Michael Davis | 05/04/2018
The Ministry of Sound put London's Elephant & Castle on the map decades before the current regeneration did. The legendary, all-night superclub opened its doors in September 1991, ushering in a new era of after-hours partying. Now a global business, the company is planning the next step of its brand diversification with The Ministry – the world's first coworking space purely for music industry professionals – in a building a few metres from the original club.
In the same way that the Ministry revolutionised the clubbing scene, the brand is looking to do the same with coworking, having spotted a gap in the market. In the last two years, over 10% of the total space acquired in London annually has been by coworking companies, but very few are sector specific.
The Ministry will be a sector-specific coworking site open to anyone connected to the music industry, from bands and artists to repertoire executives, record labels and industry lawyers. By creating an ecosystem for the industry, music professionals will be able to form connections, forge and strengthen business ties under one roof. A members' club for the masses, The Ministry reflects the changes in the industry from the days when a select few hobnobbed and did creative business in places like the Arts Club, Dean Street Townhouse, Soho House.
When it opens its doors in July 2018, The Ministry will have the capacity to house around 600 music industry professionals in a 45,000-square foot Victorian diary manufacturing warehouse. Using its forensic knowledge of the area, JLL managed to acquire the building for them before it even hit the market. A rare find for the area, the building sits by the popular Mercato Metropolitano, a former paper factory and now home to Italian food stalls, shops and bars. As well as office space arranged over four floors, an interactive café for mingling and networking will occupy the ground floor, while the basement will serve as an event, music and recording space.
The coworking trend is fuelled by the gig economy and new forms of flexible working that are disrupting industries as diverse as travel and financial services. The music industry is by its nature driven by freelancers and SMEs, for who coworking is an attractive proposition. Anyone with a computer and GarageBand can create or produce music, while the industry as a whole is being disrupted from all angles with companies such as Spotify, Deezer and DICE. Then there are the likes of Pitchfork, Drowned in Sound and Hypebot, independent music blogs that have sprung up in recent years and are bypassing usual media channels to review and promote artists.
In many ways, The Ministry is a continuation of the work Ministry co-founder James Palumbo began in 1991. His 'build it and they will come' attitude brought party people to Elephant at a time when the place to be seen was Soho and the West End. An ambassador for the area for a quarter of a century, his work has earned him a life peerage and the title Baron Palumbo of Southwark. His most recent venture Ministry Does Fitness is located in two railway arches moments from the original club. By mixing club beats with fitness classes, it has captured the imagination of a new generation of Londoners and is boosting the area's cool factor.
This area of Southwark from London Bridge through Borough and down to Elephant & Castle has been neglected for many years. By locating the world's first music-only coworking space in Elephant & Castle, the spiritual homeland of the business, the Ministry is playing a key role in the continuing transformation of the area. In the next wave of development we will see a lot of mixed-use sites, which will create a brand-new district.
As more people and businesses flow into the area, the area looks set to prosper. Other developers involved in the area's transformation, such as Lendlease are seeking to provide new and alternative retail units and a range of green open spaces in their Elephant Park development, to encourage people to spend more time there.
The new Elephant & Castle district has all the right ingredients to succeed, from interesting buildings and stories to great transport links and a thriving creative community. As for The Ministry, just like the original club this is only the beginning. They are looking to open up more coworking spaces in London and UK cities with a strong musical heritage, so watch this space…