The narrative about disappearing studios, demolished workshops, and greedy property developers is pervasive in London. But thanks to Make Shift, a new approach to the city’s spaces is emerging – one that values local business, creativity, and community, and proves you can do that and still make money.
The company, which is variously referred to as a social enterprise, project manager, and property developer, was born out of the management team at community initiative Pop Brixton – a collection of shipping containers, located on a former brownfield site, that opened in 2015 as a space for local businesses. Pop Brixton has a community focus, concentrated on supporting charitable projects, offering free space for local events, and holding open workshops – all on top of giving south London businesses a place to establish themselves. A number of studios are maintained at affordable prices, with Supported Units, aimed at startups, and Shared Studios, aimed at artists and craftspeople, currently available for £168 a month. Companies already operating from the converted containers include everything from a Japanese knife shop and a churro kiosk to a radio station and social enterprise that helps ex-offenders into work. Its success earned the management team the chance to suggest a similarly community- and creative- focused project for a multi-storey car park in Peckham – which would later open as Peckham Levels – and Make Shift was born.