A new co-working space at the Roundhouse

November 29, 2018

By Marcus Davey, chief executive and artistic director, Roundhouse

Many people know the Roundhouse as a gig venue, or a place to see theatre, dance or circus. But what many people don’t know is that each year, 6,000 young people (aged 11-25) also come to the Roundhouse to take part in projects or use rehearsal and studio space right underneath the main auditorium where so many people have seen a show. Of the young people who come here, over half are from the most disadvantaged areas, and BAME young people make up 38%. Yet, when we look at the wider industry the numbers differ hugely. BAME people account for less than 13% of the workforce, but there is an even more worrying lack of diversity when it comes to class, where those from a lower socioeconomic backgrounds make up only 8%. With jobs in the creative industries set to grow by 1 million by 2030, we want our diverse community of young creatives to be at the heart of this growth.

We are in a unique position between education and employment. We teach young people creative and life skills outside of a formal education setting and have industry knowledge and connections that can help young people in their early careers. But to affect any change we need to understand what barriers young people face.

Time and time again we hear two main reasons – lack of financial support and lack of social capital. Many young people we work with don’t have the bank of mum and dad to rely on and they certainly cannot take on unpaid internships. Freelancing is a daunting path to start out on if you have financial responsibility for others which means young carers or young parents are put off. Young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds also have a harder time making connections. Someone described the notion of a ‘sticky floor’ and a ‘sticky ceiling’ to me once – not only are disadvantaged young people more likely to not be able to reach opportunities, young people from privileged backgrounds stay at the top because of their connections, and irrespective of their qualifications and talent sometimes.

Our new campus aims to address this. Our Centre for Creative and Digital Entrepreneurs, a co-working space within the new campus – which will be built in our yard and will also comprise three large studio spaces and a new outdoor bar for audiences – will allow us to work with young people, up to the age of 30, so we can support the next generation of record label owners, film producers and tech innovators to achieve their dreams. Through desk space, mentors and masterclasses we’ll help young people build their future in the creative industries.

The space will be cheap to access. But in the new year we will run a pilot so we can get an understanding of what people would want from a co-working space. The price is really important to us, as is getting an idea of what equipment people might need to start their own business. Not everyone has a laptop with the most up to date software, so we don’t want that to be another barrier in the way. And we want the space to be a place of learning. So it doesn’t matter if you have formal qualifications or not – we’ll run masterclasses to help you with practical things such as tax returns. One of the most important things to us is this idea of a creative network. A lack of social capital should not hold you back. You can make your own networks, across different sectors, enabling you to build contacts that can support you for years to come.

Our vision is that the creative industries will be made up of a more diverse mix of young people. We believe this is how we can make social change and all organisations in the creative industries have a responsibility to take active steps to make a change – this new campus is our commitment. A more diverse sector means equal opportunities for all young people without background or ethnicity acting as a barrier and ultimately it will have a positive impact on our society and economy to have a diverse sector that better reflects our country.

You can apply for the pilot online – applications close Monday 3 December

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