British Gas Business Meets … Space Studios

British Gas interviews Space Studios

As part of a new series of blog posts, we take an in depth look at some of our customers’ business successes. I interviewed Fiona Furness from Space Studios and asked for details of how they got where they are today and what advice they would give to others.

SPACE is a charity set up by artists in 1968, to provide artists’ studios. We’ve been doing this ever since, taking old warehouse buildings and converting them into artists’ studios (some lease, some freehold) which are then let to individual artists. We have 19 buildings in East and SE London and over 700 artists. We also have a programme of exhibitions in our gallery space plus a media arts centre, artists’ residencies and a schools and community education programme.

• What has been the biggest success for your organisation?

The biggest success for our Space Studios was growing and expanding in the 2000s. We went from 3 staff to over 20, as well as doubling the number of artist tenants we had.

‘The White Building’ in Hackney Wick, E9

• What are you most proud of?

When we purchased two studio buildings as freeholds, we secured our future.

• What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

The biggest challenge we faced was the increase in property values, this has pushed up rent, and made it difficult being able to budget for necessary building repairs.

• What have you seen change in the past 5 years?

We have been part of the change – seeing Hackney, the London borough we’ve been based in for 20 years become a hub for artists. We are also now in Peckham and the changes there are also huge.

• What advice would you give to other businesses?

Don’t be afraid to set the trends yourself.

• What’s your main use of energy in your business?

Our main business energy use is our lighting and heating. It is a fairly large percentage of our budget, after building costs such as rents, mortgages, maintenance and building insurance.

• Where do you see your business in 12 months?

We’re negotiating another freehold, so hopefully this will bring with it another 70 or 80 more artists

• What would you do to help small business if you were Prime Minister for a day?

I would support and encourage local authorities to reduce business rates and banks to give low interest loans. Concessions on employee costs – it’s all about the leg-up to get started (a bit like student loans).

• Do you have a business or personal hero?

Jenni Lomax, now the Director of Camden Arts Centre – she took on a sleepy, grimy arts centre in 1990 and has transformed it to a glossy, architect-designed, international arts venue without ever losing her wonderful generosity and down to earth values. She is definitely a worthy recipient of an OBE.

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