Monday, 19 August 2019

Helping the Grace Little Centre

IT is a fantastic facility. The Grace Little Centre is also a vital facility for young people with learning disabilities. But we need help to maintain the high level of support it gives.

That is why for the rest of this year, and the whole of 2020 in particular, we will be concentrating our fundraising efforts on bringing in much-needed money for the centre, in north Carlisle, which opened in 2012 after £1m was raised through public appeals and a legacy from Grace Little, whose son Frank had Down's Syndrome.

So we are again appealing to the public and the business community to come forward to help us.

Sheila Gregory, our CEO, explains: "We are very proud of the Grace Little Centre - but it does cost a lot of money. The running costs are about £150,000 every year and for the last few years we have been subsidising the running of the centre to the tune of £30,000 from our own reserves.

"This is not sustainable. And this is why we are appealing to the local community and the business sector to help us."

The Grace Little Centre, right next door to the main entrance of Kingmoor Park North industrial estate, is a fabulous place which provides for young people with even the most complex disabilities. It also is home to our award-winning Independence Studio which has made short films tackling issues such as hate crime, mate crime and sexual exploitation with the mate crime film winning the top prize at the National Crimebeat Awards in London.

Facilities at the centre - or the GLC as we like to shorten it too! - include four fully accessible bedrooms with hoists; accessible bathrooms; IT suite; sensory room; soft play area; well-equipped kitchen with work surfaces that have adjustable heights; gardens with fully accessible play equipment and a 'wildlife' area.

The centre also hosts many training sessions. Carlisle Mencap staff are trained to support very complex needs of the young people, including tube feeding, epilepsy, handling and moving, and challenging behaviours. We also have parent support groups, parent training, staff training, parent-and-child sessions and family contact sessions - so it is a very busy place!

It also hosts various fundraising events. The latest took part last Saturday, August 17, when a barbecue was held, along with a super tombola and a 'Name the Elephant' competition. We were delighted when the High Sheriff of Cumbria, Marcia Reid Fotheringham, accompanied by her husband Jim, visited the barbecue event and spokes to many of the guests, staff and service users, as well as looking round the facilities of the GLC - and I know for a fact she was seriously impressed because she told me!

Ironically, back on May 1, the centre hosted an Open Day/Business Breakfast where the theme of the event was philanthropy and how businesses and Third Sector groups like Carlisle Mencap can work together for the benefit of the wider community.

Well, we certainly need the help of the business community now because as Sheila said, as a charity we cannot afford to keep ploughing thousands of pounds of our reserves into the GLC for years to come - however vital the centre is to people with learning difficulties and their families. And there is a lot of them out there that need this centre and our help.

So come on - help us to maintain this wonderful facility. Everything from the donation of a raffle or tombola prize to sponsorship worth a couple of thousands of pounds for one of our top fundraising events is a boon to us.

For example, the annual food bill at GLC is £1,460, insurance is £4,650, and repairs and renewals cost us £8,500 a year. So to pinch the well-known slogan of a certain supermarket, every little helps.

Three of our big events planned for next year are a fashion show (end of February/early March); a Giant Zip Line event for the early summer; and 'A Day At The Races' corporate event at Carlisle racecourse (either in June or September).. Any company wanting to help out by sponsoring one of those events - we would love to hear from you!

And we'd love to hear from you about ANY fundraising ideas you may have, or if you want to help out in any way. 

Please contact SHEILA GREGORY or myself - PHIL TAYLOR - on 01228 674393 or email or

#linkedin #fundraising #learningdisabilities #gracelittlecentre

Monday, 5 August 2019

Tasty fundraiser!

THE weather was great for our recent garden party to mark the reopening of the new-look California House centre for adults - now let's hope the sun shines again as our focus shifts to the children's centre at Grace Little and the forthcoming Sizzling Summer Barbecue event!

Carlisle Mencap has held barbecues in the gardens at the Grace Little Centre before and we hope this next one, on Saturday, August 17, between 12.30pm and 4pm will be a fun-packed occasion for all the family AND raise much-needed funds for our charity.

