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Dru Masters on Tileyard

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By Dru Masters

When I was invited to look around the empty offices at Tileyard in 2010, to see if there was any potential to create a handful of studio spaces, I was skeptical. As I reached the as yet undeveloped wasteland opposite Kings Place and realised that wasn’t where Tileyard was, I was confused. By the time I finally reached Tileyard Road, 85% into the Middle of Nowhere, skepticism and confusion had turned to mild fear. I was greeted by the unhappy sight of a drab, lonely, half-empty business park, overlooked by an equally sad and forlorn housing estate. There would have been tumbleweed, if it hadn’t been raining.

When the owner, Paul Kempe, asked me if I thought it would be somewhere musicians and producers would consider coming to make their creative workplaces I replied, “No, absolutely not. Never.”, although for some reason the words that came out of my mouth were, “Yes, absolutely. Of course.”.

And so ten studios were built and in 2011 I joined the first wave of pioneers who braved the very outer reaches of what could(n’t) credibly be called the new Kings Cross development.

And that might have been that.

Except that over the next few years something near to miraculous happened. Under Nick Keynes’ thoughtful curatorship, more people arrived. First it was cool, established bands like Basement Jaxx and The Prodigy, then younger, new acts like The Temper Trap, Tinchy Stryder and Chase and Status. Entertainment lawyers and artist managers moved in. Combined with the frequent songwriting camps, lunchtime showcases and monthly networking evenings, Tileyard began to attain a quiet but unshakeable credibility in the music industry. It was a place to be seen, to have worked in, to have your own studio. It was quirky, it was different, it was cool. More than that, it was a community, a place where you could meet someone waiting for a coffee and have written a song with them by tea time, where you could rub shoulders with that week’s number one selling artist or a film composer could write some strings for an EDM producer or an EDM producer could write some beats for a film composer.

All the while something else was happening, something we had been promised but never really believed. Kings Cross was sprawling out towards us like some kind of mad Transformer, growing stealthily, daily, reaching out and drawing us in. Suddenly there were fabulous restaurants and bars only a few minutes walk away, with the tantalising promise of a vast shopping centre if not exactly on our doorstep, near enough to pop out to at lunchtime. Suddenly we weren’t 85% in the Middle of Nowhere anymore.

And so, just when you thought it had peaked, that no more studios could be built, that no one else would want to come, the next wave arrived. This time it was new tech, virtual reality developers, maverick startups, clothing labels. Bruno Mars flew in to record in Mark Ronson’s room. One night Lady Gaga’s driver parked her Bentley at 45 degrees across three parking spaces. Nobody complained. The monthly events got bigger, the parties got bigger, the number of hit records coming out of the place got bigger.

And so did the energy and momentum from Paul, Nick and the team. When most people would have said, yes, this is good, our work is done, they continued to look forwards, to what Tileyard could become and dared to dream big. Throughout the last half-decade of austerity and uncertainty, massively against the odds, they somehow managed to grow an incredible community of people and businesses that not only benefit the local area, but also enhance the UK’s reputation as a world leader in creativity and innovation.

Today, as I look out of my studio window at the grey, bleak drizzle trying to freeze into snowflakes I no longer see a dowdy business park in the Middle of Nowhere, I see trees, plants being trained up walls, rows of bicycles, electric vehicles, young people (and not-so-young people) rushing from the café to their workspaces, coats clenched tight against the bitter cold, all going somewhere, all about to do something, maybe something amazing. Off to my right the new Education Centre is about to open, training the next generation. To my left, across the road, I see the gleaming, rebuilt housing estate, the downstairs units boarded up in readiness for new business, cafes, who knows what. Each window lit up with a promise of something exciting, something new.

To continue to develop and expand Tileyard can only be a good thing, there’s no downside I can see, no reason to stop, to stagnate or contract. It benefits the local community, it benefits Kings Cross and it benefits the country as a whole and it’s only just begun. There is so much more that could happen here, it just needs vision, drive and energy and the Tileyard team have that in spades.

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