Waltham Forest – A commitment to culture.

April 4, 2022

“Supporting arts, culture, and community can be seen in the development of the locality and its residents.”

Each month we host our Creative Land Trust Team Day in a different creative Borough of London. Taking the opportunity to better understand how local authorities and businesses are working to develop arts and culture to support the community.

Most recently we visited Waltham Forest, spending half the day working from Yonder Studios, before touring Creative Works, Switchboard Studios and Blackhorse Workshop.

There we met with Waltham’s Head of Culture and Heritage Services, Lorna Lee, and discussed her and the authorities work to improve cultural infrastructure and secure investment in the borough, increasing opportunities for residents to access and get involved in the arts.

Waltham Forest was the Mayor of London’s first-ever Borough of Culture in 2019, its ongoing commitment to creativity is integral to the area’s continual development.

From music festivals and garden parties to busking in shop windows and human libraries, they have worked hard to celebrate the communities in Waltham Forest, with music, art, culture, and more.

A growing network of creative hubs across the borough support and extend the work of Waltham Forest. Giving space to artist creatives is known to have a positive impact on culture and community and this is demonstrated in statistics around increased employment and wellbeing. Whilst we understand there are many more collectives across the borough, here we have documented the unique offering and impact of those we were able to visit in just an afternoon.

Yonder Studios

Yonder combines co-working, workshop space, and climbing to create a balance between work and exercise. The concept came from two furniture designers Paul and James, who started by installing a small climbing wall in their furniture workshop to stay active and the idea grew from there.

Yonder’s commitment to design and placemaking has been centered around building community. Paul and James have built a network of makers and creators that have become a melting pot of ideas that work to immerse the organisation, and its tenant businesses, locally.

Yonder have hosted events for the E17 Arts Trail and at Yonder, ‘mums and babies’ yoga classes and worked with educational facility Big Creative. It is estimated that they have created 100 jobs and have been approached by other Borough councils about recreating their model at similar sites.

Creative Works Space

Creative Works is a Community Interest Company and part of the BCE Creative Village Project. They are community-focused co-working space for creatives offering event space, and a dedicated training and talent incubator programme.

Their work with BCE provides training and opportunities, in creative industries, to young people. Growth and community are at the core of their existence, and as a result their endeavours work to support the local economy. Members also have the option to work alongside a BCE apprentice from the college.

Creative Works commitment to training and growth works towards improving the local community and economy, they reinvest any surplus into subsidised rents, furthering the educational mission of BCE.

Blackhorse Lane (Banner Image) Wood Street Walls and Al Maser awesome installation at The Standard Music Venue – part of his “Interrupting Landscapes” series & Paint Your London festival. Support by Tom at We Like Static, Hatch Art & @madebymolu.
Blackhorse Workshop (Left Image) Source: Ben Quinton. Yonder (Top Right Image) Source: Ackroyd Lowrie. Blackhorse Workshop (Bottom Right Image) Source: Blackhorse Workshop.

Blackhorse Workshop  

Blackhorse Workshop is a public space dedicated to making. The space aims to bring people together, through making; inspiring and supporting creative ambitions, and building communities.  

Blackhorse Worksop offers a fully equipped wood and metal workshop, available to newcomers and professionals, with technicians on hand for support. The space has allowed “46 creative businesses” to be established and ‘in its first five years trained 2,600 people have been to use tools and machinery independently’, encouraging entrepreneurs and creative outputs.  

“Blackhorse Workshop has been a major force in defining the area’s identity as a destination for the creative industries. Through its provision of affordable space, workshop facilities, and technical support it has attracted new creatives to the borough, inspired new business start-ups, and provided a space for businesses to grow.” Rebecca Davey, Assistant Director for Employ.  

The project originally received start-up support from the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund, the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and match funding from Create, Legacy Trust UK, and Arts Council England. 

Switchboard Studios  

Inspired by Blackhorse Workshop Switchboard Studios, a former Council call centre in Waltham Forest has been re-made into a succession of bright, airy, and affordable studio spaces. The studios contain a community of 26 creative workspaces and the Circuit Room events space hosting; classes, pop-ups, markets, and exhibitions. 

The studios aim to positively impact the local community by offering a space that develops opportunities and connects people, through creativity, education, wellness, and enterprise. 

Switchboard Studios was originally managed by Meanwhile Space but has now been given back to the council of London Borough of Waltham Forest, an asset to the  

Waltham’s collective of studios, workshops, and co-working spaces have a wide range of offerings and work together with the council and community to improve the opportunities for individuals and organisations across the borough. The impact of their continued emphasis on supporting arts, culture, and community can be seen in the development of the locality and its residents. 

Creative Works Space (Left Image) Source: London Office Space. Switchboard Studios (Centre Image) Source: Jan Kattein. Switchboard Studios (Right Image) Source: Creative United.