Admission will be free - you just have to pay for your food and soft drinks. We plan to have great-tasting sausages and burgers as well as vegetarian/vegan options. The Grace Little Centre is on Crindledyke Estate road, next door to the main entrance of Kingmoor Park North industrial estate.

As well as tasty food, we will be having a tombola and also continuing with our 'Name The Elephant' fundraiser!

The 'Name The Elephant' fundraiser will be making its debut the week before the barbecue - in other words this coming Saturday, August 10, when for the first time Carlisle Mencap will be having a stall at the popular Dalston Show. We hope to raise £100 through this - we have a very cuddly toy elephant (worth £100 - see pic below) and you pay £1 to have a go and at trying to guess its name - we are not giving away its gender! - and once all 100 spaces on our chart are taken we will reveal the name!

So please come along to the barbecue - and also come and say hello to us on our stand at Dalston Show - because the more money we make, the more day trips and activities we can provide for our service users!

And speaking of raising money, we have been looking ahead to 2020 and starting to draw up plans for our major fundraising 'spectaculars'. The three we have in mind are as follows:

1: TANDEM SKY DIVES: From the airfield at Flookburgh, south Cumbria. It costs £230 per person but if we were to have five or more doing the tandem jumps on one day we would get a £10 per person discount.

2: SPONSORED WALK ACROSS MORECAMBE BAY: These famous guided walks go across the spectacular Morecambe Bay at certain times of the year. Eden Valley Hospice are doing just such a walk on September 8. Setting off from Arnside and usually ending up at Kent’s Bank, the walks are between six to eight miles depending on the route and tides etc, and are suitable for any children and adult comfortable with walking three to four hours at a time. We would look to get at least 10 of the walkers sponsored but certain service users could join in too on the day to make it a memorable day out.

3: HADRIAN’S WALL WALK: A third possibility is for a group of people to do a sponsored walk along the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. We may do this in teams of four, relay style.  

If anybody is interested in taking part in any of the above - or two of them, or even all three! - then please get in touch with me, Phil Taylor, on 01228 674393 or email 

More details on the above three events will follow towards the end of the year so make sure you keep on eye Carlisle Mencap's website at as well as our Twitter account - @CarlisleMencap - and Facebook page -

And don't forget to pop along for a burger or hot dog at the Sizzling Summer Barbecue on August 17!

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Active August

AFTER a very busy June then a quieter July, here at Carlisle Mencap we are getting ready for an Active August!

Before I go on to tell you about the August events, a quick word about our fabulous garden party to mark the opening of the new-look California House centre for adults in California Road on July 12.

Despite dodgy weather in the days running-up to the event, I was assured by more Mencap experienced colleagues that the day would be fine as it never rains on a California House garden party - and so it proved!

With guests including the Mayor of Carlisle and her consort, and the city's MP, the event was a huge success and featured lots of coverage on local television, online and in the newspapers. 

So many thanks to all those who took part and to all the staff - especially the likes of Angela, Scott, Molly, and the rest of the California House team - who made it such a successful day. The Mayor of Carlisle, Marilyn Bowman, wrote me an official letter after the event saying how much she had enjoyed her day and what a privilege it was to see the hard work that goes into running California House.

Before we move on, a big thank-you to the teams of staff from Carlisle College and the Gillford Centre in Upperby for the excellent work they put in as part of their visit to tidy up and makeover the California House garden during the Give A Day To The City Week project. They did us proud!

So, on to August! And first off on Saturday, August 3 is the Target Wrestling event at Ullswater Community College in Wetheriggs Lane, Penrith, with doors opening at 6pm and all the action getting underway at 6.30pm.

Target Wresting is the top promoter for wrestling events in the north of England and southern Scotland so this show, suitable for all ages, is bound to be a great night's entertainment. Tickets cost just £8 and there is no booking fee. To get yours go to…/target-wrestling-li… 

The following Saturday, Carlisle Mencap will for the first time have a presence at the Dalston Show, one of Cumbria's top - and growing - attractions over the summer.

