Arts, Crafts and Enterprise

I recently spent a day touring some of the enterprise development projects being supported by LEGI (in whole or in part) in Leeds.

The variety in the physical spaces that we visited was incredible:

  • an old warehouse that had been converted to shared work spaces rented by the hour by aspiring artists (screen printing, wood working, jewelry making etc)
  • two ex middle schools that have been refurbished and are about to opened as mixed use incubator/work spaces with restaurants, bars, gyms etc
  • a brand new modular building with funky furniture and desk space in one area and what looked to the untrained eye like a very well planned and equipped building training environment on the other
  • and a couple of generic office spaces that have been rented in the community to provide drop in space for potential entrepreneurs and administrative bases for outreach workers.

What struck me on the day was how some of these places seemed to ‘fit’ with the local community that they were situated in – and for whom one could see a demand. Indeed they seemed to have evolved as a natural consequence of local peoples passion, skills and interest (in jewellery making, screen printing, etc).

In contrast some of the others appeared to be quite out of context with the immediate environment (you know how you recognise the ‘new build funded by the public purse’ in the middle of a run down estate) with funky furniture and expensive fittings that on on the one hand send a clear message of valuing local people (YOU DO DESERVE THIS) but may provide easy targets and ammunition for the cynics as well as making them quite intimidating to some local residents.

Underlying each of the projects there is a strategy based on a set of assumptions about how enterprise development will work in the locality and with a certain target group.

I personally believe that much more work remains to be done to clarify these assumptions and strategies so that they can play an effective part in project development.

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