It is a Tuesday morning in East London and I am meeting in Dalston Tara Cranswick, founder and Director of the V22. It’s freezing outside and she’s waiting for me at the door of a faded but yet colossal building attached to the ‘Arcola Theatre’s’ summer premises and very close to the famous Jazz aficionados ‘Café Oto’. ‘Dalston Roof Park’ is a direct neighbour too. And if my eyes are still trying to acknowledge this space at daylight and with a morning breeze for the first time - last time I was in this exact same location I was going out probably until dawn and it felt different - Tara’s look is really welcoming. She introduces a little person standing right behind her who has the same features: Rufus, her son is ready to show me his ‘crèche’!
Tara is an artist, a painter and sculptor and when I ask her what V22 stands for she replies: ‘Oh 22 is a lucky number and V is the 22nd letter of the alphabet!’ V22 started twelve years ago as a contemporary art shared ownership and is also specialised in the production of exhibitions and events. It provides studios for artists, but also workshops and workspaces at affordable rates. Traded on the stock exchange, anyone can, in fact, buy shares. But as Tara explained in an interview given to the ‘Pangaea Support Centre’ (PSC), 'the V22 art collection was created as a resource to be owned in common by artists'. V22 owns a few old buildings around London and its Dalston branch has launched a crèche/nursery section last September and is offering an innovative solution to many entrepreneurs, creatives and freelancers who are parents at the same time.
Childcare in London is expensive. Freelancers are struggling to continue their work whilst taking care of their child. If this pilot project proves successful, V22 wants to make childcare provision an integral part of all their studio and workspace buildings across London. V22’s mission is to build a new kind of art institution, hitting a new era of childcare too! They are creating, in partnership 'with parents and carers an ethos of co‐caring for children in an environment built on a child‐centered approach to daily routines which celebrates the importance of play. We believe, like Albert Einstein, that play is the highest form of research', as it’s stipulated on their website. The crèche has dedicated access to the lovely Dalston Eastern Curve Garden which means that children at V22 can have a daily outing to this special community green space. Thomas Quinn, who works with the kids, shows me around ‘come back on Friday we have a music session which is free’, he says. While Rufus and Aiden play together with trucks on a nest of cereals and Weetabix, which is obviously way nicer than non-edible sand.
V22 offers reasonably priced monthly contracts with fixed desk space and two mornings at the crèche for your child or ‘Pay-as-you-Go’ schemes. For both, you get a key to the building and an induction of how it operates, so that you can access your workspace at any of the odd hours that parenthood allows. The V22 crèche is not yet ofsted registered but the space is huge and will probably attract quite a few young hipsters in the near future. Tara Cranswick believes that ‘when you create good projects they will build up on their own eventually’! The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has already pledged his support to the project with a £6,000 pledge through Spacehive. He said: ‘I am delighted to be supporting projects like the V22 Workspace Crèche that will help strengthen local communities and help to make London an even greater city.’
Some people are true alchemists and have the power to transform any metal in gold. V22 workspace crèche has a fascinating business model which works with our current economy.
‘Whilst society has kept up with the flexible and creative ways we want to live and work, parenthood suddenly sends us back to the middle ages. Too often the greatest burden falls on women. There is no reason why we should have to choose between being great parents and great makers, the world just needs better solutions’. As Tara explained in an interview given to ‘Tech.London’ a few months ago.
Tara is not only an anagram to me, she is probably my new female model.
Buildings are run day-to-day by our in-house team of building managers, studio managers, our maintenance & caretaker team and our accounts department. Selected trusted tenants at our buildings form a team with eyes on the ground, they are also trained as fire marshals and caretakers for their specific buildings.
V22 tenants are a mixture of artists, makers (metalworkers, cabinet makers, furniture designers), creative businesses (architects, graphic designers, photography studios), social enterprises (publishing, green energy, art therapy) and freelancers working in a variety of sectors. The mix provides a good overall use of our buildings, usually at all hours of the day, 7 days a week. Tenants benefit from a community of makers and creators and the possibility of flexible and permanent space. Our established V22 intranet allows tenants to communicate with each other, collaborate, benefit from bulk discounts and exchange services (usually with an in-house discount). Project spaces within different buildings present exhibitions and events, activate the buildings and help to form relationships with existing and new tenants.