Case Studies

Cultural Wellbeing Grants Support Converge Connected Project

As part of York’s Culture Strategy, Make It York, York CVS and City of York Council have come together to award funding of more than £60,000 to nineteen social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation, and mental ill-health across the city. 

The grants, which were made available via the Better Care Fund and Ways to Wellbeing, were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation, and social distancing. This series of case studies profiles each of the 2021 recipients: 

One of the projects which has been supported by the grants is Converge Connected – a cultural education programme with York St John University which offers remote access learning to adults with mental health issues, who use local mental health services.  

A team at York St John University visited interested students in the run up to the project to find out about their interests, it’s from here that a small selection of courses were made available for students to take part in. 

Over 28 weeks of zoom sessions, 86 students then took part in the Converge Connected courses, with tutors recalling high levels of engagement from the students which led to many high-quality debates and discussions.  

With these courses taking place primarily online, new systems to assist any student feeling distressed or unwell during the course needed to be developed. Break out rooms were created to provide short breaks for students and ensure any welfare issues were addressed, whilst volunteers kept the rest of the class settled and focused.  

Volunteers for the project were recruited from the student body at York St John to support tutors in classes and to bring their own expertise to classes. Eight student volunteers were involved, including postgraduate and undergraduate students from Creative Writing, Art and Music and Occupational Health and Nursing degrees. Students were offered two training sessions before the project began: one on mental health awareness,  another on boundaries and building rapport with students. 

For students who struggled with technology, or didn’t have access to suitable technology, materials and letters were posted to aid with their learning. One of these students said, “I felt so left behind, especially during the pandemic. I can’t go online; I’m terrified of scammers and honestly, it’s hard for me to understand how to use it. But I eagerly await the next package of materials and the letters from my tutor are so helpful and kind, and I feel like I’m part of something again.” 

Participants of Converge Connected spoke highly of the course as it offered them social elements that they felt they were lacking from their own life for reasons of isolation, disability, and social anxiety. Evaluations show that students felt their confidence improved, they made many social connections and looked forward to classes, with some citing them as the “highlight in their week.” 

Nick Rowe, Professor of Arts and Mental Health at York St John University and Director of Converge Connected, said, “In common with many projects, we developed online and postal courses during the Covid lockdown. We are very grateful to the Culture and Wellbeing Fund for their support; this enabled us to continue to develop our courses into what we now call, Converge Connected. 

Our participants vary widely in terms of previous educational experience and interests but are united by a strong desire to enrich their lives through learning. Many of them are taking early steps towards more social contact after periods of isolation due to ill health or disability. Others are further along in recovery but didn’t feel ready to re-join in-person classes. With the help of the funding, we have been able to offer a growing number of courses and individual sessions.” 

Following the success of this project, Converge Connected are looking to create a ‘Summer School’ of short taster courses over the summer for new students looking to join in October. They’ll also be a collection of ‘mini-courses’ – packages of learning on the York St John Online Classroom with email interaction with tutors. This will help students expand their studies, build confidence for future courses and carrying on learning during vacation times. You can find out more about future projects at 

Cultural Wellbeing Grants Support Heritage Hunters Project

As part of York’s Culture Strategy, Make It York, York CVS and City of York Council have come together to award funding of more than £60,000 to nineteen social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health across the city. 

The grants, which were made available via the Better Care Fund and Ways to Wellbeing, were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. This series of case studies profiles each of the 2021 recipients: 

One of the projects which has been supported by the grants is Heritage Hunters – which saw 10 Hull Road residents join with York Museums Trust to look back and learn more about the history of the people who used to live in their area. This was not only a research project, but also a way to unite the community and encourage neighbours to learn more about each other.  

Through the use of five workshops running from January to April, the Heritage Hunters worked closely with both York Castle Museum and York Explore to uncover maps, council minutes, photographs, diaries and a whole variety of artefacts that would help them find out more about their local community. 