I've always had a soft spot for the Dalston Show. My wide was born and bred in the pleasant village and so we have always made a point of going along as family to this event for many years now. And it is growing in popularity and attractions, so we are thrilled to be taking part by having a stand at the event's Village Showfield venue.

I will be there from 9am onwards and we hope to have several members of Carlisle Mencap members coming along on the day to chat to visitors and to get them to take part in our tombola and other fundraising games!

The third Saturday in this run of events - August 17 - sees us in the gardens of our Grace Little Centre for a Sizzling Summer Barbecue from 12.30pm to 4pm. Admission to this event will be free - you just have to pay for your food and drink on the day. And our special guest will be the High Sheriff of Cumbria!

There will be more details about the barbecue event nearer the time on the Carlisle Mencap website page as well as on our Facebook page and Twitter account - and I will also be discussing it more in my next blog.

So - as always please, please, please try and get along to one, two or all three of these fantastic events for all the family in August. Your support is always welcome AND it helps provide much-needed funds. Spread the word too among family, friends and work colleagues.

And it goes without saying we are always grateful for volunteers - especially to help on the stand at Dalston Show and/or at the barbecue on August 17. If you would like to help, contact me - PHIL TAYLOR - on 01228 674393 email

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

California here we come!

IT'S all about California this week - not the land of the Beach Boys, oranges, LA and, rather more topically and worryingly, earthquakes - but a California a lot closer to home.

For this Friday, July 12, a garden party is being held outdoors at our centre for adults - California House - to mark the reopening of this revamped and extended vital facility situated in California Road in Kingstown, Carlisle.

An appeal was launched back in September 2017 and now, almost two years and £200,000 later, we are all set for Carlisle MP John Stevenson and our chairwoman Christine Bowditch to cut the ribbon on Friday to officially reopen the centre which can sleep up to five adult service users at a time.

Taking place between 12 midday and 3pm, the party will - weather permitting and as I write the forecast isn't too bad! - be held in the spruced up gardens at California House. Spruced up big-style last week thanks to the marvellous Give A Day To The City Week initiative which saw teams from Carlisle College - who last year took part in the same initiative but by doing up the gardens of our Grace Little Centre for children - and the Gillford Centre in Upperby, Carlisle, ably assisted by some of our staff and service users, building new summerhouses, painting fences, dredging the pond and planting flowers.

So a huge thank-you to those people involved and also to Cochranes Nurseries in Longtown who donated many colourful plants to the project!

First opened 23 years ago, California House provides respite care for adults. The purpose of the facility is to support guests who are having a short break from their family home, to enhance their independent living skills, and also their social and emotional skills. One of the main priorities is to support the client to become involved in community activities of their own choice.

Carlisle Mencap’s chief executive officer, Sheila Gregory, said: “California House is a vital facility, providing care for up to five adults at a time. This extension and refurbishment work means we can provide excellent, state-of-the-art facilities including a new sensory room with overhead projector and a fabulous kitchen/diner. We are very grateful to all those trusts, foundations, groups and businesses who helped fund this much-needed revamp and refurbishment. And we look forward to showing off the new-look California House on Friday.” 

Carlisle Mencap would like to thank the following for their financial support with regards the California House project: Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Clothworkers Foundation, Cumbria County Council, Garfield Weston Foundation, Hadfield Trust, Key Fund, Newcastle Building Society and Wolfson Foundation.

Meanwhile, speaking of Give A Day To The City which I was earlier, Carlisle Mencap did their bit this year by helping in the transformation of the Portland Square area off Warwick Road in Carlisle.

Joining forces with others including teams from Cumberland Building Society, Trinity School and Carlisle City Council, team leader Rebecca Carey, member Bex Aitken and my good self donned the protective gloves and joined in the painting of the metal railings surrounding this garden area.

And this also leads us nicely on to hearty congratulations to Bex and our CEO Sheila who were nominated for The Cumberland News Community Heroes Awards. And, at the prestigious awards ceremony at Carlisle Racecourse last Thursday, Sheila won the coveted Person of the Year category while Bex was Specially Commended in the Volunteer of the Year category.

