We weren’t sure what Collective would look like one year in.
When the first Hub opened, a handful of start-up businesses huddled nervously in one corner. Don’t tell anyone, but our office team had to pose as creative businesses to make up the numbers in the promotional photographs. Like any start-up we believed in our vision and anxious to see it succeed.
Now more than one hundred creative entrepreneurs occupy three Hubs, with a fifty-strong waiting list for workspace. The demand is there – and we can’t meet it. Our pop-up shop at 69 Camden High Street has enabled sixty businesses to trial their retail concept on one of Europe’s busiest high streets. The Fellowship programme is heaving; one hundred and thirty young creatives have been supported into employment or internships.
C/159, our new “creative marketplace” for Camden, adds three thousand square feet of retail space and a fleet of fresh-faced creative retailers to the fold.
Our agenda remains the same. Give creative businesses space and they will use it to grow their business, make money and employ people. Strangle them with London rents, and intimidating overheads, and you stunt their growth and shatter their confidence.
C/159’s visibility on Camden High Street has been fundamental in raising this agenda with local government. Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, attended our launch, impressed by the project and use of vacant space.
Our biggest challenge? The internet. We don’t have adequate WiFi provision in Camden. It’s something we’ve been championing, and will continue to campaign on over the next 12 months.
What else does the future hold for Collective? To carry on doing more of the same. But to do so we need more space: it’s London’s most expensive and most needed commodity – so, yes, there is, as ever, still work to be done.
Simon Pitkeathley is CEO of Camden Town Unlimited, the company behind Collective