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Passion to improve life for people in seaside town drives Kitchen Design student's work

Passion to improve life for people in seaside town drives Kitchen Design student's work

Tackling food insecurity is at the centre of FDA Kitchen Design student Joanna Cummings' work for her final project at Bucks New University.

joanna cummings

Joanna, a Furniture Designer with Room Makers Ltd in Bispham, Blackpool, wants to revamp a community centre used by a foodbank for use as a multi-purpose space with plenty of benefits for people in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. She says food insecurity, where people lack access to nutritious food, is a growing problem which may be exacerbated by the Covid-19 situation and believes her ideas could help to provide a community hub. She is displaying the work at our Online Art and Design Show, which is open until the end of August, and has told us all about it, as well as her hopes for the future and reflections on the course.

What is your design and what does it entail?

This community centre is a welcoming space for anyone in the Morecambe area. It is the centre point for a foodbank, but visitors aren’t asked to leave once they have their food packages, so I want to expand on what it can offer. The centre provides respite for those who have had to travel for their packages. People can stay for a cup of tea, a meal, to sit and read, chat, or watch their children play.

I have incorporated stylistic features reminiscent of the local area, such as copying the railings from the Morecambe sea wall and illustrating Little Terns, a native bird, on to the tiles, to better integrate the design with the users of the centre.

As well as a community café, the kitchen would be used to host cooking classes and demonstrations to be used by local school children. Among its benefits, the design would provide additional spaces for other activities such as acting workshops and support groups, and moveable furniture could provide open spaces for exercise classes.

Why have you chosen to focus on the community in Morecambe?

In September 2018 The New York Times wrote an article about food insecurity in Morecambe Bay. I read it at the time and it had always stuck in my mind and so when we were given the brief of designing a space for a community to gather with a kitchen at the centre, Morecambe was my first thought. We needed to define our community and give reason as to why this group of people would be meeting. I was lucky that my chosen community, Morecambe Bay Foodbank - which is made up of volunteers and foodbank users - already existed and uses a community centre. My ideas would help to build on the space they use. The foodbank is operated by The Trussel Trust, which provides vital foodbanks in communities all over the UK.

Amazing efforts have been made to restore Morecambe to its former glory as a tourism destination but there are still sadly a large number of people living in poverty. Morecambe Bay Foodbank handed out 8,152 emergency food parcels in 2019. The financial uncertainty caused by coronavirus in 2020 will likely see this number rise drastically. That's why, theoretically, I think my design could help people in the future.

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How excited are you by your design and the potential it offers to help the community?

I hope that my work will disregard the idea that spaces of refuge and charity need to be dark church halls or emergency shelters. There is a social stigma surrounding the use of food banks; hunger hangs over the lives of those using these facilities and having such reliance can be a source of shame. I wanted to give dignity to the foodbank, so that it would be a fun place to socialise and not somewhere you wouldn’t want to be seen. Unfortunately food insecurity is a growing issue in the UK and existing community spaces are having to adjust to the huge demand we’ve seen rise in the last ten years.

Why are you studying Kitchen Design with Bucks New University?

My employer Steve Dunne asked whether I’d like to participate in the course back in 2017 when I’d been working at Room Interiors in Bispham, Blackpool for a couple of months. I was able to secure a sponsorship from LDL Components, which kindly funded half of my tuition fees.

How much have you benefited from the degree and what have been the most beneficial aspects? I hadn’t done any kind of designing when I started the course and so it was incredibly daunting in the beginning but the varied module topics allowed us to think practically and critically about how to design a kitchen that works for a client’s lifestyle, how you socialise within the kitchen, and the importance of social eating.

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How will the qualification help you in the future?

This is the only Kitchen Design qualification currently available in the UK and so I hope this will help me to stand out in terms of future employment. The skills I’ve learnt during the course will help me personally, and it has made me think differently about how I use my own home and how design can inspire you emotively and not just aesthetically.

What would you say to anyone considering studying Kitchen Design at Bucks New University?

I would say there’s nothing to lose. I now have a wonderful network of professionals in this industry across the country who I continue to learn from. Their support is invaluable.

How excited are you about displaying your work in the Art & Design Show?

I’m very excited to have my work displayed in the show. It’s a unique opportunity as a long distance student and I would really appreciate people to take a look at my work and the work of my peers, as we would love for people to get a feel for what the Kitchen Design course is all about. Find out more about Joanna's work, and see further images of her design proposals, here. Follow Bucks Show 20 on social media at #bucksshow20 and visit the Show at