At a time where engagement and interaction in the community are positively rife, the support of independent businesses teamed with the creative use of space is always a welcome story.
As part of our Spotlight On series, we talk to Shona Chambers from Space @ 61, Nunhead.
Was it always your plan to open a community space?
I am a great believer in community. I initially renovated the building that Space @ 61 is housed in 2012, it was a butchers for 30 years prior to that. It was run a cafe for 3 years. The cafe was a great community asset, but not sustainable.
After discussion with various friends including a local author & stylist, she encouraged me to take the space and re-imagine it. This is where the idea for Space @ 61 came from. A place, that anyone with a great idea could hire & use to try out their plans before looking into long-term bricks and mortar of their own.
How has the community engaged with Space @ 61 since it opened in 2016?
Since we opened, Space @ 61 has provided locals with a place to try out new foods, experience events such as film nights (most recently we showed a film for the Nunhead & Peckham Free Film Festival), children’s events and self-hire of the space. The support has been amazing.
What kind of events are put on?
As a community space, we hold Mini Makers monthly children’s craft classes run for free by Artist & owner of ‘Wonder Walls’ Lucy Pearson, & her friend and owner of ‘Duck Duck Wow’, a children’s clothing brand. This reaches a large number of local parents and carers. We have worked with GUAP a young entrepreneurial brand from Peckham (founders of the first video magazine) to put on events for young creatives looking for advice and guidance in their careers.
What does a regular day look like for you?
A typical day at Space @ 61 would be a morning event such as a networking morning where a guest speaker will come in to help small businesses learn about getting the best from social media. Then later an Artist may work on their art at the space, using it as a studio, like Gen Williams has been for the past 4 months. She is a Sydenham based Artist who is currently working on a series of paintings depicting figures from the Grime scene and their fans, Gen has 2 upcoming shows displaying this work, & has recently shown at the ICA.
What’s been a highlight/ most memorable moment since you opened in 2016?
A highlight since opening would have to be our birthday week (September 1st) where to celebrate we joined up with 6 small brands we are working with and did a give away to our customers. Prizes included an amazing celebration cake from Chefgirl Daisy, 2 tickets to a Palestinian dinner put on by Zaad Supperclub, a picture of The Ivyhouse painted by Lucy Pearson, a children’s bag by Duckduck Wow, a Mindfulness class place donated by The Blissful Art, an Asparagus Fern from The Botanical Workshop & winning the space to hire for 1 day from ourselves. The amount of entries was amazing, all the small brands concerned received new interested customers and the fact they all supported the giveaway was so kind and generous.
So what’s the criteria for booking the space, can anyone get in touch?
Anyone can hire the space, although for any event that involves food they must be able to demonstrate the correct relevant food hygiene/handling certification. We welcome enquiries for any use of 2 hours or more.
Space aside, what’s your favourite spot in South East London?
My favourite spot would have to be Peckham Rye Park. Being just 10 minutes walk away from my business premises means I spend a lot of time there, either with my children, or using the huge space to walk about and think about all the exciting plans I have coming up! Plus it’s very close to a fantastic Coffee shop Norris & Knight, where you can enjoy a cup of delicious Volcano coffee, in their beautiful garden, whilst watching their chickens in the run. What a gem!
What one piece of advice would you give to others wanting to start their own project?
My number one piece of advice to others wanting to start their own project is, just start. Jump in, commit, and you will see progress almost immediately. Don’t be afraid, things have a life of their own very quickly. Find your tribe too. It’s so important to surround yourself with positive people who are trying to do similar things to you. It can feel very lonely if you are just with people who want to work 9 to 5 & don’t get where you are coming from.
What are your plans for the future?
For the future. We have been asked about providing a workspace for some of the weeks as well. This is an idea we are open to if we feel enough of the locals would use it, and it wouldn’t stop the flow of other people from coming in to work. So we will see. We’d love to know what your readers think about this idea?