From working in hospitality, events, entertainment and property, Kate Pierce has forged a career that encompasses all of those experiences into one and puts her firmly in the middle of what makes Plymouth – and in particular its creative heart – beat. Here she shares with Bracken Jelier how this role has developed within the context of Alma Yard and what her dream is for Britain’s Ocean City over the next 10 years.
What is Alma Yard?
Alma Yard is a creative workspace here in Plymouth, home to a dynamic community of artists, designers, makers & practitioners drawn to the city’s burgeoning arts scene and holistic view of life.
We currently have a collection of 23 studios, facing out into a beautiful, cobbled courtyard. The site is a revitalised rope factory from the 1800s, with the design for the space celebrating its rich history & heritage, seamlessly integrated with contemporary features to create inspiring studio spaces to allow creative businesses to flourish.
What is your Role at Alma Yard and at Eat Work Art in Devon?
My role is entitled “Development & Strategy Manager” for Eat Work Art in Devon. I am responsible for managing our development projects in the region, taking them from concept design through to completion.
The strategy element of my role ensures that decision making regarding our site development and improvements is well considered to ensure the timing of projects and the detailed design will have a positive impact for those that use them. In addition to that, the same applies for the region as a whole – what can we be doing better to have the most positive impact in Plymouth & Devon? I hope my work with our awesome teams in Devon and London will deliver on that.
At Alma Yard right now, we are in the exciting construction phase of the much-anticipated Rope Building. A dynamic space that will house the sites co-working areas which integrate the 1846 original vehicle lift as well as a selection of new impressive studios that celebrate the lofty features of the building and a public facing cafe space that will transform Alma Yard into a special destination in the East End.
How did you enter this career – what was your personal journey?
I am lucky to have been able to enjoy a diverse career that spans the hospitality, events, entertainment and property industries with roles across projects, sales & operations. I have always been drawn to people-first roles with a purpose in producing experiences that are unique & memorable.
I started my career with Eat Work Art as the “Devon Manager” at the start of our diversification outside of London. This role covered all bases in Devon whilst we grew our local community and was dedicated to understanding our new audience and what makes Plymouth special – an infinite and wonderful task!
As we grew, the need to expand our local team was paramount and allowed me to step back from resident curation and operational responsibilities and focus solely on our development projects and the continued understanding of Plymouth and the people that make it the inclusive, creative and diverse city that it is!
When did Alma Yard open and how has it developed and grown since then? What’s its future?
We launched our first collection of studios in 2021 as part of our phase 1 development of the site. Since our founding residents joined then, we have welcomed our on site bakery, Heyl, along with other creatives & public facing practitioners including Silver Roots.
In early 2024 we will be launching phase 2 of the development, which includes the site’s iconic Rope Building. Here we will see a collection of additional studios, along with a co-working area. It will also house our second food and beverage facility on the site, with a beautiful atrium-inspired space which will accommodate more indoor seating.
Nestled in one of the city’s most picturesque areas, Alma Yard is just a brief 10-minute stroll from the Barbican. Perched along an iconic coastal rise, our site holds significant historical importance within the local community. It was very important for us to pay homage and celebrate the site’s history through our thoughtful design.
Collaborating closely with esteemed local historians, including Chris Robinson and The Box, we delved into the rich past of the building spanning over 200 years. Through this research, we unearthed incredible records and drawings that showcased the space during the Victorian era. This research inspired choices such as our naming of the Alma Yard cul-de-sac ‘Candlewick Lane’. We discovered that the site was used to make candle wicks for a business on Sutton road in the 19th and 20th century, along with ‘Candlework Lane’ being a street name in the local area from this time period that became disused.
We aim to bring like-minded individuals together who champion innovation and collaboration, from individual start-up artisan traders to more established companies. We have social spaces like the communal kitchen and the courtyard to allow these connections to happen really organically between residents & it’s been incredible to watch these collaborations come to fruition, sometimes over something as simple as a morning cup of coffee.
