It is interesting to note, as described in a recent FT article, that a co-working provider in London is the single largest taker of space recently in central London. Birmingham’s co-working scene is nowhere near as developed or as commercialised as in London but it is growing.
First on my list and at the heart of The Old Print Works is The Transfer co-working space. This started in 2016 and has formed its own niche and focuses on attracting local co-workers active in community, sustainability and social enterprise fields. Based in the heart of the old factory, surrounded by artists and makers, it is a calm, soothing, unpretentious space with a great bunch of co-workers. It is local to me and many of my fellow workers, in one of the most interesting areas of the city, Balsall Heath, and it perhaps is the most affordable space in the city. If you tire of your work, there is a comfy area, a lunch room and a terrace. If your legs need further stretching, then you have Moseley Yoga, Ort Gallery, Sundragon Pottery and The GAP within the building. Across the road is the beautiful Moseley Road Baths, still open for swimming. Why not drop by The Transfer for a free trial day? Check it out here.
Much as I love The Transfer and everything that is happening in Balsall Heath in general, I do recognise that there are other kids on the block – and some new major players are emerging. First lets pay tribute to two of the founder members of this club:
The Moseley Exchange was the first co-working space in Birmingham and remains popular. It sprang out of the Moseley Community Development Trust. It benefits from having a real bounty of local cafes and eateries within a stone's throw and it hosts exhibitions of art work in the space. It hosts a range of freelancers - take a look at some of their members here.
Impact Hub Birmingham is now well established as the market leader in Birmingham, having made its presence felt in the city since its launch in Digbeth in 2015. It is probably the space with the highest membership and a panoply of events and challenges. Its ethos is not just about co-working and collaboration but is seeking to use the power of people coming together to start to tackle some societal problems. It is part of a worldwide network of hubs with thousands of members which brings wider benefits for globe-trotting co-workers.
There are other spaces that we don’t hear much about including Boxxed, based in Digbeth, and the The Loft Workspace, a space with a strong community and charity focus located in the Jericho Foundation in Balsall Heath. Birmingham Open Media, currently closed for refurbishment, is a not-for-profit facility also opened in 2015 and is focussed on collaborative working in the fields of art, technology and science.
Innovation Birmingham has opened up Serendip, a co-working space and incubator based in the brand new iCentrum building in Aston Science Park. This state-of-the-art facility does not want for facilities and bandwidth and is open 24/7. The Engine based in Digbeth is the other new entrant open 24 hours, based in an old factory refurbished to a very high spec. Whereas Serendip appears slick and hi-tech, The Engine is more modern chic and Shoreditch.
The University of Birmingham also have BizzInn based in their Research Park; this facility includes hot-desking and a range of other facilities to encourage business start-ups.
Two big players are getting on board.
Birmingham City University’s new facility called STEAMhouse is due to open very soon. A co-working space will be part of the first phase of this major facility in Digbeth. STEAMhouse believes in putting the A (Art) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Like The Old Print Works, STEAMhouse will combine digital with making, and knows that one without the other makes little sense.
Breaking news is that the Custard Factory (perhaps the most logical place for a co-working space over the last decade) are aiming to get on trend by opening a co-working space later in 2018.
So Birmingham is buoyant with this new type of workspace. This can only be good news for the city. Please let me know if there are others I have missed.
And another new one. AlphaWorks has recently opened at the top of Alpha Tower just off Broad Street. A high-end facility with great views of the city from the 21st and 22nd floors of this landmark building.
And if you wanted to find out the fascinating history behind the rise of co-working globally take a look at this interesting article.