Case # The Open Shed

Behind the Penzance Savoy Cinema in an interimistic bike repair kitchen, we walk into the Open Shed, a crowdfunded hackspace, and are kindly welcomed by Johannes ( Here hackers, bike repairs-men, and computer-recyclers come together in a sustainable survivor atmosphere. First, we do not quite understand the connection between the so-called “bike kitchen” and a co-working space for IT-workers, but the link appears to be the re-use of hardware parts and the ability to (partly) fund the place with the small payments, the bike-fixers charge for a repair.

Johannes gives us the tour of the stuffed location, adding a grass-rooted example to the list of visited co-working spaces. Tools, bikes, boxes, computer parts, trash, worn out furnitures and bits and pieces I cannot identify are occupying the backroom spaces leaving very little floor for movement or conversation ( This seems to be a place where the financial state of the peninsula is most explicit: no municipal funds are given to the initiative that only charge its 50 members 10 pounds a month for a membership. Do you fix a bike, half the price is given to the space, the other half you can keep yourself.

According to Johannes, it seems as if the financial state of Penzance and Cornwall in general, forces the population of the peninsula to reinvent not only a sustainable industry (since tourism apparently is not enough), but also an identity (since being a tourist destination should not be it). The Open Shed appears to us as a complex picture of this state of development - as a revelation of the need to be part of a work community even when you are out of work and the initiative to create something even though you have no capital to invest.



Case # Digital Peninsula Network

On our Monday visit to Penzance we knocked on the doors of Digital Peninsula Network, DPN ( The largest network of ICT and digital businesses in Cornwall is physically located in an old brewery yard behind the shopping district. Here we were friendly welcomed by an assistant manager, who was still awaiting his managing director to return from his holidays. We had a short conversation on the topic DPN, whilst the AM made a note for his boss and referred me to other places in Penzance (handing me torn pieces of paper with handwritten addresses, which reminded me that there still are people like me who exchange info in paper format).

As I had already acknowledge through my research, the DPN was initiated as a space for the creatives of Cornwall to come and use proper wifi since the peninsula did not have any strong connections. Now - almost 15 years later - the company works more in state of it's networking capacities offering tutoring courses and matchmaking consulting.

At DPN the tea and coffee are free and as we talk to two hot-deskers smoking in the yard, we realize that being around other self employees and a 3d printer is more important to the coworkers than strong wifi since fiber is now installed almost everywhere in Cornwall. The smoking hot-deskers cannot imagine living anyplace else than here, but they admit that making money is hard if it was not because of the geographical detachment of their professions.

Again, I return to Penzance on the following Wednesday but when I reach DPN the manager Janus had just left. One more time the Colombian Assistant Manager takes his time to answer some of my questions, even though he seems careful to admit his complete insight in the organization of DPN. He tells us that DPN as the oldest coworking space in Cornwall, started out of the need for strong wifi, computer equipment and hardware. The EU Regional Development Aid and the “Objective One Programme” ( helped start up the DPN. Today it is an organization limited by guarantee with a board, a director and a manager. The DPN primarily functions as a networking platform, and a start up and hotdesking space. Companies that used to be located in the DPN facilities but now has grown bigger keep their virtual membership, small start ups come for tutor and network aid and hot-deskers work there to socialize. The DPN is for businesses within the ICT sector - or so it happened to be by itself, no official criterias demand the business code.

Case # The Workbox Penzance

Monday morning the plan was to go to the port town Penzance even though I had no luck making an appointment with any of the coworking spaces, I managed to locate in the Penzance area. I was hoping to find a more realistic everyday view of the Cornish life than the one we encountered in St. Paradis, since what I was trying to uncover was not the tourist tracks but the way of life of the local self-employed or the travellers staying in Cornwall for a longer period of time.

The economy of Penzance has, like those of many Cornish communities, suffered from the decline of the traditional industries of fishing, mining and agriculture. Like the rest of Cornwall housing remains comparatively expensive, wages low and unemployment high which means that local residents are struggling to make it. As a visitor, though, it can be difficult to distinguish the activities of the locals from those of the non-locals, so the strategy was to knock on the doors of my potential coworking fellows, public holidays or not, and look for the reality of the self-employed coworker in one of the most employment deprivated areas in England.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I passed the location of The Workbox Penzance ( more than once before I realized that I was at the right address. The rather new coworking space is to be found in an anonymous brick office building in the center of Penzance. Nevertheless, from the construction site embracing the ground floor entrance, you could imagine the views to be found on the 4th floor. I did not get to see them though, cause when I rang the doorbell nobody answered.

After popping by some other spaces in Penzance equally derelict of busy coworkers, we decided to come back another day and instead turn the car towards Lands End, the most Western point of England. The beauty of it all stroke us as we made our way down the coast through narrow uphill and downhill streets, past sidewalks and gardens blooming with flowers, through broadleaf forests, along spectacular coastal cliffs and sandy beaches and a completely turkish Atlantic ocean illuminating everything below us. To most people (including myself), I am not sure Klitmoller can compete with the rock sand, hydrangeas and palm trees of Cornwall...

Anyways, on my return to The Workbox the following Wednesday, I was buzzed in by Nigel who, unfortunately, had very little time to chat. Entering The Workbox from the escalator, you are taken by the views overlooking Penzance, and even when trying to focus on the interior or the man speaking in front of you, eyes are drawn towards the light and beauty outside. Truth is, I do not recall much of the decoration, maybe because it was still too new to be personalized and did not leave any sign of its users. While talking to Nigel, though it was only shortly, I tried to neglect the smell of new furnitures, wishing I had a little more time to explore the flexible and transparent interior choices of the space.

The Workbox opened in April this year and now has approximately 30 members, primarily within the IT sector. Through seminars and workshops on various topics and in close collaboration with local colleagues and other organisations such as Outset Cornwall ( the space provides its residents with start up help and other networking opportunities. It seems that this is the most common coworking space service in Cornwall: To enable people to start as independents through financial advisory and marketing guidance.

The model of start up business assistance is currently being implemented in The Municipality of Thisted through Thy Erhvervsforum. I am excited about the outcome. Seems that the service is an important entrance to funding and realization of coworking spaces.