We’re a big fan of creative communities here at Spindle HQ – we grew our wings at the thriving Hackney creative community Hackney Downs Studios. So when we were offered the chance to speak with the founders of Tileyard; Nick Keynes, Paul Kempe, Charlie Arme and Michael Harwood, we were super excited.
Four founders might seem like too many cooks, but Nick, Paul, Charlie and Michael each bring in their own key skill sets into Tileyard. Nick and Michael formerly of band Ultra, and Gold Dust Productions, Nick manages the studio residents, Michael Tileyard management. Charlie, a former A&R heads up Tileyard Talent and Paul Kempe a property tycoon bring in the business acumen. Over the forthcoming weeks we’re going to share individual interviews with each Tileyard founder, uncovering Tileyard Music, Studios and Education, and looking inside the studio doors to meet the residents. Today we sit down with all four figureheads to hear about why they started the business.
Tell me about what you were doing previously, before Tileyard?
Paul: I invested in this incredible production company that was called God Dust Productions, which was a company that Michael and Nick were partners in, and I invested in them because I was really interested in music. My background has been property really throughout most of my life, so I have always loved music, so I decided that I wanted to do something completely non-property, I invested in these guys, and that was probably, seven, ten years ago?
Then we bought this complex, just north of Kings Cross, (at first) it was a really rundown estate with little occupancy, and we decided that we were going to work together to try and create a kind of music-centric centre that was. It was very much, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We actually started off by with our company called Amplifier which was a music educational company, we hosted a couple of events up here in the space that was available, and we decided (from then) actually that it could be worthwhile trying to build some studios for specific clients that Michael and Nick knew from the industry, because that was always their world and not mine. Literally, I think we built, was it 8 studios, Michael?
Michael: 9 studios
Paul: 9 studios, all for specific clients that Michael and Nick knew. And thereafter, it was kind of, shall we build some more…and that was five years ago. I think we have got just under eighty bespoke studios. But more importantly we’ve got a an incredible community of creatives, so we have 150 thousand square feet, we have around 1200 people here, and about 200 companies, it’s a very exciting and collaborative place. We do actually curate anyone and everyone who comes here, so you don’t get to Tileyard by writing the biggest cheque, you get to Tileyard by actually being a company or a person who Nick and Michael think can add to the community here. So it’s an interesting place, and a different business model to many.
Was the plan for Tileyard to be a mixture between music, fashion and other creative companies?
Nick: I think very much in the early days it was music focused, that’s our world. Michael and I have been in music for far too long, probably twenty odd years now, which is quite scary. So we stuck to what we knew, and then looked for complimentary sectors. The music business, certainly back to the 60s, music is our passion, it was all very much one thing, but I think it all went very disparate in the 80s, 90s, 00s. What seems to be happening is it’s a sort of ‘blended industry’, we tend to find now is it’s just a really nice mix of complimentary sectors.
Do you find that a lot of the residents are collaborating from meeting at Tileyard?
Nick: Very much so, one of the things I try and do when I bring people in, is make sure there’s five or six people I can immediately introduce them to, purely to encourage the conversation which can then very naturally lead to collaboration. You find that people make friends here very quickly. With the cafe and restaurant right in the heart of our campus, that’s the place where people get to meet and hang out and maybe have a drink after work, maybe grab a coffee in the morning. I think all of us here try and encourage people that should be having conversations to do so.
How have each of your skills have shaped Tileyard into what it is today?
Michael: Everyone compliments each other, Paul who I’m sure will say something in a second, has been an amazing mentor to all of us, from an early stage, to myself and Nick before Charlie joined. I was always pretty bad at business I think, to be honest, and Paul’s from a property background… but actually it’s been great bouncing ideas, Paul loves music, and didn’t really know much about music before.
Paul: It’s changed my life, (everyone laughs). It’s never been the same since I made that shit investment (everyone laughs harder). I’ve been a lot poorer since then, but I’ve had a lot of fun along the way.
Seriously it’s really, quite genuinely it’s transformed my life. I spend far too much time at Tileyard actually in relation to I should be doing in my day job, and the reason that I do that is that I love being surrounded by a community of incredibly talented people. And it’s remarkable that almost without exception every single person of the 1200 we have up here, they are really great people, even though, a lot of them are hugely successful ‘stars’, and they’re just really straightforward, normal guys and girls who just are lovely people. I think the community at Tileyard for me has been the revelation.
Interestingly enough, it has been a revelation in property terms as well, because the relationship we have with our clients is completely different than normal landlord and tenant relationship. We are here to facilitate the best possible environment for our clients to do the best they possibly can and it’s inherent on us to make sure that we give them every opportunity by introducing them to everyone else in the community, for them to work together, for them to create incredible content and music that they would never have done before without being at Tileyard, and that’s really the strength of it. From the property perspective, it’s commercially an interesting proposition in its own right. I get enormous satisfaction from being part of the Tileyard community and being a partner in Tileyard Music, which is great for me because I get to meet a whole load of new and aspiring artists, and I get speak to Michael and Charlie regularly, it’s given a completely new dimension to what I do.
What’s the future vision for Tileyard? Fast forward five years…
Paul: Our biggest problem here is lack of space, we’re pretty much full, and we have a load of incredibly talented people who want to be here, and we want to accommodate them because we think that they can really add value to the ecosystem. So we have acquired some other adjacent property and we are in the process of going through the torturous planning issues of creating yet further space. So at the moment we are by the 150,000 square feet, and in 5 years time I would like to see that at least doubled, so Tileyard London becoming twice as big as it is at the moment and being able to accommodate all the incredible talent that wants to be with us.