14th November 2018

Two weeks into my new role as CEO at Cockpit Arts and I’m delighted to be celebrating Social Enterprise Day.

The offer of a new challenge is exciting, so it’s for all sorts of reasons that I was thrilled when Cockpit invited me to become their new chief executive.  First off, this place is a hotbed of creative talent – home to some of the foremost makers and designers in the country. With 170 businesses based across two sites, Cockpit is a beacon for making at the heart of London.  That’s critical to enriching the social and creative fabric of the capital.  Then, the business support offer here is something rather special, delivered by a team of creative enterprise experts who really understand craft.  They have a deservedly high reputation, not only in London but also around the country and internationally.  Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Equally important to me is the fact that Cockpit Arts is an award-winning social enterprise.  Throughout my career I’ve championed social entrepreneurship.  Before my most recent job as creative director at the Crafts Council, I ran a creative social enterprise in Bristol supporting hundreds of makers, artists and designers each year, and served on the board of an agency giving social entrepreneurs of all kinds the tools to thrive.

Social Enterprise Day celebrates the fact that it is possible to marry profit and purpose.  For Cockpit that means investing in enabling talented craftspeople to make the most of their potential.  Social inequalities remain rife in the creative sector.  No matter how much skill, imagination and verve you have, getting in and getting on isn’t always straightforward.  Getting a creative business off the ground is tougher still.

As a social enterprise, at Cockpit we help people overcome the barriers to launch and grow their business by providing our services and studio spaces at affordable rates, ploughing back any profits to help those most in need.  Special awards and bursaries give early stage businesses every chance of success and our apprenticeship programme enables craft businesses to employ young people in their first job, supported by bespoke training.

For previously unemployed young people looking to start up in business, our Creative Careers Programme, now in its eighth year and run in partnership with the Prince’s Trust, is a fast track to a professional career in craft and design.  It’s supported 28 young people into business so far with studio space, coaching support from our in-house team, and expert mentoring.

Creative Careers graduate Onome Otite, for example, produces striking and distinctive three-dimensional artworks. Borrowing elements from dance, fashion and world cultures her hand drawn figures combine collage, sculpting, stitching and hand drawing.  With British Fashion Council Director Caroline Rush as her mentor, in 2017 Onome was shortlisted for the Evening Standard Young Makers Award and selected by the British Council for Pop Up Africa in Ghana just a year after setting up in business.

Our latest Creative Careers cohort came on board in September: resin sculptor and mouldmaker Ravn Cotino, puppeteer Alicia Britt and jeweller Meron Wolde.

Social Enterprise Day shines a light on social entrepreneur success stories.  But don’t just take my word for it, come and see for yourself.  Whether you’re out to spot the fresh crop of creative talent – or meet and buy direct from established Cockpit makers –  join us at our hugely popular Open Studios events coming up at the end of the month (23-25 November in Holborn; 30 November – 2December in Deptford).  I’d love to see you there.

Annie Warburton, CEO of Cockpit Arts