“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 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.