Munitions workers of the past have been recognised as part of a celebration of local business and modern working at the historic Shell Store in Hereford.
The Shell Store on Skylon Park has officially opened its new coworking space as part of an event that saw over 160 local businesses, freelancers organisations and community members attend to network, share and collaborate.
Named ‘The Canary Suite’ in recognition of the thousands of munitions workers who worked at the site during both world wars. The chemicals they used, such as TNT, gave them toxic jaundice which turned their hair and skin yellow and saw them nicknamed canaries. The coworking space will provide freelancers, remote workers and small teams with a professional place to work, without having to rent a whole office.
100-year-old former ‘Canary Girl’ Nancy Billings attended the ceremony and was supported by Elizabeth Semper O’Keefe of Rotherwas Together, a community group dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of the area.
Elizabeth, said: “We’re delighted to see so many people from such interesting businesses and organisations come together and celebrate both the past, present and future of a very special place. I know Nancy was proud to see the space named in honour of her and her colleagues and the work they did there more than 75 years ago.
“The Shell Store played such a significant role during the war and it’s wonderful to see the space transformed into a modern working environment, whilst still holding on to its historical roots”
As well as the unveiling of the Canary Suite, the event, held by Town Square Spaces Ltd (TownSq) the company that operates The Shell Store on behalf of Herefordshire Council, also featured a networking and local showcase event, talks from local businesses and a BBQ.
Carl Turner, community director of TownSq said: “We’re very proud to have had so many people attend the unveiling of our coworking space, and are very grateful to have Nancy and the team at Rotherwas Together there. It really was a fantastic blend of the historical foundations with new, modern working.
“The Canary Suite will be a real boost for the local business community. A coworking space is the beating heart of any modern workspace. It not only provides a place for freelancers and remote workers who may not need a whole office, but want to break away from the coffee shops and kitchen tables – but it also connects people.
“As a freelancer or small business, the ability to simply turn to your left and talk through challenges with someone experienced who may have solved the very issue you are facing is invaluable. You just don’t get that working from home – and it’s what adds real value to working in such a vibrant space.”
Mark Pearce, managing director at Hereford Enterprise Zone, said: “The chance for so many local businesses and organisations to get together at The Shell Store was a real celebration of what the area has to offer. When we started this project, we felt it was important that we have vibrant, modern workspaces here in Hereford, but also crucial that we hold on to our history and heritage. The Shell Store does that and then some, and we’re very proud of it.”