#EyeAmAware campaign and Henshaws charity

  • Henshaws is one of the oldest registered charities in the UK
  • They still need your help to raise money 
  • Shaeron Caton-Rose: "It makes you realise what a fantastic gift your vision is"

In 1810 Thomas Henshaw, a businessman from Oldham, left £20,000 in his will to establish an Asylum for the Indigent Blind in Manchester. Today, that figure is the equivalent to approximately £310,682. The original blind asylum opened its doors in Old Trafford back in 1837.

Now almost two centuries old, Henshaws is one of the oldest registered charities in the UK with several locations across Northern England varying from a specialist college with sites in Harrogate and Bradford to hubs across Manchester.

Knaresborough, a charming town in North Yorkshire, is home to Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre which works with people across the disability spectrum. Sixty three percent of those who attend the workshops are visually impaired.

Shaeron Caton-Rose, 54, workshop leader at the arts and crafts centre and artist in her own right believes eye health awareness is important, especially after experiencing first-hand the challenges that visually impaired people have to deal with.

She said: “It’s helped me to understand the complexity of visual awareness. We have visual awareness training when we start here to understand it’s really quite various.

“As part of our training, we have blindfolds, and somebody guides us. They give us glasses that make us see the way others may see. It makes you realise what a fantastic gift your vision is.”

Shaeron Caton-Rose
Shaeron Caton-Rose, workshop leader at Henshaws

The centre offers a variety of arts and crafts such as printing, jewellery making and wood-work. Shaeron’s workshop enables those who are visually impaired to work with different materials and textures depending on the extent of the person’s vision when creating a masterpiece.

Shaeron said: “Our workshops are designed to meet the needs of people with a wide range of disabilities. The paper workshop is very popular partly because it is accessible to people who have no useful vision.

“There is someone I see who works in that way and that’s how he makes his work because he can feel what he’s doing. I’ll ask him what colours he wants, and I support him mix a colour, but he won’t see his product it is the whole process of creating art which is important.

Art work by those who attend Shaeron's workshop
Art work by those who attend Shaeron’s workshop

Although there has been a 50% increase in fundraising from 2016-17, Henshaws still needs help to raise money for their charity which supports people living with a range of disabilities including visual impairment.

Kate Simpson, 53, community and events fundraiser at Henshaws said: “At the Arts & Crafts Centre, we’ve been very fortunate to receive funding from the Arts Council and Big Lottery Fund but it’s our job to make links with the local community and persuade them what a fantastic cause we really are.

Recently, Harrogate Round Table chose Henshaws as a partnership charity for their big bonfire that they run every year on the Stray in the town.

Fundraising events include an upcoming bucket collection at the Etihad stadium as well as a calendar full of activities in Yorkshire, Manchester and Liverpool featuring Christmas craft workshops, concerts and parties.

Visit their website find more information about the charity, their upcoming events and how to volunteer.


Shaeron Caton-Rose’s story:

Shaeron wears glasses to read, and her vision is decreasing due to age. From a regular eye check-up, she realised it wasn’t just a stronger lens she needed but an operation to prevent life changing visual impairment.

She said: “At my last appointment for glasses, they said I have really narrow ducts in my eyes. They referred me to the hospital and I’ve now got to have an operation to prevent me from getting glaucoma. I’m really glad I went for an eye test because I wouldn’t have known that otherwise. Glaucoma is quite a serious thing and it can really impair what you do.”

 According to the National Eye Research Centre (NERC), glaucoma is the most common cause of sight loss among those of working age. Due to raised pressure damaging the optic nerves, glaucoma is preventable using drops and laser surgery. While that may sound less worrying, NERC say that early diagnosis is important as damage to the eyes is irreversible.

If an immediate relative such as your mother or father has glaucoma and you are over the age of 40, you are entitled to a free NHS eye test which could turn out to be life changing.

Click here to see if you’re eligible for a free NHS eye test. Visit the #EyeAmAware website, then click here to sign the #EyeAmAware campaign petition.