Heartbreak and anguish for parents over 'closure' of Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre

The human cost of the fate of Henshaw's Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough has been laid bare by the distraught parents of the 'art makers' with disabilities left potentially with nowhere to go.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 10:52 am
Under threat - The much-loved Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough.

"In the middle of this story is a vulnerable young person whose very being is at risk if the centre does not reopen," said one parent after an announcement by Henshaws charity's chief executive that the cherished facility would remain closed for the foreseeable future.

The charity, whose headquarters are based in Manchester, says, as well as a reduction of income during lockdown, social distancing rules made it hard to see how more than a handful of people could be allowed back into the arts and crafts centre, making it financially untenable to reopen.

But if guidelines changed and appropriate sustainable funding was in place, the charity would review the situation, it said.

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Henshaws chief executive Nick Marr said: "The charity sector, like so many others is reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are now consulting centre staff about the future of their roles within the organisation.

“This decision will undoubtedly cause a great deal of distress to our art makers and their families and all of our loyal volunteers, as well as to our staff, and we will do everything we can to help during these sad times but we find ourselves unable to continue to provide this service.

"This is an extremely difficult decision being taken in exceptional circumstances.

"The financial situation was stretched before lockdown but COVID 19 has had a huge financial impact on us.”

Distraught relatives of art makers are not only desperate to save the facility, they say they are desperately short of clear information as to what has happened at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre and how the situation developed.

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One of the parents has been encouraging people to sign a new petition to 'save Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre via change.org

A private 'Save Arts & Crafts' group page created on Facebook has attracted 1,058 members.

Rebecca and Brian Thackwray, who live in Knaresborough and are both shielding during the pandemic, said it had been heartbreaking having to break the terrible news to their son.

"Our son Joe is 41-years-old and has severe learning disabilities, a degenerative muscle condition, a communication disorder and autism.

"He is in the shielding group and lives with we, his parents, my husband Brian, who is 72, and myself, 65.

"I was also advised to shield with Joe as I have rheumatoid arthritis.

"Joe started at Henshaw's Arts and Craft Centre the week it opened 21 years ago after a difficult period of changing schools which had closed and a period of three years at Henshaws College.

"It took a while for Joe to settle but learnt to trust the staff and for them to get to know him as the staff team was and is very stable.

"The Arts and Craft Centre has become Joe's life and he attends four days a week.

"Joe's physical mobility is poor but the centre staff have worked tirelessly with health professionals to maintain Joes level of fitness which I can’t commend them enough.

"The social side of the centre is a huge part of part of Joe's life and the staff go above and beyond to enable art makers to access the monthly discos and all the events that the centre attracts throughout the year.

"The news we received over the phone regarding the possible closing of the centre for the foreseeable future has completely rocked our world.

"We are devastated and, as we are elderly parents and with health problems with Joe at home mentally this has almost destroyed us and the rest of our family.

"In the middle of this story is a vulnerable young person whose very being is at risk if the centre does not reopen.

"We wanted to wait until we told Joe but were afraid he would hear it on the news or local radio so we had to sit down and tell him.

"It was was one of the worst things I’ve had to do but I feel he has a right to be heard in what is a very confusing and difficult time for him.

"We are the only ones who can stand up for him."

Supporters are keen to launch a fund-raising campaign to save it but say they have been left in limbo so far.

They say they need clarification from Henshaws headquarters in Manchester on how such a campaign would and could fit into the charity's plans for the future.

Parent Caroline Dinsmore said: "I was devastated to read that Henshaws Arts and Craft Centre is to remain closed.

"This is terrible news for the 100-plus people with various disabilities who use the centre.

My daughter Aimee has Downs Syndrome and she has many friends who go there including her boyfriend.

"They will all be so upset and may not have alternative places to go to.

"Henshaws is an important social, music and creative hub in our local community. Surely we can prevent its closure.

"I think we need to start a just giving page, get the media and TV involved and try and sort out a rescue package.

"I would be happy to volunteer to help with anything that could help save the centre."

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