Canning Town Caravanserai is a welcoming oasis hosted by locals, open to all visitors. It is a locally-driven public space bringing together trade, training, performance, a community garden, and a place to eat, drink and play. Mixing a café with art workshops, food stalls with performance spaces, and enterprise units with allotments, it will be hosted by locals and open to all. In short, a community space run by the community.
Currently an empty site opposite Canning Town Station, the Caravanserai is a winning proposal by Ash Sakula Architects in the Meanwhile London Competition, organised by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales in conjunction with Property Week. Inspired by the meeting points along the ancient Silk Road, the Caravanserai is a place of exchange for ideas, culture and knowledge. Situated opposite Canning Town Station.
The strength of the Caravanserai lies in its legacy to help incubate businesses through its micro-enterprise units, encourage skills development through the provision of workshops, and foster community through it’s growing spaces. It is a place where both eight and eighty year olds can learn about urban food production and nurture the community allotments; at regular markets, local artists can trade incredible crafts and food producers will sell their freshest produce; in the day workshops will teach new skills in everything from starting up businesses to carpentry; whilst in the evening local theatre groups can perform on a stage whilst parents relax with a drink from the café.
The Caravanserai is a new kind of public space, a hive of activity, enterprise and learning for all. But key to its success is that it is a ground-up project; it will grow and be driven by the local community and supported by local organisations. It is a change-maker, a place for people to meet and exchange expertise, activating informal connections between those with skills and those who wish to learn, providing training in construction, planting and the opportunity to work and trade within enterprise units. A place where young people can trial a business, skilled people can teach, and where everyone can visit.
Bar + Café
The café would serve hot and cold food during the day, and would serve alcohol in the evenings from Thursday to Saturday. The food and alcohol would be bought and the café owned by Caravanserai Ltd, and it would be run by a café operator who would receive a percentage of the takings. The cafe would be open from 8am – 6pm, with the bar opening from 6pm onwards.
This would be programmed by the Steering Group and operated by the Facilities Manager. Tickets would be sold to performances during the summer months.
There are 13 micro-enterprise units for trialling small businesses. These would be rented to Tenants at a tiered rate depending on the occupant business, of which there would be 3 classes: Community (£10/wk), Start-up (£20/wk) and Establised Businesses (£30/wk). Businesses would qualify for Community status if they committed to mentoring a young person from the local area in their business for a minimum of one day a week.
Community Garden and Play Space
This would be free and open to the public during daylight hours (e.g. Approx 8am – 7pm), whereas a fee would be charged for special evening events.
Gallery and Facilities Manager Accommodation
The gallery would be free for certain exhibitions and would charge a fee for special exhibitions. The Facilities Manager would live for token rent on site full-time.
01: Not For Profit
Any monies remaining after overheads will be entirely reinvested into a Community Skills Fund that is administered by the Caravanserai Ltd Steering Group. This will be used to fund events and activities for the benefit of the local community through the promotion of enterprise, training, upskilling, arts and cultural events in the local area. The allocation and programme of this Fund shall be decided jointly by the Steering Group members. No money shall be paid to or retained by any member of the Steering Group, and accounts shall be compiled and presented to the Steering Group by the Finance Officer monthly and in an annual report.
02: Skills-Based Economy
The success of the Caravaserai will ultimately depend on it being a useful and valuable asset for the community, which means they will contribute time and skills to its ongoing existence. The ethos of the Caravanserai is that value and learning as equally as important as a money-based economy, and therefore one of the key components of the scheme is skills sharing, by which people can use the Caravanserai as a site for both learning and teaching without monetary exchange, and on a trust-based system that is suitable for projects and communities of this size.
03: For the Community
The Caravanserai is aimed to be a project for and by the local community. It is therefore essential that a permeable mechanism exists for people in the local community to bring forwards ideas for the Caravanserai, have them heard and evaluated, and then possibly effected by the Steering Group. The Steering Group, whilst having nominated positions, will also therefore be open to the public to come and listen and contribute ideas to the Group.
04. The CTC£
The project once operational will trial the Caravasnerai Pound (CTC £), which will be issued by the Steering Group, will be optionally accepted by the stall holders and local businesses, and can be used for the exchange of goods and services between the occupants and visitors of the Caravanserai, and it is aimed for this to extend further to local businesses to root the Caravanserai within the economic culture of the community. The scheme will operate in a similar manner to the Brixton Pound (B £). This is aimed to be introduced once the Micro-Enterprise Units and Tenants within them are established.