Making in London

Thursday 24 November 2016

Small scale making and manufacturing in London is growing. Serious measures must now be taken to ensure we maintain the spaces which provide work, culture, social integration and entrepreneurship, in order to avoid future inequality and division in the sector.

This was one of the issues highlighted by Krissie Nicolson, Director of The East End Trades Guild (EETG) at NLA’s recent lunchtime talk exploring the making industry in London. The East End Guild has approximately 20% makers and manufacturers within its cross sector collective of 150 small businesses, ranging from one women micro businesses such as Caroline Bousfield, craftsman potter, through to jewelry innovators Tatty Devine who employ 27 staff. These small maker businesses, situated in what were historically poor Boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, now find themselves nestled amongst the thriving districts of Canary Wharf and City of London. EETG are working closely with its members to ensure the rich manufacturing heritage and culture in these areas remains resilient and continues to make the East End a distinctive and authentic destination for global visitors, both tourists and businesses alike.

Al Para, Co-Founder of Building BloQs, with a membership of 170+ professionals is providing a practical and pragmatic answer to those in need of a space to make. When faced with an ending lease three years ago, Building BloQs was created as an experiment to provide something exciting, interesting and useful to the manufacturing community. The space allows for freelance professional creatives and SMEs to access workspace and heavy machinery, otherwise unaffordable to small businesses and individuals. 

Building 19 bespoke bicycles in just 2 years, Rob Quirk, founder of Quirk Cycles has been able to build a business from scratch using the facilities and workspaces available at Building BloQs. As well as services and machinery, the cross-discipline nature of the community allows for collaborations, joint commissions and increased brand visibility.

Such is the success of the model and cross-disciplinary working, Buildings BloQs are now progressing plans to create Europe’s largest open access workspace. Through collaboration with the GLA, the London Regeneration Fund and LB Enfield, this new site aims to provide affordable, flexible workspace to an even wider membership of makers in London, while also reinventing what was once a powerhouse for manufacturing in London before the 1970s decline. 

By Mark Cox, Programme Manager, New London Architecture

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