Gillian Harwood FRSA
Gillian Harwood is an entrepreneur, social investor and lover of old buildings. She developed one of the UK’s first affordable workspace companies, Lewes Workspace. In 1988, Gillian won UK Business Woman of the year snd has advised and sat on the boards of many social enterprises. She is now renovating unloved buildings in Great Yarmouth to become affordable spaces.
Gillian’s passion is seeing young businesses, entrepreneurs and creatives thrive. She has two grown-up daughters.
In 1976, Gillian spotted the potential of repurposing redundant industrial buildings to become affordable, shared workspaces for young businesses.
While creating her own business, Gillian weathered many financial, political, and regulatory obstacles. The 1970s and 80s were a period when property development was a stereotypically male dominated industry. In those early years, she would regularly come up against gender prejudice. Despite such challenges, while raising two daughters as a single parent, she pushed on. In 1988, Gillian won the Options/TSB “Women Mean Business” award, presented by the first British female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Further accolades soon followed celebrating her business acumen.
Along with her partner Philip Lancashire RIBA, Gillian went on to acquire, redesign, develop and manage other well-known workspaces. Locations included 12 Flitcroft Street, Covent Garden; Omnibus, Kings Cross; Forum House, Chichester; The Candle & Needlemakers, Lewes. At the Tideway Yard development in Mortlake, Gillian also established and ran The Depot Restaurant for 30 years.
In 2021, Gillian successfully sold The Busworks, one of the earliest businesses in her portfolio. The Busworks was the conversion of a 120,000 sq ft Victorian horse-drawn omnibus factory. The dilapidated building became a thriving business hub for 350 businesses and hosted The Pleasance Theatre and a pub. Following 40 years of ownership, The Busworks was sold to Workspace plc in November 2021.
Gillian’s passion for regeneration remains steadfast. She loves to repurpose buildings and create jobs for young people while making happy and beautiful places. If she breaks a few rules and conventions along the way, then so be it!
In 2019, Gillian drew upon her long experiences to create the Catch the Tide manifesto. The manifesto expresses how good regeneration of old buildings can bring much needed jobs, joy and new learning. With the right values and beliefs, such regeneration can be particularly effective in often deprived or forgotten places. The manifesto is a rallying call to inspire those looking to improve towns. Gillian uses her latest venture in the under-rated and left-behind seaside town of Great Yarmouth as an example of what can be done.
Gillian loves to hear from like-minded people and those enthusiastic about the potential of old buildings. Get in touch if you fancy a chat.