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Cambridge Community Arts

Cambridge Community Arts


"Without this loan we would not have been able to run our main programme of courses. This would have meant the business taking a massive step backwards, resulting in staff redundancies and 150 people not getting the chance to participate in a life changing course.”

Jane Rich, Founder, Cambridge Community Arts

When Jane Rich, founder of social enterprise Cambridge Community Arts, was awarded a contract from Cambridge Regional College to run accredited and unaccredited courses for unemployed adult learners with experience of mental ill-health or other challenges, she had a dilemma. Cambridge Community Arts would not receive any funding from the college for the first quarter of the programme. In order to recruit learners and start delivery in September, they needed to advertise the programme well in advance. They just did not have the cash flow to facilitate this. Having reached the borrowing limit with their existing bank, the organisation was not sure where to turn. Luckily Jane’s mentor at Cambridge Social Ventures was aware of Foundation East’s loan products, aimed specifically at excluded businesses and recommended that Jane to applied for a loan.  Foundation East, in partnership with AskIf, has developed an innovate, user friendly loan application portal, making it easier for borrowers to obtain a loan. The small bridging loan has led to significant growth for Jane’s business and has created positive social and economic impact in Cambridge and beyond.

Cambridge Community Arts offers creative courses that use the transformational power of arts to improve the health and well-being of people with mental health issues living in Cambridgeshire. By addressing social isolation and mental health in this way, the organisation delivers impressive local social and economic impacts including: helping past learners to set up clubs, e.g., The Cambridge Photographers, who are organising their own exhibitions and providing photographic services free of charge to local charities; many learners progressing onto volunteering, further education and training and some progressing directly into employment.

“We act as a bridge taking people from being ‘isolated healthcare recipients’ to ‘active participants in the community’ by growing their confidence, skills and social networks,” explains Jane.   

“The process of applying for this loan, using the AskIf portal was easy and thanks to Foundation East saying ‘yes’, we’ve been able to deliver a new programme, in partnership with Cambridge Regional College, engaging with 90 people so far, 30 of who are currently working towards a level two qualification. This has meant that we could grow our staff team from three to four. We’ve also been able to increase our geographic reach, starting a programme of courses in Fenland, one of the most deprived areas in our region, with a high rate of unemployment and mental ill-health. We’re looking to recruit a new member of staff too, to support learners in setting up clubs and getting ready for volunteering and employment once they’ve finished our courses."

In 2018, Cambridge Community Arts celebrates its fourth birthday. During its first four four years it has engaged with 472 participants and delivered 58 courses. These courses are run by 20 inspiring artists, including writers, film-makers, producers, directors, painters musicians and animators.

AskIf and Foundation East are proud to have played a part in its success and look forward to its continuing growth.


Photo caption: Fenland Community Arts The Language of Paint with Dan Donovan 

Photo credit: Dan Donovan