Find out how a £2.7m loan is helping Second Floor Studios & Arts to restabilise the affordable artist studio sector through its acquisition of 30,000 sq. ft. on a 250-year leasehold giving 110 artists and other creative businesses the space to create.
Artists and makers need affordable workspace. And in London, those spaces are becoming more and more difficult to find. Rising rental costs are forcing many studios projects to close. Almost a quarter of all London studios are at risk of closing in the next few years. 
Second Floor Studios & Arts (SFSA) offers affordable work spaces to artists, designers and other creative businesses. The social enterprise has evolved its business model for this site. Now charging a three tier system of rent. Recent graduates are offered the lowest rate. This is then part-subsidised by a small allocation of studios to architects, conservationists, and other creative commercial businesses in the top tier. Operating this blended range of studios enables SFSA to finance the project while keeping at least 80% of the studios at an affordable rate.
SFSA knew that it needed assets to protect its long-term future. So, it took out a £2.7m loan with Charity Bank to purchase and fit out the Deptford Foundry. Part of a mixed-use site which includes 316 homes, the Foundry was only made possible thanks to the section 106 planning policy and favourable terms offered by the developer and bridging loans from friends and family. SFSA’s loan repayment costs are now around half of what it would be paying in rent. The social enterprise can continue offering studio members affordable studios, and now plans to use the property as collateral to buy more creative spaces.
“SFSA’s loan repayment costs are now around half of what it would be paying in rent.”- Nichole Herbert Wood, Co-Owner, SFSA
SFSA is playing a vital role in helping new artists to get established craftspeople to start a second business, and creative businesses to thrive. Offering 85 purpose-built studios and workspaces, 110 creatives call the Deptford Foundry home, more than 60% of whom are women. But the impact reaches further than just the studio members. A thriving micro-economy has built up around the project, with employees, freelancers and people within the supply chain all playing a role. And the community itself is also benefiting, including through skills workshops delivered by studio members.
“People want original works of art and handmade items they can treasure, items where material provenance and environmental impact is traceable. London is a vibrant, creative city, but it is at risk of losing its cultural context if studio loss continues. We knew we needed to buy a property to ensure we weren’t priced out of the market. We chose Charity Bank for our loan because we wanted a financial partner that shared our values.”Nichole Herbert Wood, Co-Owner, SFSA
“Each day when I arrive at the studio — clean, secure, managed - as I put my key in the door my heart does a little leap of joy knowing how fortunate I am.”Ned Campbell, Painter, Studio AR11
"It’s given my business a chance to build a long term and stable future."Mark Paget, Picture Conservation, Studio CA24 (Creative Industry)
“To have a long-term, affordable studio space allows me to develop my practice as an art therapist. I can continue to build upon the therapeutic studio I established when the studios opened in 2019. This positively impacts on the lives of young disabled artists who are at risk of isolation.”Gillian Datlen, Art Therapy & Jewellery Maker, Studio CA29
About Charity Bank
Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,000 loans totalling over £300m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.
Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.