We chat to Ryan Seville, founder and member of the new work space in Hackney
For many a creative in East London, freelancing is the preferable way to work and earn a living. Gone are the days of sitting on your backside in an office full of people who you’d ordinarily avoid like the plague. Freelancing means you get to work on your terms. No big bad boss breathing down your neck, no office politics, no passive aggressive notes left by colleagues on the communal fridge, and, most of the time, the freedom to work on a variety of projects. It’s a no-brainer right?
But there are downsides to being in charge of your own time. If you’ve ever tried working from home you’ll know all too well of the pitfalls and distractions that you’re faced with. It may take you three pushes of that pesky snooze button before you actually get up. Then you need to decide what you’re having for breakfast. I mean, that’s an important decision, right? That’ll keep you full until about an hour later when you raid your fridge for round two. When you finally sit down to work you realise you need to put a wash on, or clean the bathroom.
Working from home you hone your skills as a master procrastinator. But what’s the other option for a lone freelancer? Work from a café where you feel the need to spend money on 12 coffees and an overpriced salad? Enter the Workers’ Café. Nestled on the corner of Morning Lane, the ever-developing fashion district of Hackney, the Workers’ Café is a workspace with a difference. “[We’re] trying to change the way cafés work…we’re flipping the business model on it’s head and we’re calling it a members café,” says Ryan Seville, co-founder and original member. A freelance videographer, Ryan found himself working from various cafés, hanging onto dregs of cold coffee to avoid spending money. “There’d always be dodgy glances from the people who obviously didn’t want me to be there,” he recalls. “You’re kind of like a parasite on the café, taking up a seat all day.”
Fed up with being made to feel uncomfortable and unwanted, Ryan finally find a decent café “that actually worked because it was just empty”. The café eventually, and somewhat understandably, shut down. By this point Seville had befriended the owner, Andrian, who’s now his business partner and runs the café day to day. “I was like, well, why don’t we try to find a place together that I can work from and you can run….we can find other people like me who want to pay for the day, rather than pay for coffee.” As a member of the café you can pay either ad hoc at £10 per day, part-time (11 hours) at £75 per month, or full-time at a £100 per month. Seem like a lot of dollar to part with? “If you think about how much you spend in a coffee shop, you’ll easily spend £100 if you try and spend every day in there…..[and you’ll] still feel like an imposter.”
“You’re kind of like a parasite on the café, taking up a seat all day”
The idea with becoming a member means “it’s kind of like a gym membership for work. If you have a subscription to a place, you’ll go and you’ll use it, and the productivity you’ll get from that day is way more than if [you were sat at home trying to work]”, Ryan continues. “[You] don’t need to worry about pissing anyone off. [You] just pay a cheap amount for the day [to sit] with a bunch of people who are doing the same thing.”
Once the café closes as a workspace at 5:30pm, it becomes Farley MaCallan– a wine bar that’s open to members of the public, serving delicious brunch and international small plates. All members of the café get 20% discount on both food and drink. During the daytime, the café serves delicious sandwiches and sides- organic chicken, aubergine, coleslaw and Kimchi. (EastLDN had the grilled aubergine sandwich whilst we were there, and we can indeed confirm that it was a bloody great sandwich.) Ryan adds that “if you’re local, which is what we’re going for, you’ve got a place that you’re contributing to daily….you’re basically investing in a local place that gives you [somewhere to work] and makes it cheaper for you to drink and socialise in the evenings”. All the ingredients are locally sourced where possible. “The chicken comes from Well Street Market, and the vegetables and stuff come from North London…..it’s nice and we try not to be super expensive.”
But it’s not just the creatives of Hackney that Seville aims to please. He also puts a strong slant on taking care of the locals. “The idea,” explains Ryan “is that anyone from around here can afford [to have lunch]….we’re trying to make good food for local people.”
To launch the project, Ryan and business partner Andrian set up a Kickstarter campaign back in May, which raised just under £2,000 to get the project underway. This also gave the pair their 10 founding members. They’re now at around 20 members. So, how’s the business going so far? Ryan continues: “Well, I think this corner’s a dodgy one. There’s been four businesses that have failed in the last year or so….it doesn’t work for passing trade. We have to be a destination for people, even for people to just come and get a sandwich.”
“You’re investing in a local place that gives you [somewhere to work] and makes it cheaper to…socialise in the evenings”
If you’re still having reservations about parting with your cash for a workspace Seville explains why you really should consider. He tells us that “you’re opening the door to familiar faces and then sitting around tables together [still] doing your own thing, but also working in an environment which is similar to an office where you have that banter….[but] you’re not isolated and you’re not getting lettuce in your keyboard”.
What does Ryan see for the future of the Workers’ Café? “We just [want] to get enough members to survive,” he tells us. “After that we’re going to be turning the basement into a more chilled out zone with [sofas].” He also wants to get his plans for building a community in this corner of Hackney underway, rather than just having it as a workspace- a place where freelancers can “exchange ideas, and work on projects together”.
If you still remain unconvinced by the Workers’ Café, why not pop down to Morning Lane and try it out for yourself? Ryan and Andrian are offering you lovely lot a free trial day, plus one of their delicious chicken sandwiches. Just say the password “I’m a pigeon” when you book.
Words- Jennifer Wallis
Photography- all courtesy of the Workers’ Café