Wapping: How Tower Bridge Studios and The Nest are looking to the future

Cherryduck in Sampson Street is set to return to its original name as co-working space seeks clients

Co-founder of Tower Bridge Studios and The Nest, James Vellacott

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All businesses evolve and change as the market moves and demand shifts.

So wanderers through Wapping may notice over the coming weeks that Cherryduck Studios in Sampson Street has returned to its original name.

“It was a fun name, but ‘Tower Bridge Studios’ says where we are and what we are,” said co-founder James Vellacott. “It’s time for a change.”

The move is very much a return to focusing on the company’s core operation – hiring out five studio spaces and a plethora of equipment for photographic and video shoots.

“We’ve seen a big push now for higher end shoots coming back to the studio,” said James.

“During Covid people were using their mobile phones for user generated content and the apps like TikTok and Instagram are great for that.

“But bigger organisations are back using the studios for press days, shoots, photography and video.

“This week we’ve had two studios hired for a rugby team with a photographer and camera crew on site.

“We’ve also had a live streaming company that likes to broadcast to its clients. 

“Then a national newspaper has taken one of our studios full time, as of next year.

“They shoot a lot of fashion for a weekly magazine with lots of celebrities and they’ve moved here because of our video capability. 

“They want to create in-house content but didn’t have the set up that we do and we have all the equipment they need, ready to hire off the shelf.

“We’re seeing the studios really pick up which is brilliant as 2023 has been tough. 

Five spaces are available at Tower Bridge Studios

“The writers’ strike in the US has meant that places like Pinewood and Shepperton, which would normally be producing film and television, were empty – so commercial clients could hire them at a much reduced rate. 

“This may have been an urban myth, but the lull has certainly picked up now and we’re busy up until Christmas.

“We generally run at around 65% or 70% occupancy although clients typically want to shoot on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“We are in central London, but we have parking right outside so the convenience factor is there. It’s even possible to drive vehicles into two of the studios.

“We’ve tightened things up here and we’re confident we’re ready for whatever 2024 brings us.”

The business was set up in 2008 by husband and wife team James and Michelle, who own the studio spaces they rent out together.

In 2016, the pair invested further in Wapping, buying a neighbouring property and converting it into shared office space and launching it as The Nest in 2018.

The Nest co-working space boasts an interior designed by Gensler

“It took a couple of years to refit,” said James.

“It had been run as residential housing by an old-fashioned family who used a rent book and took cash.

“It definitely wasn’t compliant with building regulations. When we got in, we found the gas meter had been bypassed – that sort of thing.

“We got it running and initially it was a place for creative businesses.

“We were really busy and then Covid came and nobody wanted office space.”

This has meant a change of approach, with The Nest now changed into a co-working space for companies and locals.

It boasts interiors by Gensler – known for working with major corporations and Silicon Valley giants – and includes a fresh air system, a screening cinema, breakout spaces and plenty of walls made from rope. That’s a nod to the building’s history on the site of a former hemp warehouse. 

There’s also a full barista set-up for those who prefer their coffee frothy, superfast wi-fi and lots of exposed reclaimed timber to lounge against.

“My personal opinion is that some home working can be good for some businesses – especially for more senior people,” said James.

“But to make a company succeed you have to have drive.

“People who come here, typically want a more collaborative element in their work. 

A wide range of spaces are available at The Nest

“It’s not about trusting people to work remotely, it’s about communication – getting people around a table and asking what we’re going to do next, how we’re going to push things forward.

“We can accommodate businesses of various sizes, including people who just want to work on their own and fancy a change of scene. 

“Working from home can be a bit laborious, especially if you’re sharing the space with a partner. People coming here get free tea and coffee and they can swipe in and out to come and go as they please. 

“We’ve started to get a lot of locals in and we have various firms that use the space – some for three days a week and others more.

“We’d love the space to be a bit busier and currently offer a daily rate of £25 for people who just want to come and work for a day.”

Those doing so might well bump into actor and local resident Dame Helen Mirren, who regularly uses The Nest’s sound recording facilities for her projects.

But even without an A-list appearance there are plenty of attractions, including a firefighters’ pole to slide down and themed meeting rooms that are available on a flexible basis.   

 “We’re currently re-strategising as a business to ensure we’re nimble and able to go after growth,” said James.

“I’m massively enjoying the hands-on side of the businesses.

“Drive is what we need right now. We’re in every day, meeting clients and helping them with their set-ups in the studios.

“This might be helping to build a set, arrange lighting or sorting out lunch.

“Then, at the end of the shoot, we’ll help them pack down, check the equipment back in and help them out to the cars.

“Then we’ll repaint the white shooting area if needed.

“With The Nest, it’s a great space to be. I love being in there and making the coffees – talking to people and finding out what kind of business they’re in.

“It’s great when it’s buzzing – it has a really nice atmosphere and we’d love more people to come down and check it out.”

Desk rates at The Nest start at £25+VAT with various packages available including full time permanent seats. 

Find out more about the studios here and The Nest here

Facilities at The Nest include a screening room

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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