The conference Transforming Spaces was run by SlackSpace, a volunteer-led organisation based in Colchester and 'fostered' by firstsite. This means that although Slackspace is not funded, firstsite looks after them by offering a certain amount of support such as payment of rates and utilities bills on their most recent 'meanwhile' space, an old Co-op bank in the town centre. We had a chance to look around and it has become a real hub of activity, open and accessible to many communities of Colchester and providing much needed communal space.
There was a great range of speakers throughout the day from those who are running art trails in public spaces and shops, an art gallery in an old waterworks and reinvigoratd shops in Bedford. As well as case studies, there was plenty of practical advice about how to deral with landlords, rates, risk assessments and other areas of necessary red tape. Particularly useful was some down to earth info from Eddie Bridgeman of Meanwhile Spaces but in the end, it was the input and experience from everyone in the room that seemed to inspire people who were thinking about getting something going in their own place.
The very full day ended with a resolve to identify key contacts across the eastern region, in both cities and rural communities that are interested in meanwhile use and who could offer support and encouragement to others. And as a bonus, we had a look around the new firstsite gallery - an amazing space so go and have a look yourself if you can. Have a look at www.firstsite.uk.net and for info about Slack Space look at www.slackspace.org.uk