I’ll be honest, at first I wasn’t going to go to the launch. I had a press invite but to be fair, it was an invite to the opening of some office space.
But then two friends with wiser heads than mine asked if I was going. This, evidently, was no ordinary office space. This was something different.
It’s workspace rental for an age when the ‘work’ part of the space actually fits inside a machine you can carry under your arm. It’s for the age when the working week is not necessarily as long or as short as five days. It’s for the age when you can start a business by making something rather than making 50,000 somethings.
It is called Engine.
Appropriately enough it has been hewn out of the heart of gothic Northampton in a converted former garage on Abington Avenue.
When I arrived outside it looked more like a bar that was too cool for the likes of me than a place of work.
There is a bunk bed, there are sofas, there is a kitchen area. There was a DJ inside but not just a DJ – one that plays music you haven’t heard before but you still like.
Making my way through to the workshop area I found Bill Pollard who had painted the signage for Engine. His mum Elke was concerned that The NeneQuirer would be represented at the launch and there I was! Phew…
Jacob Austin-Lavelle, the Creative Director, describes the Engine approach as follows: “The company slogan is ‘work for yourself, not by yourself’ because we know how isolating it can feel when you’re trying to build something by yourself.
“We decided that instead of leaving town in search of a creative community, that we would try and create a home for Northampton’s own. Already we have been incredibly encouraged by the response.”
Engine’s own literature states:
The office space is relaxed and comfortable and includes fixed and flexible work stations, break out areas and a meeting room. The workshop offers work bays in a large open space which gives access to dedicated shared machinery. All of this is housed in a town centre location which includes on-site parking. The concept brings self-employed/freelance individuals and small businesses together under one roof in order to share skills and experience, and foster a creative community.
This new way of working has been embraced by Northampton locals, Jacob Austin-Lavelle and Phil Ridge both 25. After graduating from Northampton University in 2013, Austin-Lavelle became a freelance designer and cinematographer. After 4 years travelling the world as a first-mate on yachts, Cridge returned to Northampton building his own canal boat from scratch which he now calls home, whilst working as a furniture maker.
Working in an isolated way, the pair saw the need and benefit of bringing people together. The company’s aim is to take away the downside of contracts and long leases when starting a business and promote the upside of working alongside inspiring, entrepreneurial people.
The people I talked to seemed impressed with what was on offer. Northamptonshire is one of the fastest expanding areas in the country and is full of small businesses. It is also littered with creatives writing, making and creating from home who feel like they need more than a coffee shop but less than a company headquarters.
The Deputy Mayor Tony Ansell was at the launch night. He reflected on how the businesses in the area had changed over the years but was excited by the entrepreneurial spirit on show.
If Engine takes off, which I hope it does, it won’t just be a success for a new way of working, but it will be a sign that Northampton is starting to come of age as a cultural centre.
To find out more contact Jacob Austin-Lavelle at:
Hello@coworkengine.co.uk Tel: 07964113714