From the discussions, activities and responses of those involved, a pop-up exhibition has been created which will be loaned to local schools and community centres across the city, allowing them to learn about the newly uncovered history of their local area. Four banners have been created, highlighting all the information collated by the group, as well as booklets which will be distributed to local schools and community centres in May 2022. 

There has also been a 16-page toolkit which has been sent to interested parties living on Hull Road. To date, this has included 50 households and is currently downloadable from the York Musuem Trust website. 

Philip Newton, Communities Engagement Researcher who led the Heritage Hunters Project, says: 

“Honestly, Hull Road Heritage Hunters has been one of the most uplifting and enjoyable projects I have been involved with. Not only have we discovered interesting and personal stories linked to Hull Road but it has brought together neighbours who had never met and now share an interest in their local heritage. The Cultural Commissioning grant award has allowed us to test new ways of working with local communities and will now be able to continue this project annually with other areas in the city; expanding our knowledge of the city and sharing it with local residents.” 

Other comments from participants include:  

The most enjoyable part of the project was ‘meeting other people with interests in local history, and discussing ideas with them. Working in a group of new researchers, and presenting the work together in the community was the highlight. revealing the facts. I also loved scouring the archives.’ 

Participants were pleased at the opportunity of ‘getting the brain cells going, meeting other people and working out how to continue when the project has finished. i.e. attending Tang Hall History groups and the connections made at these places.’ 

‘We’ve loved working on this project & the opportunity to meet our neighbours. I’m sure we’ll all keep in touch. We’re not stopping now – I’m determined to find out when the Bees Wing was built!’ 

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports York Dance Space’s ‘Mindful Movements’ Project

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months. 

The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. 

One project the grant scheme supported was York Dance Space’s Mindful Movements initiative. Designed to promote physical and mental wellbeing in people over the age of 55 living in York – York Dance Space created a series of activities that participants could take part in in their own homes to positively boost mind, body and soul during lockdown.   

Mindful Movements included five ‘audio movement sessions’ which were available to stream for free online. Taking participants on a journey of music and movement, the sessions guided people through a series of fun creative dance exercises. The audio sessions were created to encourage people to take just fifteen minutes out of their day to bring awareness to their bodies and get moving.  

Running alongside these were live online Zoom sessions focusing on creative dance and  mindfulness which participants could join each week for five weeks. The dance classes included a mixture of taught movement sequences and creative improvisations all delivered in a friendly and welcoming environment. People of all abilities were encouraged to take part, with absolutely no dance experience necessary to get involved. 

The evening mindfulness classes also ran each week – offering short thirty-minute sessions to get participants to take part in mindfulness awareness exercises and move their bodies. 

The sessions were well attended with 43 people taking part in the evening mindfulness classes and 29 in the morning creative dance –  and feedback was very positive. Comments included:  

“l found it released tensions and left me feeling cheerful and physically relaxed.” 

“Creative Dance on a Monday morning is brilliant. It’s relaxing and gets you moving at the same time. It’s gentle and energetic and a totally lovely way to start the week.” 

“I tried the online sessions and Wednesdays classes. They were lovely and calm and just what I could manage. I enjoyed connecting with other people as I’m currently strictly isolating.”  

Hannah Wintie-Hawkins of York Dance Space said, “Movement and dance has been proven to have great benefits for both physical and mental health and with this initiative we were really looking at ways to help boost people’s mental wellbeing through mindfulness.  The sessions were designed to make participants more aware of their bodies, be connected to the present moment in time and to respond physically through moving. We wanted them to be really inclusive so that everyone could participate at their own pace in the comfort of your own home with no experience needed. 

Feedback was really great and it lovely that we were able to bring together a growing community of people all interested in how dance and moving could benefit their health and wellbeing.   We had so many lovely people taking part in this project and we look forward to welcoming them to the studio and meeting them face to face now. We are planning on running more evening mindfulness sessions at a later time and opening this up to all ages so watch this space for more details on that. A huge thank you to everyone who took part and to the Better Care Fund for helping us to put these sessions on.”  

