Blackpool’s grassroots arts organisation Aunty Social has been announced as the finalist of a prestigious award for its commitment to driving positive social change.

Aunty Social, which started in 2011 with a group of friends who wanted something fun, affordable and social to do, will now have the chance to become one of five winners of the Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Entrepreneurs (DBACE). If selected from the 11 finalists, the Community Interest Company will receive a collective prize fund of £60,000 and £100,000 of tailored business support to develop their vision and leadership skills to bring their transformative ideas to life.

The six other finalists will receive DBACE business support bursaries, benefiting from tailored guidance and industry mentoring. The winners will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony on 10 July 2024 at the Royal Society of Arts, hosted by Brenda Emmanus.

Aunty Social has had a permanent home on Topping Street since Christmas 2022 when it opened its creative workshop space and shop selling unique gifts and homeware made by local artists and makers. The retail operation is part of Aunty’s attempt to become self-sustainable, allowing the organisation to pursue its core aims without bending to the requirements of funders. It aims to give people opportunities to develop their creativity, learn new skills and connect with others through positive arty activities in a safe, supportive, gentle space.

Aunty Social directors Catherine Mugonyi and Louise Ashcroft.

Run by Catherine Mugonyi, Louise Ashcroft and Joe Booth, Aunty is responsible for many projects that have helped diversify Blackpool’s cultural landscape. The brand new Queer Amusements multi art form festival is the brainchild of Booth and artist Harry Clayton Wright. Blackpool Film Festival, formerly the Winter Gardens Film Festival, has been driven and developed by Mugonyi. Projects like Queer Craft Club and Kilgrimol Heritage Crafts are run out of Aunty’s Topping Street venue which also offers a home to Reclaim Blackpool, Blackpool African Caribbean Friends and Relations Association (AFRA) and the Fylde Coast Amnesty Group. Blackpool Social Club was also formed by Aunty Social as a way to shine a spotlight on the cultural offer of the town.

Ashcroft says: “We’re thrilled to have made it to the DBACE finals. It’s been great to share our work and tell everyone about Blackpool and its growing cultural scene. Stepping out of our comfort zone and learning to pitch has been a rollercoaster ride, but an enjoyable one! We’re heading down to London this week and really hope that we can do Blackpool proud and bring home the prize!”

Receiving over 500 applications this year, DBACE is the UK’s longest running awards programme committed to supporting entrepreneurs driven to address some of today’s most pressing societal challenges through enterprise. By providing funding, business training, access to exclusive industry networks and expert mentorship, the programme has nurtured hundreds of leaders and helped over 400 creative ventures.
The DBACE 2024 awards are presented in partnership with MeWe360, a Black-led non-profit that champions Black and Asian leadership and entrepreneurial talent in the arts and creative industries.

Other finalists include ADHD Babes – a community group for Black women & non-binary people with ADHD, Imagine Me Stories – a monthly discovery box featuring black children’s books and empowering black history activities, and Intotum, which creates fashionable, functional and comfortable adaptive clothing for the disabled community.

A DBACE spokesperson said: “As the creative sector continues to face extraordinary challenges in the wake of economic, political and social uncertainty and against the backdrop of an ongoing cost of living crisis, DBACE recognises the urgent need to nurture new business talent. By foregrounding diversity and accessibility, the awards seek to allow as many people as possible, regardless of age or background, the opportunity to progress.”

Mohan Yogendran, MeWe360 Board Chair said: “MeWe360 has had a long history of supporting creative entrepreneurs particularly from Global Majority backgrounds to develop their business skills to help their creativity be enduring and sustainable. Deutsche Bank through its longstanding DBACE programme has a focus on supporting creative entrepreneurs. guess that’s why we work well together.

“For me as chair, this year has been especially encouraging as I had the chance to participate as one of the judges. Those entrepreneurs – businesses, social enterprises, charities – truly remarkable and humbling!”

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