THE Makers Gallery & Bistro in Alloa closed this week after a hugely successful five years within the community.

The social enterprise trading arm of Clacks charity Reachout with Arts in Mind, it was initially established to provide education, progression and employability for local adults experiencing mental ill-health and barriers to entering the workplace.

In December 2012 the doors were officially opened to the public and it has since facilitated a place for people to develop and grow, along with eat and appreciate the creative arts.

The project was wrapped up on Friday, March 17 and thanks is being given to loyal customers past and present.

Reachout chief executive officer, Lesley Arthur, said: “Securing a cocktail of funding established The Makers Gallery & Bistro, a warm welcoming, contemporary art space delivering excellent customer service and a unique experience to our customers.

“Our training programme worked in partnership and collaboration with Forth Valley agencies including Integrated Mental Health Service, Job Centre Plus, St Modan's High School and Learn Direct to identify and engage with local adults experiencing challenging circumstances.

“The passion and commitment from our staff team explored creative ways of improving health and well-being whilst delivering a range of transferable skills and training.

“During the five years The Makers Gallery & Bistro has delivered a diverse portfolio of creative activities including creative arts workshops, a cultural and creative events programme, themed dinner events, accredited REHIS training to the local community and outside catering.”

The five year, five stage employability scheme was funded by Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Big Lottery Life Transitions Programme, People & Communities Fund, The Robertson Trust and additional smaller grant giving bodies.

Through the project's training programme 155 were engaged on the employability pipeline – one in three gained employment and six trainees were taken on by Reachout and the bistro.

Rosa Macpherson, trainee coordinator, said: “The courage, determination and perseverance I witnessed on a daily basis from people who needed a nurturing yet structured training environment to help them overcome barriers to employment was a constant inspiration to me both professionally and personally. 

“To play a part in someone’s rediscovery of themselves, to witness them identify and develop their own talents and skills was indeed soulful work.”

The bistro gained a Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor, runner up at Learn Direct Inspiration Business Awards 2015, runner up at Clacks Hospitality and Business Award 2016 and nominated to Visit Scotland Scottish Thistle Awards Best Informal Eating experience 2016.

The gallery, supported by artist Lys Hansen, worked with 120 local, national and international artists and makers providing a platform for their brands and products. 

Inspiring artists and makers have been nurtured through collaboration and guidance from professional artists and designers, giving hands on creative learning, and personal and professional tools, required to develop and launch successful businesses within the creative industries.
Reachout is open to adults aged 16 and over who are experiencing mental ill-health, to carers and those disadvantaged and experiencing barriers to mainstream services.

It uses a member-led, self-help model which has been important for its success over the last 23 years. 
As the Makers Gallery & Bistro draws to a close focus is turning to future projects and work is underway on a Creative Communities Expressive Arts Programme.

It will provide more improved accessible creative activities for social integration to address isolation, improved health, new skills and more confidence through establishing three structured programmes.

-Inspire Programme: young people aged 16 plus experiencing challenging circumstances, mental ill health, barriers to employment

-Change Programme: adults experiencing mental ill health, unemployed, single parents, carers, volunteers.

-Make Programme: adults aged 16 plus living with mild learning or physical disabilities.