A community-owned, ecologically friendly launderette is being set up in Everton, Liverpool, to provide affordable washing and drying facilities to residents along with a social and creative space.
The business has been named Kitty’s Launderette, after Kitty Wilkinson, who played a key role in establishing the country’s first wash house, in Liverpool in 1842. This followed her life-saving efforts in a cholera outbreak ten years earlier, providing facilities for locals to boil infected clothes and linen, earning her the nickname Saint of the Slums.
Designed as a social business rooted in the local community, Kitty’s plans to use the warm, underused space of the launderette for a variety of social and creative activities.
“From film screenings and local history groups, to crafts and ironing clubs, we’ll be serving up coffee, conversation and free Wi-Fi for all,” it says – with the film screenings timed to fit in with the length of a wash and dry cycle.
The co-op, set up by a group of residents including Yorkshire-born artist Grace Harrison, is one of a growing number of community launderette offering lower prices than their rivals. With many low-paid and unemployed people forced into costly credit agreements because they cannot afford to buy a washing machine outright, they provide a valuable alternative.
On its Kickstarter campaign, Kitty’s says: “The launderette will provide affordable, environmental and essential services to the community while being the self-sustaining business which underpins all other activity.
“We will be a locally rooted social enterprise on the high street which creates a number of local jobs where fair pay, skills development and creativity are central. We have been looking into how we can harness sustainable technologies in our launderette to make services cheaper and more environmentally friendly, helping our laundry to be future-facing as well as a little nostalgic.”
It adds: “We want to connect with the very social experience of wash houses and launderettes in years gone by as well as an amazing part of Liverpool’s history as the first place in the country to introduce public wash houses to increase the health and wellbeing of the poor, catalysed by the inspiring work of pioneering Irish migrant Kitty Wilkinson in 1832.
“We have named our launderette after her to celebrate her amazing contribution, and that of many other women, to the life of the city.”
The fundraising bid has already reached £18,600 – beating its target of £14,000 – and organisers would now like to hit the £20,000 mark. The campaign, which closes on June 25, can be supported here.