“Nihil Sine Labore” – Craft Café Govan

Nihil Sine Labore” – Nothing without Work: Govan Burgh Arms is self-explanatory the way it reads. However, how does this motto relate to the work of a social enterprise using arts and creativity to contribute to societal change, health and well-being? The case of Craft Café Govan, which is a community-based initiative for people over the age of 60 and run by Impact Arts, can help inspire some reflections around this research question.

I entered Craft Café as a researcher in November 2016, when my PhD on evaluating the health and well-being impacts of social enterprise on individuals and community had just started. Since then, I have visited the café regularly as part of my ethnographic fieldwork. I have been observing and participating in programme’s daily activities, chatting with people attending the Café (members or colleagues as they usually call themselves) and the artists and volunteers delivering the workshops. craft cafe 3

Craft Café Govan is a place where people can meet, work on creative projects and socialise with others from their community and beyond. Large tables are set for practical work, having lunch together, relaxing and chatting with a cup of tea or coffee. Professional artists facilitate the workshops and prompt member’s artistic desires and aims.

What makes the Craft Café successful? Scratching the surface, one can also observe that the Craft Café members are active ingredients themselves, bringing their personal stories and daily life into their art. Many of them share similar life experiences. They were skilled workers and have seen their community, Govan, changing dramatically over the last 50 years. This common background gives room to self-expression, which is professionally channelled by the artists through thematic projects and exhibitions. But one can observe that this common background can also encourage socialisation, which is not limited to Craft Café. From there, Craft Café network can carry over to other places of Govan, where members meet and socialise, but also invite other people to join them at Craft Café.

I have learned all this from my weekly visits to Craft Café. However, it takes time to access this network. It is not easy to be a new member, the new “guy” in the office; it takes time to adapt. During your first days, you mainly work on your own tasks, but you are unsure where the bigger brushes are stored, because you are new. The artist is busy with something else, so you ask someone who looks more experienced. You not only get your brushes, but also some tips on how to better mix the dyes for the brushes you have chosen to use.

This is a simple but ordinary process in every working place, where you rely on colleagues to access first information, but then you get to know them better, you start to spend your coffee breaks with them and share more than working-life stuff. Through its professional approach to creativity in community, Craft Café can trigger this process to significantly contribute to people’s quality of life, especially in contexts where work has always been very central as Govan motto suggests: “Nihil Sine Labore – Nothing without Work”.

Sadly for me and my research, due to funding constraints, Craft Café is facing closure in April 2018. But while this makes it awkward for me, the impact on the ‘colleagues’ using Craft Café is likely to be significantly tougher. To help preserve this vital service within Govan, Impact Arts has reacted launching a crowdfunding campaign. If you want to support Craft Café, please click on the below.


CommonHealth Briefing Paper Series: Paper Number 5

No ‘golden age’, no ‘silver bullet’: what can history tell us about connecting social enterprise, health and wellbeing?

In our first Briefing Paper of 2018 Gill reflects on the emerging findings from Project 1: A historical perspective on social enterprise as a public health initiative.

The video below provides a short introduction and the paper is available here on our website.


As ever, we’re eager for feedback so please get in touch via email (commonhealth@gcu.ac.uk) or twitter @CommHealth_blog. Or if you are going to The Gathering next week stop by our stall for a printed copy! 

CommonHealth Briefing Papers Series: Paper Number 4

Conceptualising the impact of social enterprise in Scotland:

A platform for future research

In the latest of our Briefing Papers researcher Bobby Macaulay reports on some of the findings from project 2 – ‘A contemporary analysis of social enterprise as a public health intervention’- and reflects on the importance of opening up new perspectives on the actions and impacts of social enterprise.

Find out more by watching the short video below. You can access the full paper here

CommonHealth Briefing Papers Series: Paper Number 3

Project 4 ‘Passage From India’: a summary of the key findings and recommendations

In the third of our Briefing Papers researcher Clementine Hill O’Connor reports on the findings from an ethnographic study with WEvolution, an organisation that facilitates the development of Self Reliant Groups across Scotland.

