If there has been one hot trend in Bristol this year, it’s been the rise of coworking places across the city. We’ve had new entrants such as Runway East, expanded entities like Desk Lodge, and extended offers, Framework for example, all with differing attributes and attractions, which have developed in tandem as our tech and other sectors have boomed.
But cast your mind back five years to when Engine Shed first opened its doors to tenants, meeting room hire, event space use, and, as a novelty, coworking. Arguably it was transformational and pioneering. The buzz, the eclecticism, the sense of getting stuff done was palpable. Where else could you hot desk in amongst start-up tech entrepreneurs, editors and journalists, regional organisations such as Invest in Bristol & Bath (IBB) and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
And it is that extraordinary mix that sets and continues to distinguish Engine Shed apart from other coworking spaces – not necessarily better, but different. Engine Shed is purpose driven at its core. Yes, there is a need for revenue but the surplus income is re-invested to deliver inclusivity and innovation in our economic progress and growth that manifests itself in projects such as Diverse Workforce for the Future, Entrepreneurial Outreach and ecosystem services with Briony as the Scaleup Enabler. Coworking at Engine Shed contributes to that drive for change and positive impact.
No two days are alike at this place; the versatility of the space allows for an enviable range of events and collusions to occur. From the occasional Royal visitor to a plethora of students developing media and film skills in Boomsatsuma, from primary school kids eating lunch in Junction 14 during their break from the My Future My Choice project, to a ministerial announcement (provided the Minister in question hasn’t resigned J), and not forgetting the variety of launches, talks and fireside chats in The Junction. Working here, you cannot fail to be inspired even on the most challenging day you may be going through; a saunter through the Business Lounge is a recommended daily stimulus (even if it is to see where the Nooks, which were first seen here, have been moved to).
And subtly, Engine Shed has been the bedrock to spur Bristol’s increase in coworking hubs and feed their occupancy. Many businesses and organisations started their life here, and have now graduated beyond to take larger offices in shared spaces or to move into their own building. There are several businesses that have progressed through the incubators-in-residence, SETsquared Bristol, Webstart and Oracle: Travel Local, Senta and YellowDog are recent examples, and others such as the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) have now fledged and flown allowing for others to take roost. Which is exactly how it should be.
Engine Shed can’t afford to rest on its laurels though, as coworking practices adapt and shape to fit market demands, but somehow I don’t think this will happen.