9th June 2018
Cockpit Arts is delighted to congratulate Vanessa Swann on being awarded an MBE in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to British Craft in London. Rightly recognised for her 15 years leading the team at Cockpit, this award has been made as acknowledgement of her outstanding service to our creative community.
The Queen’s Birthday Honours list was released on 9 June 2018, recognising more than 1,000 people for commitment to public service. The awards recognise people who have made achievements in public life or committed themselves to serving and helping Britain.
Vanessa was appointed Chief Executive of Cockpit Arts in 2002 and since then, has overseen the transformation of the charity from solely a workspace centre to a financially self-sufficient creative business incubator model for craftspeople that is unique in the sector.
She has been responsible for developing the organisation as a fully-fledged social enterprise with the aim of generating surpluses from social purpose trading; using this to cover the cost of similar services to disadvantaged groups without recourse to public funding. Cockpit continues to demonstrate consistent positive impact, including higher average growth for its craft businesses than equivalent practices elsewhere: actively supporting and promoting makers
Cockpit has always operated on the basis that its model and activities can be replicated more widely; a microcosm of how the sector could be on a macro level. Having recently negotiated an agreement with Camden Council to provide new headquarters premises on its present central London site, Cockpit Arts is now in a strong position to consider choices for future expansion.
Prior to leading Cockpit Arts, Vanessa’s senior management roles included being Deputy Director of the Design Museum, Director of the Crafts Commissioning Service at Contemporary Applied Arts and Head of the RSA Art for Architecture scheme. In 2014 she was appointed a non-executive Director of London Craft Week. Earlier this year Vanessa resigned as CEO of Cockpit Arts to focus on her consultancy work, specialising in Organisational Development in the Arts and Social Enterprise and is presently advising Cockpit Arts on its premises development.
On announcing the news, Vanessa said:
“It has been a privilege to have served the craft communities in the UK over many years and to experience many positive changes. Demand for high-quality British-made contemporary and heritage-based craftwork is now growing exponentially and independent craftspeople are more ambitious than ever in their desire to make a living from their craft and design skills. I am delighted that the importance of growing the UK craft sector is now more publicly recognised, and I hope that many more small craft firms will continue to receive support, including to take on apprentices as a means of growing their businesses and widening employment for those who may not previously have considered entering this field or had the opportunity to do so. This Honour is a fitting tribute to all those who have supported the development of exemplar social enterprise and craft business incubator business models, as well as campaigned for affordable, fit-for-purpose and city-centre workspace premises offering greater visibility and public access to this important British industry.”
In praise of Vanessa’s work
Cockpit’s Chairman, Cornelius Medvei commented “As Chair of Cockpit Arts I am thrilled to see Vanessa receive this honour which recognises her extraordinary commitment to Cockpit Arts, its staff, supporters and, most of all, its makers. Her vision and inspirational leadership has been responsible for transforming Cockpit Arts into the social enterprise and standard bearer for craft it is today. Vanessa has dedicated her working life to the arts and, through Cockpit Arts and her work in and commitment to other areas of the craft sector, to promoting and sustaining the future of craft and the applied arts in the UK.”
On hearing this news, Clerk of the Leathersellers’ Company and Award sponsors of Cockpit Arts, David Santa Olalla said “The Leathersellers’ Company are delighted to learn that Vanessa has received the public recognition that is richly deserved and we send our best wishes”