Liz Moreton explains why Battersea Arts Centre has taken the unusual step of opening up a new space for start-up businesses.
© Morley von Sternberg
Last year was a big year for us at Battersea Arts Centre, when our Grand Hall finally reopened after the fire that devastated it in 2015. In its lower levels we launched The Scratch Hub, a new co-working space where a creative community of over 100 start-up businesses, growing enterprises and social entrepreneurs is starting to form.
It’s a thriving community, with the membership carefully curated so there’s a dynamic buzz of people
Some people may think it’s unusual for an arts centre to open a space to help businesses grow. However, this new chapter in our story is very much a part of our renewed purpose to inspire people to take creative risks to shape the future.
Stimulating local creativity
For the last 30 years we have worked with hundreds of artists to develop their ideas into shows and we are just as keen that our building becomes a celebrated resource for the whole community – not just for artists – and that our spaces, networks and knowledge are used to stimulate local business and talent across a range of fields.
We think the environments we create and the creative processes we use to develop theatre and theatre-makers isn’t all that different to the environments and processes all creative people and businesses need.
While we continue to support artists to create new work, we have increasingly applied our creative processes to a variety of projects, from regeneration, school curriculums and exploring heritage, to developing our building and reshaping our organisation’s structure.
Space and light
The Scratch Hub itself is situated in the heart of our old building, created with a generous grant of £538,000 from the Mayor of London’s regeneration funds, with additional funding for the activity programme from Battersea Power Station Foundation.
The Hub offers different types of work and desk spaces, meeting and events rooms, and a talks and events programme. The light-filled space is designed by architects Haworth Tompkins, with interior design and fit-out by Jeannine Inglis Hall and Gary Campbell, to suit differing needs with a relaxing apartment, a quiet working library, office space and a creative space for collaboration.
It’s not just a space though. It’s a thriving community, with the membership carefully curated so there’s a dynamic buzz of people from different backgrounds and sectors with a range of experiences. Our members are up for sharing skills, sparking new collaborations and supporting one another.
Our community includes 20 ‘Springboarders’, who receive free membership funded by Battersea Power Station Foundation while they build their ideas and networks. These members are selected for what they are achieving, the potential they have and the social impact they are making. They include local young entrepreneurs who have graduated from The Agency, our national programme for young people from housing estates across the UK. This targeted support will make a huge difference to them over their first crucial year when so many start-ups fail.
We pioneered the Scratch process to create theatre. It encourages people to regularly test their new ideas in the early stages of development, listen to feedback and use this to iteratively develop the idea over time.
It feels like a natural step to use this process of risk-taking to support businesses and entrepreneurs too – especially those who have a strong social purpose.
Liz Moreton is Director of Creativity and Social Change at Battersea Arts Centre.