Case Studies

Leith Community Pottery CIC

Otherwise known as the Potter of Leith offers free and subsidised access to creative activity to those living with poor mental health

Andy Lang (aka The Potter of Leith) set up Leith Community Pottery CIC to help those struggling with their mental health. The organisation makes and sells high quality, reduction fired, stoneware ceramics as well as professional tuition to the general public.  

Andy then uses his profits to run one-off weekend workshops, for free to anyone whose mental health is a challenge for them. These are offered via self-referral, making them accessible to all who feel they would benefit from accessing the workshops. Andy also runs 10 week courses where 1 out of 6 places is offered for free to those referred from a mental health professional (either NHS or 3rd sector organisation). 

“Since August 2019, we have engaged with 78 such beneficiaries and hope to increase our impact as the relaxing of Covid restrictions allows us to increase numbers participating in classes.” 

We spoke to Andy to learn more about his passion, and what he has planned for The Leith Pottery Collective.  

Why did you want to set up a social enterprise?  

I’d been made redundant from my post in Health and Social Care in May 2018.  

I’d worked with mental health, homelessness, addiction and complex needs for 14 years prior to my redundancy. I’d also been teaching pottery in Community Education since I earned my degree in Ceramics in the mid-eighties. 

So I had a commitment to social welfare and also to creativity and pottery in particular, seeing it as a process which produced more than clay pots. I believe working with clay stimulates well-being. 

With the relentless digitalisation of Edinburgh Council’s Adult Education booking systems there also came a distinct change in the demographic of those accessing the courses on offer. Many social groups were being excluded. I wanted to address that. 

I wanted to set up a more community based asset that would offer access to workshops and courses through a variety of routes rather than just via an on-line, credit card based booking system. 

What challenges did you face when you first started?  

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing! I was unclear about the definition/structures of social enterprise and I was also in need of financial support.  In the beginning, I had nothing. No premises, no equipment, no real funding streams, apart from my savings and the remains of my redundancy money. I was working in a shared space where I was unable to bring in students, so my plans were impossible to progress. 

Andy was successful in obtaining Start It funding which enabled him to pay his first 5 months of rent on new premises, as well covering a few other basic expenses. From there his social enterprise really took off.  

Do you have any tips for social entrepreneurs?  

I think you need to be clear and serious about what your community payback is going to be and focus on making it actually happen. I’ve found that customers often come to me, at least in part, because they know that, as well as getting quality products/services, they’re also contributing towards something bigger and worthwhile. That small bit of philanthropy is worth something to people. 

I crowdfunded a fair bit of the cost of my start-up needs and I think that was possible because there was a clear, identifiable social purpose to my project. 

Mental health affects everyone and I was open about having lived experience as well as being clear and specific about my aims and the benefits of creative activity in a social prescribing context. 

I’d never crowdfunded before, nor made much use of social media. But it worked and I think it’s worth considering as a start-up strategy (although it’s bloody hard work, no kidding!). 

What are your plans for The Leith Community Pottery CIC moving forward?  

Future plans include increasing the number of opportunities to run free sessions, starting children’s courses and workshops and involving more volunteers. 

Ultimately, I’d also like to offer work experience opportunities to secondary pupils and also look into the possibility of formal apprenticeships. 

“Just Enterprise and Firstport has helped me with moral support, start-up funding, on-going encouragement and by providing access to professional services such as web-based learning.” 

Visit the Leith Community Pottery CIC website to find out more.