Creative Dundee

Hapworks: What’s Next?

We are excited to announce that our pilot space, Hapworks_00, will continue to occupy 7 Castle Street, offering creative event space and a place to be involved in the development of Hapworks!

Here we reflect on the initial pilot phase and share what happens next.

In October 2023 we launched Hapworks, a collective project led by Creative Dundee to share an initial vision for the future of creative space in Dundee. This vision was shaped by contributions from over 390 creative practitioners, businesses, grassroots organisations and existing creative spaces through a year long series of events and workshops and a survey, each of which helped us understand the desperate need for more space, the types of spaces people need, and the significant opportunities more space could provide.

Through our survey, we weren’t surprised to learn that 96% of respondents had at some point struggled to find the space they needed for a creative project. 86% of respondents said they needed an alternative creative space to work in, with 62% saying their current creative space was not fit for purpose. 59% of respondents said they had considered leaving Dundee due to a lack of creative space. With the closure of many creative workspaces in the city in recent years, even established creative spaces are affected. Despite their vital contribution to Dundee’s vibrant creative scene, grassroots organisations already offering creative spaces in the city face insecurity due to short term leases. As a result they feel unable to invest in their spaces and, like individuals, have faced increasing rents and rising energy costs.

The issue has also been recognised in Dundee City Council’s recently published Local Development Plan Topic Paper, Town Centre First and Economy, April 2024: “Access to space is a significant concern for the cultural and creative sectors. The value of existing venues and assets, and the potential for growth and development associated with access to the right spaces must be considered in the development of the proposed plan.”

Hapworks_00 coworking, photograph by Studio QN

Hapworks_00 at 7 Castle Street

Dundee City Council shared its ambition during the pandemic to work with Creative Dundee to develop space for creative communities through its Vacant to Vibrant initiative, aimed at testing new uses for vacant spaces and animating the city centre. We finally secured a three-month temporary lease for 7 Castle Street on Friday 2 February 2024, a space which had been vacant for a number of years. After a whirlwind couple of weeks we celebrated the opening of Hapworks_00 on Thursday 22 February 2024. Located on one of the city centre streets identified as having the highest vacancy rate by The Courier, Hapworks_00 has been viewed positively as an example of a potential new model for vacant city centre space. 

Although Hapworks_00 may provide just a fraction of the facilities needed in a long term space, it has allowed people from different creative backgrounds to come together and work with others in a social space, forming new connections and even initiating new collaborations.

We have had over 200 coworking visits and 67 unique passholders in just 10 weeks and hosted 13 events bringing over 400 people into the space, including a participatory exhibition by University of Dundee Architecture and Urban Planning Students, this year’s Amps Forum, and a workshop about freelance experiences, exploring how organisations and creative freelancers in the city can work together better.

Untangling Ideas with Service Design Academy

Reflection from the pilot

People have enjoyed working alongside other people and really want to see the communal creative space model work. The current space at 7 Castle Street is well lit and spacious, has a good city centre location and is notably accessible compared to other vacant city centre spaces. However, due to its temporary nature and the open plan layout, the space isn’t perfect. Although ideal for small events, it doesn’t provide private spaces for meetings or online calls. It doesn’t allow for tenants to occupy the space on a permanent basis which would help oversee the space day to day, and no kitchen means clearing up after events can be tricky!

Both the positives and negatives of this first pilot phase are valuable for informing our future plans for a long term space. It has demonstrated demand; shown how a space like this makes creativity visible and, through this, animates the city centre; and brought together a community keen to see this model evolve has emerged and is growing.

Next Steps

We are delighted to be extending our lease and continuing to offer Hapworks_00 as a flexible and accessible event space over the summer. The space will also continue to be a home to the Hapworks project as we work on our long term ambitions, host events and offer monthly coworking days on Wednesdays 12 June, 10 July, and 14 August, with Pay What You Can passes for people to work together in the space and meet others. We plan to trial a second phase of weekly coworking from September 2024.

Social Action Enquiry Film Screening

Much more than this one temporary space is needed to accommodate Dundee’s creative communities and ambitions, or to address the issues facing the city centre and high streets. We are grateful to those who are already making many of these spaces happen, and we hope Hapworks_00 has demonstrated a potential new model – one that underlines that creative spaces are essential in creating vibrant places.

Over the next few months we will continue to develop our long term plans for the Hapworks project, firstly constituting Hapworks as a charity in its own right, providing a mechanism to access space at a more affordable rate. We will continue to explore the options for a larger long term space with local property agents and landlords and build a business case for this.

Finally, our hope is that Hapworks is a way of working together across the city so we can better advocate for the need and benefits of long term creative space, not just for the creative sector but for the city as a whole. We will continue to work with communities, existing spaces and partners in the city to make this vision for Dundee a reality. If you want to be involved, have skills to share or can support accessing long term property, please get in touch; we won’t be able to do it alone.

Hapworks has been enabled by Creative Dundee with support from Creative Scotland’s Recovery Fund for Cultural Organisations and Dundee City Council’s Vacant to Vibrant initiative.

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