Fifty years of friendship and finance – meet Margaret Trotter

To celebrate our fiftieth birthday, we’ve been talking to people who we’ve worked with over the first fifty years. Today we speak to Margaret Trotter, Director of Finance at Four Corners, a film and photography charity based in East London.

“In 2007, we took over the freehold of our building. We raised £1million to extend it and that’s when ICOF became involved. That loan helped us to recapitalise our film equipment base, and to renovate our loft that is now let to creative businesses, both areas of earned income that are still generating profits today. ICOF also helped us with cash flowing loans. When grant payments from EU funds were delayed – and they were long delays – ICOF, as an organisation and the individual staff, gave us fast responses as they had an understanding of our funding models that meant that we could survive and grow. Access to finance at key moments has been the backbone of our growth and stability.

Four Corners has been operating for more than 40 years as a charity. We were set up from the start with a unitary board, where senior staff are also directors of the charity. In 2002, we expanded through a merged transfer of assets from Camerawork – a photographic charity that we’d been next door to for more than 20 years. We are now on our way to our 50th year as well. Our exhibitions draw on our archive of films and photographs, created by photographers and filmmakers, which we relate to contemporary issues. So for example, at the moment, we’re partnering with the Swadhinata Trust, a local Bengali heritage charity. We want to capture the Bengali community’s photographic history in the East End of London, and we’re running scanning sessions with members of the community to create a Bengali archive. Our current exhibition is about the 50 year anniversary of the military coup in Chile. It includes photomontage work that was toured by us over 45 years ago, which explains the overthrow of the elected democracy of the time. We’ve reinvigorated it this year and it will tour again.

ICOF Lending and Relationship Manager Kevin is my hero at the moment! He’s so involved in helping us get our next stage finance. We need to future proof our building and he’s really side by side with us and putting in as much time as I am. We’re in film and digital media, and the WIFI is so slow in the building that it could cause us to lose the clients that actually want to be here and work with us. We’re investing now in high speed fibre cable, to link up all five floors in our building. We house over 25 creative businesses, and that’s everything from people who just rent desk spaces by the month to grow their business, to businesses who have taken a whole floor. We’ve also worked with organisations who have actually expanded so much that they’ve left and bought their own building. So it’s a real success story for growing creative businesses and we need to be able to develop that area. We’re also looking at the cost of energy and energy efficiency –  we’re putting in new boilers and double glazed windows to conserve as much as we can to keep our energy bills lower in this time of rising costs.

Kevin is getting the structure of the loan and the background documentation sorted so we can put it forward and get us what we need for our next stage. It’s great to have that kind of hands-on understanding and support, and it’s happened many times with ICOF. Ian Taylor stepped in when I went to him and said, ‘Look, I’m worried about our cash flow, everything is so delayed by Europe, we’re really strapped’. Sometimes that’s a fearful thing to do because that might be the time when they see you as unstable, and they’re not going to be there for you when you need them. I could be completely frank with Ian and he understood immediately about these delays because he knows the sector, and understands that kind of funding is going to be a long time coming. ICOF stood by us, gave us some cash-flowing overdrafts, and then we capitalised them into a loan to help our expansion. They’ve always been there at those key moments, providing what we needed to sustain us when we needed it. I recommend ICOF as a supportive finance partner, so you can springboard and grow as we have.

Happy birthday ICOF. We hope that you’re with us and we’re with you for the next 50 years.”