Church to re-open as hub for creative businesses

A new home for creative industries in Leamington is set to open this week as part of a major transformation of the town centre.

The Fold is situated in the refurbished Grade II listed United Reformed Church on Spencer Street which contains a green screen studio, foley suite and sound suite with attached VO room, multiple meeting rooms, networking and co-working spaces, and a members’ club along with office space for marketing group Cogent. 

The Fold will also be the first Midlands base for the SAE Institute, who are working in partnership with Cogent to provide two-year degree courses in creative media.

It is one of three formerly derelict buildings in Spencer Yard that have been restored and brought back to creative industry use by regeneration specialists Complex Development Projects (CDP).

CDP acquired the buildings from Warwick District Council as part of their 10-year Creative Quarter partnership which plans to transform the Old Town into a destination for creative businesses.

The scheme has received a grant from the Future High Streets Fund as part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit. The financial package also includes a loan from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) arranged by Frontier Development Capital.

Ian Gathard, CEO of the Cogent Group, said The Fold would be accessible to everyone that wants to work in a creative, collaborative environment, whatever their background.

He said: “We wanted to create a properly accessible creative community for people regardless of their background or education who might have struggled to get a foothold in the industry in the past.

“I love the fact that CDP’s development team has been able to retain the wonderful interiors of this historical building maintaining its history and making it applicable to the modern world.” 

Steffan Davies, Managing Director at SAE Europe, said this would be its fourth campus in the UK following on from London, Liverpool and Glasgow.

“The USP of SAE has always been to provide students with practical experience and we were attracted to Leamington because of its reputation for being the home of so many leading gaming businesses,” he said.

“We also provide our students with an education that is aligned with the industry, so being co-located with Cogent at The Fold is perfect for our students to engage with this.

“We have our first cohort of students already enrolled in Leamington and this will be a fantastic opportunity to make the most of this wonderful new hub to gain first-hand experience in this incredibly diverse sector.”

Ian Harrabin, of CDP, said that the scheme was an exemplar of best practice in how a historic building can not only be brought back into use, but also by introducing modern additions, can be brought up to date as an inspiring place to work.  

“We are very pleased to be working with Cogent, whose innovative use will really bring the building back to life,” he said.

“The official opening of The Fold will be a wonderful chance to bring our talented design team and contractor together with the creative end users to celebrate what we have achieved together.   None of this would have been possible without the close partnership with the Council, Future High Streets funding from the Government, and the loan from WMCA. This is a partnership working at its best.

“This is only the first chapter of our major transformation of the Old Town and we hope it will be the catalyst for attracting even more creative businesses and freelancers to the Midlands.”