Craft Central at The Forge, a new era for the charity as it moves to East London

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Craft Central has recently opened the doors to its new home at The Forge in the Isle of Dogs, East London, bringing design and making back to an area of traditional industry.

The move marks the beginning of a new chapter for Craft Central, a charity that has supported craftsmanship and craftspeople in the UK for 40 years. It's now inviting makers, designers, and other freelancers to run their creative businesses from its new base.

As well as providing much-needed workspace, Craft Central plans to run regular public events at The Forge, such as seasonal markets, open studio events, and its popular Craft It Yourself workshops, positioning the building as a destination in its own right. We spoke to Sue Webb, Chair of Craft Central, to find out more.

Tell us more about the space

We fell in love with The Forge. A Grade II listed ironworks, it’s a fantastic building and extraordinarily inspiring. As one of the few remaining buildings from the great Victorian shipbuilding era The Forge retains many original features from its industrial past.

Full of natural light with triple height windows, huge overhead cranes and a soaring roof, it’s the perfect space for makers and other creatives to work in and exhibit.

What was the inspiration behind the design?

We worked with the strong industrial feel of the building: massive brick walls, a high roof, steel girders and columns and the overhead cranes, to make economic use of the immense internal space. Emrys Architects designed a free-standing, two-storey birchwood construction in two sections, either side of the central listed pillars. These provide self-contained studios, shared workshops, co-working desks and meeting rooms. At the front of the building, there is a 1,000 sq. feet triple height exhibition hall with high windows and two seats of bleacher seats for display or seating, designed to clear the overhead cranes.

Craft Central, photography by Justin Webb

Craft Central, photography by Justin Webb

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Inside Craft Central, photography by Justin Webb

Inside Craft Central, photography by Justin Webb

What sort of people are already working there?

We’ve got a mix of crafts and other creatives. Glass engraving, jewellery, ceramics, flute making, bespoke spectacle frames, design of medical products, are examples. We welcome all sorts of creatives and freelancers to share our workspace – illustrators, designers, makers, small businesses, in fact, anyone creative. The Forge is fully equipped for a variety of users with studios/workspaces in a range of sizes, meeting rooms, free Wi-Fi throughout the building, a kitchen and café seating, other breakout areas and off-street parking.

Describe the local scene

The Forge is on the west side of the Isle of Dogs in East London, a historically rich area of traditional industry. Brunel’s Great Eastern was built across the road and its launch slipway is still visible on Napier Avenue. We’re right by the river with frequent riverboat services to Central London and Greenwich, a superb way to travel, and very close to Greenwich and Canary Wharf with good transport by the DLR.

There is a great deal of high-value residential development which has attracted new residents and also a long-standing local island community. Both have made us very welcome as an exciting new venture on the Island and a fitting use for a historic building.

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Craft Central, photography by Justin Webb

Craft Central, photography by Justin Webb

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Anything else we should know about?

We run events and exhibitions to bring craftsmanship to the public and to offer opportunities for craft people to exhibit and sell, particularly those from our wide Member Network.

The Forge has never been open to the public before and events so far have attracted visitors in good numbers from the area and far beyond. We have an annual public programme that includes selling events, exhibitions, popular Craft It Yourself workshops and musical evenings to use The Forge’s superb natural acoustics.

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

Photography by Alan Wiliams

For more information and to arrange a visit, have a look at the Craft Central website at www.craftcentral.org.uk or call 020 7538 0819 during normal office hours.

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