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Ideas & Observations

Common Place: encouraging community + collaboration

North Shields’ based content creation and branding studio, Common Fiction has launched a community co-working space for freelancers and other local enterprises to use as a creative office space. Common Place is located on Howard Street in North Shields, aimed at bringing the local community together and to encourage a variety of creative professionals to come together, collaborate and build greater things together. Andrew Bowers, creative director, and Jade Leigh Bowers, studio + people manager, tell us about the ambition for their new co-working space

Tell us about Common Fiction.

Originally a digital and design agency, we founded Common Fiction in 2019. As a young thriving agency, our team has already built up a strong northern client portfolio, including brands such as vintage menswear supplier Frederick’s, vegan kitchen and deli Square Roots, photographer Nigel John, and commercial property developers Barnes Thompson.

What was your ambition for Common Place?

After the pandemic there was a huge cultural shift in how we all work. In 2022, eight in ten workers who had worked remotely for the past two years planned to continue to hybrid work. We wanted to be part of this huge cultural shift, by not only creating an inspiring place to work but also a safe and inclusive space for the entire community.

After moving premises at the end of last year and seeing a huge surge in demand for hybrid working, we decided to undertake a renovation of an old Victorian office building, and to create a studio space where the team’s vision for Common Place could become a reality.

The studio space is also a place for professionals to feel secure, with Common Place putting a huge emphasis on supporting mental health and well-being, while always creating a safe space for women, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ members of the creative community.

Where did you find inspiration?

From co-working studios in Lisbon and London, and we wanted to bring a fresh and contemporary approach to the North East. We realised it was not something on offer in the current market and we believe it’s a huge area of growth and potential.

How did you settle on the location?

North Shields felt like the ideal spot for Common Place. Not only is it where Andrew grew up, and where we live together, but the coastal town has also seen such a fantastic and exciting amount of investment and planned regeneration that will benefit local businesses.

We knew we wanted our first studio space to come to life in North Shields and felt strongly about being a part of this historic town’s transformation.

Our studio is based right in the heart of North Tyneside council’s regeneration plan and we couldn’t be prouder to be surrounded by so many local and independent businesses.

What response has Common Place had?

The renovation work was completed in April 2022 and the first set of freelancers and local enterprises soon signed up to use the co-working space. In the short time that Common Place has opened its doors, a variety of creative enterprises have started to use the social space, including Neil Bestford’s Authentic agency, and Generator North East, to freelance web designer Katie Raven, and illustrator Sharon Armstrong. And the network of freelancers and remote workers continues to grow.

What can local freelancers, creatives and enterprises make use of?

Common Place has 13 bookable workspaces, a kitchen and dining area, a breakout space with a library, a private room with capacity for 6 persons, 2 gender neutral bathrooms, and a private yard with bike storage. There is also free coffee and tea, and of course, superfast broadband. There is also a schedule of events at Common Place, including socials for friends & members, yoga sessions, well-being and business talks, and exclusive creative events.

Following a recent visit to the co-working studio space, Rachel Laffey from North Tyneside council, said: “Common Fiction have created a cool workspace for co-working at 85 Howard Street, North Shields. What Jade, Andrew and their team have done in such a short space of time is quite remarkable. You can feel the creative energy and positive vibe as soon as you step through the door.”

Common Place is located at 85 Howard Street, North Shields, for more information on pricing and availability email [email protected]

85 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AF