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monthlies OnOffice July9

18 Dec 2019

The Coalface, Finsbury Park's latest co-working site, shows how and why community should be at the heart of co-working

Words by  Photo by The Coalface

Jonathan Hausmann, chief operating officer at The Coalface – a Finsbury Park co-working space and business hub – reveals how the venture has impacted the community

COO Jonathan Hausmann sits down with OnOffice to explain how Finsbury Park coworking space The Coalface supports more than just businesses in the local community.

We knew that there was a real need for high-quality, affordable office space in this part of north London – an assertion that has since been affirmed by the many members who have taken a private office or co-working desk with us since we opened our doors. However, since launching The Coalface hub, we’ve also learnt that workspaces such as ours have the opportunity to be more than a business hub. We’ve found that they can also play an important role in supporting the local community more broadly.

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Our first opportunity to have an impact on our new local community came shortly after we opened. We were keen to meet with neighbouring businesses and organisations, to introduce ourselves and also to explore opportunities to offer discounts to our members.

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During a meeting with one of our closest neighbours, the incredible Park Theatre, we noticed that the team were operating out of a pretty small office. Park Theatre has a relatively small footprint and they naturally prioritise audience and performer space, which leaves very little room for the office.

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With 15 people currently working together to run the theatre, it was clear that they were quite packed in and they explained that the lack of space was actually limiting their potential to hire more people. Knowing the important work the theatre does, and how valuable a part of the Finsbury Park – and indeed London-wide – community it is, we saw that we could help out.

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We now provide the team with a six-person, fully furnished office, free of charge – something they have really been able to make use of. The theatre needs to fundraise over £250,000 a year just to stay open and yet receives no public subsidy, so we were more than happy to do what we can to support them.

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Another opportunity to offer something to local residents came in early October, when Finsbury Park was hit by a devastating burst water main which flooded a lot of houses close to us. We were able to open our doors to affected residents, inviting them in for a hot drink and some cake and somewhere dry to be whilst their homes were tended to. A small comfort, perhaps – but we hoped the gesture provided some brief respite from a pretty difficult situation for many.

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Workspaces such as ours are often used by people in creative industries - and many of our members reflect this. Wanting to ensure we created a space that was inspiring, and also keen to support the creative sector, The Coalface has partnered with a really interesting organisation called Creative Debuts, which was established in order to support and champion emerging artists.

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We now have a selection of artwork on display and available for purchase in the space, allowing us to provide a platform for up-and-coming artists. It has the added benefit of offering our members the chance to have some control over the aesthetic they work in; they can vote for specific types of artwork that they’d like to see displayed, and all have the opportunity to win one of the pieces during each rotation.

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The diversity amongst our members has highlighted to us the many ways that co-working spaces support local areas. When you think about who utilises co-working spaces, you probably think of large or small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and scale ups - and this is definitely true, we have attracted all of these people.

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However, we have found that the space is sometimes used in rather more unexpected ways. For example, we have a travel vaccination clinic based here; casting agents have used the space to cast for Hollywood films; and someone studying for their PHD has taken a desk so they have somewhere quiet and professional to help them focus.

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We love this unexpected diversity and the sense of community that it has created within our walls. It is a real reflection of the rich diversity of the community outside; one that we are proud to now be a part of.

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