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20 years of Urban Foundry

Reflecting on 20 years of Urban Foundry

Urban Foundry turns 20 this year. We will be sharing information about some special celebratory events very soon. But in the meantime, here is an article written by founder and Director Dr Ben Reynolds, looking back at how Urban Foundry has evolved and grown over the last 20 years.


How it all started

When I started the company in 2004, it was me, a laptop, and a mobile phone, working from the spare bedroom in the house and for a large part of our first decade that’s how it stayed. It’s been quite the change in the last ten years or so, and especially in the last 3 or 4 years.


Early successes

It’s quite easy to forget to reflect on things, but we’ve done rather a lot – from creating the Dylan Thomas Prize right at the start, to the award-winning Swansea Bay Street Markets, getting us oh-so-close to winning UK City of Culture in a last-minute, backs-against-the-wall bid, raising tens of millions for various clients across the UK, establishing our own building and venue at HQ Urban Kitchen, to pioneering pop-up spaces with our work leading to it becoming a mainstreamed element of regeneration approaches, becoming Swansea’s first B Corp, and creating over 20 jobs between the various companies.


Introducing Tara Tarapetian

The biggest change was bringing in Tara Tarapetian to work with me as the first regular staff member, and it’s so lovely now to have her as a fellow Director, helping to steer where we’re going and sharing the successes (as well as some of the stresses). Following that, we grew the team from our amazing project managers and associate consultants to our front of house and back-room staff. We even roped my long-suffering wife, Laura, into helping us establish HQ Urban Kitchen as an exciting new addition to Swansea.


The Urban Foundry team

One of the things I’m proudest of is our wonderful team of hardworking, clever, creative, passionate people who I get to work with every day and who make what we do work – in the latter half of the company’s life to date it has become very much ‘us’, and not ‘me’ anymore, which is so lovely.

The challenges

It’s not always an easy gig. There are lots of strong opinions with some of the things we are involved with, and it can be incredibly frustrating trying to create change for the better at times. But it does come, and reflecting on the past 20 years, we’ve generally been proven right on all the things we’ve pushed on, even though some weren’t (and a few continue not to be) very popular amongst decision-makers and/or the public.


A bright future

But the positive impacts far outweigh the frustrations. I’m proud that we’ve always retained a focus on delivering on our purpose to achieve the best we can for the people we work with, and for. We’ve done this while upholding the core principles of the company.

I hope the next 20 years will bring as many successes, and also that it will be as much fun!