So we've been making the headlines for all the  right reasons recently and long may this continue - and let's hope we have some true California sunshine to beam down on us this Friday as we enjoy the garden party and reopening.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Learning Disability Week and a wonderful weekend

WE are busy at the moment. Well, a lot of my colleagues are very busy most days of the week in this job, looking after those hundreds of people up and down the county with a learning disability, and a fantastic job they do too! - but I am beavering away, for once, as we approach probably our busiest period of 2018/19.

Last week's blog mentioned the feast of fundraising we are preparing for the weekend of June 14-16, and I will recap on that later - because we still need people and volunteers to join in! - but first of all a look ahead to national Learning Disability Week which officially starts on Monday, June 17.

The theme of this year's UK-wide week is sport and inclusion. It is a well-known fact that sport and physical activities can help reduce loneliness and isolation, and improve the health and well-being of people with a learning disability, giving them a sense of greater social importance and empowerment. 

The hope is that putting on events which see mainstream and people with a learning disability playing and competing side by side will improve attitudes in the community and dispel negative views towards people with a learning disability.

With all that in mind, Carlisle Mencap has won funding from the Royal Mencap Society to stage a LDW Sports Day at the Harraby Cycle Circuit/Sports Campus in Edgehill Road, Carlisle, on Sunday June 23 between 11am and 3pm. And the good news is, the whole event is free!

It is aimed at getting mainstream people and those with disabilities of all ages to interact and take part in sporting activities together.
The event will feature a 'Mile For Mencap' challenge where people of all ages can walk, run or cycle round the superb recently-opened cycle circuit at Harraby, but we also hope to have gym demonstrations, football, and possibly other sports like boccia taking place.
Interested in getting involved? Well we would love you to play a part in this event and bring along any sporting equipment, bikes, balls, etc. Feel free to bring along a stand/gazebo, promotional material etc. Like I say - it is FREE!
So just get in touch with me if you want to take part of for more information. As always, my contact details are at the bottom. 

Meanwhile, in conjunction with People First at Milbourne Street, Carlisle, on Thursday, June 20, at midday, Carlisle Mencap have chosen the People First Conference Centre to host and showcase their award winning in-house films based around mate crime, hate crime and sexual exploitation as part of Learning Disability Week. The films were made at their in-house Independence Studio; which is a film-making facility at the Grace Little Centre for children. If you are in Carlisle that day and are free, please come along and watch the films. Some of the 'stars'  will also be in attendance to answer any questions on how the film was made and also how we can get involved in the future!  

Quick reminder too that Carlisle Mencap will be one of the organisations taking part on Thursday, June 6 in a Volunteer's Fair at Carlisle Library between 10am and 1pm to mark National Volunteers' Week. And we certainly could do with any volunteers out there happy to help us out during our forthcoming series of fundraising events!

And I also hope you lot out there have got your quiz teams together, are ready to listen to some classic rock live on stage, and are prepared to be amazed at the daredevils bungee jumping - all between Friday, June 14 to Sunday June 16. 

Here's a reminder...

FRIDAY JUNE 14: 7.30pm to 9.30pm:
QUIZ NIGHT: Cumbrian Cheesecake Company’s Café, Infirmary Road, Carlisle CA2  7AN
Thinking caps on for first of series of fundraising quizzes for Carlisle Mencap—a great way to kick off a special weekend and week! Teams of 2, 3 or 4. £2 per person. Call the café on 01228 558992 to book a table.
SATURDAY JUNE 15: 6.30pm to 11.30pm:
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? The Brickyard, Fisher Street, Carlisle CA3 8RN 
Europe’s top Jimi Hendrix tribute band in  fundraising gig for Carlisle Mencap! Plus support from J Lewis. Tickets £10 (£1 booking fee) in advance from
SUNDAY JUNE 16: 11am to 5pm:
SPONSORED BUNGEE JUMPS/SUMMER FUN DAY:   Creighton RFC, Sycamore Lane, Carlisle CA1 3SR 
People of all ages raising money for Carlisle Mencap by jumping from 145ft crane! Plus lots of other attractions like  children’s
entertainment, stall and refreshments. £5/£2.50 admission.

