In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Great West Creatives (Hounslow CEZ Proposal)

In 2018, Studio Weave and David Clarke Associates were appointed by London Borough of Hounslow to conduct a focused study into the creative industries sector across the borough, and corresponding strategy to improve the range and access to creative job opportunities. The study and enterprise strategy formed part of the council's successful bid for development funding from the Greater London Authority 'Creative Enterprise Zone' initiative.

In addition to the study and enterprise strategy, Studio Weave also produced complementary proposals for a capital project, whose need and brief requirements emerged as a consequence of the research and engagement conducted.

Our research into the creative industries in Hounslow revealed significant latent potential to develop the sector and the region with radical proposals to unlock, accelerate and enable skills, jobs and the local economy, with profound and far reaching outcomes for Hounslow, and London.

Key findings confirm Hounslow as one of the major drivers of London’s creative economy, with unique global connections dominating the Broadcast and Digital and IT sectors. The borough boasts 22,000 employees in the creative industries, 86% of which are classified within major groups ‘Film, TV, video, radio and photography’ and ‘IT, software and computer services’.

These strengths demonstrate that statistically Hounslow outperforms London as a whole, and Hounslow’s creative economy is delivering innovation, growth and prosperity throughout the city. Our team spent time seeking to understand the character, the scale and the perspective of the sector across the borough and West London.

From the outset of the Great West Creatives project, we sought to personally engage with creative and wider communities in order to:

  • Observe the ecology of the sector, its links, networks and connections;
  • Identify the real weaknesses, barriers and gaps that the sector faces
  • Understand how we can intervene to address these issues and to spread the benefits of a thriving creative enterprise sector widely through the Borough and beyond

Our study revealed that working and production space is most clearly and commonly noted as limiting further growth and greater success of the sector. The challenge for micro and creative enterprises to find affordable workspace in Hounslow replicates the London-wide picture. But it is also apparent that the shortage of, and demand for, studios and micro-business accommodation is equally echoed in unmet demand for production space for larger, performance-based, creative production.

Discussion with producers, with the Council team that manage outdoor art in Hounslow and with larger businesses with live production requirements, including Sky, identified a severe bottleneck to production activity in the borough in the lack of larger indoor production space capable of hosting various forms of live production but with a focus on outdoor art.

Boston Manor Park - specifically the area beneath the M4 flyover - emerged as a strategically important site for the development of the 'Hounslow Underline Project'.

Due to its geographic position (near to national and international transport links) and record of production of outdoor arts and performance, Hounslow has the potential to capitalise on the rapidly growing sub-sector straddling theatre/dance/music/circus and the visual arts which specialises in producing events, spectaculars, festivals and work for public performance. 

Work for this market is often made in unsatisfactory conditions because of the scarcity of affordable and robust indoor conception, production and rehearsal space. Demand comes from national and international producers, particularly making work for the London market.

Hounslow has the potential to serve and capitalise on this demand. 'The Underline' will be developed around four main programmatic elements (each one lacking support within typical urban economies), constructed over three phases.

Each function is situated carefully in spaces located beneath the M4 within Boston Manor Park; where particular sites are determined by the ‘extrovert’ or ‘introvert’ characteristics of the functions,  as well as consideration of the varying heights available between the topography of the park and the soffit of the M4.

The Art Market (phase one, supplemented by HLF and Good Growth Fund) will provide a mix of permanent 'craft cabins' for independent makers on a mix of short and longer term leases, alongside temporary stalls for hire by those working in the borough.

The Outdoor Arts Production Space (phase one, funded by CEZ) will provide large scale production, rehearsal and training space for a range of live arts – including festival, circus, dance, theatre etc - which require large open space of height and basic technical equipment to replicate the conditions in which outdoor events will be realised in final form.

The Creative Production Space (phase two, future funding opportunity) will provide a shared 'fabrication venue' with supported access to a range of traditional and contemporary tooling methods, alongside a number of small private workshops.

The Arts Lounge (phase three, long-term community project) will act as an open-access community common room and kitchen for galvanising the creative community around associated events including exhibitions, skill share & training.