Soft Touch, one of the country’s leading participatory arts groups, recently celebrated their 25th birthday, at an event at Leicester’s New Walk Museum.
Soft Touch was set up as a co-operative in 1986 and has lots to celebrate!
On display at the event was a selection of 25 years of work created by people who have developed their creativity and skills on projects with Soft Touch,
including photos, art works and film clips. Soft Touch also recreated a mock-up of their very first office which was situated on Sanvey Gate in Leicester City Centre. Party goers took part in arts & craft activities including, writing memories of Soft Touch on the “Beatsmobile” car, making clocks out of old 78 records, and contributing to an animation film.
As part of their celebrations Soft Touch has created a special anniversary website dedicated to the people they have worked with over the past 25 years.
They also commissioned a publication called “25 years, 25 people and 25 stories” and this has been distributed widely. One of the people profiled is Jack Girling, who attended Soft Touch music sessions in 2010 and has since launched his own arts company. “I’ve got to thank Soft Touch for doing a lot for me,” says Jack. “I’ve got all these skills, and I’ve got a lot more confidence in myself. Once you’ve been to Soft Touch it’s like having an extended family really. It’s a place that can be a lifeline for young people.’
Soft Touch has helped thousands of people over the years, developing their skills, knowledge and involvement in the community through an array of projects including a pantomime staged in a swimming pool! The positive impact that the co-operative has had on the local community was highly commended in a speech given by Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby who has known the co-operative since its inception. “ Soft Touch has done a tremendous job over the years working with people from a mixture of backgrounds – from refugee communities to young people excluded from school” said Peter Soulsby.
“The best move we made was to form ourselves as a co-op. This enabled us to access vital financial and business development advice from the Co-operative Development Agency, without which we could never have navigated through those early years.”
Soft Touch founder Sally Norman
“Becoming a co-operative and working with the CDA made us entrepreneurial – the things that many third sector groups are having to learn today, we’ve been doing from the beginning.”
Soft Touch founder Vince Attwood
CaSE-da has worked with Soft Touch since the co-op’s inception almost 26 years ago, spending many months with the initial five members
in discussion and
preparation before the business was launched. The last quarter century has seen Soft Touch move four times into increasingly larger premises, grow in size to 11 staff and develop into a local, national and internationally renowned business. CaSE-da has provided an on-going service to Soft Touch since 1986, offering advice, support, training and a listening ear as required and we are delighted to have been a part of the Soft Touch journey.
The essence of Soft Touch is that what they do changes lives and communities. They create work to be remembered and aim to positively affect the lives of the people they work with. It’s been an eventful and interesting 25 years and we look forward to many more years of awe inspiring Soft Touch projects!