Burnley’s digital economy is set to receive a massive boost after Mark Crabtree OBE announced ambitious plans to transform the iconic former Burnley Grammar school into a thriving, hi-tech hub for digital SMEs and micro-businesses.
Crabtree is best known as the Oscar-winning man who, with his Burnley-headquartered company AMS Neve, conquered the world in digital sound engineering.
A former pupil of Burnley Grammar, he is investing a seven figure sum into creating a unique collaborative workspace for digital start-ups, SMEs and allied businesses.
The Landmark Burnley is set to open its doors to the first wave of digital businesses in September, with impressive plans that will see the historic grade 2 listed former grammar school become the show piece of Burnley’s thriving tech economy.
“The Landmark project is a way to help Burnley grow its digital skills base and for that not to ‘leak’ out to say, Manchester, but keep the talent and skill in Burnley,” said Crabtree.
“In the past, people starting businesses used to need money to buy machinery, hence the grants process.
“Now they need a laptop, an idea and somewhere other than their kitchen table to work. But the point is they want to work with like minds and have social gathering spaces to encourage each along.”
The Landmark will also have allied businesses in situ, a small presence of lawyers and accountants in a move that means those professions will be on hand to assist the young companies grow and flourish.
Crabtree’s partner in running the operation of the Landmark space is David Walker, managing director and founder of digital marketing company +24Marketing.
“I could see there were many digital businesses ‘under the radar’ in the Borough and together with the Council regeneration team we got together 20 of the 60 businesses we identified and asked what they needed in order to grow and stay in the town,” said Crabtree.
“Top of the list was their desire to work next to each other and share knowledge, making connections.
“The bigger the pool, the more successful the companies. We are working to link with Rob Binns’ successful private venture Cotton Court in Preston and the publicly and university-funded Landing at Media City in Salford, through a twinning scheme.
“If you have space in one of these workspaces, you can have a desk in any of the others when doing business in the corresponding area.”
Burnley Grammar School dates back to 1559 as an entity and the building which is becoming Landmark Burnley first opened its doors to pupils in the 19th century.
Plans for The Landmark include creating several different ‘flavours’ of accommodation, from oak panelled office space to modern, hi-tech, areas with features including a glass atrium linking the old part of the building to the newer areas and a glass lift.
The main hall will become a ‘super meeting space’ due to open as soon as possible.
This will then be used for seminars and other meetings, hosting the likes of global tech giants Google and Microsoft to Burnley.