For more details about the Mindful Movement project here: 

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports Converge’s ‘Winter Warmers’ Project

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months.

The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing.

One project the grant scheme supported was Converge’s Winter Warmers Programme, which was designed to promote connections between participants with mental health problems, providing them with fun opportunities to engage as creatives, performers and audience members. Converge is a collaboration between the NHS and York St John University which focuses on offering educational opportunities to people with mental health problems. Throughout the year they offer high quality free of charge courses on a range of topics, all taught by staff and students to help mental health service users across York. The Winter Warmers Programme was a new project specially curated to help lift spirits and reduce isolation which had been amplified by the Covid restrictions in place over the winter months.

The programme included an open mic night, featuring participants from Converge’s music, theatre and creative writing courses, choir sessions culminating in a Christmas Concert, and a Theatre and Storytelling Performance. They held ‘Connecting to Culture’ Sessions, which were delivered by their support team, facilitating conversations with participants on what opportunities were still accessible to keep them connected to their interests over the winter months. Postal packs were also sent out to participants homes including copies of ‘Creating Writing Heals’, an anthology of Converge Creative Writing.

Matt Harper-Hardcastle (Project Development Lead) said: “What has been really significant about this project is that we have been able to expand our provision to keep our students connected to their creativity and to our wider community of learners. Whether that is attending an online theatre performance, joining a Zoom to discuss what is still accessible in the city or being able to perform in or watch an online concert, we were able to provide an outlet and a perspective that isn’t tainted by COVID, and that is so important to us all right now, but particularly for those with mental health problems.”

Four ‘Connecting to Culture’ sessions were held virtually and in person over the winter months with a total of 43 participants attending. These sessions were designed to be fun and engaging, creating opportunities for conversations and signposting to workshops and activities that can be done from home. This included everything form book recommendations, accessible TV, film and media, as well as giving participants a facilitated space to think of what their ‘next steps’ might be.

Emma McKenzie (Converge/Discovery Hub Team Lead) who ran the sessions said: “The questions were designed to support gentle interaction and help people get to

know each other a little better. This worked really well and ended up acting as a promotion for Converge activities that people can get involved in during early 2021, with many using the sessions to then sign up to workshops and courses, based on what they’d discussed. The main benefits being that people can gain ideas and inspiration from others as a group and continue to stay focused on themes that link to classes and involvement with Converge which are outward looking rather than inward focused.”

One of the participants reflected on how attending the sessions has really sparked a new interest for him:

“It really has become a new found enjoyable interest [art]. It has opened up a whole new world and interest for me. Previously I either liked a painting or I didn’t, never considered what lay behind it. I actually started browsing online Gallery’s, looking for paintings that I liked and captured my interest, and then try researching the reasons that led to it, the whys, who’s, etc.”

An informal and friendly online winter open mic performance also took place, providing opportunities for Converge participants and staff to know each other by sharing music, dance, stories, poems, and much more. A Christmas Concert was streamed via YouTube and showcased performers and the full Communitas Choir which has been watched by 180 people.

During the run up to Christmas, Converge’s Creative Writing classes worked on collating their work into a published anthology. This book, along with paper-based activities was posted out to 175 Converge participants (past and current). Feedback was really positive from those who received this with comments including: ‘It reminded me I’m a part of a community’ and ‘This reminded me I’m not alone.’

A final part of the project took place in February 2021 when Converge hosted an online Playback Theatre performance for all participants, in partnership with Playback Theatre York. Playback Theatre is a form of improvised theatre where audience members can tell their real-life stories and have them spontaneously performed by a team of actors and musicians. Presented on the theme of ‘Moments of Change. Moments of Hope’ this performance gave Converge participants the opportunity to reflect on all that had happened since the start of the COVID pandemic; achievements they are proud of and new opportunities they are looking forward to.

Matt Harper-Hardcastle (Project Development Lead) said: “Throughout this project our goal has been to help reduce isolation and loneliness during the winter months and give participants something fun and creative to enjoy. We are really proud of the variety of the activities we were able to put on and hearing the positive feedback from those who took part on how it has impacted their mental health has been wonderful.”

