A few months ago, my husband and I visited Colchester as part of the CURE European Business Lab.
CURE stands for ‘Creative Urban Renewal in Europe’. The project brings together 7 partners in Germany, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, the UK and Ireland. The CURE partners set up the European Business Lab, as exchange platform for creative entrepreneurs.
Colchester is Britain’s Oldest recorded Town boasting a Norman castle and the former home of Queen Boadicea. Colchester is located in Essex, in the East of England. The St Botolph’s Quarter is an area to the east of the town centre which has become increasingly run-down. They want to redevelop the whole area.
Being an architect myself and living in a UNESCO World Heritage City, I was interested in the integration of contemporary architecture in the historical fabric. And secondly I wanted to learn about small creative businesses. I wanted to meet other creative to widen my perspective and my vision.
We learned about architecture and development of the area. Everything started with ‘firstsite’. ‘firstsite’ is the heart of the Cultural Quarter. It’s the new Visual and Arts Centre. The area around has to be redeveloped.
There are a lot of valuable initiatives in Colchester. It seems that the main goal is to keep the talent in the city. A few examples:
- The Minories is a department of Colchester School of Arts. The Minories is at the centre of St Botolphs’s Cultural Quarter and it’s the formal location for firstsite, just in front of the new building. At the Minories Art Gallery local artists, students and graduates can display their work. At the shop visitors can buy work of the students.
- Slack Space is a free community art space. It’s a non-profit organization run by volunteers. It successfully transforms empty shops and buildings into community art spaces. In the art spaces they exhibit work of all kind of artists. They have about 200 visitors per week.
- Fifteen Queen Street and the Creative Coop: They try to give creative people a place to collaborate.. They want to make a creative hub that helps creative talents to flourish. The Creative Coop may use a Georgian building, right in the heart of the Town Centre (near firstsite and The Minories) at Fifteen Queen Street. People from different creative background can hire a room for a low cost. Working together with other creatives is a huge advance for start-ups; they can work together and stimulate each other.
- ‘The Hidden Kiosk’ project: Next to the new firstsite building there’s an old bus station. They have temporary ownership of the disused Kiosks and they want to bring life and colour back in the area. Creatives will be given the opportunity to present their ideas in a pop-up shop. For a few weeks they can use the space and open a shop. It’s a good way of exploring your idea and see if it could work. Unfortunately not many projects succeed.
There were many inspiring things about my visit. But the video below shows that the most inspiring thing for all participants were the people, meeting other creatives!
Click here for more information about CURE. Read more about the CURE project:
Expo in Germany and Movie for CURE.