Faith in community: Gather Round looks back on 2021
The saying goes that if you do good, then good will come to you. Ben and I have always tried to run our businesses like this; making mindful decisions that present long-lasting connections, as opposed to fast-wins. Thanks to a working relationship, an opportunity fell onto our lap to grow Gather Round in a beautiful Georgian house overlooking Brunswick Square; centrally located at the cross section of the thriving creative neighbourhoods of Montpelier, Easton and St Pauls. Our flagship space in the Cigar Factory, Southville, had already become established as a creative hub in Bristol and we could see the potential demand for a new space north of the river. But the timing felt strange. Should – or could – we really do this in the midst of a pandemic?
At the time, Covid-19 showed no signs of slowing down and growing economic uncertainty made our plan seem almost laughable. But we couldn’t help but see an opportunity to help support and grow Bristol’s creative community. At the forefront of my mind was the need to react to what was going on around us. We were fully aware that people’s approach to working was constantly evolving, so we were determined to keep our finger on the pulse and listen to what our creative community needed as the world around us changed.
It was a very trying time for Ben and I, both from a personal point of view and as agency owners of Fiasco Design. We really were in the thick of it. Multiple projects fell through for us, and we witnessed first-hand companies fold, redundancies happen and talented creatives struggle to support themselves. In all honesty, part of our decision to open Brunswick Square was probably fuelled by a bit of a stubborn ‘f-you’ to the last year and a bit.
The process of transforming Brunswick Square was overwhelmed with struggles. Working with a grade || listed building presents its own challenges, but added to that was increased material costs, Brexit-related supplier issues, a petrol shortage, and multiple setbacks caused by COVID-19. One of the things that really helped us through this time was working with local companies like Mobius, Foxon & Foxon and Lowlands, to name a few. This largely Bristol-based crew really helped us through the darker times. It felt like we were all in it together.
As we approached early October, our launch month, our vision began to come alive. It was so important to us that our approach was respectful to the building and its surroundings. We wanted to celebrate the building’s original character and draw on existing features, giving this beautiful townhouse a new lease of life. We were determined to avoid the predictable coworking space interior (think statement walls, beanbags, even indoor caravans). So, using mid-century furniture, eclectic artwork, and drawing on art-deco influences, we created an environment that is practical and inspiring, as well as warm and calm. Local artists such as Judi Archer helped to bring colour to the space through tactile artwork, and we tasked Dan from Yeo Plant Design with sourcing big, bold greenery to bring the space to life. The aim was to make the space feel like a home from home for all its members. Now almost ready, we were just missing one final ingredient… people!
Gather Round is nothing without its community. From the outset we offered tours to prospective members, trying to be as transparent as possible about the renovation process and give them the opportunity to see the building transform. It’s always incredibly humbling when people can see your vision (even when the space is still a building site and you can see the sky from the ground floor!). We had some great members join us early doors; such as Crack Magazine, Konichiwa Agency, The Future Kind Collective, Art & People and Noughts & Ones, to name a few. This gave us the confidence and determination to finish the project when times were really tough.
Since opening the doors in October, it has been amazing to meet new faces and welcome old ones. Seeing collaborations happen before my eyes is what makes the whole process (and the extra grey hairs) worthwhile. But the project is far from over, and it never will be. Our aim has always been to move with our members, to roll with the times. We realised there was a demand for private studios so we’ve added some – it’s that simple. As an independent business, we’re lucky to be able to throw the rule book out the window and go with our gut sometimes. And we’ll continue to welcome feedback as we strive to be even better in 2022 and beyond.
I’d like to end the year with a huge thank you to all those that believed in us, believed in our vision, and in the power of our creative community. Here’s to you.
Happy Christmas and New Year to you and yours.
Interior photos by Valeniece Studio