Recycling with a social conscience: Meet Marianne Gilbert

You’d be hard pressed to find something that Marianne Gilbert can’t recycle. And we’re not talking about knowing which recycling facilities will take a worn-out or unwanted object. Marianne recycles objects into beautiful art projects, or uses them to raise money for causes close to her heart.

Marianne, who’s lived in Brentford since 1972, was born at home in Chapel Street Market, in Islington. Her family was bombed out during the war and then sent to King’s Cross to live, later moving to Islington.

Her knack for making much from little started young. When Marianne was 11 years old, she was awarded a place at a school that required a uniform. Her mother thought she would have to turn down the place because the family couldn’t afford the uniform. “Give me 10 bob [10 shillings, or about £1.20 in today’s money],” Marianne said to her mother, and she went to a local market and bought the materials needed to make the uniform.

Since then, Marianne hasn’t looked back. If you’re lucky enough to have come across GLADs Club at Brentford School for Girls, you’ll have some idea of the breadth of her creativity.

GLAD to be of service

Marianne started GLADs Club 10 years ago, though she’s been at the Brentford School for Girls for 14 years. She first worked as a teaching assistant, after gaining a City & Guilds qualification in learning disabilities.

When asked to start a lunchtime art club, she leapt at the chance, and GLADs Club was born. GLAD means Gilbert’s Lunchtime Artclub Doers, and its motto is “Look glad, be glad, feel glad”, reflecting Marianne’s optimistic view on life. When the time came to retire, the school asked her to stay on one day a week to continue to run GLADs Club and its fundraising efforts.

The club raises money for a dizzying number of excellent causes. The girls collect used stamps, broken jewellery, wool, unwanted gifts, old mobiles, ink jet cartridges, foreign coins and much more, none of which is wasted, and much of which is turned into cash.

Some of the lucky organisations that have benefited from the club’s fundraising efforts are the RSPB, RNLI and the Hounslow Toy Library. And, reflecting Marianne’s interest in special needs, the club also raises money for the Camphill family and Friends of Hounslow Portage, which supports special-needs families.

Vision is another issue close to Marianne’s heart, and when a member of the school family died, she decided to honour her memory by having a guide dog named after her. She contacted the Guide Dogs for the Blind association and was told that it would cost £4,000 to name a dog. Mariane started fundraising, and, two years later, she had raised the money. The dog, Daisy, now lives in Scotland.

GLADs Club currently supports Gilbert, a golden Labrador (see photo), paying £20 a term towards his education. The club also supports VISOR (Visually Impaired Society of Richmond) and Vision Aid Overseas. The club has collected 296 pairs of eyeglasses for Vision Aid in the past nine months.

And that’s not all. GLADs Club supports the Tulsi Trust  a registered charity working with Bengali resettled refugees and the indigenous Adivaashi people in Madhya Pradesh, India, through

Community responsibility and environmental awareness

GLADs Club also has strong ties with Age UK, and girls from Brentford School for Girls have been visiting the Brentford group for years – Marianne used to take them during their lunch hour, believing strongly in young and old mixing and sharing their experiences.

“One of my goals is to make people aware of how lucky they are,” says Marianne.  “And to break down barriers.”

In terms of her art focus, Marianne has a links with Age UK knitting group and turns their knitted squares into toys that can be sold. She said that youngest member of the group is 82 and the oldest 95. She also makes dolls for Green Dragon School.

As if that weren’t enough to exhaust most people, Marianne runs a gardening club at the Brentford School for Girls and is working on a wildlife garden, which helps improve the girls’ awareness of nature and our responsibility towards it. She also helps the girls improve their photographic skills, drawing on the experience she gained working at Agfa when it was based in Brentford.

A visit to remember

Marianne is not shy about asking heavy hitters for help. Once she contacted the department store Liberty, asking it to contribute doilies for a project. Liberty said it couldn’t help, but one day a company van appeared at the school with swatches of fabric for GLADs club to use. The company subsequently invited the girls for a visit, an event that Marianne says they’re not likely to forget.

