Edinburgh coachworks revived by artist co-working venture

From left: Edinburgh Open Workshop directors Nicola Milazzo, Stuart Nairn and Natasha Lee-Walsh. Picture: Sandy Young
From left: Edinburgh Open Workshop directors Nicola Milazzo, Stuart Nairn and Natasha Lee-Walsh. Picture: Sandy Young
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A former coachworks in Edinburgh has been reborn as a creative hub thanks to a five-figure start-up loan.

Edinburgh Open Workshop, a not-for-profit venture offering a co-working space for artists and makers, is due to launch in April with the help of £20,000 funding it secured following a successful trial.

The workshop was granted financial backing after testing the concept through a year-long “light version” of its facilities.

The investment, from alternative finance provider Transmit Start-Ups, has helped to convert 10,000 square feet of space in a 19th century Leith building into a collaborative working environment for creative specialists.

It offers membership-based, pay-as-you-go workshop facilities with access to machinery, power tools, hand tools, workbenches, fabrication bays for hands-on work, craft bays for cleaner work, longer-term resident maker space, studios and office space.

The venture is the brainchild of Stuart Nairn, Natasha Lee-Walsh and Nicola Milazzo who were inspired to create a new type of co-working facility for creative talent in the Scottish capital after they struggled to find a suitable base for sister company Big House Events, which specialises in bespoke set design and construction.

There are 29 makers currently sharing the workshop including furniture makers, a boatbuilder, metal workers, blade smiths, textile designers, sound designers, theatre producers, crafters, textile workers and prop makers.

Lee-Walsh said: “We became aware of other creative businesses struggling for quality space too. While there is other co-working space in the city for desk work, there isn’t anything to accommodate you if you’re noisy and messy!

“We’ve been testing the concept for about a year now and after establishing there is a real appetite for this way of working, we applied for funding so we can make the investment we need to really go for it. It’s very exciting.

“Our workshop not only provides the right space and facilities but flexible memberships also mean makers only pay for what they need and when they need it.

“By bringing together such a wide range of disciplines, the workshop allows makers to see how each other works and develop new ideas together.”

Edinburgh Open Workshop will now work with Transmit Start-Ups business adviser Morag Kelly in an effort to maximise the impact of the firm’s investment.

The loan provider, which is based in Gateshead, has provided around £11 million in government-backed start-up loans to support more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in Scotland, accompanied by a “high-impact” mentoring service.

Kelly said: “This is an especially exciting start-up loan because it will ultimately help support the launch of an entire community of new creative businesses in Edinburgh.

“The city and its surrounding areas are home to a rich talent base and this facility provides an innovative way to equip, accommodate, support and nurture local creativity.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the ideas and collaborations that will no doubt take shape in the coming months and years and congratulate Stuart, Natasha and Nicola on their inspired venture.”