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Closure fears for Sweet Arts group which helps hundreds of vulnerable women in Norwich

06:00 30 June 2014

Toni Lawton, project manager of Sweet Arts. Photo: Bill Smith

Toni Lawton, project manager of Sweet Arts. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

An organisation which helps hundreds of vulnerable women turn their lives around through the creative arts has warned it will have to close in two months if it cannot find a sustainable source of funding.


Many women suffering from mental health problems, domestic violence, addiction or depression are referred to Sweet Arts, based at the 4 Women Centre in Colegate, Norwich, by mental health, GPs, probation and other services.

However, the not-for-profit group receives no funding from statutory services, and warned that, despite receiving smaller grants for specific projects, it will have to shut down if it does not receive an injection of funding to cover some its core costs.

In January, the organisation, which was founded in 2006, stopped its five-day-a-week, skills-based training, which helped give 250 women a year skills they needed to come off benefits and go into work, because of financial difficulties.

Now, its twice-weekly, open-access drop in sessions, where women take part in creative activities such as textiles or sculpture with support workers who are also artists, are also under threat.

Project manager Toni Lawton said: “We need the statutory services who are pushing people our way to send money our way. To save Sweet Arts we really need a year’s funding, to look at a more sustainable income streams.”

Asked what would happen in the group closed, she said: “It will impact on their services because the women we work with are progressing. They are not using these statutory services as much. They are not turning up at A&E or being arrested or using medication.

“Without us, they would be lost. I think a lot would revert back to disfunctional lifestyles. They have found something that they really work for, and then to have it taken away would have a very negative effect.”

She said that £91,000 would cover Sweet Arts’ full costs, including training sessions and wages, and the cost of the services worked out at £1 a day for each woman it helped - many of whom are either mothers or carers.

Ms Lawton said the group was especially interested in hearing from people with business skills to help support its future financial development. Email

Has Sweet Arts helped you? Email



  • Cannot believe this valuable service may disapear too. I have used Sweetarts myself but mostly used the Sweet factory that sadly had to close last year. This helped us women with producing things to sell from Up-cycling donated clothes. This built up our confidence to believe in ourselves, and that we do have skills beyond our issues. My coinfidence grew so much that I brought a box as a sewing box and I added to it every week and went out and brought a sewing machine. I now make things at home and recently started quilting. None of that would of been possiable without the Sweet factory and Sweetarts.

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    Sabrina Bartram

    Monday, June 30, 2014

  • Sweet arts has been a massive help to me and I have found it priceless with the help it has given me to be able to socialise and have positive things in my life. I am deeply saddened that the services that refer us there wont help in funding for it but are willing to use it!! If Sweetarts closes it will have such a negative impact on all that attend as we have built up a close friendship and never judge others which is such a relief to us all these days. I only hope and pray that funding comes through in time.....

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    Monday, June 30, 2014

  • It's the Big Society in action. Get rid of state provision, rope the charities and voluntaries in and then pull the funding from them! You couldn't make this stuff up....................except that it's not funny anymore.

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    marty r

    Monday, June 30, 2014

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