For more details about the courses that Converge offer for adults who use mental health services visit:

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports Pilot Theatre’s ‘Happiness Project – Creative Wellbeing Toolkit’

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months. 

The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. 

One initiative the grant scheme supported was the ‘Happiness Project – Creative Wellbeing Toolkit’, led by theatre company Pilot Theatre. Exploring the themes of joy and happiness, the project set out to create a wellbeing toolkit for LGBTQIA+ young people aged 18-26 which would help support and promote their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Over six sessions held weekly during February and March on Zoom, Pilot Theatre worked with Mindfulness and Movement practitioner Lizzie Wiggs and a group of young LGBTQIA+ people to develop the toolkit. In the sessions Lizzie worked with participants to discuss all things wellbeing and explored the best ways to effectively identify and support self-care needs. The sessions were practical and creative, offering a supportive, safe environment for the sharing of experiences. 

During these six weeks, the young people were encouraged to keep a journal, and through guided prompts were tasked to reflect on their current daily routine and habits.  Weekly creative tasks were also set to help increase connection and engagement away from the screen. These included fun tasks such as  designing their own positive affirmation to be put by their bed, recordings of mindfulness meditations, blackout poetry and free writing, growing sunflower crest seeds, and daily walks in nature. 

From the discussions, activities, and creative responses of those involved in the sessions, a Creative Wellbeing Toolkit is now being created which will be freely available for other young adults and LGBTQIA+ organisations to utilise.  The toolkit resource will be fun and engaging and designed to help improve the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of young people across the country.  

Amanda Smith, Executive Producer & Joint Chief Executive of Pilot Theatre said: “The Happiness Project focuses on exploring what it really means to be happy and this is hugely important in the lives of young people today. With this particular initiative we set out to create an interactive and engaging toolkit that could benefit LGBTQIA+ young people across the country to enhance and improve their wellbeing.  

The sessions we ran with Lizzie were a great opportunity for the young adults we worked with to take time out to reflect on their wellbeing and share experiences in a completely safe space. Over the six week we saw that participants became increasingly more able to notice their habits and behaviours, signs of being stressed or anxious, and could then effectively apply the tools we had been sharing to support them through this.  

We are really pleased with how successful the project was – with feedback from all the young people involved showing that their wellbeing was positively changed by their involvement in the sessions.  It was also fantastic to hear that those we worked with intended to continue exploring their wellbeing creatively in the future, showing the long-lasting impact this kind of work can have.  

We are really excited to launch the Creative Wellbeing toolkit over the coming months which will be shared widely with our cultural and community networks so that it can be utilised by young people across the country.”  

Feedback from participants has been very positive with comments including: 

“This has made such a massive difference in my life, how I start my day affects my mood so much and having a structured time for myself first time has made me feel much calmer and in control. It has also helped me so much with my own self-esteem and boundaries, taking the mornings entirely for myself and giving myself time before anyone else has been really empowering!”

 “The six weeks has absolutely flown by and it’s been an absolute treat to sit down and decompress from the week with such a great group of people! I’ve taken the most away from the meditation practice where I’ve become more aware of my thoughts and accepting them as they arise.” 

Pilot Theatre will be hosting a ‘Tenacious Women’ an online panel event for York Festival of Ideas on Wednesday 16th June. You can register to attend here: 

To follow any of Pilot’s other upcoming projects and participation opportunities please go to  

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports ‘The Groves Artwalk’

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months.

The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing.

One project the grant scheme supported was the ‘The Groves Artwalk’, which aimed to reduce isolation, increase community spirit and enhance residents’ wellbeing within the Groves area of York through building a community of makers and developing a series of art trail events.

Focusing on reaching the most vulnerable and isolated members of the community, the initiative set out to engage with residents through creativity activity prompts and putting together a trail that the wider community could enjoy.

