From the vintage desks to the large, decadent windows, The Old Print Works in Birmingham is a co-working hub that is steeped in history.
Based in Moseley, it offers studios, exhibition areas as well as a co-working space, called The Transfer. The building itself dates back to the 1800s and its heritage is immediately noticeable as soon as you walk through the doors.
“The Old Print Works is an old factory that used to make transfers,” explains Patrick Willcocks, who runs the hub. “It started off making stickers for rally bicycles, which were made in Nottingham.”
The printing originally started out in a house, which is still present today at the site. It had orchids behind it and a workshop was set up in the back garden.
As business boomed, the house was expanded into a factory with the majority of it being built in the late 1800s and the front part during the 1920s. Over the next 90 years, The Old Print Works became an incredibly successful manufacturer, supplying stickers to companies right across the UK and internationally.
But with the decline of manufacturing, business slowed down and by the early 2000s, it could no longer afford to stay at the site and moved to a small town just outside Birmingham.
Since 2011, the factory has been owned by the charity Make it Sustainable Ltd and has been transformed into a co-working hub. The charity’s aim, Patrick says, is to “promote making skills and creativity for local people – especially as we are based in a disadvantaged area”.
“We offer an affordable and friendly co-working space. It’s not high-tech, but we have everything you need. Plus we have a salad garden and have shared lunches every day.”
So what do The Old Print Works and The Transfer actually offer freelancers?
The actual co-working space is full of mismatched sofas, desks and chairs, which somehow work to create a cosy, homely atmosphere. There are also meeting rooms available to book, and of course a healthy supply of tea and coffee.
The upper gallery in The Old Print Works has north-facing windows, which is ideal for artists and designers as this offers very even natural light throughout the day. There are numerous studios available to rent here and the main concourse is often used for exhibitions.
The downstairs, or the lower gallery, tends to be hired out for music events. In fact, Patrick says, “Some of the units are rented out to other organisations; for example, we have a yoga class running every day of the week and a pottery class several times a week. We also run some classes ourselves, like the textile workshops.”
There are even more studios that can be rented in the lower gallery too. Currently, 75–80 per cent of all studio space has been rented out to freelancers. And there are a whole host of creative freelancers coming to the space, from furniture makers to illustrators, artists and jewellers.