I’m Jamie, founder of Barkney Wick.
Hi everyone, I wanted to share with you a little about how our wonderful dogs’ and humans’ community centre on Fish Island in Hackney Wick came into existence. You can also read an article in the Wharf Life Newspaper that was written about us once we opened.
I live on Fish Island which is an area of Hackney Wick that has been described as an area impacted by so-called “gentrification”. Perhaps quite rightly there was an initial backlash to the apparently upper-middle class “suits” moving in to a famously creative and industrial part of London.
Personally, I had lived in Hackney, Shoreditch and Stoke Newington for years before settling in Hackney Wick, but you never really know your community and its history until you decide to put down roots there.
I’ve been in London since 2005 and am originally from Jersey. I have moved around a lot during the years I have lived in London and never really knew where I was going to end up. But as the daughter of an artist and an (admittedly very much part-time) artist myself, Hackney Wick is somewhere I feel at home in.
The other side of the coin though is that, with a full-time job as a City-worker, I experienced first-hand how unsettling the shift has been with people moving in who wouldn’t ordinarily have picked to live here. Especially due to the fact that creative spaces and industrial units were – and are – being demolished to make way for living space.
My personal opinion is that there has historically been some disconnect between public authorities and developers in the “regeneration” of Hackney Wick and that has perhaps contributed to the area feeling disjointed. That aside, that community disconnect appears to be dissipating now, and we hope that Barkney Wick will be a place where the community continues to forge together.
A little over a year after moving to Hackney Wick I became a dog carer to my little man Wolfgang (or “Wolfie” for short). It was after welcoming Wolfie into my life that I began to meet so many other people in the community, other dog carers and dog animal lovers and really feeling part of a community within a community. It was also around this time that I started to evaluate my own life choices, and to consider the treatment of animals on a wider scale, beginning with small things that can be done to make a positive impact on their lives, our lives and try and soften the wider environmental damage that comes from our treatment of animals.
A Community Centre for Dogs and Humans
So many people in London (and elsewhere of course) have started re-evaluating their life choices. One big example being – do I “need to have children?” – which is an environmental issue in itself. But also – “I live alone but would really love to care for a dog, can I make that work when I’m working? And “I live in a flat. I don’t have much (if any) outdoor space”.
The amount of dog shelters and charities in the U.K that will not let you adopt a dog because of such a lifestyle is astounding. But the fact is that if we have the resources, the support, the engagement – to make it possible to give a dog a great life (and for them to give us a huge amount of joy). There is no reason for dogs to live their lives in shelters – or to be passed from foster home to foster home.
One key thing that struck me when I met other dog carers in Hackney Wick was that there wasn’t a dog day care centre near to Fish Island to help pup carers provide the enrichment and education their pups need.
I started looking at empty commercial units on Fish Island and researching start-up loans to work out whether it would be doable to open a community centre for pups and humans. I really wanted to incorporate ethical values into the foundations of the centre and so I put together a project plan and pushed ahead with fingers crossed.
Finding a Space for Barkney Wick
When searching for a space for the centre it was challenging to identify a unit that wasn’t designated as “studio” space and appropriately allocated with planning permission.
Due to these limitations there was really only one option on Fish Island. Which was far larger than I had imagined. As scary as it was though, to take on such a big space, when I saw it I just thought – this is it. This is a space that can be turned into not just a day care centre – but an educational centre – a community centre – even including a plant-based dogs’ and humans’ café.
The size of the unit just meant that I would have to work even harder to get the funding and everything else together to make it work. So, I negotiated the heads of terms with the landlord and pushed forward with the application for a Government start-up loan.
And then along came coronavirus.
Suddenly the challenge wasn’t just the opening of a dog day care and community centre and gauging enough support from the community to keep it open: there was also the prospect of it being a complete non-starter because no one would be able to use it.
I had already, by the beginning of the first lockdown, negotiated the lease and was ploughing ahead with the project plan. So, of course the thought did cross my mind “Isn’t this the worst possible timing?” But then something no one had envisioned happened. People had more time at home and embraced it – suddenly more and more people were taking the leap and welcoming dogs of all ages into their homes. Not only that, but, perhaps because of where coronavirus came from, people began questioning what they were putting into their bodies. For all the negatives that coronavirus has brought on the world, at least, at the very least, there have been lessons learnt and lifestyles changed for the better.
So Barkney Wick pressed ahead, the legals were signed and the wait began for Sui Generis planning permission for the dog dare care part of the centre to be granted. And it was a long wait. 7 months in fact. In the meantime, I put out a post on Hackney Wick locals’ social media for team members and the response was overwhelming. In that time Barkney Wick was also able to secure a government loan towards the fit out and legal costs and a crowdfunder raised over £2,000 towards the project.
The response received from the local community was (and continues to be) incredible. The Barkney Wick team has come from a variety of backgrounds – some changing career after losing their jobs – and are all incredibly passionate about the project and the ethics that come with it. A local lady, Mareli, even took on the task of preparing natural plant-based dog treats for Barkney Wick, called “Lick&Mix” (www.lickandmix.com) and they are incredible!
Not only that, but so many people came forward to offer their services – such as the interior design for the fit out, graphic design, marketing, candle-making – the list is endless! Locals provided materials too – wood and pallets for tables, drawers, a couch, dog beds, white goods for the café…! it is incredible how many people wanted to help. And of course, upcycling and recycling is key to what Barkney Wick is about, tying in to the low-to-zero waste objective.
And here Barkney Wick is today, having opened our doors to our wonderful community of pups and humans.
Barkney Wick – Today
Barkney Wick’s daycare centre is fully open – offering full day care, half day and walk services alongside.
Puppy training and other behavioural classes are also available at the centre via the wonderful Georgie Bleza of TrickWoofs.
Our cafe is also open – selling our amazing plant-based dog treats and dogs and humans’ café menu offering dog and human cakes, pastries, treats and lunches to share together. And you can bring your own bag and fill up on dog treats from our “Lick&Mix” zero waste wall!
The day care area is also available for community use when not being used for dog day care. Head over to the Community Space page to find out more.
Please do sign up to our Newsletter to be kept updated on future events at Barkney Wick for our wonderful community.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to say how extremely grateful our team are for all the support you have shown us and as we have pushed forward with project Barkney Wick. Words cannot describe how thankful we are for your kindness.