Marianne’s work is carefully documented. She sends out a quarterly newsletter, GLADs Club News, which shows what the club has been doing and provides news about the charities the club supports.

And if you visit her at home in Brentford, you can see some of her art projects in her crowded workroom (see photo). She recently created a beautiful mosaic for the Bee campaign being run by a local Friends of the Earth group, for example.

The theme of community runs strongly throughout Marianne’s work and informs her philosophy of life.

“People like to help,” she says, and her work gives them a forum for doing so.

Brentford is home to a lot of unsung heroes, and I think we can safely say that Marianne comes very high up the list.

2 thoughts on “Recycling with a social conscience: Meet Marianne Gilbert

  1. Pingback: Counting, food and the power of individuals - London - Get involved - The RSPB Community

  2. Hi all reading this I used to be apart of the glad’s club and found it really a great opportunity to express Ur feelings and emotions in this club. Marianne was a great art teacher she knew what to expect in people and never would I of all people would of attended a lunch time club as I was a bad student I got classed as by Mrs Tompkins which was headteacher at the point I was there, I was there from 2001 to 2007, I used to smoke cigarettes every time a break came available to me as in between lessons as well I started smoking from a very young age which was 9 years old which was considerably bad really. I admit that I was very bad at school and that’s why I got very bad grades, I regret that now but if I was how I was in year 11 which I actually settled down and started thinking of my options in life never mind it was too late for all that at that point in time as I didn’t realize,It was too late in time ,It was because I had got bullied in the previous years as in year 8-9 and 10 so I decided to start bunking at a young age because of this. To the fact my mum and dad tried to help the situation by letting the headteacher and duty headteacher know about it to the fact that it got so bad that my dad threatened to take me out and put me into Chiswick school instead if they didn’t do nothing about it or he will start doing something about it! which obviously was the wrong choice really.

