'This is like our home': Independent businesses at The Retailery describe 'colossal' impact closing co-working space could have
PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 December 2018
Jon Paul Ladd 2015
Owners of independent businesses at The Retailery have been having "sleepless nights" over their future, as it was announced this week that it will close in the new year.
Things Made Public, the CIC (Community Interest Company) behind Romford Market’s co-working space with a difference, gave the news on its Facebook page on Tuesday night with hundreds of upset and angry residents expressing their dismay on social media.
Sarah Walters and Lauren Martin from Things Made Public CIC said: “We are incredibly proud to have been instrumental in creating and providing a space that is held in such high esteem by the local community.
“We have prided ourselves on creating a safe environment for all walks of life, with a diverse and exciting entertainment programme that range from board game evenings and Polish folk nights through to Open Mic and local band performances.
“We consider ourselves blessed to have met so many inspiring local entrepreneurs and have enjoyed every second of assisting every one of those in fulfilling their business dreams, whether through the subsidised work space, the range of networking events provided or via the art wall on which local artists can sell their work.”
A letter on behalf of all of the independent businesses at The Retailery has been sent to the council asking for further details on what the future holds for the premises and reiterating that Things Made Public CIC has been “pivotal” in all of their success stories.
Owner of Jas’s Punjabi Kitchen, Jaspal Kaur, who has based at The Retailery since it first opened its doors, said: “I’m very stressed, since we found out about what’s happening I’ve had sleepless nights thinking about what I’m going to do.”
Director of Spotlight Multimedia which provides courses and qualifications for over 19-year-olds, Matthew Hughes added: “This is going to have a colossal affect on us.
“We’ve established ourselves here so people know where we are and since we’ve been here, we’ve been able to accommodate around 300 visits.
“We’re like a little family here so to try and destroy it in this way with no real reason is needless.”
For the past two years, The Retailery has relied on the original funding provided to them by the GLA and its future was reliant on Havering Council granting discretionary rates relief to the organisation.
The local authority is set to receive a total of £1,696,000.00 from the government’s Discretionary Rate Relief Scheme between 2017 - 2021 to aid local businesses facing such challenges.
But having submitted an application for the funding in order to save the The Retailery, Things Made Public CIC was rejected.
In a letter addressed to the team, Havering Council said: “Whilst your organisation provides a useful service to members of the community, the council is unable to grant relief on this occasion.
“As you will appreciate the council does not have the financial ability to support every laudable organisation.”
To date the not-for-profit organisation, run by CIC (Community Interest Company) Things Made Public, has provided a platform for more than 200 performers from the borough, supported and subsidised more than 40 independent businesses, provided more than 400 hours of free business support and created 64 jobs.
In response to the public outcry, leader of Havering Council Councillor Damian White has stated that the local authority is still “committed” to the co-working space.
He said: “The Retailery is a vital part of Romford Town Centre and the council is committed to keeping it open.
“After looking at various options to enable Things Made Public to keep running The Retailery, it was decided, given budget pressures on the council and an increase in demand for frontline services, we couldn’t justify financially supporting Things Made Public beyond February 2019.
“The council is still committed to The Retailery space, whether it is delivered by the current provider or a new one.
“What is important to us is that we can continue to provide a diverse offer in the heart of Romford.”
However, director of website design company Ollie Ford & Co, Rubin Madila believes even if The Retailery remained open under new management, the beloved co-working space would not be the same.
“The Retailery as we know it is closing”, he said.
“Even if the council does take it over, it is not going to be the same because it is not being run by the community for the community.
“There has been no communication from the council so as far as we all know, from February we could become squatters looking for new places to work.
“This is like our home and we don’t want to leave it.”
A petition has also been set up in a bid to save The Retailery and has already gained more than 800 signatures.
To sign the online petition, visit here