For more details on any of the above, contact events & fundraising officer PHIL TAYLOR by email on or call 01228  674393


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

June will be just jumping!

IT'S fair to say that we here at Carlisle Mencap are praying for a flaming June!

If some of the weekend papers are to be believed, forecasters are predicting a sizzling summer for us here in the UK - well let's hope so, because we have a feast of fundraising fun lined up which we hope will help swell the coffers of Carlisle Mencap.

So this blog is, unashamedly, a rallying cry to all Carlisle Mencap trustees, members, staff, supporters, their family and friends, their work colleagues, their second removed cousin's window cleaner, the general public, the world's population, to get involved in any which way they can to help us make the coming month a roaring success!

The focal point will be the weekend of June 15-16. This mark's the climax of the charity's 50th anniversary celebrations. Hot on its heels will be national Learning Disability Week 2019 in which we are heavily involved.

So eyes down, and here we go on what's happening - and how you can help/get involved!

1: Date & time - FRIDAY, JUNE 14. 7.30pm-9.30pm
Venue: Cumbrian Cheesecake Company Cafe, Infirmary Road, Carlisle CA2 7AN
Event: Carlisle Mencap Quiz Night

Details: Get your teams of two, three, four or five together - it costs just £2 per person - for the first of what we hope will be a series of fundraising quizzes at the cafe. General knowledge quiz suitable for people aged 16 and over. Raffle prizes, delicious individual cheesecakes available, plus teas, coffees, soft and alcoholic drinks. To book a table, call the cheesecake cafe on 01228 558992.

2: Date & time - SATURDAY, JUNE 15. 6.30pm-11.30pm
Venue: The Brickyard, Fisher Street, Carlisle, CA3 8RN

Event: Are You Experienced? Jimi Hendrix tribute band gig. Plus support from J Lewis 
Details: We are thrilled to have Europe's top Jimi Hendrix tribute band playing a special gig for Carlisle Mencap at this popular venue. All the hits like Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, All Along The Watchtower and many more. Great support too from Keswick-born J Lewis who has a wide range of influences from hip-hop to rock, folk to indie. Tickets available on the door but cheaper - £10 plus £1 booking fee - in advance from If you can spare sometime to help with stewarding on the night, get in touch! Free admittance to the gig if you do!

3: Date & time - SUNDAY, JUNE 16. 11am-5pm
Venue: Creighton Rugby Club, Sycamore Lane, Carlisle CA1 3SR
Event: Sponsored Bungee Jumps/Summer Fun Day
Details: People of all ages - around 50 in total but there's still time to register! - wil be doing sponsored bungee jumps from a 145ft crane! There will also be the chance for people to do Cage Rides to the top of the crane - but without having to do the jump! Plus stalls, refreshments etc. Again, if you can spare sometime to help on the day of what promises to be a busy and memorable occasion, please get in touch. And if you, or you know of somebody, who would like to have a stand/table on the day, tell them to contact me NOW! Admission to the event will be £5 with £2.50 concessions, service users and support workers get in free.

4: Date & time - SUNDAY, JUNE 23. 11am-3pm
Venue: Harraby Cycle Circuit/Sports Campus, Edgehill Road, Carlisle CA1 3PP

Events: Learning Disability Week Sports Day
Details: Mainstream and disabled people of all ages getting together for a few hours of sporting activities and fun including a 'Mile For Mencap' challenge on foot or bike around the new cycle track at Harraby. There will also be gym demonstrations. Once again, any offers of help on the day to make this event run smoothly will be gratefully received.

So there we have it! And those are just the events we've got finalised - there maybe more to follow!

