What is Create on the Square?

Because an empty space,

Will not be an empty space…

When we are learning together.

We can Create and inspire!

Jonny Fluffypunk, Opening of Create on the Square, 13 Aug 2016

 

“If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken…one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”[1]

The underlying notion behind the ‘Broken Window Theory’ is that when someone believes “no one else cares” they don’t care either. This is not about the window breakers having a particular propensity to be ‘bad’ or ‘uncaring’ people. It is just that we are affected by the environment we live in. “We are all creatures of the system we find ourselves embedded in”, as management expert Jeff Sutherland asserts.[2]

There may not even be anything intrinsically wrong with the physical environment, but the perception of lack of care leads to a ‘why bother to try to change it then?’ attitude.  This too easily leads to a downward spiral. If no one bothers to try to change it, it looks like no one cares, and therefore no one bothers…

A few years ago, the Coronation Square shopping centre in Cheltenham West was a sorry-looking site, with a large proportion of disused retail units and little signs of life. That has started to change, but the ‘no one cares’ perception still lingers on. That Coronation Square looks neglected, adds to the often held view that the surrounding Cheltenham West communities, by extension, have little to offer too.

We don’t believe that is true. We believe there is a huge amount of potential in the area and so we opened Create on the Square, to help people to realise that potential.

The decision to open a shop on Coronation Square was very deliberate. Before we moved in, the retail unit had been empty for over a decade. It was in poor repair and needed many months of work to convert it into the modern, comfortable venue it is now. By opening “Create on the Square”, we wanted to highlight our conviction that we do care and that our neighbourhood is worth bothering about.

So, what is Create on the Square?

In simple terms, Create on the Square is the name of a venue on Coronation Square, in Cheltenham, that predominantly operates as a café. But, it is really much more than that. “Create on the Square” is more of a mission statement than a venue. Our aim is to quite literally to inspire people to be creative in the Coronation Square area.

We want to encourage all kinds of creative enterprise. The Create on the Square café provides an accessible, sustainable and welcoming space to enable that.

The café provides free wifi and a variety of fresh food and drinks, giving local independent workers a casual space to cowork alongside others, as an alternative to working on their own at home.

It is also a friendly hub for the local community to meet in small groups to explore all kinds of talents, for example craft, writing and playing the ukulele.

A programme of workshops, business meetings and teaching events aims to inspire greater creativity and entrepreneurial activity, particularly socially beneficial activity.

Create on the Square provides an opportunity for local artists and other creative entrepreneurs to showcase their products to a wider audience. It also provides work experience and training for individuals to develop valuable workplace skills.

By creating a vibrant hub of community activity, Create on the Square is aiming to stir up life and energy in the Cheltenham West area.

Why is that important?

Well, firstly, we believe that is always a great thing for people to pursue their talents, whether that is in business or any other area. It is good for them, the local community, and also for society generally.

We believe it is especially important in the Cheltenham West area, because historically this has been an area of Cheltenham that has suffered from a variety of social issues, particularly lack of employment and training opportunities. There are many charitable organisations and community groups that have been working in the area to meet social needs, for many years, and they have seen a great deal of success. However, there is still more that can be achieved. Create on the Square is intended to complement this work. We want to inspire and enable local people to make the most of their talents, to help transform their own community.

We hope that turning a disused space into a new hub of creative energy activity will be paralleled by a similar regeneration of Coronation Square, and the wider Cheltenham West community.

We’re excited about seeing this vision come to reality and welcome anyone who would like to work with us.

 

[1] Kelling G. & Wilson, J., 1982, Broken Windows, in The Atlantic, March Issue

[2] Sutherland, J. 2016, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice The Work in Half Time