A dream has become reality after the opening of a new facility for charities – and it is hoped the model will be rolled out across the rest of the county if it proves successful.

The Charity Hub was opened at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden on Friday by the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire Robert Voss, whose brainchild the project was.

The hub will enable charities from Watford and surrounding areas to work alongside each other in a shared office space, exchange ideas, learn and grow together. The organisations are also set to benefit from the link with the global movie giant, which is providing the space rent free, and its association with many other businesses.

Mr Voss explained his “dream” started two-and-a-half to three years ago after meeting a number of smaller charities who were finding it difficult working from home or were not involved with other charities.

He said: “I suddenly thought wouldn’t it be great if we could put them in one space, that they call home, interact with each other, learn off each other and really grow together.”

Watford Observer: The Lord-Lieuteant, right, with Bob Jones, left, Emily Stillman and Dan DarkThe Lord-Lieuteant, right, with Bob Jones, left, Emily Stillman and Dan Dark (Image: Joanna Good)

Conversations with Dan Dark, Warner Bros’ worldwide studio operations boss, and Emily Stillman, senior vice president of studio operations at Leavesden, led to the “incredible generosity” of the offer of the rent-free space at the company’s offices in Hercules Way.

Mr Dark, who has been based in America since 2020 but was responsible for the development of the film studios at the former Leavesden Aerodrome site, told the Watford Observer he “couldn’t be prouder” of the new hub.

He said: “One of things we’ve talked about for many years is connecting the community and we’ve been able to create an environment where charities that need some space, who don’t necessarily have the scale of infrastructure that some of the larger charities do, have got a hub to come and share thoughts, share ideas, have a little bit of quiet space and can really benefit from being something slightly bigger than their own individual community.”

The office furniture was donated by several companies while the project is being managed by Watford & Three Rivers Trust (W3RT), which works to strengthen the local voluntary sector.

Chief executive Bob Jones said: “We’ve been doing it at W3RT for 15 years where we’ve offered desks to charities and they use the same space, share resources, share equipment.

Watford Observer: The entrance to The Charity HubThe entrance to The Charity Hub (Image: Joanna Good)

“What’s different about this is it’s much better quality offices, there’s lot of businesses right here on the spot to talk to and the links through to businesses are potentially so powerful.”

There is space for another three or four charities to base themselves at the hub in addition to those that have already signed up, but Mr Jones stressed the hub is not a hot-desk facility.

He explained: “We’re trying to say to charities it’s almost more of a private members club where you buy into the concept, you buy into the joint working. It’s more of a shared facility for local charities.

“It’s not for people to drift in and out of or use when they need to. It’s for charities to have a base here and make a commitment to working with other charities.

“It’s different to anything else that I think has gone on anywhere - certainly in Hertfordshire I’ve never come across it before - and we’re trying to keep the costs down to an absolute minimum so charities can afford it.

“If it really takes off I think the real benefit will be through regular partnership working. The other big benefit is going to be on drawing businesses in.

“If we invite local businesses to come to the Holywell Community Centre [where W3RT are based], lovely though the Holywell Community Centre is, they’re not going to be that attracted. But if we invite them to an evening in the café here with the huge model of Wonder Woman and perhaps get somebody from Warner Bros. to host it, that’s really going to attract them in and let charities meet with businesses and vice versa. That could be transformational in some ways in how businesses and charities work together.”

The Lord-Lieutenant has realised one dream – now he wants to achieve another.

“My next dream is to roll this model out around the county,” he said. “So if this works well, which I’m sure it will, hopefully we can do something similar further north and then the east and west.”

Any local charity interested in discussing using The Charity Hub can contact Bob Jones at bobjones@w3rt.org