graham, tell me about the computer game you’re playing.” He replied, “oh there is this brilliant game I am playing at the moment. The main hero character is this joiner right…” “Aaaaaaagh!!” I laughed and screamed.

I knew then that Graham’s customers were going to enjoy the finest, well built and exceptionally well designed furniture. What an incredible passion.”

A huge congratulations to Graham Polhill. B.A. (Hons)

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