Coworking and The Voluntary Sector: a Chat with IC Member Gareth Coles
Voluntary Arts UK have 20 employees across the UK, all of whom are considered ‘flexible workers.’ Voluntary Arts promotes participation in creative cultural activities across the UK and Ireland.
Gareth’s role involves supporting amateur art forms across Wales. ‘Amateur,’ he says, comes from the French for ‘love.’ Although many think of an ‘amateur’ as someone unskilled or new to a pursuit, the real definition is someone who engages in a pursuit without monetary gain - or, as Gareth describes it, someone who does something purely for the love of it. Voluntary Arts Wales supports Community Choirs, Brass Bands, and other performance art.
Gareth joined indycube coworking in order to have the professional appearance of a registered office, as well as for the benefit of being able to work from any of our network of spaces across the country. Having previously worked for bigger charities in office buildings surrounded by colleagues, then renting a single office for only himself, Gareth feels he has found the sweet spot with coworking. Sharing a workspace with others has given him, like many others, a balance - he is able to work in his own time but is also surrounded by activity and company. “I think it’s a great balance for other people in the same position as myself,” he said.
Renting an office comes with hidden costs beyond just paying the rent - there’s the photocopier, line rental, broadband, utilities and the likelihood of being tied into a contract. “IC is just one single monthly payment,” Gareth said. “It’s not easy to secure core funding as a charity, so anything we can do to save money!”
“For charities in particular - and there are a lot of small charities, particularly in Wales - there’s so many opportunities for conversation and serendipity with other small organisations.”
VAW host sessions on inclusivity and accessibility, and are particularly interested in the effects of creative participation on mental wellbeing. “I love working directly with groups, there’s a real tangible purpose and we don’t need to start up anything new, these groups already exist and we can offer them guidance, advice and training,” Gareth said. In this sense, he felt VAW was aligned with IC - whether they’re creative groups or empty spaces, both organisations see the benefit of working with assets that already exist, of taking something with potential and building something bigger and better.
Gareth is the Director of Voluntary Arts Wales. You can keep up with his activities and projects on Twitter at @volartswales.