The Timberyard at 61-67 Old Street sits appropriately between a number of bike repair shops and Silicon Roundabout, so whatever drives your boat, your close to it. It’s designed for cash-starved start-ups and nomadic freelancers. In my day you started your company in your bedroom (and didn’t tell your parents) – nowadays you occupy a place in a trendy café and let everyone look upon you with awe, wondering if you’re witnessing the next billion-pound development team.
When I arrived late evening recently, Hipster-types were in abundance (lots of beard stroking and legs up on the sofas) studiously typing on hi-end Mac laptops writing prose that would reboot the world. Upstairs seemed to be te choice for those popping in, grabbing a beverage, checking emails for job offers in start-ups and adding to their unfinished tombs.
It was cramped, full of energy, but weirdly, there was very little conversation. The message was clear, if you want to chat (and therefore not devote yourself to starting a Fintech company, or writing content) then sod-off and visit the nearby Starbucks.
Downstairs there was even more cerebral energy, as impossibly young things sat around large pine tables planning their world-beating applications and again, strangely, doing very little talking. I’m not sure I get this – when developing an app, do you communicate solely via digital devices? I would have asked one of them, but everyone in the place seemed intent on not catching another person’s eye, as though time would be wasted talking to another human being.
I took my place on a sofa which meant you couldn’t really sit up, but wallowed in a sea of grey, soft material which to me, brought on more of a temptation to sleep, than work. To give the staff their due, they left me alone. If they were thinking – what’s this bloke doing, with his non-Hipster beard and no Mac – they didn’t let on. Which was nice of them. And I’m an Apple Refusenik, and so had I taken out my Windows-powered Lenova, it would have had the same effect as dropping my trousers and declaring Google as the anti-Christ.
I gave the list of beverages a glance and wondered if I had enough dosh to survive this visit. There was a range of specialist coffees and teas, blends that came from obscure Himalayan mountain ranges and at a price that compared badly with Costa (my usual coffee house of choice). Food consisted of bowls of vegetable soup with lentils and a slab of Focaccia (I ordered one and was told they had just run out of said soup); dainty sandwiches wrapped in parchment and costing a small fortune; and, an array of calorific sticky buns that unless you were the size of a bulimic teenager, could bring on a coronary. These no doubt gave the start-up crews their regular energy kicks.
I suppose the steep prices are in effect a ground rent for using their space and electricity for as long as you wanted. Which seems fair enough (I took the opportunity to charge every device I had).
Overall though, if you can stand feeling inadequate because you’re not developing an app, or preparing to win the Nobel prize for Literature, this place is well worth a visit and a great calling point when in between London meetings on the fringe of the City.
Just be warned though – if you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, starve for a few days, take a Mac, put your earphones in and sometimes stare off into the middle distance as though you’ve just reinvented the wheel and created an app for it. Then you’ll fit right in.
By Bic Random