30 Years of Qube


In 2022 Qube will be celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. The first in a series of events is an exhibition in the gallery telling the story of Qube over the past 3 decades, on display until 18th July. Below are some words by Trudi Graham, Qube’s founder, about how the charity started and came to be the organisation visitors see today. Scroll down to see photos of Qube from over the years…




In 1989 I joined, as the Project Manager, the organization originally called Helpmates. It was created in late 1980s as a result of new policies by the Margaret Thatcher Government on the provision of care.


At the end of the 1980s Margaret Thatcher adopted a new policy of Care with the closure of State Mental Institutions and Older People’s Homes with ‘Care in the Community`. It was a cost cutting exercise, using the rationale that state provision was bureaucratic and inefficient. The new policy was that the state should be the ‘enabler’ rather that the provider of care. A new concept saw care as a transaction between the purchaser and the provider. It identified new funding structures and most significantly for the Voluntary Sector it promoted the Independent Sector in the provision of Care.


Over the next 2 decades the Voluntary Sector established itself as a flexible and often innovative deliverer of services. It provided new work opportunities for people who had possibly not followed a standard career path such as woman returners, and as a result brought different approaches.


Helpmates, a befriending organisation, had initial funding for 3 years in the course of which the model had proved itself with the level and range of support it was providing to older people, delivered through volunteer time. It was then given annual grant funding from the Local Authority.


Being in the voluntary sector Helpmates found it had the freedom to respond to further need it identified. Oswestry, as a rural area, demonstrated the need for flexible transport to get people to hospital appointments, or day centres or even to go shopping. For people living alone, without transport this was clearly an issue. Helpmates gained funding to purchase an accessible vehicle to provide Community Transport. It was the first Community Transport service in Shropshire . From this small beginning it served as the model for all other Community Transport projects in the county in Shrewsbury and all the market towns.


As the Dial-a Ride service developed from one adapted car to a fleet of fully accessible mini buses. The organisation changed its name to Oswestry Community Action to reflect its activities more accurately.


It also started a Volunteer Bureau to recruit not only volunteers for its own services but also for all other voluntary groups in the area. It also provided quality standards and training. Volunteering was also seen by the Conservative government as a desirable, low cost activity useful for the community.


As my previous background was in visual art , I early on, had identified a lack of creative provision in care homes and had at first raised a small grant to train staff in care homes and volunteers in the use of creative activities. Over the course of a few years we had trained care staff and arts volunteers in every market town in the county. We worked with the County Reminiscence Officer to train care volunteers in the use of reminiscence in care settings and its use in combination with written, aural and visual arts.


In 1994 The Lottery was launched with a main purpose to provide support to’ Good Causes’ with a large percentage of the total raised. This was a great opportunity for the voluntary Sector.


When Labour won the 1997 election with Tony Blair winning the 2 subsequent elections, the objective of widening opportunities was a strong driver of policy. Rural areas were seen as lacking in any meaningful Arts provision and innovative ways of involving the rural community with quality creative activity was, for the first time, prioritised.


Oswestry Community Action found itself in a good position, with this track record of activity, to apply for a major capital grant of £500,000 through the Arts Lottery , to refurbish and design a purpose built centre in a town centre location to deliver and combine its current services. In partnership with Oswestry and North Shropshire College it brought IT skills to the wider community through it purpose designed Learn Direct Centre.


Qube was supported by Bryant Priest Newman, a young firm of architects from Birmingham, who were so keen to realise their concept that they donated their development time for this innovative contemporary design within a traditional town centre building The grant application was successful in 2000 and Qube was opened by actor James Nesbitt 20 years ago in August 2002 bringing for the first time national and international exhibitions to this market town. Over the years it has shown work by such International artists as Picasso, Matisse, Albers, Paolozzi, Paula Rega, ‘The Young Brits’ and many more. It worked in national and International partnership to develop and share exhibitions and arts opportunities.


In the year 2000, On writing the application to the Arts Lottery for funding for the re- design and refurbishment of the old Queens Hotel it was on the basis that we secure a 25 year lease on the building. At that time 25 years seemed a lifetime away, and here is Qube celebrating 2022!


Long may it flourish.


Trudi Graham, May 2022.