At the start of the project, participants received a pack with an assortment of art materials and weekly prompts to help inspire their artwork. From drawing and clay modelling to collages and painting, the weekly activities were designed to cover a broad spectrum of different art forms. At the end of each week, the makers displayed their works in the windows, with a map created to show the art trail promoted via social media.

Participants could also get involved in weekly video calls to share their work and discuss ideas, helping to boost social contact and interactions between the group.

Natalie McKeown who led the project said “The arts are proven to have a hugely positive effect on building a sense of community and enhancing wellbeing, and with this project we really wanted to harness that to help improve the lives of local residents.

Loneliness is a known problem in the area and reducing isolation was really at the heart of this initiative, as well as giving people a chance to try something new and be creative. The weekly prompts were designed to encourage people to work with different art forms and develop new hobbies that they can easily do at home.

Feedback from participants was really positive and it was great to see that by the end of the project, 75% of participants reported that felt they were part of a community. Before we started, almost half (43%) of participants reported that their average mood during the week leading up to the project had been somewhat low or depressed. However by the end of the project, zero participants reported feeling low or depressed during the previous week which was really great to hear that the activities had had such a positive impact.

Despite the necessary restrictions with Covid meaning we couldn’t deliver the sessions face to face, it was really lovely to see the participants coming together virtually and making

meaningful connections. Over the weeks the group really bonded, sharing their art pieces and ideas and keeping in touch via messaging between sessions.

Thank you to the Better Care Fund for enabling us to put on this project and to all the participants who took part so enthusiastically and created some amazing pieces.”

For updates on future Artwalk projects, join the mailing list by emailing Natalie at and keep an eye on

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports St Nicks ‘Journey Through Winter’s Heart’ Project

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months. 

The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. 

One project the grant scheme supported was Journey Through Winter’s Heartled by local charity St Nicks. The project set out to boost spirits during the winter season and increase social connection through promoting the power of nature and creativity.  

Offering a series of fun craft workshops and creative nature explorations sessions, participants were able to learn about nature and get involved in a range of activities – from candle making and willow crafting, to poetry and games.  

One hundred York residents were involved in these sessions which were aimed at increasing social connection – particularly within marginalised or disadvantaged groups and those negatively impacted by the pandemic. The charity worked with groups such as the York Mosque, LGBT Forum, Wilberforce Trust, York Carers and Changing Lives to ensure the sessions were as inclusive as possible and were tailored to meet the different groups’ needs.  

Despite lockdown restrictions, the St Nicks team quickly adapted to create a blended offer – incorporating both online Zoom calls with opportunities for people to get out and find objects in nature. Craft materials were hand-delivered to participants helping to encourage more people to get involved and the team worked hard to remove any barriers to inclusion, even providing technical support for those who had never used Zoom before. 

Esther Smith Charity Support Manager at St Nicks said “We’ve been aware for a long time of the powerful impact that connecting with nature can have on people’s mental wellbeing and we wanted these sessions to be a really inclusive way to give residents across the city opportunities to get creative and enjoy nature. We were really keen to promote the message that connecting to nature doesn’t necessarily mean going out for a long hike – it incorporates all sorts of things, such as crafting and getting out to forage for materials, writing poetry, nature journaling or simply being outside feeding the birds. 

“Our aim with this project was to really help local people feel as connected as possible this winter – both with nature and with each other, and to help beat the winter blues. We wanted to offer fun, creative activities that would also give opportunities for socialising and online discussion to help people forge lasting links with each other and their local community.  

Feedback from participants has been hugely positive and we are really proud that 100% of those who responded to our survey said the sessions reduced their isolation and improved their physical and mental wellbeing. We found that the conversation really flowed in the sessions and it was a great way of connecting people and giving them opportunities to learn more about nature and the work we do here at St Nicks.  

What has also been lovely about this project are the continued links we have with the groups that we partnered with – being able to develop these relationships is really important to us and allows us to tailor our ongoing activities using their feedback.  

