I recently attended a fabulous Wabi Sabi Co-working Day at Bleary Business and Community Centre during Enterprise Week 2016. It was my first co-working event and I was blown away by the sense of community and support from the group of entrepreneurs that attended. It was a great chance to: get to know the people behind some of our local business, hear their stories, discuss shared challenges and listen to valuable presentations throughout the day. I must also mention the amazing lunch by Ballydougan Pottery!
Co-working and Creative Networks
I attended the event with two hats on – I am currently employed to deliver Create: Innovate: Armagh, a joint project between the Education Authority NI and Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Borough Council with the aim of supporting the development of creative industries in Armagh. So I was interested in this event to meet businesses coming from the council area and also to experience an event promoting coworking and networking.
Katie Brown Designs
But I am also an entrepreneur, running my own textile design business, Katie Brown Designs. And so I valued the chance to be motivated and inspired by others trying to make their way in business. Throughout my career as a freelance designer, I have appreciated the opportunity to work alongside others and have seen the impact that this can have both in the community and also from an economic perspective. Seacourt Print Workshop were particularly invaluable to my personal development, encouraging my creative work as a member and supporting my work as a community arts facilitator.
Armagh: A City of Learning since 445AD
Armagh has all the ingredients for a creative and cultural hub. The city has been a place of knowledge, ideas and discovery since the time of St Patrick. Ireland’s patron saint established the city’s tradition of learning in 445AD when he founded his church on the hill that gave Armagh its name – Ard Macha and established Armagh as the centre of Christian learning in Ireland. This tradition of education continued into 18th Century with the work of Archbishop Robinson who planned to establish a University in Armagh and made vast improvements to the city. He transformed it into a modern city of stunning architecture and cultural significance. Through establishing both the Armagh Observatory and the Robinson Library, he designed a city that was ahead of its time. Armagh became a place where people met to discuss the latest philosophies and look to the future.
Create: Innovate: Armagh
Create: Innovate: Armagh aims to continue Armagh’s learning legacy by celebrating Armagh’s cultural heritage, bringing together its existing resources and reinvigorating creativity and innovation in the area. We are working to enhance skills, build a creative community and inspire the next generation; encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship, experimentation and collaboration. We believe that this combination of opportunities will lead to ideas for new products and services, leading to economic impact.
Since launching Create: Innovate: Armagh in September 2015, I have become increasingly interested in the concept of coworking as a way to develop networks and encourage collaboration. I have also been researching the effect of innovation on economic growth and how we can push this way of thinking forward. On reading ‘Innovate NI’, a report by the NI Executive, this quote stood out to me:
“Knowledge generation is the catalyst for growth. We need to create an environment which encourages research and creativity.”
I believe that this illustrates the importance of of creative networks and shared spaces. They play an invaluable role in encouraging knowledge and skills sharing and collaborations between sectors. They also give us room to play and experiment without fear of failure.
Create: Innovate: Armagh offers support and encouragement to those preparing to leave education and to those already on the career ladder, at any stage and so is an extension to the services already offered by Amma. Our ultimate goal is to establish a space in the centre of Armagh, to give the city a focus for creativity. This will be a space where people can come to create, innovate, connect and invent. This goal is subject to funding and planning and so in the meantime, we are working to bring together our creative community and to engage the next generation. In this way, we will be able to design a space alongside those who will be ultimately using it, making it fit for purpose and ensuring it meets their needs. We are working to build relationships with local creatives, inventors, entrepreneurs, influencers, innovators and enthusiasts. We believe that a dynamic mix of people can spark unexpected collisions and lead us to more innovative outcomes.
The Amma Centre
This project is delivered from the Amma Centre, a place where creativity meets the digital world, occupying the Markethouse in the bustling heart of Armagh. This is one of three creative learning centres in Northern Ireland and is an important resource for schools and community groups in the area, managed by the Education Authority. Through the centre, schools, teachers and pupils can access training and resources in music, animation, digital story telling, film-making and multi-media design. The centre offers invaluable support for skills development with the potential to encourage future career and education pathways in the creative industries.
Monthly Meetups at The Amma Centre
Each month we invite this community to join us for a meetup at the Amma Centre, to listen to an inspiring and interesting speaker and to casually network over a cup of coffee. This year our speakers have included Shauna Dunlop of Emain Publications, Rebecca Walsh of Ink Consultancy, Peter Edgar with a team from Bank of Invention and Dave Linton of Madlug. It’s a chance to discuss ideas and concerns with like-minded people, providing support and motivation.
In March, 2016 we hosted a successful conference to discuss our concept with a wider audience. In addition, we have introduced workshops using our Makerspace equipment (laser cutter, 3D printers, vinyl cutter) so that we can give our network access to equipment to push forward their skills development and allow them to play, experiment and prototype ideas. In 2017, we plan to widen our workshop programme. Our network has consistently grown in the last year and we are excited to see it develop further in the future.
We love to see new faces at our events, everyone is welcome! Check out our website for details.
Image credit: Brian Mason Photography