These days, it may be common to see upwardly mobile professionals adopting coffee shops like Starbucks and Cafè Nero as their offices. This may be a sign of the times, as self-employment becomes increasingly common.
Recent figures have shown a staggering increase of 12 percent in the UK’s freelance work force. Despite the ongoing energy supply and consistent caffeine provided by the aforementioned spaces, there’s still one thing that needs to be in the picture: creative synergy. A King’s Cross-based organisation known as the Centre For Creative Collaboration (C4CC) is addressing this apparent need for face-to-face interaction.
C4CC founders Brian Condon and Thias Martin recognised that there was a demand for a space in which small businesses in the digital and creative sectors might set up office whilst benefiting from being surrounded by different companies as well as interacting with them.“We’ve created a space in which creative people can do their best work,” says Condon who set up the facility with Martin in 2010.
People interested in joining C4CC must procure the support of a sponsor and fill out a one-page proposal online. Condon and his team then review applications to decide who might join their collaborative workspace free of charge (until their respective business starts making money).
Located ten minutes from King’s Cross Station, C4CC’s 4000 square foot, two floor building was once the studio of Thomas Heatherwick, the designer behind the 2012 Olympic cauldron.
On the ground floor, an antique typewriter stands on a plinth next to a bench with green leather upholstery that once belonged to Senate House. The décor seems to look like a gallery space at the Tate Modern crossed with the remains of a car boot sale (all the furniture is donated or recycled from somewhere else). Part office, part darkroom, part meeting place, part performance area, the space is anything it may want or need to be.
When asked about working at C4CC everyone has a similarly grateful and upbeat response. “Having a physical space to meet up with people has been invaluable,” says Rufus Pollock, Co-Director of Open Knowledge Foundation.“You meet so many different people,” says Sarah Cole, of TIME/IMAGE before adding, “I make them tea and they let me stay!”
The people who work at C4CC and the disciplines they represent, appear to be as varied as the furniture. “You name it we’ve probably had someone here. Art, writing, filmmaking, poetry, engineering, technology, electronics… a real mix,” Condon says. He finds that unlikely pairings in the workplace beget productivity.
For instance, the centre reportedly provided fertile ground for a collaborative effort between writers and engineers in a project called Text and Electricity. It saw Condon and Will Montgomery, Director of the Poetics Research Centre at Royal Holloway bring poets and engineers together to work with each other.
“Technical people generally have to deal with certainty; artists and the humanities are much more equipped to deal with uncertainty,” says Condon. “Bringing those two groups together is quite tremendous.”
Success stories of companies that have grown from working at C4CC are countless. Pavegen — a company that manufactures paving slabs that generate electricity from harvesting the kinetic energy from footsteps — started off at C4CC as just one guy, Laurence Kemball-Cook, and his laptop. By the time they moved out, there were 25 members on the team. “They were everywhere and eventually they outgrew us and needed their own space,” Condon says.
One may be able to enjoy the benefits of the space as a non-member. Condon welcomes local businesses if there is free room. A theatre group called King’s Cross Players held two performances in the main downstairs room.
C4CC has hosted meetings for community groups such as Cally Festival as well. “Working with community organisations embeds us in the local area making us more visible,” says Condon. “Also, you get to meet interesting people.”
C4CC tends to rely on social media and meeting people who visit the space and then spread the word to their friends, generating further interest. The project’s success seems to be built upon this networking effect.
C4CC has secured funding for another two years from its London University partners (Goldsmiths, Royal Holloway and the Central School of Speech and Drama), as well as financial backing from the European Regional Development Fund.
Condon is busy thinking about what needs to happen next to keep things running. The centre is working on a new project called London Creative and Digital Fusion, which aims to help develop new jobs and preserve existing jobs as well as making a positive impact on the businesses that operate in the digital sectors.
Condon says running C4CC is a very rewarding job. “Someone who ran a project here said that they made more progress in 18 weeks based here than they had in 18 months trying to do it on their own,” beams Condon. “That shows us that what we’re doing here works and that it’s worthwhile.”
For more information go to the Centre For Creative Collaboration website.