With the ever increasing creative sector playing a key role in the region’s economy, Andleeb Bhatti, Centre Manager at Friar Gate Studios, Derby, discusses how to create an environment in which creative spirit can be nurtured.
13th November 2006, my first day in my new job as centre manager at Friar Gate Studios. I liked the new title. I met my boss at 9.00am and was briefed on my role in making this business centre for innovation and creativity a success.
As I took my first walk around the Studios, I started to realise its potential. The building was unique and quirky the first of its kind in Derby, the features – plain breezeblock walls, metal ceilings, exposed fixtures and concrete floors, basically a blank canvas just sat there waiting for me to make my mark, what an amazing opportunity! How was I going to create an environment for creative people that nurtures their creative spirit?
Predominantly, creative individuals are generally ‘out of the box’ thinkers who need the freedom to express themselves, without the hindrance of traditional systems and procedures. My job was to ensure that my tenants had access to the correct resources and facilities that would allow them to do what they do best – share ideas, collaborate, create and innovate, not just at a local or national level, but globally.
My plan was to try and understand the needs of creative individuals and what makes them tick, this would be the key to creating an environment in which they would feel nurtured, creative, innovative and inspired. All I did was gently nudge them and the creative tenants did all the rest by themselves without even knowing it and this is how we do it to this day.
My first nudge of encouragement is always to convince every new ‘creative’ that joins Friar Gate Studios that they are not alone, but part of a bigger team and let them know that there are other creatives right next door to them who work in the same sector and are in a similar position. This ensures that the creatives within our environment bond and find themselves able to collaborate on a professional and personal level.
As part of this solidarity, I have always tried to create an understanding amongst tenants that by standing together on the issues that affect them, rather than facing them as individuals, their businesses stand a much better chance of survival in the business world and particularly during the recession. We actively encourage our tenants to work together on joint projects and to outsource work to other tenants, which aids communication and provides more cost effective soltuions.
To help things along I have also tried to ensure that there are no barriers to communication between them and the centre management team. I pride myself on providing direct, honest answers to queries and operating an open door policy, so every tenant knows that there is support and advice available to them whenever they need it.
As a result of that philosophy, I have created a ‘mini’ creative community within the Studios and my new challenge has been to keep the creatives informed about what is happening within their working environment and to open up the lines of communication for them to comment on any areas that affect them.
All of the decisions made about their creative space are made with the community rather than the individual in mind. This ensures that creatives know they are always treated fairly and on an even footing with everyone else. This has led to them taking ownership of the building as a whole as opposed to their individual spaces.
The resources and facilities available to tenants are specifically designed to meet their creative needs, i.e. high speed broadband, 24hr access, flexible lease terms, meeting rooms, onsite management and reception services, along with administrative support. Basically, we are a ‘one stop shop’ for them and we have taken away the tasks that creative individuals don’t want to have to deal with, leaving them to focus on generating ideas that will help them to grow and prosper.
When all else fails, you can’t beat a cup of tea! I think they all know where the gold biscuit tin is kept in my office, it’s simple and an easy way to catch up with the tenants over a cuppa to find out what they’re doing, what’s new and how they’re progressing. Knowing what the individual tenants are up to helps with communication again and enables me to link them into other creative tenants in the building. As centre manager, I like to think of myself as the mother spaceship; gaining information from them and feeding it out to other tenants.
Now almost four years since we opened and a recession later, Friar Gate Studios has more than 40 thriving businesses under its roof, with amazingly talented, innovative individuals all working extremely hard to grow and positively contribute towards the UK’s economy.
Many like Justin Smith Architects, have been at the Studios since 2007 and have grown in terms of their business, staffing and turnover. The Studios are a buzzing creative environment whose achievements I think can be boasted on a global level.
The journey to creating this nurturing environment couldn’t have been made without the creative people who joined us in 2007. They were my original visionaries who looked at the space here and realised what it could be and how it could positively impact on their business, and indeed Derby
The foundations have been laid here for a platform to allow these creatives to launch themselves into reaching new creative heights.
Andleeb can be contacted on 01332 258 300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Further details on Friar Gate Studios can be found on www.friargatestudios.co.uk