Camberwell Synergy

In 2005, surpluses from the Synergy Project were invested in the foundation of the first Synergy Centre in a disused warehouse in the deprived community of West Camberwell in South London, an area on the front line of gang activity and troubled by high levels of youth anti-social behaviour and crime. The warehouse was converted in to a 700 capacity venue, obtaining temporary licenses to run smaller Synergy events, a regular open mic night and events run by local community groups, families and promoters.

In addition to running the Synergy Youth project – a series of creative workshops for over 80 local young people, the Centre provided a variety of affordable facilities including a dance studio, a multi-purpose workshops space, a large rehearsal space and a lounge, in addition to office space for two BME social enterprises. Income from room hire, fundraising events and office rent grew to a ceiling of £15,000 a month with a monthly rent of £5000 and staff costs of a further £5000 and other overheads of £1000.

The Camberwell Centre demonstrated that provided certain conditions were met, notably the support or at the very least acquiescene of local authorities, the Synergy Centre model would succeed. After a difficult first year, a professional, reliable team was assembled and the business was not only breaking even but generating surpluses that could be reinvested into social projects. The lack of a premises licence, informed by the location and proximity to housing, and an inherently insecure tenure on the property proved to be limiting factors but the Centre was acclaimed by many for its unique status in the capital.