Somerset’s animators

Photography by Vik Martin

Photography by Vik Martin - Credit: Archant

With one foot in tradition and one in innovation, how does Somerset inspire its workers? Over the coming months Vik Martin will take a stroll through the alphabet to find out

I’m driving up a steep hill in a beautiful part of North Somerset and I seem to be approaching an animal shed. As I get closer though, I peer through the huge windows and I see that it’s filled with creatives, not cows.

This is the home of Hullo Creative, a small design and animation company that rents out its spare desks to freelancers. The result is a pool of creative people who can come together to work on larger projects, support each other, and drink tea. I’ve got a cup in my hand the minute I walk through the door, and I’m being made to feel at home by Suzi Hull - animator, designer and the glue that holds this loose collective together.

When she first started up by herself though, she was lonely, and realised that she wanted ‘the perks of being a freelancer whilst still being part of a team’. A lot of other people she met felt the same way, so she rented the whole barn, and now people can drop in to work full time or just for a few hours.

The view is nothing short of inspiring, and I’m assured that on a clear day you can see Bristol. “The setting is really important to us,” says Suzi. “I sit with the doors open most of the time, and the sunsets are amazing. I love that this place feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere but is still very connected to the city.”

But that’s only part of the attraction for Suzi, who is clearly passionate about this area of Somerset, and the businesses that thrive here. She sources services and talent locally wherever she can, and says, “If it benefits everyone then everyone wants to see it work.”

On one level it’s common sense. “We hire our photocopier from a local company, for instance, so when it broke down recently it was fixed in half an hour. We could’ve gone cheaper, but you get extra service from people you know.”

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It goes further than that though. It’s become a large part of her business’ ethos:“It’s about giving without commission, not about what you’re getting directly in return.”

Could this kind of business work anywhere? “There’s a collaborative atmosphere in Somerset which I think is quite unique. Businesses support each other and there’s a feeling of feeling of ‘lets make this happen’. I’ve lived here since I was six so I really wanted to get it right.”

“It would be interesting to take this business and put it somewhere else, where there’s less of a community feel, and see how it would work.”