Pioneer Projects is embedded as an irreplaceable part of the social infrastructure that makes Bentham the community it is.

What is remarkable about the organisation is that it is already 25 years old, developing from a local community arts group into an organisation providing a multitude of services not just for Bentham but across Craven.

The growth of the organisation, founded by artist Ali Clough, is perhaps surprising because it evolved from a community that numbers only around 3,000 people.

But its success and development illustrates the thirst for the service, largely linked to mental health and wellbeing, Pioneer Projects provides.

A few years into its life, the group was able to take over the old mill building in King Street where it is now based and also operates the Community Library, in conjunction with North Yorkshire’s library service.

Pioneer Projects director Leon Fijalkowski said: “Our roots are in Bentham and we are still there. To have a charity like this in Bentham is unique because it is a town of around 3,000.”

The organisation runs a wide range of activities, designed to appeal to a wide age range across the whole community but able to support access for the most vulnerable, including those living with dementia or suffering poor mental health. Sessions span creative arts, singing, walking and many other activities. including IT.

The library moved into the building four years ago and other activities have been made possible partly through a partnership with our Adult Learning service, including training in areas like sign language, which help to “skill up the locality”, said Leon.

“We bring in a lot of stuff which would not normally reach Bentham.”

Pioneer Projects has also worked with us over the last seven years to deliver services aimed at preventing mental health issues in the area.

“Pioneer Projects is not standing still, it is growing and doing a lot work. It is an asset to Bentham,” he said.

Initiatives include the new wellbeing focused Creative Craven groups recently introduced to communities in the area beyond Bentham, including Settle, Skipton and Glusburn.

“These were a response to community need highlighted by Covid-19, and are empowering communities to better support themselves,” said Leon.

Find out ore about the Pioneer project.