For the past three years Nudge has been changing Union Street. Building by building, room by room, idea by idea, they are breathing life into a part of Plymouth too many people had sadly given up on.
Now, people talk of opportunity, of new beginnings, of having fun.
“People kept asking why no one was doing anything about the empty buildings and we thought ‘why don’t we do something about it,’ says co-founder Hannah.
“So we started Nudge in 2017 to do that.”
Undoing years of neglect is a huge challenge but buildings such as The Clipper – once a 24-hour drinkers’ paradise, now a hub of creativity – and The Plot now have been acquired by Nudge and transformed. A cultural vibrancy powered by artistic flair, true community engagement and excellent food from a whole spectrum of ethnicities now runs through them.
A street once synonymous with extracurricular after dark activity is now buzzing with artist talent, giving the area a much-needed new identity.
The Clipper was the only place to drink at 5am in Plymouth, it had been empty for 4 years before Nudge purchased it and turned it into a café/marketplace downstairs. Upstairs are two flats which are affordable housing. You can still see all the previous pub owners on the pole inside and a mural called ‘Friday night on Union Street‘. Painted in 1948 by Vincent Bennett, it is based on local characters that used to drink in the pub.
The Clipper has had over 30 markets and takeovers by different organisations such Theatre Royal, Plymouth Collage of Art, Food Plymouth, Plymouth Social Enterprise network and more. They have even had a marriage proposal and legislative makers from the government enjoy lunch. Food pop-ups range from Eritrean cuisine to plant based Mexican burritos from the amazing No Whey.
Over the Street is The Plot – an alternative shopping arcade that keeps growing. This building is bringing new activity and opportunities into our community and creating a link for local residents living behind on to Union Street. Inspired by allotments, Nudge is renting out the space patch by patch to local businesses and individuals who want to grow a great idea that benefits the community.
Right now, Nudge are busy filling their buildings with interesting stuff ready for reopening. Long-term major new projects such as the acquisition of the Millennium nightclub promise to be the catalyst for long-lasting change.
“We have lots of small organisations moving into The Plot and we are excited to see that come into life over the next few months,” says Hannah.
“We are also starting to work out how to move forward with Millennium building. We bought it last year and we are now planning what could happen there over the summer so people can come in and see what it is like and be part of the process.
“We aim to make Union Street a street the whole world loves. It’s been neglected for a long time and we aim to change that. Bringing buildings back into use is a key part but it will only be a success for us if it has direct benefit for local people in our community. So we work hard to spend 50% of our money within a mile, recruit from the local neighbourhood and support uses that meet a local need.
“We have gradually got more ambitious and angry in equal measure! The more we learn and experience the more we understand how the economy affects communities like ours. We are realising that by doing things a bit differently and with more care we could increase the local impact and create opportunities for others.”