Sunny Colch Space

And so the new Creative Business Centre in the old cop shop at Queen Street is to be managed by a London based arts company.

SPACE [groovy CAPS ahoy!] is:

“…a leading visual arts organization providing creative workspace, advocacy, support and promoting innovation.”

Even the creative copywriters at CBC would be hard pressed to write a strap line that lives up to the hype that the Town Hall has for the much-delayed Creative Business Centre.

It seems that SPACE got in a little pickle on the PR front with CBC though. The London agency jumped the gun with the press release, leading to CBC announcing the news via… a RT from an agency down the other end of the A12.


SPACE declared:

“SPACE will develop the site as a hub for emerging creative enterprises in Colchester as well as an alternative ecosystem for creative businesses, including artists, who may otherwise gravitate to London.”

Oh the irony of SPACE having to gravitate *from* London to Sunny Colch to enable this to happen.

Is there really no one in our town that could have taken on the management of what was once one of the CBC flagship projects for the *ahem* Cultural Quarter?

SPACE also talk about:

“Developing a creative industries production corridor linking East London with Essex.”

We’d rather keep it local.

Look at that St Botolphs’s ‘creative industries production corridor,’ currently running from 15 Queen Street down to the Waiting Room.

It would have been decent if the energy behind this Sunny Colch DIY creative ethos had been given first dibs on the old Police Station…

The Chronic has been trying to follow this story ever since we first sat through the original Planning Committee meeting for the Creative Business Centre back in, oooh, 2012?

We have had various tip offs since then about the chopping and changing of CBC when it comes to awarding a contract for an organisation to manage the space [no CAPS].

There was a suggestion that CBC wanted an experienced operator to manage the project, but the costs were simply too high.

We were told that a local organisation – or even residents – could run it more cost effectively, and command greater rates relief than a private company.

But CBC wasn’t listening.

And so back in April of this year we submitted the following FoI:

“Please can you tell me which individual or organisation will be responsible for managing the Creative Business Centre along Queen Street. How long is the contract for?

I would also like to know how this decision was made, and who was responsible for making the decision.

Please can you also tell me the names of any other individuals or organisations that the Council has held discussions with about the possible management of the Creative Business Centre.”

And whaddya know – the response that came back was ‘commercial confidentiality, blah blah blah bollocks.’

It really would be half-decent if CBC had a little more transparency, and at least disclosed which other organisations were in the running for managing such a major project.

We have nothing against SPACE – apart from the silly caps.

But you look to improve your local patch by working with local people first, right?

We vaguely recall sitting through a Cabinet meeting a couple of years back where a policy was passed that CBC would do business with local companies first, where at all possible.

We tried to search and link to this policy. We couldn’t find it.

Looks like the same can be said for CBC and the Creative Business Centre.

On the plus side it seems that SPACE is looking to hire a manager for the Creative Business Centre, as well as a partner to provide the cafe service.

Which makes you wonder what the SPACE role actually is?

A recruitment agency?

But we wish SPACE well as it attempts to join up the creative corridor from fashionable Hackney all the way along to Queen Street in Sunny Colch.

Can SPACE fill the… Space?

15 Queen Street is looking a little fallow of late, Comrades.