Arts project transforming lives of disabled people (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Snaresbrook Arts Project transforming lives of disabled people
An arts project helping disabled people transform their lives has become a thriving co-operative despite funding problems.
Mazhar Malik, 51, was inspired to make a difference by her sister-in-law, Samina, who has learning difficulties.
And after noting a lack of support services, she vowed to help people in a similar position.
But after starting a project to prepare people from employment, she struggled to place people into jobs, claiming small businesses were concerned about health and safety laws.
Her funding was then cut by Redbridge Council.
Undeterred, she decided to offer employment herself and created the Snaresbrook Arts Project, a studio space for artists.
Now around 18 adults use the facilities on a weekly basis, with some of them visiting four times a week.
James Bull, 58, cannot read or write, has limited use of one of his hands.
He regularly visits the studios to produce artwork to raise funds for the project.
He said: "When I lost my mum three years ago I was really low – I didn’t want to do anything.
"When I came here that was it. I came out of my shell and started talking to people again.
"I really enjoy coming here and don’t know what else I would do with my time."
The project receives no external funding and operates as a co-operative, with profits distributed among the artists.
But times have been tough.
Mrs Malik said: "People don’t realise we need the funding.
"I had a very low point last year, things got very desperate.
"I spoke to all the local supermarkets asking for sponsorship and got knocked back. When you get kicked in the guts constantly it gets very low.
"However I realised I would only close when I no longer enjoy what I do, not because I can’t get any money. I should keep fighting."
The artists’ work is available to buy from Blush Temples and Heads N Tails in High Street, Wanstead and Cafe Voyage in Snaresbrook Station.
The group will be exhibiting and selling their work at Wanstead Library on March 9.
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