From dreaming founders to factory builders
It all began back in 2011 with a group of makers, craftsmen, and artists living and working together in a north London a live/work unit called The Chilli Works, dreamed a dream of an amazing new workspace..
In 2012 when rapidly rising London rental prices meant they had to leave Chilli Works, co-founders Arnaud Nichols, Al Parra, Vinny Nanray, Julien Thomasset, and Alex Motta knew the most exciting way forward to solve the problem of where to go was by building their dream space.
They found a huge scruffy shed in Enfield and transformed it into into an amazing pay-as-you-go workshop, the first iteration of what would become the city’s first open access factory, Bloqs.
TIMELINE OF KEY MILESTONES
- The word goes out - we’re going to build a new workshop - who’s up for it
- Smokey rooms and scribbled sketchbooks - wild ideas and big plans swirl about
- Scouting parties view buildings and sites are considered
- A lease is signed on a warehouse with loads of rubbish but no loos or lights
- Vinny and Jules build toilets and showers & Arnaud teselates a window wall
- We freeze in the deepest winter for years...but welcome the very first members!
- We host a New Year’s Eve fundraiser - a party that goes down in history
- We open the Bloqs Café - Alex cooks everything on a two-ring camping stove
- Bloqs wins best Social Enterprise at the Enfield Business Awards & wins £10k
- The company employs an actual employee with an actual real job (bless them)
- Member numbers hover somewhere around 60
- We buy a second hand Altendorf panel saw and retire the tiny Axminster (bless it)
- The first CNC router is installed, hilarious by today's standards but boy was it cool
- Hosted (rather than won) the 2014 Enfield Business Awards (a bit like Eurovision)
- We win GLA London Regeneration Funding together with partners Enfield Council
- Boris Johnson visits and stops to learn about bike frame braising
- The last co-founder living at Bloqs moves out to live in a proper house
- The Guardian writes its first full-page spread about Bloqs
- We open a new department - the fashion and sewing studio throws wide its doors
- Bloqs hosts its first wedding reception - who knew that would be a thing
- The woodwork department gets a second panel saw - woop woop!
- Joy as containers arrive in large numbers - proper storage in a new yard
- Bloqs team grows to 11 employees!
- The Stonehill Estate is levelled - Bloqs is an oasis amongst piles of rubble
- Sadiq Khan makes his first visit
- Shake hands on a deal to rehome Bloqs at the old VOSA site over the road
- 5th Studio Architects appointed - the design work begins
- Surveys, quantity surveying, project meetings and gantt charts proliferate
- Back wall of the workshop is broken through & we take on new space & a yard
- Gleaming new machines are bought, replacing or upgrading nearly everything
- Open a new department - engineering whirs into life
- Bloqs passes the thousandth member mark
- 1st lockdown: the Bloqs community make 11,000+ visors free for NHS heroes
- Building work continues - the old VOSA site is stripped and refurbished
- The workshop reopen its doors to members a life line throughout pandemic
- A brand-new shiny silver wing of New Bloqs rises out of the ground
- The community moves to its purpose-built home!