coFWD is a self managed, independent community of people united by one common purpose – getting stuff done. Venture through the doors of our old bank building at the end of Rochester High Street and you’ll find an eclectic mix of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines. Together we’re building a community where people are encouraged to share and develop ideas, roll up their sleeves and get plans and projects off the ground. More information available at coFWD.org
[A short edit of the following was published in WOW Magazine in April 2012]
Kent is often referred to as the garden of England; for the past few years I’ve fondly referenced Medway as the compost heap. Sure it’s a bit rough around the edges but once you know where to look and who to look for, you’ll always find fertile soil to grow ideas, nurture communities, cultivate participation, and create truly sustainable value for everyone.
I prefer ‘doing stuff’ to writing about it (but I blog, occasionally). Back in 2009 I began a journey by challenging some of Medway’s authorities and the cultural landscape[i]. And I began exploring the soil and creative ecosystem[ii]. By 2011 some awesome people had found each other and a vision existed to create something disruptively better[iii]; through empowering ‘Personal Responsibility over Rights’ and a refocused importance to ‘Identify Passion and Redefine Creativity’.
coFWD (pronounced Co Forward) is a coworking community and participatory workspace, based at 161 (High Street, Rochester). The former three-storey bank building has become a bank of social-capital and community interest, a developmental and participatory place for a diverse community of people (amateur, pro-amateur, freelance and professional ‘problem solvers’, ‘doers’ and ‘social enterprisers’).
Creative insights and innovations often come in non-linear ways, through seeing connections and similarities between things we hadn’t noticed before. coFWD hopes to become an engine of such serendipity, to disrupt the traditional stereotypes of ‘creative industries’ and ‘creative practice’. Artists studios, media agencies, serviced office spaces and creative business hubs can be found elsewhere; at coFWD you’ll find overlapping circles of people whom might just create something much greater than any of them could create individually – to become more than the sum of their parts.
We moved into 161 on November 1st 2011, now only a few months in, the participatory space and its numerous rooms and environments have evolved considerably (painted, second-hand furnished and equipped with pro-bono exchange) but much is left untouched, waiting to be written and shaped. Our vision is open to anyone but we know it isn’t for everyone.
The book selection in 161’s ‘Library’ room is perhaps the most introspective clue about the diversity of the community and its overlapping circles and themes: Graphical Navigation Systems to Fundamental Techniques Of Serious Hacking, 101 DC Comics & Gig Posters to Introducing KANT, The Business Model Generation to The 1000 Journals Project, A Guide To Electronics to The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, The Handbook Of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to The Third Industrial Revolution, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to The Brainstorming Toolbox of Game Design, to name but a few.
If you have an incredible curiosity then it’s likely you’re a ‘Hacker’ of things (not to be confused with the malicious geek term ‘Cracker’). Whether you’re interested in how words shape, technology connects, culture forms or understanding develops; coFWD is an agent of change, rather than a guardian of tradition. coFWD and 161 are independent, shaped and run by people not organisations, but legally framed as and supported by ‘Creative Medway Community Interest Company’ (CiC).
Our community calendar currently lists contributions, sessions and activities including: ‘Dr Keevil’s Guide to Teaching Things and Stuff!’, ‘Monthly Coworking Jelly’, ‘Tuttle101’, ‘Lets Ruin Cinema’ and ‘Rochester Writers Retreat’, to name a few. If you’d like to know more or participate please do watch the film below and signup to our mailing-list at coFWD.org.