Docking Station Revamps Itself to Bring the Customers In
Docking Station, 108 Brentford High Street, opened on 11 March 2011 and has been going from strength to strength since it began four months ago.
The building came about as part the Education Business Partnership’s Social Enterprise High Street Challenge which led to young people competing, with their differing business plans, for an empty shop space on Brentford High Street in a mere eight weeks. There are now around 30 or 40 members and membership is growing all the time.
Andrew Dakers was the project manager for The Social Enterprise High Street Challenge which generated the Docking Station concept and then the business’ start-up phase. He continues to be Company Secretary and advisor to the charitable company.
Mr Dakers said: “The original concept of doing a business plan competition for young people in the borough came about in 2009 when we saw there were two problems facing Brentford High Street – rising unemployment and a huge number of empty shops. The number of empty shops has gone down thankfully. The town centre and the occupancy rates are now pretty high.
“We launched the competition in September 2010 and secondary schools developed their ideas. Docking Station was amalgamation of three different ideas. We kitted the place out in three months. The last few months have been a challenge. There is a strong emphasis on the original business plan but people were confused who it was for. The food and drink priced the young people out, while the older people enjoyed the food but the environment didn’t suit them.
“We no longer are open seven days a week and are now working on private hire. We’ve started seeing the space used for gigs, in partnership with Helen Martin Productions. We are just about to bring the first floor with desk space and meeting rooms available. I’m really quite excited about the next few months for Docking Station. By the end of this year we will have found a more sustainable use for the space. The primary purpose was to provide a platform for people to get work experience and get into full-time employment.”
Mr Dakers is confident that in the next three to four months more young people will be getting full-time employment thanks to Docking Station. There are also a number of volunteering roles with people committing from three months to a year.
A good number of local and national bodies have supported Docking Station. Mr Dakers said: “ The main contributors have been Local Government Improvement and Development (LGID) as well as Heathrow Community Fund, which have been a great help getting things started. Octink helped provide the fittings and signage which is a fantastic contribution. West Thames College helped with the painting – the partition wall was constructed by students studying carpentry. Ballymore, owners of the retail site, have supported us immensely. BFC have given brand exposure to their fans. Goddards will occasionally lend us a van. There are a lot of different companies helping to set it up.”
With the Government plans for a ‘Big Society’ Docking Station plays into this concept. Mr Dakers said: “My personal view is the ‘Big Society’ has been with us for a long time. All governments should encourage people to be actively involved in their communities and it’s a big priority for the current Government. By that definition it suits us to be the ‘Big Society’ in action.”
Docking Station is always looking for members. Mr Dakers said: “Membership is just a pound a year. It gets you access to the ground floor where you have gaming technology, internet access and a quiet place to read. It’s a retreat in the heart of the community to play and relax away from home. There are reasonable prices to use the facilities per hour.
Over the next four and half years Mr Dakers wants to see as many different community organisations as possible using the space for a range of different activities. As there isn’t a Town Hall or Community Hall, Docking Station could become the new community hub.
For more information about Docking Station visit http://docking-station.org.uk/. To enquire about becoming a member contact firstname.lastname@example.org