Thank you to the Better Care Fund for helping us to put on these sessions which really allowed people to come together virtually to enjoy nature and be creative, creating some much-needed social connection, especially over this winter period.” 

St Nicks have a number of ongoing projects and opportunities for residents to be involved with – these include: 

  • Bushcraft: a hands-on, practical experience for those aged 14+ to develop skills and knowledge that can be applied to survive and thrive in a natural environment.  
  • Green Influencers – a scheme to support young people aged 10-14 years to make a difference to the local community and environment through youth social action projects benefitting schools and communities in the area. 
  • Access to Inclusion- St Nicks is working alongside local partners and stakeholders in order to provide mentoring, training and engaging activities for participants, helping people to develop their own skills and moving them closer to employment market.  

For more information about the charity visit 

Meet the Shambles Market Trader: Zulia Finnigan

Trading on Shambles Market since 2016, Zulia Finnigan is a local artist who creates beautiful and unique feather-based paintings.  Combining her love of nature with her creative talent, Zulia has a wide range of intricately hand-painted feather designs for customers to choose from – depicting everything from birds and flowers to animals and insects.  

During lockdown, Zulia continued to receive commissions and sell her artwork via her Instagram and Facebook pages and has now returned to trade at the r Shambles Market three days a week – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Over the lockdown period, Zulia also developed a new passion for crochet and in her spare time has been crafting some stylish and vibrant handbags that customers can also now purchase from her stall at the market. 

A long-time artist of landscapes and city views, Zulia has been painting on feathers for over 5 years and has a real passion for using this rare medium for her beautifully colourful designs. Initially starting out by selling her artwork at craft and art fairs, Zulia found the feedback from customers was so positive that she was keen to progress to taking a regular stall every week on Shambles Market.  

Zulia explains: “I absolutely love creating my feather paintings and offering my customers something really unique and different. With my pieces I’ve been inspired by my passion for nature and I love to create intricate paintings of my favourite birds and animals. I often get feedback from people that they have never seen art pieces like this before and over the years I’ve had such positive reactions to my work which has been really lovely.  

I have many customers who return again and again to buy my feathers and I am very proud that they have flown all around the world – reaching countries like Canada, Australia, USA, Indonesia and China. I also have a lot of York residents who buy my paintings, as well as tourists looking to pick up something a little different as a memento of their visit to our lovely city.  

During lockdown I’ve been busy working on lots of new designs to restock my stall and have also found a new hobby in my crochet-work! The crocheting is something I really enjoy and it’s lovely to be able to share my passion for this with my customers too.  

It’s been great to return to the market and getting back out to chat to my customers in person. Building relationships with my customers and the other traders is one of my favourite things about being on the market and I am so glad to be back. Please do come on down to my stall and have a chat with me about my artwork!” 

See more of Zulia’s amazing designs by heading to Shambles Market on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.  

Case Study – THOR’S Tipi

THOR’S Tipi, a national well-loved brand, will be familiar to many as one of the staple experiences at York Christmas Market and other Christmas markets across the country and was originally founded right here in York. The organisation first started as a company providing tents for special occasions and events, such as weddings – and whilst the weddings business was successful in spring-summer time, winters were a traditionally quiet period. This is how the idea for THOR’S Tipi offering drinks and a cosy place to relax after busy Christmas shopping during the festive period was born.  

THOR’S Tipi first approached Make It York in 2015 with the idea of doing a ‘tipi bar’ at the York Christmas Markets. This was a start of the long-lasting relationship that has seen THOR’S Tipi grow and expand over the years. By 2019 the company was operating within seven Christmas markets from London to Edinburgh, with each site offering unique features. Special attention is paid to every detail, and the experiences are designed to offer the best experience to all customers.  

Amanda, the co-owner of THOR’S Tipi, says: 

“The name THOR’S came from York’s Viking history. We see York as our home and wanted to have a connection between our business and the city’s heritage. The team at Make It York have actually helped us with the choice for the name, and it’s been fun to work with them on different projects and collaboration ideas. Dominic and Rachel in the events team are knowledgeable, creative and constantly push us through the innovation process motivating us to come up with new concepts every time”.  

