Co-working is most often seen as a way for small businesses to save money.
But at Southwark-based Platform, it has become so much more. Formerly a dilapidated site used by squatters, Platform is now a multi-arts building, home to both up-and-coming and established organisations. Brainchildfounders Marina Blake and Jerome Toole and Young Vic project managers Imogen Brodie and Kirsten Adam explain the multiple benefits of being in the same space.
Marina: We set up the arts festival Brainchild four years ago and this is the first space that we’ve ever had. It’s a young, DIY festival and before we were working from bedrooms, cafés, anywhere we could find really. Now we have our own place and it’s absolutely incredible, not just for us but for the people we work with. We’ve built up a huge network of young musicians, visual artists, theatre-makers, filmmakers and dancers and it’s phenomenal to be able to offer all of these people a space to work on all kinds of different projects, especially with the Young Vic being here too.
Jerome: Being in the same place as the Young Vic has been incredible. They are an arts organisation, working at a national level and doing amazing work. And we’re just starting out. But that’s where we aim to be, ultimately. I don’t know if it was deliberate to put a fully developed organisation and a total fledgling organisation in the same building but it’s just really cool for us to see how they work and have their informal mentorship.
“We share resources with each other; we go to each other’s events and there’s a really warm and friendly atmosphere there”.
Imogen: Having Platform as a space to work in is amazingly useful for us. We run two programmes there – Taking Part, which is our community work, and the Directors’ Programme, which is a training programme for emerging artists. So we use Platform all the time – it’s like a second home for the people we work with. Before we had to pay for extra space, which meant we couldn’t do nearly as much community work. So it’s been really helpful and we’ve a built up a real community of co-workers.
Marina: Kirsten and Imogen very kindly said right at the beginning that we could share their rehearsal rooms when they aren’t using them, which is amazing for us. And we manage the building together so we talk a lot on email. We also meet once or twice a month to discuss issues to do with the building, like housekeeping and programming.
Jerome: People are always coming in and out of the building for meetings, events, rehearsals, all that kind of thing. It feels like the essence of a community and it has quite tangibly accelerated the things we can do.
Kirsten: The people we work with are all theatre-related, whereas they work with people from a mixture of disciplines so we’ve met filmmakers, visual artists and others. It’s really enriched the diversity of art forms we’re able to offer the people we work with in the local community.
Marina: Being in the same building as the Young Vic has helped us in so many ways. Like being able to collaborate with them on Stories of Being, a mental health and wellbeing programme that we worked on with the visual artists in the building last spring.
Imogen: When they were arranging Stories of Being, we put them in touch with theatre practitioners working in the area of mental health, who then ran a workshop as part of that programme. And all the people who participated in the event were a mixture of people they’d got in touch with and people from our mailing list. It was a really productive collaboration and really successful too.
“It feels like the essence of a community and it has quite tangibly accelerated the things we can do”.
Jerome: For us, just to get a working insight into the Young Vic’s outreach projects has been incredible. They work with so many different communities: young people, homeless people, sex workers, refugees, all in Lambeth and Southwark. Having all that happen in the building has opened my eyes to the breadth of work that is possible and their attitude and professionalism have really rubbed off on us – and that’s been amazing. And they’ve been incredibly supportive, giving us tickets when they think it’s appropriate and we now have a relationship with the artistic director, which we would never have dreamt of before. It’s given us so much confidence to feel supported by an organisation that we respect so much.
“Having all that happen in the building has opened my eyes to the breadth of work that is possible and their attitude and professionalism have really rubbed off on us”.
Kirsten: We knew these kinds of meanwhile spaces existed before but we didn’t know how beneficial they could be. Even if it’s temporary, it’s really facilitated the creation of relationships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. So many different sorts of people come through Platform and we’ve all made contacts that we wouldn’t have made otherwise. It’s such a creatively rich environment and a really terrific place.
“It's really facilitated the creation of relationships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise”.