What I Learnt From my BloQ

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You’ve probably heard about Building BloQs and more about the brilliant café but I’m sure you’re still very confused about where they actually are – with that N18 postcode (eek). For those of us clued up on north Tottenham, we know there’s nothing really in it at this end. It’s virtually one road before you hit Lower Edmonton, and Building BloQs is exactly on that border. The best way to find them is to go along the river Lea – head towards Edmonton (Ikea end) and just after the bus depot, chuck a left and that’s it. This is one of the first large warehouse spaces to be converted and used by artists at this end of Tottenham and done so very beautifully that I wish I lived there. It’s cosy, rustic and just a tad ‘studenty’ – the only way to live life, I say. I popped in for a chat with Florrie Cassell who gets off the train every morning at Northumberland Park station and does the great walk along Marigold Road, then through the marshes and onto the River Lea before arriving at work. I got her to tell me more about her role and what Building BloQs plans to do here!

What is Building BloQs?

Building BloQs is a membership based open-access workspace that provides workshop facilities for independent makers working in wood, metal, plastic and paint. We offer shared resources, charged for on a pay-as-you-go basis. We’re based on an industrial estate on the opposite side of the river to Ikea in Tottenham. Onsite we have a large open plan workshop with tools and machinery, a hardware supplies shop, spray booth, photography, dance and exhibition space, and a café.

How did you get involved?

I had previously worked as a producer at a production company called Casual Films. During this time I helped to establish part of the companies community outreach program called the Casual Academy, in which we ran free filmmaking workshops for young people living in Hackney and Islington. Back in 2012 when the BloQs cofounders first moved into the building, I visited the space with a group of filmmakers with the idea that we would document the project as it developed. In the end, we didn’t start the documentary, but I was interested in the project and kept an eye on the progress. I left Casual Films in the summer of 2014 and approached Building BloQs.

What appealed about working with a start-up?

I like being part of a developing project. I joined Casual Films when it was very small and over the years saw the company double in size and open a second office in New York. I enjoyed the on-going challenge and creativity needed to help the company grow, and I learnt a lot along the way.

Tell us about your role?

I’m at Building BloQs four days a week and my work varies daily. We’re a small team and so we all wear multiple hats. My main focus is on community engagement, creating partnerships and fundraising. I am currently focused on establishing connections with other community initiatives in order to ensure they are aware of our project and the facilities offered here. I also spend my time writing funding applications, contacting companies to get tools and machinery donated and being a friendly face to people when they turn up to look around the workshop. I also organise classes in both woodwork and metalwork, we run the classes once a month on a Saturday.

What are your other personal projects linked with community work?

I have one spare day a week and in that time there are a few other projects I focus on. I am involved in a community initiative called the Wormley and Turnford Big Local. It’s a project that has been funded £1million by the Local Trust and was launched to enable residents of Wormley and Turnford to make the area a better place to live. The group is launching a community hub on the high street this summer for people to pop in and suggest ways to improve the community. There are ideas for a lot of exciting projects, including a cinema club, a community bus, an outdoor gym, start-up grants for local businesses and developing community spaces.  We have allocated some funding to purchase camera equipment and I am going to start to produce a series of short videos to document the project as it develops. I also organise a children’s summer camp that runs for a week in July, I’m a carer one evening a week to a young lady with severe learning disabilities and I manage the video content for a wonderful charity called Respond.

Any challenges faced in the beginning with Building BloQs?

I found it quite difficult to get to Building BloQs at first and dreaded the journey in. I used to get the bus to Ikea and walk from there, via the North Circular which took ages and wasn’t a nice walk. Then one day I decided to explore new routes and found a path from Northumberland Park across Tottenham Marshes and along the River Lea. This changed everything; the busy roads were replaced by narrowboats and ducks.

What’s the best thing about your job?

One lovely thing about working at Building BloQs for me is the BloQs café. Alex Motta, who runs it, really is the best chef in the world. His food is amazing and it’s so nice to sit down and share lunch with different people every day. I often leave my desk in the office and take my laptop to the cafe to work because I like the atmosphere so much. The café is open Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm, with lunch served between 10am-3pm. Alex makes a different hot meal for lunch every day, with a meat or vegetarian option costing £5. He bakes the bread fresh every morning and the coffee is a straightforward filter and only costs £1. There’s a great view of the workshop from one side of the cafe, so you can look out and see what people are making.

What are some of the innovative ways you operate, to make the workspace members feel part of the social enterprise?

We run our membership on a credit system, which means we effectively have our own currency. This means that members have an account with us that they top up with credit, like an oyster card or pay-as-you-go sim.  As they book in to use the facilities, the credit is deducted from their account. In a day they might spend £20 on a workbench, £2 on screws, and £1, but rather than handing over cash, they instead get 23 credits deducted from their account. The credit system provides various ways for members to get more involved and feel part of the organisation. For example, some members volunteer to work a day a week as a workshop technician and in exchange, we pay them in credits. If someone refers a friend to sign up as a member, we show our thanks by rewarding them with credits. And if members collaborate on a project together, they often pay each other in credits.

How are you working to engage with the community and work with them?

I am contacting other community initiatives in Tottenham and Edmonton to introduce our project and to see how we can work together. The aim of creating these links is so that we can ensure we’re offering local people the facilities they need. We have a lot of space in our building that we plan to build and develop over the next few years. As we progress we want to make sure we have a dialogue with the local community so that we can ask people what sort of workspace they want in their area. For example, there might be a local demand for a textiles or ceramics studio. We hope to find out through engaging with other community groups and researching as we go.

What’s next in the Building BloQs (collaborations/event) timeline? 

We’re excited to host Tottenham Art Classes in our studio for a pilot run of their life drawing classes this summer. This will start on Monday afternoons from 1st – 22nd June. The café also has plans to run a summer BBQ every last Friday of the month from May. The produce for this will come from Enfield Veg Co at Forty Hall Farm.

Keep an eye on our Twitter for more updates on events, collaborations, and classes @buildingbloqs

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