    The reason being is because he decided to take me to kick boxing and a mate of mine that I have known all my life along with me so I had a partner to practice on as both of us were training this guy had a padded cushion and we all had to kick it the class i was in, in Lampton school which is stated in Hounslow well I think its Hounslow its close to the border lines of it anyway :). so in end the end some girl in my class actually took my piece of paper I was working on as coursework I think it was anyway;s as in English Jayne Eyre or tutors or something along those lines or mite have been of mice and men that’s a great film that is love it to this day never ever herd of it previous to when I watched it in class and of course they stopped it for the next day on a good part as usual when Ur into a film loll. Well get back to the point now sorry peoples for rambling on and on lol, but I know full well people out there that have no lives are still bullying those poor children as in maybe yourselves. My point in all this is the fact that you should express yourselves. Ill get to the point acroos about the reason for all this is how much I wish i started to settle down instead of thinking I was better then everyone else by bunking because my mum or dad are at work and can get away with it all which seriously if your getting bullied go to the headteacher who is as nice as pie which is Mrs Leenders as far as I know because Mrs Tomkins, however thieved off you all and took all the money from your education funds which was to help you into college or even university for all you more highly motivated students out there and i wish you all the success in the world and hope you all read this to gain some sort of what you want to do in life remember all the years wheather your advanced or professional or whatever your outcome even grades you wished you never want as in a F grade or a U grade or even Cs and Ds and wanted more as in an A level just concentrate on what you want to be and achieve in life trust me the school was a shithole when I went and now I’m hearing of you young women getting excellent grades as in A and A+ or even A stars well done to all you. If you want to gain something out of life as in manager of a certain company or even your own business even if its a shitty shoe shop or something at least you can turn round and say to the people you hated and you know couldn’t be bothered in school that just bunk lessons or go out of school just remember the fact of life is you need money without money you are nothing and if you want your own place and a family your best bet is to try get a job so you know the outcome of work and what it will be like when you finish school even if you have a weekend job even if its a paper round! its still cash in your hand that you can spend in or whatever you would like or save up for a present for ur parents or lover or yourself something thats quite expensive that youve always wanted ! just please think of what you want to gain out of life because if I Were bk in ur lots shoes I would of done soo much things I would have changed. I regret my past but past is past you gotta look to your future even though you would like to gain something that you could of achieved when you were younger by trying to gain the grades you need which is mainly ABC;s in GCSE level nowadays which I think is wrong in a way as you lot all need a second chance as in like I have I have a job and would not like to be a bum again I went to college gained me NVQs in level 1 and 2 in hairdressing but could not get no where with that because everyone went for the same option because its mainly the most easiest qualification you could achieve in my days in 2007-2009 .= not as easy as it was my days maybe a lot more experience that you may need because of people messing peoples hairs up and forgetting routines of certain cuts I do it now and then to families and friends when needed to be done . Marianne on the other hand was there all my life at Brentford school for girls, Ive had my ups and downs with this women but deep down she cares about all of us you can actually confide in her or if you dnt like showing your emotions like I never used to because that was just me I would actually draw my emotions onto a piece of A4 paper and she could actually see and feel the same level I was feeling and would say it to you and that’s how I broke the ace between me and her she is such a lovely women and so caring its unreal to the fact I used to go home and draw certain things such as Disney characters and then I started to enjoy drawing and then my mum works in a school with all behavioural children with ADHD, ADD and much much more but I give my mum her due she used to take some beatings off certain students because of there family problems and stuff that’s what makes a child so rude and aggressive is the parents if there on drugs at home or even beating there child for the sake of it because of certain reason likes they wanted a girl not a boy or they wanted a boy not a girl silly perfective reasons but some people have different things that they cant describe or explain or cant talk to no one to get help for themselves or their parents which is classed as bullying as well as people that meant to be your friends take the piss out of that certain person that cant get away and feel the need to end their lives because of it all because they don’t feel loved or feel their life is never going to change from all the grief that they get at home and at school. Marianne in that case is a great human being so loving and caring and feels the need to express yourself with her or if you cannot talk to someone then express it on a piece of paper I know every time I did I felt so much better for it and I know you will too.

    If your planning on going to Glad’s club and you feel as if your friends will laugh at you because of doing so then please just do it, do what you feel deep down inside of you because if your “so called” mates cant understand why your going to Glad;s club then there no mates and you can gain whatever you wish out of it if you love drawing for instance then go try Ur hardest to be an artist or even a characteristic person which means if you love making up different characters for cartoon episode then go for it seriously I would of loved to I was so chuffed when I had one of my Disney pictures of Tigger out of Winnie the pooh up in Lexia which is an art shop where all good pictures and also a celebrity had posted a picture as well rite next to my one made mine look really bad considering but he liked it as pablo himself came down to see the pictures but because I was too young I couldnt take a job that he so wanted to offer me and obviously get payed for my drawings which I believe to have been Pablo de Vinci or something along those lines anyway loll it was based on the corner on Brentford high street as people may know if they go to Brentford school for girls or even live near the Brentford area or even grew up or been round that area a few times and enjoy Brentford or as known as the bees united . If your a football fan then U are bound to know the area . I’ve seen so many people in my days especially my enemies come out of school with nothing and working in MacDonald’s or even Tesco;s or nothing at all just a bum as some school friends and enemies still are on job centre and because they’ve had children or whatever and only a few of them I know of have their own place because of this situation but other then that mainly bums or are pregnant just to try get themselves a place which is a joke really as children having children is so so wrong as they haven’t had a proper child hood. Where as if you went to Glad;s club and ask for a baby that’s tracked and know of any hits or faults you do wrong, but the only thing is is some children are better off with the feeling of having a baby at a young age to teach them a lesson really when all their close mates are going out clubbing at a certain age and they cant find a babysitter, and the parents said previously that they will not look after their grandchild until they learn the factors of mother hood and this tends to happen basically I just saying be a good person don’t let anybody tell you different x

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