What is Matthews Yard?

A view from where the front door is now looking through what is now the kitchen to the workspace and studio.[/caption]

In the last three years I must have been asked this question hundreds of times and each time I have probably given a different answer. In fairness, the answer isn’t that obvious, or at least it wasn’t to me. The reason being, Matthews Yard today is a far cry from the abandoned basement I started to convert into a coffee shop and workspace in December 2011.

For the first time in three years I have a definitive answer to the question, what is Matthews Yard?

Matthews Yard is a community incubator and accelerator.
Matthews Yard is a community incubator and accelerator.

For the geeks amongst you, think YCombinator or Seedcamp, with less coffee and more tech (sic).

It happened largely by accident, while I wasn’t watching. While I focused on building walls, making coffee (often badly) and trying to pay the bills on time I said yes to anyone and everyone that was persistent enough to pin me down for an event enquiry. Feeling guilty having dodged them for so long, I would say they could have the space for nothing. Quite quickly we had political parties, religious groups, theatre companies, campaign groups, charities and many more making use of our space and it began to get a buzz about it.

Matthews Yard isn’t about the space it occupies or the services it provides. Nor is it about the coffee, or the cake (although by your own admission they are damn good). Matthews Yard’s future doesn’t lie in charging £1,000+ per year to have shared access to wifi, a chair and a piece of wood on which to place your laptop.

Matthews Yard’s success is reliant upon its ability to continue to be a haven for creativity, entrepreneurship and hope. As the business evolves it should focus on empowering and assisting others to make their own mark on the local community. Its ability to in some way help others turn their vision into reality is its biggest asset, one that has all too often been overlooked, especially by me.

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Matthews Yard is about sewing the seeds for positive change in our community and nurturing individuals and groups to help them make it happen.

In our first year we hosted council meetings and craft clubs, book clubs, poetry groups and craft fairs. We had art exhibitions and business meetings, we even had amateur theatre in the cafe. We hosted meetings of almost all the political parties in Croydon and events for organisations like CCAT, Lives Not Knives and the Croydon Heritage Festival.

After obtaining an alcohol licence we started to host more live music and film events. We leased more space and built the studio theatre with financial support secured from the local community through Kickstarter. With the theatre came more art, theatre, comedy, film and music, along with four birthday parties, two christenings and a wedding reception.

Today our space is home to Croydon Radio, The Croydon Citizen and Croydon Tech City. We regularly host meetings of Young Enterprise, Women’s Institute and dozens more arts, cultural and community groups. We have Yoga, Games Club and Zumba for those with special needs.

Mencap have coffee mornings in the gallery, Mind held a rock festival here and The Croydon Chapter of Amnesty International screened a series of films. Throw family friendly events like the Croxjam music festival, Croydon International Film Festival, Beats & Eats and Bourbon & Blues into the mix and you begin to realise why Matthews Yard is about much more than coffee or co-working. Its about positive experiences. Its about collaboration. Its about community and its about citizenship.

In September, we were featured in a report commissioned by Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London, ‘Supporting Places of Work: Incubators, Accelerators and Coworking Spaces’. In summarising the case study on Matthews Yard, the report concludes; “This civic/creative hub is not only an unusual example of an outer London workspace, it is also a unique space within the wider London context.”

Next year, Matthews Yard will become a Community Interest Company and we will begin the process of working more closely with a selection of entrepreneurs to operate from within the premises under one of our four core propositions – Eat – Drink – Work – Relax.

More information on the sort of opportunities which will be available and a call for entries together with timescales will be announced in the Spring. In the meantime, please bare with us while we restructure the business to focus our resources on doing what we do best, only better.

Thanks for joining us on our journey so far.

Saif
Founder
Matthews Yard

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