Open Work Spaces in London

I came across two things of interest today relating o the creative industries in London today. Firstly this mini report and ongoing survey of open work spaces in London being undertaken by IPPR supported by the GLA. Secondly this report on Creative Factories – focused on the creative community in Hackney Wick and Fish Island in East London.

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Both of these touch a bell with me. Why – well because I am involved in trying to help The Old Print Works  – a charity promoting creativity and collaboration in surprisingly an old print works in Birmingham develop  a  forward looking business plan to take it into the 2020’s.

The focus on these shared spaces and their benefits for London’s economy is really interesting and informative.  So what does the IPPR report say.

A few headlines;

‘A mapping exercise in 2014 found 434 open workspaces in London, across every borough, and that number has since grown.’

incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces have emerged mostly in the last 10 years, and makerspaces have more than tripled in number since 2008.’

‘Almost half of business activities within coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators are in the creative industries, with another third in digital technology and 1 in 10 focusing on social impact.’

Interestingly for Birmingham –

‘Hackney now has almost 100 open workspaces including new hubs in Dalston and Hackney Wick’

Whilst Birmingham is catching up – we could do a lot more.

It highlights two main reasons why the growth of these spaces are to be welcomed

  • Open workspaces can help small businesses to survive and thrive – by providing low cost starter space the can reduce the barriers to starting a business abd they start to build creative clusters with all their advantages.
  • Open workspaces provide benefits beyond their occupants and users – as they provide homes for the creative sector in London – a key growing assets for the city and also they can provide a route for tackling disadvantage – as many of these organisations have explicit social and environmental aims.

The Old Print Works very much has such aims based in one of the most deprived parts of Birmingham and is starting to achieve on some of these.

The IPPR report however goes on to the threats that these types of places and spaces face in London. The key one that is relatively new – is the fact that permitted development now allows the change of use of old industrial and commercial spaces into residential developments. This is not a real issue in Birmingham as despite the relative success recently of the local economy  the pressure from the market for  new housing is far less intense; and is only apparent in the City Centre and doesn’t spread out to where we are based. But who knows in 10 years time with the arrival of HS2 – things might change.

The report on Hackney/Fish Island from 2013 is more specific and detailed but nevertheless interesting in a different way for us; looking at how other spaces have survived and thrived. It shows us what we might achieve.

Two interesting and short reads – and if you have a view on and use such spaces – please take the time to fill in the online survey.

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