Preston Barracks’ history dates back to the 18th century. But by 2014, the former military base had been neglected for years. That was when U+I acquired the Brighton site and created FIELD, transforming a derelict building into a co-working space for a collection of innovative, start-up local businesses.
“It’s been an amazing experience. Before FIELD, we were all working in garden sheds, basically, so having a base and being able to share that with like-minded people has been incredible,” says Dave Lock of PlayTalkLearn, a company designing a toy to help children develop their mathematical skills.
Max Grew is another FIELD resident and founder of Intrepid Camera, which makes traditional large format cameras at affordable prices and has sold around 1,500 of them since starting at FIELD.
“It’s really motivating seeing everyone around you being busy.
And we all get on so well too. It’s very different from working alone,” he says.
“The selection process at the beginning was really good. A lot of people were interviewed and I think U+I did really well to find a group that would work together,” says Dave Lock.
The sense of community at FIELD is such that the group has decided to carry on working together, even after Preston Barracks closes for redevelopment at the end of this year.
“We’ve formed a limited company and found a large, completely empty warehouse down the road,” says Max Grew. “U+I helped us to find the right site and go through all the practical steps that we needed to take. They’ve provided financial support too, which has been great.”
“LeftField” aims to carry on where FIELD left off – giving co-workers the space and sense of communal endeavour to enable them to grow".
‘LeftField’ aims to carry on where FIELD left off – giving co-workers the space and sense of communal endeavour to enable them to grow their businesses. Intrepid Camera, for example, has just raised more than £200,000 through crowd-funding, while PlayTalkLearn has received funding to develop a production prototype for its toy.
Other businesses include hand-crafted leather goods producer P Kirkwood; Flux Cycle Works and Union Motion, which use innovative techniques to produce affordable bikes and motorbikes; Control Freq, which is developing a door entry system, accessed via mobile phone and MakerClub, which teaches children the skills needed to become inventors.