Rowan was started in 1984 to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities through the provision of services and meaningful activities. This was against the background of change that, quite radically at the time, sought to move people out of institutions and into the community. Very quickly, the medium of arts & crafts was identified as a highly effective way to enhance the lives of people with learning disabilities, as well as being a platform for reducing social isolation and progressing skills development.

With grant assistance from the NHS and Cambridgeshire County Council, four Cambridge professionals backed the formation of the charity, called The Rowan Foundation, in 1984. These were economist, Alex Morris, chartered surveyor, John Pocock, chartered accountant, Hugh Lanham and legal executive, Michael Jarvis.

In order to provide studio space and a secure home for Rowan the current premises, in Humberstone Rd, were purchased in 1993.

In 2003 a new charity, Rowan Humberstone, was established to provide a strong social enterprise ethos, thereby enhancing the sustainability and future of Rowan for its beneficiaries. We produce work to commission and for sale.

This is the vibrant and active charity you see at work today, which is known simply as Rowan.