Friday the 4th May saw the magical opening of Spark – the (new) York we have all been waiting for. Spark is an independent social hub which has been constructed with shipping containers. Their aim is to be a place of diversity, with a huge variety of vendors offering something different: from food and drink, to homeware and clothing.
Spark was an idea created by Tom McKenzie and Sam Leach, who wanted to create a new independent spark of life in the historical city. They have both lived in York all their life, and didn’t want to have to move or change their careers to be able to experience independent culture at its optimum.
They wanted to create a new local landmark which encourages a catalyst for change, so that is what they did. The impressive complex is located on Piccadilly but is unlike anything else you’ve seen in the city, with each metal shipping container decorated with street art from locals.
There is already a thriving independent business scene in York, but it’s arguable that there is not a specific community base for them, which is what Tom and Sam wanted to change. This ideology combined with a drive to appeal to younger people and to make York more innovative was what sparked Spark.
Tom said: “The idea behind Spark was to create a really interesting and vibrant space that could on one hand, provide affordable space for start up independent and socially minded businesses – and to do that in a setting which was able to change the game for independents and the perception of York is as a city. It was really a belief that York could be a better city than it currently is by harnessing the power of the independent community”
The overall project is incredibly impressive, both visually and physically. Tom and Sam are commended for their innovation and construction of the hub, which really showcases the creativity in York – though they say that it is the independent vendors who make Spark what it is.
Sam said: “Spark is about people. When people come together they can make great things happen and this has been a real collective effort. We have 23 businesses and the enthusiasm is incredible. People can have their opinion on the aesthetic but I don’t think people will ever question the fact that there is real passion, enthusiasm and belief in really changing things in the city.”
Piccadilly, where Spark is located, has suffered for a long time from a lack of coherent vision of what it is trying to do and achieve. It is a special part of the city and the Directors of Spark want to help regenerate it and bring people to the area.
“We want to make it a vibrant and must see part of York. We want it to be very much the fabric of what the city is all about. It really is about trying to transform it and do it in a way which puts local people at the heart of it, and also about making sure that all of the community are involved. Including both marginalised and isolated individuals in the York community.”
Though Tom and Sam are the brains behind the operation, hundreds of people have been a part in the creation of Spark. Any element of the site you could point to would have a different person behind it who isn’t one of the boys. The project is a community effort in its truest form, people have truly come together to make Spark happen, which makes it all the more special.
“We are lucky to follow the presence of many people who have set up businesses here and have already started to change the culture of York and what it is like as a city. Without them I don’t know if we would have got a look in. For us now, the aim is to try and be the catalyst in this area and for this to be a model to work”.
Keep up to date with the developments at Spark by visiting http://sparkyork.org