Wigan Workshop CIC runs practical courses for the community. They offer affordablesessions in sewing, woodwork, joinery, DIY, and arts and craft. It recently became one ofthe first social enterprises to feature at the Proper Good pop-up shop in the Rebuild WithHope flagship store. We spoke to Clare Hales to find out more about its work.
Wigan Workshop, based in Meyrick Street, Newtown, has truly got into its stride in the last two years.
Along with delivering creative courses and teaching practical skills, they offer a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for people from all walks of life as well as sessions to practise what that they have learned
Clare estimates around 500 people have been on a Wigan Workshop course or attended a session.
She said: “The space that we’re in is quite big. We’ve got a workshop, a studio and a craft room. The courses tend to run over four weeks, with both morning and afternoon sessions.
“All the sessionsonly have a maximum of eight people so it’s always very small, andgives people time to talk and have a little bit of quiet time rather than all hustle and bustle.”
Clare Hales, works on the funding side using her experience of running another CIC. She is also a special needs teacher, working towards her PhD with focus on young children with autism. Her expertise is on hand for anyone who has additional needs visiting Wigan Workshop.
Co-ordinator Manager Alison Jolley is our maker and creator and also organises thetimetable, after a change of career took her in a more creative direction and professional joiner David trained Alison in woodworking, and also leads on the relevant workshops.
Clare said: “Alison helps out but David has the expertise to answer the DIY questions whether someone wants to fit a shelf or build the bed!”
Wigan Workshop caters for many different demographics including women, teens, carers, the elderly, the unemployed, people who have anxiety and those with additional needs.
“It’s not just the skills that they’re picking up,” explains Clare. “It’s also having social interaction. Last week,before the start of a session a lady was telling me about her recovering from an illness, she just wanted to offload about the horrific time she‘d been having.
“A lot of people come along because they want to do something of value, but they find it difficult to go anywhere else. They still want to be doing something and they don’t want to be sat at home on their own.
“We started with workshops for people with dementia and then had to close for 18 months because of COVID. We managed to do some arts and crafts online to keep things going and since we reopened whatever we put on gets booked pretty quickly. We have waiting lists for the DIY for women and the DIY for teens is very popular as well.
“We bring in experienced session workers and artists, and Wigan College students come in on half- termly once-a-week placement to lead or help out at our art sessions. Alison has recently started to open up some sewing spaces for practice for those who have done our sewing course to keep on practicing and making items.
“We do charge a booking fee of between £2-£5 depending on what the activity and project is. We are also running projects at a cost after they have been successful projects, such as our DIY for women has now sold out at £30 per space. However, we do try and get funding in to keep our courses affordable for our target groups.”
Additionally, with Clare’s experience in special needs education, she is acutely aware the difficulty in getting diagnosis, treatment and care particularly on the mental health side.
She said: “The support services are so stretched. The affordability and waitlists are shocking. With Wigan Workshop we are trying to reach people that perhaps wouldn’t get the help they need. The low-level support of just doing something enjoyable can help someone feel betterwhen waiting for services suchas counselling.
“Carers, who come to us through Wigan and Leigh Carers, looking after their partners may feel like they’ve lost a little part of themselves can go home from here and feel: ‘I can put a shelf up now’ or ‘I have made a cushion’ – they feel productive or valued.”
Students with additional needs come along from More Than Words CIC also regularly attend crafts and art classes.
This year Wigan Workshop launched their holiday club whichenabled 192 sessions for 12-16-year-olds over the summer through the government’s holiday activities and food programme (HAF).
“It’s a different provision for kids who don’t want to go to sports camps. I’ll run some art sessions, Alison will do the sewing, David will do the woodwork sessions with them and we also have a tie dye instructor and an art teacher who come into do a specificprojects also. Some of the young people are so quiet at the start, they are petrified of coming in but they are all smiling by the end of the week.”
All social enterprises are facing a tough time during this cost-of-living crisis – the price of
materials is rocketing with the cost of wood doubling.
“We are always looking for more funding to offer affordable courses – we are being
supported to access more ongoing funding than small project funds.
“We want to get to the stage where we have a continuing timetable rather than doing a
project and then it’s gone. In thefuture, we would love to move into offering corporate team building events to help support our work, whilst making things for our community.
“With more consistent funding we could do more outreach and offer paid opportunities
which would benefit the community all round.”
The run-up to Christmas is the perfect time to check out Alison’s creations – which help fund Wigan Workshop’s work. They can be found at the Proper Good pop-up in theRebuild With Hope store in the Grand Arcade in Wigan or online at Crafty Anchor(formerly Little Anchor Creations) for laser engraved and hand decorated gifts, stationaryand crafts. Plus; woodwork, resin, laser and CNC specialists items with NorthWest Workshop forbusiness signage, handcrafted tables, furniture, signs and home décor.