One year on: Govan art project celebrates stability

11 May 2019

Photograph: Taylor Robertson

A community centre where elderly people can learn more about art and develop their own creative ability is now stable following a period of uncertainty at this time last year.

Due to funding pressures, Impact Arts was required to launch an online campaign in March 2018 to raise money to keep the Craft Cafe open.

The group successfully raised £3,590 with 87 supporters in just 28 days, allowing them to continue providing their service.

The Craft Cafe has now been running for around 10 years through the charity Impact Arts. It is held between 10am and 4pm from Tuesday until Thursday each week at the Elderpark Street Centre, Govan. Up to 25 people can attend on any given day.

According to Impact Arts: “It is a relaxed and friendly environment where older people can come along for a cup of tea and try their hand at a various artistic and creative techniques, whatever their experience or level of ability.”

Workshops are completely free, and operate on a drop-in basis. Every few months, the club chooses a new project to work on based on member feedback. Since January this year, the group has been doing mark-making and drawing. Following the project structure is not compulsory, however, and members are free to decide whether to participate or not.

Charlotte Craig, Lead Artist, said: “We’re trying to make it so it’s playful so it’s fun, and also teaching practical things at the same time. A key thing is always choice. They can choose to take part in that, or the can do their own thing.”

In the past, members have completed numerous projects, including colour digital photography, mosaic, and knitting. Craig is planning to run an upcycling project next. She said: “The members will probably love that. They grew up in generations where you had to take care of what you had or reuse what you had and its very much in the philosophy of how they live. They totally embrace it.”

Members of the group have also been involved in various charity projects. One year, they knitted approximately 30 Trauma Teddies for Children 1st, Scotland’s National Children’s Charity. In the past, they have also been involved in creating soft toys for an end-of-life care unit at a hospital in Inverclyde.

Craig said: “It was a lovely project. They made little soft toy animals. They had lots of different bits and bobs on them that people could play with.”

Pensioner Dan McNeil has been attending the project for more than two years. He mostly draws, and enjoys doing portraits of famous people he sees on TV.

He said: “I think it’s brilliant. I’ve always wanted to do this. I’m 70 in August, and I’ve always wanted to do things like that.

I genuinely like it. See when I retired, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Round about here, there’s a lot of drinking involved, and that’s what I was doing for about a year.”

McNeil is happy he now has the time to get creative. He said: “I like pictures with stories. We never got all that at school, I wish we would have.

“Work, betting shops, pubs and all that, they all get in the road. It’s the thing that we done here. Some people still do.”

The Craft Cafe often runs intergenerational projects, where schoolchildren are invited to collaborate with the elderly. McNeil said: “They come in here, the weans come in here on projects. They’re funny when they come in. They come in like wee ducks, they’re tiny!”

Danny Park has been going to the Craft Cafe for about eight years. He attends on a Tuesday and Thursday every week. He said: “I hadn’t really painted or drew or anything before that – I’d done a wee bit but I hadn’t really been doing as much as what I’ve been doing in here.”

Park first picked up a paintbrush in 1993, copying a picture of penguins from the National Geographic. He said: “I was rubbish at art at school. I’m a joiner by trade – I went through an apprenticeship with Glasgow University Work Department and that’s where I was until i was 21. Then I left, done different jobs, went down south, but I never painted or anything.

“It was only when the kids came home from school and they had botany – you know plants and all that – they couldn’t draw it and I says ‘awk I’ll give it a go’. I done wee plants and wee leaves and that’s how it started.”

Former joiner Park, who retired with ill health, enjoys the community aspect of the group. He said: “You’re always nervous and saying I wonder if they’re going to like me or if I’ll get on with them, but everybody’s great.”

Craig added: “We’re just trying to find a place for everyone. The abilities are totally different, some people have a real interest in art and creativity, whereas other people have a little bit of an interest.”

If you or someone you know is interested, the Craft Cafe Govan is looking for members. Please contact Lead Artist Charlotte Craig at for more information.

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