Tara Cranswick’s V22 provides a support network for creative people, offering them studios and opportunities, including events, exhibitions and educational initiatives. It is described as an alternative to traditional funding and patronage models that favour a select few artists. The foundation, art collection and studio provider is working to democratise art practice by supporting up and coming artists. It is fitting, therefore, that Tara is now looking to extend what she offers to childcare support.
V22 has 10 buildings across London offering affordable workspaces for artists and social enterprises. Over the years since it was set up some of the artists mentioned to her that it would be good to have a creche and Tara knew of the work of the mums behind the children’s arts charity House of Fairy Tales which started as an artists’ nursery for their children. However, she didn’t realise quite how little flexible childcare was available and how hugely this affected artists’ ability to work until she had a baby two and a half years ago.
She was taking her son to a local play centre in East London where she met Early Years Educator Thomas Quinn and she persuaded him to come and start a pilot childcare project in one of her workspaces in Dalston. Thomas’ mum was a nanny and he has been doing childcare since he did work experience at school. He had also seen how self employed parents often struggled to access good quality flexible childcare which fit their needs.
Tara and Thomas looked at the growing number of other flexible childcare models that have sprung up to cater for self employed parents. The creche pilot offers two booking options: fixed days booking and a pay as you go option. The second can be booked from three months in advance up until the day before it is needed.
Currently it operates five mornings a week. Thomas works full time and has an assistant who works in the mornings only. The maximum number of children is restricted in line with childcare ratios and staff availability, but there are plans to extend to the afternoons. As the creche grows, Tara says parents may need to book spaces with up to two weeks’ notice.
The parents who use it now include an illustrator, a freelance journalist, an organic wine importer and a local restaurant owner.
Tara says that in the beginning she thought she knew what parents needed, but soon realised this was based on her own experience. “As the parents started coming I realised their needs were very varied. Dealing with that was quite time-consuming. One woman was a therapist and she needed a small private space for her work. Her clients were often parents who needed a space for their children,” she says. She adds that she also became aware that the creche would need to be restricted to local parents due to the problems of commuting with young children.
Another issue was heating and Tara has invested in under floor heating. The creche also asks that parents book at least two places a week so that they get to know and trust the staff and build a community of children. In addition it recommends settling in sessions.
The 1,200 square feet of the creche is divided into a cosy space for younger children and a more open space for older preschoolers. There is also access to a garden. The children have been involved in decorating the creche. In the long term, Tara hopes parents and their children can co-design it. The creche may also eventually offer holiday support for slightly older children.
Currently the fee is £30 a session for both the work space and the creche or parents can pay monthly. There is also an upfront administrative fee.
Tara says she plans to make it is as affordable as possible when it is rolled out to V22’s other buildings and to involve parents in decision-making processes.