Creative heart to beat from city’s dereliction

The largest arts and media cluster to come to Birmingham since the Custard Factory is set to offer a home to growing companies from the city’s burgeoning creative and digital sector.

Developed by Lucan Gray, son of Custard Factory owner Bennie Gray, Fazeley Studios, in Digbeth, is a 1.25 acre collection of magnificent but previously derelict listed buildings fronting Fazeley Street which have been restored to form 44 studio offices for creative and digital businesses.

Almost 3,000 designers from across the UK were given a preview of Fazeley Studios last week when it played host to PLUS International Design Festival.

Although the doors do not open officially until December, it is already the new permanent home to Ikon Eastside gallery and is rapidly filling with creative and digital businesses, including Big Button, Rice Media, Capricorn Studios and Substrakt. It provides workspace for 500 people.

At 200 to 20,000 sq ft, Fazeley Studios includes the largest workspaces available to date in the creative quarter and it aims to serve the “new generation” creative sectors such as digital media, web design and TV production, along with fashion and software houses.

Lucan Gray said the studios were the first in a rolling programme of developments that will increase the number of creative and digital businesses in Digbeth by tenfold within ten years.

He said: “It has been a painstaking two-year, £7 million development process, but now we’ve achieved a completely new style of workplace.

“It starts with an exceptional reception space, set in a converted 1870s Victorian Gothic chapel, and continues with a range of WiFi covered public spaces and relaxation rooms including a brasserie, landscaped courtyard and winter garden, yoga studio, games room, Xbox arena and multi-gym.

“It is about working and networking in the new age, for industries that feed creativity.

“It might seem like a strange time to launch a project of this scale, but actually Fazeley Studios has come at the right time for many people because it is so competitive on price.

“It provides a great option for companies having to make difficult financial decisions to cut their running costs, as they can have the same amount of space for less money and take a step up in the quality of their working environment.

“However, the majority of our current tenants are actually expanding, perhaps because digital media and web are cost effective, targeted and at the cutting edge of their sectors.

“They are great success stories for the city at an extremely challenging time, so it is important that we can provide them with the kind of space and support that they need in order to grow.”

Lucan Gray has worked in Birmingham for over ten years redeveloping buildings for the creative industries.

After managing the construction of the Custard Factory, he went on to create bespoke workspaces for companies such as Maverick Television, North One Television, the Audio Suite, Eastside Projects and WBP.

Fazeley Studios is his largest development to date and was made possible by gap funding from Advantage West Midlands, through the East Birmingham and North Solihull Regeneration Zone (ebns).

Along with the Victorian Gothic Unitarian chapel, the building’s architectural gems include an 1860s Unitarian Sunday School and a series of 1950s factories converted to provide studio spaces.

Advantage West Midlands chief executive Mick Laverty said: “Digbeth is the Creative Quarter of the region and Fazeley Studios will introduce a new size and quality of space to the area.

“The Custard Factory has been a great success story for creative freelancers and entrepreneurs, but Fazeley Studios will address the gap in the market for established creative companies who need high impact offices with large floor plates and quality finishes.

“It will help to ensure that we retain the city’s most successful creative businesses as they grow.”

Ebns chief executive Graham Edwards said: “We are pleased to have been involved in the birth of this project. Fazeley Studios will make a massive contribution to establishing Digbeth as the location for creative and media business.”