Powell-Cotton gardens launch of Sunshine Project- tackling isolation and ‘illuminating lives’

Launching the Sunshine Project at the Winter Garden Glasshouse in the Powell-Cotton Museum and Gardens

Volunteers, staff and guests gathered at The Winter Garden Glasshouse at Quex Park today (March 8) for the launch of the Sunshine Project.

The project is an initiative based at the Powell-Cotton Museum gardens and offers volunteer opportunities for people with learning disabilities, mental health challenges and those who are socially isolated.

The seeds of the scheme were planted by Quex head gardener Sue Harris in 2020 and now, with a £56,960 AIM Connected Communities Grant awarded last October, that programme is expanding.

The project is about improving the lives of young people and adults with specific needs by promoting inclusivity and community engagement within Quex gardens.

Sarah-Jayne Rufaeel (pictured) is the gardens community engagement officer whose post is one of the benefits to come from the AIM funding.

She reaches out to Thanet groups to connect with people who have disabilities and are socially isolated to tell them about the project and encourage participation.

Expansion means there are now extra activities including artist workshops led by Julia Ellen Lancaster with works being displayed throughout the Powell-Cotton gardens and a project through Thrive to offer social and therapeutic horticultural activities.

Wellbeing workshops are also planned for the summer.

From initially offering space to the Thanet Community Day Services for their drama activities, the project now has more than 60 people a week from groups including Terrance House in Margate which provides services for people with mental health and physical needs; Liberty Training which works with vulnerable young people; Foreland Fields School and students from inclusive learning courses at Broadstairs College.

At the launch Powell-Cotton Trust CEO Nigel Lewis (pictured) said: “This gives people the chance to learn and helps with socialisation and communication, it’s not done in a classroom but here (Quex gardens) and is a beautiful way of helping people and giving opportunities.”

During his opening speech he added: “This grant (from AIM funded by the DCMS Know Your Neighbourhood Fund through Arts Council England) allows us to expand our current initiatives and build on volunteering opportunities for adults with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues. adults with learning disabilities, mild physical disabilities and mental health issues.”

On show at the launch were some of the Monster Face sculptures created by a learning group with the Sunshine Project in sessions with Julia Ellen Lancaster and these works can be seen on the woodland trail and grounds.

Also on show is the Tiles of Joy installation made by project members during a workshop with  artist Jayne Wright and Julia Ellen Lancaster.

As well as the art sessions, Mr Lewis said a donation of cameras meant a nature photography programme could take place and work to refurbish a building in the gardens would result in the creation of a safe space for wellbeing workshops and activities.

Wingham Timber is also donating a disabled access picnic bench to the project

Sarah said comments and ideas on the scheme, which is funded until January 31, 2025, are welcome and people are invited to contact her at [email protected]

Mr Lewis said: “We are not just combating loneliness but illuminating lives and nurturing a sense of belonging.”

Find out more about the Sunshine Project at: https://powell-cottonmuseum.org/projects/sunshine-project/


  1. Shame the gardens are not open during the week, it used to be a really nice walk and picnic free from all the noise of children. Quex think of the elderly and those who don’t have children, we are being deprived of an easy safe and pleasant walk, which even with a charge would be greatly appreciated by many.

  2. Agree, everywhere in Quex is open for noisy kids , the gardens would be nice to get away. Even if it’s only open on Wednesday and Thursday

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