As an Eat Work Art resident, you are connected to a wider network of creatives across both Plymouth and London. We have an Eat Work Art Access platform which connects residents to the wider community with local discounts and offers, events and networking opportunities.
Since you have been working in Plymouth’s creative scene, how have things changed? What do you think is on the horizon for the culture of Plymouth?
I think the most significant point to note about change, is how even in the short time period of 2 years that I have been here, its ability to attract and retain iconic creative talent continues to grow.
How does a creative community like Alma Yard work – what are the benefits to the residents?
Our 2 universities have award winning creative courses and the plethora of organisations supporting new businesses that exist here are always working collaboratively to retain creative graduates and support startups; ensuring that Plymouth has an infrastructure of employers and educators that are prepared to give them the best platform to take their creative talent to the next level.
Take The Workroom at Light Studios for example – we are proud to be partnering with Arts University Plymouth to provide an incubation space for recent graduates that puts them in a room with like minded individuals at a similar stage of their commercial creative journey, with continued access to the impressive facilities at the university to bolster their practice.
As for what’s on the horizon, I hope that the creative voices in Plymouth will continue to get louder and we will continue to see non-creative industries seeking creative talent in their businesses as they identify how the value of fresh perspectives and access to untapped knowledge can enhance everything from marine to medical practice. The knock-on effect of this will see a huge boost in retaining creative talent here and an amalgamated view on the future of Plymouth that will continue to put us on the nationwide and international map of recognition.
What are you looking forward to in Plymouth in the next six months? What would you recommend people do and see in the city?
We are seeing so many cool businesses break through and diversify and I can’t wait to witness and support their journey. For example, the new Hutong Bagel Co Tuk Tuk which commuters and travellers from the train station will benefit from, as they will have new access to delicious coffee and bagels from the Royal William Yard aficionados! Also, Minerva Cafe are hosting their very first Drag Brunch on September 9th – not to be missed!
Plymouth Design Forum will continue to host their sell-out events with the iconic installation artist Morag Myerscough next on the list in October!
In addition to that, Plymouthians will be able to enjoy one of the best community celebrations at the Union Street Party on 10th September, hosted by Nudge Community Builders.
So much exciting stuff to look forward to, but those are first that come to mind!
Where’s your favourite place to eat in Plymouth at the moment?
Almond Thief Bakery is one of my favourites for popping open the laptop for a peaceful afternoon of work whilst enjoying one of their truly mouth watering heritage tomato sandwiches and a smooth roasted coffee.
Knead Pizza is also a go-to with it’s kicked back vibes and cool, historic setting in Prysten House. I recommend the N’duja N’duja Like It Pizza if you like a kick!
What about your favourite place for a cultural experience?
I always love an evening spent at the Barbican, enjoying an al fresco beverage before a show or talk at the Barbican Theatre, followed by noodles at the B-Bar – usually to live music they have on during the evenings.
During the day, visiting The Plot and having a through-glass view of makers doing their thing from jams & chutneys to felt work and fashion – it’s food for the soul. Well, the real food for the soul is in the Jabulani food court at the back of The Plot. I like to hunker down here for a Jabulani coffee in the rain or enjoy a Vegan Combo from Elsie’s Habanera Cuisine in the Community Garden!
We hope our works on The Millennium Building, alongside Nudge Community Builders, will contribute an equally meaningful cultural experience to the city with al fresco dining and cool retail opportunities – watch this space!
What’s your dream for Plymouth in the next 10 years and how can we make it happen?
Really, just being on the map culturally and recognised internationally for all the talent and experiences that we have to offer. I hope that film studios will choose Plymouth as a shoot location, I hope that more independent businesses will plant roots and find success here and organisations can continue to work collaboratively to make that happen.
We are all doing so much of the good work already, we just need to keep it up and as a city find opportunities, not barriers for meaningful progress.
Photos of Kate taken by Tom Carder Media