Something has been brought to my attention continuously on my travels to Maker Spaces in London. London is a place where creativity is their main export. The issue lies that people are losing their ability to do so. Why do I say this? Based on the current state of affairs with Brexit as well as other local conversations I have had, I will try to explain.
Makers in London are lacking support and empowerment. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. With this, naturally the cost of living is a large concern. With cost of living being so high in areas where makers operate, it drives them away from living within these areas. This causes longer commutes and a disconnect from the greater London community. Open Workshop Network is a great mapping tool that outlines maker spaces of various kinds in London. The highly populated areas on this map tend toward more expensive real estate. People like being near what is cool and hip if they can afford it. The areas in London where creative people are have grown in terms of urbanization and gentrification rates. This renders most freelancers in these spaces to move away from these neighborhoods.
Makers in London do not have a lot of social capital support. People and organizations have been pulling away investment from various spaces. Capital is important for running these spaces as the equipment in them is not cheap. Outside of capital, social support is the main driver of these organizations. When money is dis-invested it sends a larger message. It directly states that people with money do not care to help these type of institutions. This ripples down to larger community structures, and ultimately growth cannot happen. This is especially pertinent when it comes to the cost of rent rising. If an organization loses funding, they have to move. A lot of organizations in London have been subject to this recently. Relocation also affects membership structures and can cause lose of funds from membership dues. With a move, an organization may lose members based on different commutes. It is a recipe of uncertainty and precariousness.
There are a lack of grants for makerspaces in London as well. Various spaces around the world have access to grants. London does not have this luxury. It paints a narrative of London being trapped within a box in terms of its maker culture. When one is strapped for options, life tends to become bleak.
Brexit is also having a distinct effect on the larger structure of London Maker Culture. It truly is stifling the thoughts of foreigners coming to London and making. Typically, London has been an international hub for people to come and create. With rising rent prices as well as low social support and financial support for makers, it does not make sense for most people to come to London in pursuit of their maker lifestyle. The barriers of entry are continuously increasing, and it seems to hurt the inhabitants of London and the people who want to come to London. People are leaving London and they do not feel the need to water and grow the place. This is directly similar to how the maker culture seems in London.
As someone who is interested in social causes and social impact, I would love to discuss with social impact investors on how this disinvestment in London is having a ripple effect on the maker culture here. It also is interesting because London is well known for its creativity around the world. With Brexit and various uncertainties, I wonder how this affects London moving forward.
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