To THOR’S the Christmas Market is everything, as the business was born to create a place for people to dwell and relax during the busy and exciting festive period. The cancellation of the 2020 York Christmas Market due to the pandemic was unfortunate, however THOR’S supported the decision that put people’s health & safety first and are looking forward to returning to their “home” – Parliament Street, in 2021.  

2020 was a year of reflection, however, THOR’S continued to work with local organisations on new projects and opportunities. During summer 2020, THOR’S worked with the York BID to create an outdoor hospitality place at College Green. This year, from April 12th and the beginning of the relaxation of the national lockdown in the UK, THOR’S are operating an outdoor seating space on Parliament Street for customers from nearby businesses to use – right in the heart of York city centre. 

Photo credit: THOR’S and Joe Dodsworth Photography

The relationship THOR’S have created with Make It York over five years, helps to bring together various York businesses, opening the door for THOR’S to use a network of suppliers, at the same time supporting local producers. Dominic Berry, Senior Health & Safety Event Manager and Rachel Harvey, Development Manager from Make It York have been working closely with THOR’S for many years, offering support, sharing knowledge and expertise of city centre events and making connections.  

Amanda adds: 

“Events experience is undoubtably one of Make It York’s strengths. Dominic and Rachel are like a font of knowledge, they can advise on health and safety, support with licensing and planning proposals and help to transform our idea into a successful city centre event. Over time, THOR’S has grown into a national, much loved brand – whose roots belong in York. And ultimately without Make It York’s trust in our offer and ability to deliver, we wouldn’t be here today.” 

Find out more about THOR’S Tipi here:  

Meet the Shambles Market Trader: Kevin Tuohy from Bags of Style

Trading on Shambles Market for over six years, Kevin Tuohy runs ‘Bags of Style’ – a business selling stylish handbags and purses, with a diverse variety of designs and colours on offer. Sourcing the very best quality products from trade fairs across the country, Kevin is passionate about providing customers with a wide range of choice and the opportunity to show off their own unique style.  

During lockdown, Bags of Style has continued to operate as an online business with new products regularly added to When the market reopens later this month, Kevin plans to be back welcoming customers every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday – with a wide variety of new products available.   

Kevin Tuohy owner of Bags of Style comments: “I’m really looking forward to returning to the market and meeting up again with colleagues, friends and customers. Things will undoubtedly be different, however I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things and doing what I love most – trading.  

“One of the biggest draws for me is that no two days are ever the same – I love meeting the other traders and forming bonds, and of course interacting with my lovely customers. We get lots of regulars who return time and time again – looking for gifts for loved ones or a treat for themselves. We are happy to get feedback from our customers and will always do our best to accommodate requests for different colours and order them specially in for collection the following week.”  

In addition to running Bags of Style, Kevin is also a part of the York Market Traders Forum –  taking on the role of Chair in 2017 and working alongside the other traders and Make It York to develop the market.  

Kevin continues: “Before the pandemic hit the market was really flourishing and it’s fantastic to be a part of that. Over the years the market has really developed, with a hugely diverse range of traders and a real quality offering. From established traders, to brand new innovative businesses, the market offers a real varied mix for customers and we are very proud of this diversity.   

Since 2017 I’ve been a part of the York Market Traders Forum and this has been a very enriching and rewarding experiencing – I’ve learnt a lot about how a market operates and have enjoyed working together with my fellow traders and the Make It York team.   

What I think is really important to point out is that the Shambles Market traders are really like a sort of extended family to each other. Trading is a way of life and we all look out for one other – offering support through thick and thin, a real sense of camaraderie and a close social network. It’s lovely to be part of the community of traders on Shambles market who are all so passionate about what they do and I can’t wait for us all to be reunited when we are able to reopen again.”  

Find out more about Bags of Style here: , follow on Instagram or Facebook.  

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