Community Arts Network (CAN) was set up in 1994 by Athos Pittordou and Mary Braid with a management committee as a voluntary organisation providing inclusive childcare and training for people working with children. It also aimed to promote the arts to children and young people.
Twenty two years later we have grown to be the largest provider of out of school childcare in North Devon. Highly appreciated by the families who use our services and the professionals who work with them. We have grown as an organisation by building on our strengths and responding to families needs. We have been approached by schools to work with them to establish quality childcare in their settings.
The inclusion of disabled children into all our childcare schemes has been rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted Inspectors and we have featured as a good practice case study and appeared in publications by KIDS a national charity promoting inclusive play. We believe that all children have a right to play, and work to ensure that children can get the most from their time with us.
When, 14 years ago, the disabled children who attended our clubs were growing up and wanted more youth type provision, we set up the CAN SAY youth club for disabled young people. With the government agenda of Aiming High for Disabled Children, helping families with the pressure of caring for a disabled child and disabled children and young people having access to support for leisure activities. We set up the I CAN short breaks project, which matches disabled children and young people with an enabler, so they can support them at Arts Play, CAN Play or out in the community. When researching the project, young people and families thought that small groups would be fun and so we now have the I CAN Socials or adventures as the children call them.
Although over the years we have trained or supported the training of many child workers over the years, there is no budget for training so we are using our space for other creative projects. We still have a passion for all children’s right to play and to be creative.
In 2006, we became a Community Interest Company (CIC) which was a new legal status for social entrepreneurs who wanted to benefit the community. The organisation can trade and any profits go back into supporting the work or setting up new projects. If we cease trading we have a named charity that would receive our assets.
Athos Pittordou has a background in Arts Administration and Event Management, coming to North Devon in 1990 to work for the Beaford Centre and Plough Arts Centres, as the assistant Director/Programme Manager, before setting up CAN in 1994. As playleader at CAN Play Bideford and Arts Play Bideford he has NVQ level 3 in Playwork. He has been playing Samba for 20 years and teaches and leads Samba Baia, the Bideford Community Samba band. He also drives the minibus for all the clubs.
Mary Braid has a background in working with children. In fact the first time she came to Barnstaple she was dressed as a dinosaur as part of Rumpus Children’s Theatre company. She has degrees in Theatre Arts with Education studies and Playwork and has been teaching Playwork and Childcare for the past 20 years. She is Playleader at CAN Play Barnstaple and Arts Play Barnstaple. She can sometimes be seen following the Samba Band as a Firebird.