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Creating art: Improving lives

Rowan is a Cambridge based arts centre and charity where people with learning disabilities work alongside artists in their choice of woodwork, ceramics, printmaking, textiles, mixed media, the performing arts and Forest School.

Rowan was set up in 1984 to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities through the provision of services and meaningful activities. This was against the background of change that, quite radically at the time, sought to move people out of institutions and into the community.

With grant assistance from the NHS and Cambridgeshire County Council, four Cambridge professionals backed the formation of the charity, called The Rowan Foundation, in 1984. These were economist, Alex Morris, chartered surveyor, John Pocock, chartered accountant, Hugh Lanham and legal executive, Michael Jarvis.

Very quickly art and crafts were identified as a way of enhancing the lives and providing opportunities for self-expression for this minority group. In order to provide studio space and a secure home for Rowan, the current premises in Humberstone Road was purchased in 1993.

In 2003 a new charity, Rowan Humberstone, was established to provide a strong social enterprise ethos, thereby enhancing the sustainability and future of Rowan for its beneficiaries. We produce work to commission and for sale.This is the vibrant and active charity you see at work today, which is known simply as Rowan.

For over 36 years we have provided a safe, creative and welcoming environment where the arts are used as a tool to bring people together, tackle social exclusion, develop skills and improve happiness. We believe that people living with a disability should have the same choice, quality of life, opportunities and aspirations as others.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis we have had to find new ways of continuing to deliver much needed support to our students, their families/carers, and our volunteers/support workers.
In March we went virtual and continued to run Rowan with a smaller remote team to ensure we provided the much-needed support to our students through regular contact, online Zoom sessions and activities which we are able to share with the wider community.
In August, following Covid-19 safety guidelines, we were able to re-open our doors as well as continuing our online sessions. We are delighted with how this is going, and we continue to work closely with our students, parents, homes and support workers to support as many of our students as we can whether this is remotely or face-to-face.

‘We continue to strive to do all we can for those that need us in our community’ says Hetti Wood, Marketing Manager at Rowan, ‘and with the support of those around us we are pushing forward with events and projects. It is wonderful to see our students back in the studios getting creative as well as catching up via Zoom or to do a spot of music. We have many ways that the local community can support us from donating to our Winter Campaign, getting involved in our 2021 art exhibition, joining a virtual quiz and more! Find out more on our website You can also sign-up to receive our weekly Feel good Friday e-newsletter which will keep you in the loop.’


Rowan Drams Compilation: ‘We have so much fun in our Zoom sessions and we would love to share some of the highlights with you!’

Want to see more of us in action? Visit the Rowan Vimeo page HERE  for video clips from Forest School, the online drama and music sessions, and so much more!

You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @RowanCambridge

I AM 2020: Inclusion and Access in Cambridge

Disability History Month 2020: Gathering, sharing, celebrating, campaigning and archiving experiences of inclusion and accessibility in Cambridge. Raising awareness to bring about change through stories, memories, history and the arts.

Please email Ariadne, Community Development Officer at Cambridge City Council to contribute

Join the conversation on our facebook page: I am 2020



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