Find out more by watching the short video below. You can access the full paper here

CommonHealth Briefing Paper Series: Paper Number 2

Contemporary findings from a series of Knowledge Exchange For a held as part of the CommonHealth Research programme

In the second of our briefing paper series, Visiting Senior Fellow Alan Kay reports on the 7 Knowledge Exchange Forums that we’ve held so far over the course of the CommonHealth programme.

We’re passionate about engaging as many people as possible in our research, but thinking through how best to do this has been a steep learning curve! We’re developing a slightly different strategy for Knowledge Exchange in 2018, so look out for our calendar of events to be posted soon. In the mean time enjoy Briefing Paper 2, you can click on the video below for a taster….

Briefing papers and videos are a whole new adventure for researchers used to producing heavily reference journal articles, thank you for your feedback so far, please keep it coming!

CommonHealth Briefing Papers Series: Paper Number 1

CommonHealth: the largest research project on social enterprise in the world in the world’s best environment for social enterprise!

Entering the fifth and final year of our research programme we’re turning our attention to output and findings. You’ll find us at various events over the course of the next year, including The Gathering and the Social Enterprise World Forum, but we’ve started to produce a series of Briefing Papers. These Papers will provide short, 4 page summaries of aspects of our research, and will be freely available from our website.

The first in the series, written by our principle investigator Cam Donaldson, provides an overview of the project. You can view and download it from our website, or click on the video below for a sneak peak…


This is a whole new adventure for researchers used to producing heavily reference journal articles, so any feedback on the papers and accompanying videos is wholeheartedly welcomed by the CommonHealth team!

The Craft Cafe: A creative to solution to the challenges of ageing

The Craft Café in Govan is a programme for people over the age of sixty and is a place where they can meet, socialise and pursue creative ideas. It is run by the charity Impact Arts and offers creative solutions to tackle the challenges of ageing. I am the Artist in Residence. I handle the daily management of the Café and run art workshops. In its eighth year, it is now well established with 40 regular members and around 20 attending each day.

I don’t measure people by their age but just see their individual personalities. But I do acknowledge that age brings with it certain issues:

  • One of the most obvious is health – it can be a battle to not let ill health control your life.
  • Loneliness- our fast-paced culture can leave older people feeling disconnected instead of appreciated.
  • Re-defining who you are and what you do post-retirement- Work gives us a social role and a purpose, and when this finishes we still need to have a structure to feel useful and stay motivated.


The Craft Café offers a solution; it defies the pre-conceptions of growing older and celebrates creativity and people in later life. The atmosphere is infectious and the place is buzzing. The group are a vibrant and lively bunch of people with a strong sense of camaraderie and inclusiveness. All activities are free and members can choose to partake in the current project or can work independently.

I am constantly impressed by the members’ willingness to try new things – which can be a challenge at any age – but what inspires me most is the kindness and support they show each other. They are not critical or competitive but instead enthusiastic about each other’s talents. Many were new to making art when they first began at the Café. Their last significant encounter was often at school which taught ‘If you cannot draw you are not good!’ But through workshops and perseverance people have learnt skills and found new talents. One member said she is changing her old ‘I can’t do that’ attitude and thinking instead ‘I’m going to give it I try, practising in art media she never imagined she would ever use.DSC_0640

Having this creative space is invaluable as it allows older people to remain independent and express their individual selves, while still feeling part of a group. It also keeps people mentally and physically active. I speak to different members who say they have been able to cut down on their medication for depression and anxiety, and who are reducing the threat of heart disease by attending the workshops and being physical. One member, who had been very isolated for many years and who started attending the Craft Café in his early nineties, commented ‘Coming here brings a twinkle to the eye!’ I see this daily, and I am inspired by members’ willingness to be open to new experiences.

It seems obvious that improving people’s lifestyles will improve their health and general well-being. Quality of life is essential, but in our culture we need to give this idea more credibility and take more action to make it happen. I believe retirement should be playtime for adults and, as the ageing population increases, I hope the Craft Café and others like it will be a growing phenomenon.

Guest Blog: Charlotte Craig

(for more information on Charlotte’s work see here)