As always, for more information, if you'd like a stand at the fun day, if you'd like to do a bungee jump, if you'd like to volunteer with helping out at any of these events, if you want to take part in the sports day, get in touch we me - PHIL TAYLOR - at:
01228 674393 or 07341 865382 or email

* To enter the quiz, DON'T contact me - please call the cafe direct on 01228 558992.
* For tickets to The Brickyard concert - go to or

We look forward to people supporting these vital fundraising events - and they are sure to be a LOT of fun!


The Creighton Rugby Club

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Volunteers make a huge difference

IT'S not just donations, sponsorship money and fundraising initiatives that can make a big difference to charities - people giving up their precious free time to volunteer are just as important.

We here at Carlisle Mencap are no different. We really do NEED volunteers to help us provide the increasing demand for support and services that more than 500 adults and children with learning disabilities and their families across Cumbria rely on us for.

For instance Number 1: One of the groups we run for young adults is the Orchid Club. It takes place at The Sands Centre, Carlisle's main sports and leisure venue, most Wednesday nights between 7.15pm and 8.30pm. Here, our service users can play sports like bowls and badminton, games like a giant Connect 4, and generally socialise and make friends. But we are running out of volunteers to help this popular group continue on a regular basis. It's just a couple of hours one night a week.

For instance Number 2: Drivers. We run clubs on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, and these often involve day trips and visits to places like museums, working farms, leisure centres. Our staff do a fantastic job driving our service users and team leaders around but they often have to carry out these duties in their spare time. So we are always on the lookout for people who have wheels - and time - to spare.

For instance Number 3: Spreading the word. Events, especially in the summer, are vital to a charity like ours. Yes, it is always a huge bonus if we manage to raise money from them as well, but it is just as important that we spread the word to people at large about the vital work we do and the services we offer. So spending a few hours on one of our stands at, say, the Dalston Show this coming August, handing out leaflets and running a tombola, is a big, big help. Coming up in June we have a bumper weekend of events to mark the climax of our 50th anniversary celebration and to mark Learning Disabilities Week. More on this is my next blog but volunteers are needed to help make these events run smoothly - and they're a lot of fun too!

So, national Volunteers' Week is around the corner, June 1 to June 7 to be precise. A series of events up and down the country will highlight the value of volunteers to charities and the Third Sector.

Did you know? The estimated annual value of volunteers helping UK charities is £22.6bn

It seems obvious but the fact is the more volunteers that charities like Carlisle Mencap get coming forward, the more activities and trips they can organise for service users of all ages, and the more fundraising events they can stage to help pay for these trips, which bring so much enjoyment to our members.  

Did you know? ‘Wanting to do good’ is the most important reason to volunteer. In 2017/18, 46% of people said that they volunteer to improve things and help others

And let's face it - volunteering and helping others 'less fortunate than others' (I hate that phrase but it will do here in this context!) does bring about a real sense of well-being. You feel GOOD about yourself. And, especially with some of our fundraising events and trips, you have a great time into the bargain and make new friends and - who knows? - future partners? 

Did you know? In 2017/18, 20.1 million (38%) people in the UK volunteered formally at least once a year and 11.8 million (22%) of people did so at least once a month 

We are lucky in Carlisle that, thanks to Carlisle Vineyard Church and Carlisle Ambassadors, we have the fabulous Give A Day To The City initiative.  Give A Day To The City week is the first week in July so again, I will be plugging this more in my blog as the time approaches, but safe to say that this initiative, in which groups of workplace colleagues give up a day to go and help a community project like landscaping a garden or building a play area, is a fantastic example of the good volunteering can do to the wider community.

So what are you waiting for? If you YOU would like to volunteer and help Carlisle Mencap, then get in touch. To volunteer at fundraising events, contact me, PHIL TAYLOR, on 07341 865382 or email and for other volunteering opportunities call 01228 674393 or email 

And remember - volunteering opportunities with us will fit in with whatever time you can spare.

#giveadaytothecity #VolunteersWeek

Helping the Grace Little Centre

IT is a fantastic facility. The Grace Little Centre is also a vital facility for young people with learning disabilities. But we need ...