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Glossop Arts Project celebrates Sonja Quirk

May 9, 2024

Last month, Sonja Quirk, one of the founders of Glossop Arts Project and community/creative powerhouse, retired from her post after a decade.  The team from GAP looks back at the last 10 years, and how Sonja delivered such a wonderful and valuable project to the local community.

The team tells us: “Sonja Quirk was instrumental in setting up Glossop Arts Project – she acquired the initial funding to buy basic art materials and refreshments and negotiated a free room in the Adult Education Centre in Glossop to put on two Arts for Wellbeing sessions run by Clare Isherwood – Deb G-J managed the day to day running of the project and applied for us to become a Community Interest Company opening us up to wider funding in 2014/15.

“Having previously been a social worker for Derbyshire and Tameside Councils, Sonja had good connections with community groups and social services departments – which is where most of the initial participants came from. Sonja also had good connections with the local residential home for adults with learning disabilities and set up a group for that community which now is thriving, she also took over the Club Night model from Life you Choose when they stopped running as she identified a need for safe, sociable fun adult space for this community to dance, sing and enjoy themselves without judgement or discrimination. Rhoda and her son Thomas run Club Night now with Matt, one of the original participants turned master DJ!

“For the first five years of GAP, Sonja was both Social Worker and mental health support in all of the sessions we ran, and she also project managed them - applying for funding, completing evaluations, promotion, recruitment, supervisor, governance and health and safety management.

“When we expanded over the years, we took on admin and finance support in Jo Baines, who had so much knowledge and experience in the voluntary sector, Jo and Sonja shared the responsibility of project management over several years.

“In 2019, Jo and Sonja secured three years of funding from The National Lottery – which meant a dedicated project manager role could be paid for, as Sonja had been working on a voluntary basis for years. This, obviously was in COVID times so not easy to recruit and run a project like ours, which was all about our clients with long term mental and physical health conditions . But, we continued and kept in touch with all our groups over the several lockdowns.

“In the meantime GAP had commissioned some research as we were receiving so many referrals for children and young people – we were able to evidence a need for a young person’s worker – Elle joined us! Her work has spiralled and she went from doing one session to three and going into primary and secondary schools offering mindfulness and mental health support. After a turn around of project management staff, we managed to acquire Kay, our knight in shining armour for admin! Kay sorted out spreadsheets and banking payroll and printing – hallelujah!

“In the latter years of Sonja’s service with GAP, she stepped aside from the face to face role and, with the Lottery funds, we found Cath, our wellbeing support worker with 30 years experience in the voluntary charity and statutory sector.

“Sonja embarked on a small 12 month research project looking at provision for adults with learning disabilities and neurodivergent adults in our community. Which led her to run a six week pilot group called Arts & miNDs.  This group was aimed at neurodivergent adults and was a huge success. Again, due to health Sonja decided to step away from face to face delivery and Rachel took the baton and now runs two ND sessions a week and has brought a wealth of artistic knowledge and experience to the project.

“Along with Elle and Clare, Sonja ran the project for the final 12 months of the original Lottery funding. In this time Sonja updated much of the paperwork including policies and procedures, and secured a further three years Lottery funding for five members of staff, and seven sessions including arts from home weekly. This was a massive relief for everyone and a huge celebration. We recently held a 10th birthday party to mark the occasion – the past decade has been phenomenal!

“We want to take this opportunity to say thanks to Sonja for all she has done for the local community. GAP wouldn’t be where it is today without Sonja’s hardwork and dedication. The team and all the participants Sonja has helped over the last 10 years are so grateful.”