Charles Armstrong: My dream was to create The Trampery Old Street

It’s exactly five years since The Trampery opened its first building beside Curtain Road.

Now, only months after its creative space Fish Island Labs was launched with the Barbican, The Trampery’s fourth space opened its doors last week.

Tech City News caught up with founder Charles Armstrong to find out why he sees the need for so many workspaces in London.

First of all, can you just explain exactly what the idea behind the new space is?

When we opened our first building in 2009 it redefined the idea of a workspace for innovators. Since then my dream was to create a flagship building for The Trampery on Old Street itself, the geographical and symbolic centre of London’s innovation cluster.

First, we decided to take the quality of the design to an even higher level. Our goal was to translate the kind of luxury interior you’d find in a boutique Mayfair hotel and bring it to a working environment.

The second innovation at Old Street is the creation of the Drawing Room, a fully-fledged members club integrated with the workspace. During the day it functions as an exclusive cafe  and in the evening it becomes a serviced bar where you can invite a couple of friends for a cocktail

The third, is our partnership with Publicis Worldwide to create Drugstore, a unique platform bringing startups and large corporations together to drive innovation. The Publicis team will have a permanent presence at Old Street offering startups supported connections to big firms and access to office facilities at all their locations.

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More and more people are speaking about growing sectors outside London. Does The Trampery have any plans to capitalise on those growing clusters?

Over the last two years our sister company Trampoline Systems has been tracking data on this and the trends are very positive.

We’re now reaching the point where we have enough scale and experience in London to start thinking about the best way to extend that model to other locations in the UK and beyond.

Some coworking spaces are exclusive and require a referral from a current tenant for admission so that the ‘vibe’ of the space is curated. Others are basically just a lot of desks in an open space.

What do you think are the do’s and don’ts of coworking spaces?

The way you manage membership is fundamental to the culture of a space and the strength of relationships that form.

If you have a lot of casual members coming and going without much filtering you’re not going to see many strong relationships springing up. Our goal is to maximise the trust between members because that leads to a higher level of conversation, support and collaboration.

Alongside referrals every Trampery building has an application process which is open to anyone. If you don’t have this element you’re not going to get the same level of diversity and you run the risk of becoming a bit too cliquey.

What do you feel are the merits of a coworking space ‘chain’? Is there a risk of losing the community aspect and feel of other coworking spaces?

Every space caters to a particular market and set of needs. We wanted to scale to many locations but it was clear our members prized the character and uniqueness of each community.

If we’d tried to expand by standardising it would have killed everything that great about The Trampery.

So we had an approach where each location is a unique response to its geographical situation, the needs of the surrounding community and the architectural fabric of the building.