Living Lab

A unique opportunity to prove that creative social enterprise makes places better

Building on Hackney Wick and Fish Island’s designation as a Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), the Creative Wick Living Lab will identify, model and help to replicate best practice in inclusive, sustainable urban regeneration. This is even more urgent in the current Covid-19 crisis as we look towards supporting a rapid economic recovery.

The Living Lab will be a collaborative endeavour that brings together local higher education institutions, the development sector, businesses, brands and community stakeholders to engage in research projects and experiments that explore how social and creative enterprise can build sustainable communities.

A collaboration with Loughborough University London. 

Hackney Wick and Fish Island has one of the largest grassroots artist communities in the world plus a high concentration of social enterprise, non-profit and 3rd sector businesses. It also has a strong heritage of innovation, enterprise and creativity dating from the industrial revolution. 

With the addition of new neighbours like Here East and the East Bank Culture & Education District and new residents moving in to the large housing developments in the area, not all regeneration is seen as positive. Some fear that the existing creative economy will be lost with its collaborative, independent, valuable, supportive, diverse, vibrant, inclusive, highly effective community. Covid-19 now presents a further existential threat to existing social and economic structures.

With the unique advantage of a ‘live’ setting and with Creative Wick’s unrivalled 10 years of accumulated local knowledge, access to local networks and evidence, the Living Lab will:

-  Prototype and test practical examples of inclusive, positive sustainable development
-  Demonstrate the role played by the local creative economy and the social impact of grass-roots collaboration
-  Identify models of best practice with the potential to be shared and replicated elsewhere.

"We need each other more then ever"

“Creative industries provide the critical foundations upon which any successful community or city will flourish. This research is very welcome; it reinforces the astonishing value of these industries and the importance to nourish and nurture them, particularly as catalyst for wider economic recovery. We commend the team, their ambitions, achievements and fully endorse their conclusions and recommendations.”
Peter Holbrook CBE, Chief Executive Officer, Social Enterprise UK

For more information or to get involved please contact

Third Living Lab Project - Creative Places in East London

Second Living Lab Project - Housing Creative Practitioners and Young People in East London

The Hackney Wick and Fish Island (HWFI) creative community is diverse with the potential for permanence. This report focusses on the HWFI and wider East London area but highlights issues which extend well beyond London and the UK. By examining community-led responses to housing issues it highlights global themes of housing affordability, lack of housing supply, gentrification and displacement and changing demand patterns for living and working in the post Covid and digital-age city.

The Living Lab will test the theory that responsible development plus social enterprise can deliver sustainable, ‘inside out’, positive regeneration.

tours outdoor seating

"William Chamberlain and the Creative Wick Living Lab team ran an innovative and complex research project in difficult circumstances due to Covid-19 restrictions. They demonstrated imagination and endeavour to ensure that the work was undertaken effectively and efficiently. This research project, part-funded by AHRC/UKRI, has given Loughborough University London a new and important source of data that is a valuable contribution to our work.” 
Graham Hitchen, Associate Dean for Enterprise Loughborough University London

ft’work Trust facilitates community-led initiatives that build positive regeneration and we are delighted to be an ongoing funder of Creative Wick’s Living Lab project. The importance of this innovative idea - from the Cultural Interest Group, a long-established and trusted local network that could almost be the model for a 21st Century chamber of commerce - is not just in capturing and learning from its experience in confronting the impact of rapid urban development, in real time, but also in sharing that knowledge as widely as possible.



Hackney Wick and Fish Island already has one of the highest concentrations of social enterprise businesses in the UK. Creative Wick’s Living Lab provides the opportunity to bring this sector together with local stakeholders, developers and academic partners to research and share innovative ways of building sustainable communities. This is an initiative that SEUK wholeheartedly supports.

Peter Holbrook CBE


The Centre for London is always looking for innovative ways of building cohesive and resilient urban neighbourhoods. I very much look forward to collaborating with the Creative Wick Living Lab and its academic and community partners to identify, research and promote best practice in regenerative creative placemaking.


Director, Centre for London

The Creative Wick Living Lab represents a step-change in the way we think about collaboration and partnerships to support thriving communities and economic recovery. There is no shortage of need for more creative capacity, community confidence and cross-sector collaborations to shift us towards a kinder, more resilient economic model – and The Young Foundation is excited by the possibility of working alongside, and with Creative Wick to test, learn and share what works.

Helen Goulden

CEO The Young Foundation