Charles Hadcock and The Watermark Featured in Creative View

Year: 2002
Creative View

Charles Hadcock greets me at the entrance to The Watermark in Preston. He is eager to show me round the complex which is home to a growing community of creative businesses.

He bought the former water board building in 2000 and has refurbished it into a haven for creative talent There are 35 units providing space for furniture makers and web designers through to sculptors and Jewellery makers. including architects, public relations consultants, photographers and illustrators.

The purchase was anything but straightforward. “Because I was a sculptor, the agent wouldn’t take me seriously,” he recalled. “I had to write to the chairman of United Utilities complaining that I had heard nothing since making an offer on the building.”

Being taken seriously as an artist is a recurring theme in our conversation. Hadcock is passionate 1n his belief that being creative can go hand-in-hand with being commercial.

He said the 35 businesses based at The Watermark employ 130 people and have a combined turnover of nearly £6 million.

“The creative industries in Lancashire are highly successful and the rest of the world needs to wake up to that fact,• he said.

Hadcock was born in Derby and studied fine art before specialising in sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London. He sold-out his degree show and quickly made a name for himself from his first studio which he open in Bermondsy in 1989.

He initially exhibited In galleries but was lucky enough to be able to scale up some of that work for the public arena with a corporate commission. The scale of his work Is a trademark and some pieces weigh in at over 20 tons.

Foundation to produce a piece for a maJor exh1bit1on of sculpture at Goodwood in Sussex. “To be included among my heroes was a fantastic

feeling,• he says

By this time, he had moved to new studios in London and laid the foundations for his property empire by sub-letting unwanted parts of the building.

By 1999, he had outgrown those premises and decided to relocate out of the capital to Lancashire where his main suppliers were based. “I used a pattern maker in Bolton and a foundry In Preston so it was an obvious choice,” he said. “My wife’s family is from Preston and I knew the city had an artistic buzz about it.”

Hadcock wanted a building large enough to redevelop into a centre for creative businesses and found the ideal premises in the former water board depot at Ribbleton Lane, Just minutes away from the city centre.

Thanks to a maior commission from Scottish Widows for a 20-ton sculpture in London, he had the finance In place and made his protracted bid.

“I wanted to create an environment where I could surround myself with people I like and whose work I admire.” he said. “It Is very difficult for artists to work from their back bedroom. If the loneliness doesn’t get them, then depression will. Having creative people from different backgrounds together in one building works incredibly well There is a cross-fertilisation of ideas when people talk to each other.”

The Watermark was redeveloped over a two-year penod. paid for from his income as a sculptor. Two adjacent buildings have now been redeveloped into The Benchmark and The Trademark and Hadcock 1s wor1<1ng on plans for a new centre for creative businesses that will dwarf his current efforts.

Not content with sculpture and property, he also owns Roach Bridge Tissues which provides luxury wrappings, mainly for the retail industry. “The business had been in my wife’s family until around 1985.” he explained “It was more an emotional purchase, but it is working out well.” He relocated the business close to The Watermark and moved away from bulk production to making prestige tissue for packaging.

Hadcock also has time to be chairman of Creative Lancashire, which brings together the public and private sectors to support the creative and digital industries.

One of his missions in life Is to persuade mainstream business and industry to make more use of Lancashire’s creative talent. “For many companies, the only way forward Is brand awareness and that comes through good design” he said. “By using creativity, they can raise perceptions of their company very inexpensively.

“Unfortunately, people think nothing about paying a professional £75 an hour but baulk about paying a graphic designer half that amount.

“I am a businessman as well as a sculptor. My role is to try to understand where business  and art can come together”


Also see: Sculptures