Nicholas Okwulu of social enterprise Pempeople and Ulrike Stevens of what:if projects are neighbours who joined forces to develop plans for the transformation of 60 vacant garages on the Ledbury Estate on Old Kent Road. Located in one of the most deprived wards in Southwark, the project addresses the need for training and support in an area with high youth unemployment and low levels of educational attainment by creating a community hub with spaces for workshops, studios, cooking lessons and cultural activities where people can learn and socialise.

In August the Old Kent Road Studios hit their crowdfunding target of £54,000 after receiving backing from over two hundred local residents, businesses and a £20,000 pledge from the Mayor of London as part of the GLA’s crowdfunding initiative. This then triggered another £50,000 from the Old Kent Road’s Tenant and Resident Association which was matched by Southwark Council.

Nicholas said: “It’s nice seeing everything coming together – we’re seeing it’s actually going to happen. There’s loads of people who want to set up small enterprises. And with the regeneration of the Old Kent Road, we want local people to compete with companies who are moving in.”

“By developing skills and establishing themselves in new places for them like this space, they will develop and grow and be able to apply for tenders on development projects with the council. So we’re making sure local people get a share in the success and reducing social inequalities. In one year I can see this being packed with people – a drum of activity.”

The next stage of the project is about to commence and the team are calling on everyone to get involved and offer their time and skills to help bring the space to life. Whether clearing and painting or helping run workshops in carpentry, metal work or graphic design, they are now looking for people’s time and energy to help transform the space.

Chris Gourlay, Founder of Spacehive, said; “The Old Kent Road studios represent the powerful effect of what can be achieved through the collaboration of communities, councils and companies. The team set out to create a ‘place for everyone’ and through meaningful engagement with the people who live in the area have done just that. This a genuine example of how citizens and organisations can work together to shape their environment for the better.”

Help power the Old Kent Road studios and offer your time and skills over at