Construction worker wins sustainability award for artwork dedicated to dad

A construction worker who makes art from things he finds in skips has been named as the winner of a sustainability award.

Michael Connell, 68, of Daneby Road, Catford, earned his environmental sustainability award for best recycled material in the annual competition organised by the construction magazine, BUILD.

Mr Connell has been recycling discarded blocks of polyester, broken glass and scraps of wood to create works in the shed in his back garden for years.

The shed in Mr Connell’s back garden (Picture: Michael Connell)

Mr Connell said: “I was working on a construction job about 20 years ago and there was loads of timber that was going to go to waste.

“So I asked the agent and they said I could have it. I brought it all home and built my first shed.

“Eventually it started to rot so I refurbished it, and over the years the shed has evolved.

“It has a mind of its own now.”

The gallery of artwork from recycled materials inside the shed (Picture: Michael Connell)

The shed is also a gallery space filled with other works Mr Connell has created from recycled materials.

He said: “It’s art within art.

“It saddens me when I pass a skip filled with paint, timber and polystyrene because I know it’s going to take forever to decompose and will clog up the environment.

“I know I can make something useful from it so that’s how I do my bit for the planet.”

Inside Mr Connell’s shed (Picture: Michael Connell)

The structure in was runner-up in Channel 4’s Shed of the Year contest in 2016 and is also a local landmark, listed as part of the Catford Arts Trail.

Mr Connell said: “People in Catford know me now. If anyone in the area has materials that are going to waste they bring them to me to use.”

Mr Connell moved to the UK from Barbados with his family in 1965. He studied art at Waltham Forest College in the 1980s.

A sign on display in the shed that describes the Connell brothers – who the art has been dedicated to (Picture: Michael Connell)

One of his pieces, Trapped, went on display at City Hall in 2003, marking the 170th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.

Mr Connell has dedicated the shed to his father and uncles – The Connell brothers – who moved to London as part of the Windrush generation. The gallery will be open to the public every weekend in October during Black History month. 

Mr Connell said: “It’s my way of keeping the family name alive.”

Currently in remission from cancer, Mr Connell said that working in his shed is a form of therapy for him.

He said: “Having cancer really opened my eyes.

“My dad had suffered from the same cancer. I have two crucifixes in the shed in memory of him.

“He always wanted to be an artist but he never did it. When I work there I feel closer to him.

“One of the best compliments I ever got from a visitor was that my shed reminded them of a cathedral.”

Pictured top: Michael Connell collecting timber for his artwork (Picture: Michael Connell)

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.