Coming soon: The Community Works

If you’ve spent any time around Frideswide Square recently, you might have seen a vibrant splash of colour in one of the shop windows. This mural was by local artist Eleanor Greenhalgh, known as Nor.

Against backgrounds of yellow, red and grey, the work featured abstracted figures embracing each other. In some of the individual figures sat small heart symbols; surrounding others were symbols that look like stars and industrial gears. 

In the artist’s own words, this work represented the idea of ‘shaping the world we wish to see’, and emphasised themes of solidarity and connection. These themes are what underpin our mission at Makespace: to transform empty and underused spaces in Oxford into affordable, community-driven hubs that nurture connection, collaboration and support.

The Community Works, which sat behind the mural for many weeks full of ply, power tools and paint buckets, will be one of these spaces.

What is The Community Works?

Due to open in November, The Community Works will be our third Makespace location in Oxford.

Our aim for here is to create a welcoming venue where people can come to eat, drink, meet, share, connect and create. It will have two catering occupiers, a cafe and a lounge, as well as a private rehearsal space and a shared office space. Through its unique mix of purpose-led occupiers, community displays and events, we hope The Community Works will be a dynamic meeting place in the heart of Oxford.

Located at 21 Park End Street in what was previously the Oriental Condor restaurant, it is also a great example of the potential of ‘meanwhile’ space – an empty or underused unit that can be brought into productive, community use. What was previously a vacant and dilapidating space will now be a buzzing centre for culture and creativity.

Who is part of it?

The space will be home to JF, a take away coffee shop run by local mainstay The Jam Factory, and an irresistible catering offer from Lula’s Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine (open and trading from Thursday 28 October).

Beyond the cafe area, you’ll find a community lounge: we look forward to this space playing host to a programme of events and displays, and profiling the work of local, purpose-led organisations and groups. You’ll also be able to leaf through the Oxford Poetry Library’s collection, or attend one of their workshops, mentoring sessions or events.

Go back even further and you can peek into a bright and lively event and rehearsal space. A small unit around the back of The Community Works will be shared by Live Illustration LTD; a cooperative of local sketch, paint, knit and media artists supporting purpose-led organisations communicating ideas in ways that engage and inspire.

Helping to bring Oxford’s high streets back to life

Located in Frideswide square, The Community Works sits at an interesting intersection of the city; it’s just opposite the University of Oxford’s Said Business School across the road, but sits on the perimeter of Carfax, one of the city’s most deprived neighbourhoods: a boundary that serves as a stark reminder of the wealth inequality in our city.

Despite a major redevelopment in 2015, until quite recently a number of units in this square were vacant. The last business to operate in the building that houses The Community Works closed a number of years ago, and it has remained vacant ever since.

As one of the main gateways to the city, Frideswide square has huge potential to become a hub for community, culture and economy in Oxford. The Community Works is just one example of how we can repurpose and reanimate underused space for community benefit. Alongside our neighbours at Dosa Park, The Jam Factory and Rainbow & Spoon boutique, we hope that the space will bring more energy and vibrancy to the square, giving both locals and visitors another reason to visit. 

We can’t wait to officially launch the new venue in November – stay tuned for more details.

This article was originally published on the Makespace Oxford blog.