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Leeds adults with learning difficulties Leep into fashion

Pictured are Ali Akbor (far right) and Adrian Green (second from right) with Angie Marshall from Leep 1 (centre), Susan Hanley (third from left) and other designers from the #AbilitiesNotDisabilities project

A Leeds community interest company which helps adults with learning disabilities to speak up for themselves have received support from Unity Enterprise to launch a new range of leisure wear featuring designs created by its members.

Leep 1 – which stands for Leeds People First – offers a wide variety of activities to develop social, health and educational skills.  It also runs the popular Café Leep which, in 2017, won the Yorkshire and Humber round of the Britain’s Best Café competition.

The organisation is based at Unity Business Centre on Roundhay Road, one of three business locations in Leeds owned and managed by Unity Enterprise, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, which provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 employers.

Leep 1 recently started a digital inclusion course which enables participants to design, market and sell clothing carrying the hashtag #AbilitiesNotDisabilities together with their own artwork or slogan.

Unity offered to sponsor the first run of products which includes tee shirts and hoodies.

Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor and Unity EnterprisemManager Adrian Green visited Leep 1 to try on the new apparel and congratulate participants and staff on their achievements.

Mr Akbor said: “We are honoured to support this initiative.  It has brought great fulfilment to all involved, particularly the designers who are rightly proud of what they have produced.  It was wonderful to meet them.

“The designs are colourful, imaginative and eye-catching.  I hope the local community will get behind Leep 1 by ordering clothing for themselves or perhaps as presents for friends and family.

“Their central message, #AbilitiesNotDisabilities, is incredibly powerful and perfectly sums up what Leep 1 stands for.”

Mandy Haigh, Leep 1 Manager who coordinates the #AbilitiesNotDisabilities project, said: “Our 12-week digital inclusion course is devised to properly equip participants with skills that will be attractive to prospective employers.

“As well as designing the clothing line, everyone is encouraged to come up with their own marketing campaigns, including the use of social media, to secure sales.

“We intend to make the clothes available to order online via a dedicated website.  Each designer will have a biography which will make reference to their disability and how they came up with their unique design.”

Susan Hanley, who has Down’s Syndrome, is chairperson of Leep 1 and designed her own hoodie which is part of the range now on sale.  It is emblazoned with the words, “You’ll Turn Out Ordinary If You’re Not Careful.”

Susan said: “The idea behind the clothing is to raise awareness of adults with learning disabilities and show people what we can do, not what we can’t do. We had a soft launch at one of our club nights which we hold every month and sold lots of tee shirts and hoodies, which got us off to a great start.

“It has been really interesting to see the process from coming up with the designs right through to seeing people wearing the final results.”

Adrian Green, Unity Enterprise manager, said: “Leep 1 has been a tenant at Unity Business Centre for nine years and we love having the team on board. Everything they do radiates enthusiasm and positivity.

“Café Leep, which teaches trainees a huge amount of skills and provides a path to qualifications in food safety and catering, is always busy and well worth a visit for a first-class lunch or hot drink.  It is a pleasure to support #AbilitiesNotDisabilities which I know will be a major success.”

 

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