Published: 30 March 2023

A young artist has delivered workshops to young people with special educational needs thanks to Darlington Building Society recognising his talent.

James Owen Thomas – a passionate environmentalist known by his initials JOT – creates beautiful collages, using recycled materials, including discarded National Lottery scratchcards.

Diagnosed as autistic when he was three-and-a-half, he found that art helps with his anxiety, and he has become so accomplished that he recently opened ‘JOT’s Gallery, in Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire.

Darlington Building Society Chief Executive, Andrew Craddock, was impressed with James’ work when he recently came across an exhibition he was staging at Fountains Abbey, near Ripon.

That chance encounter has now led to the Society commissioning James to lead two workshops at the Clervaux Trust, which offers day and residential placements for youngsters with autism and other neurodiverse conditions.

The Society has previously supported the Trust’s Garden School, at Croft-on-Tees, by handing over a £14,610 grant through its 5% Pledge to invest the percentage of its profits in the community, with the money funding a shepherd’s hut for use as an additional classroom.

Mr Craddock said: “Having established that positive association with the Clervaux Trust, we thought it would be a great use of James’ talent to organise some creative workshops, and I’m delighted to see them go ahead.”

James, an ambassador for The Tree Council who uses his art to highlight environmental issues, said: “I can’t thank Darlington Building Society enough for giving me this fantastic opportunity to help people with learning difficulties understand the importance of the climate crisis and nature.

“Art has always been a form of therapy for me, helping to calm me down, and it’s brilliant that Andrew took such an interest in my work and set up these workshops at an amazing charity.”

Bethan Davies, senior fundraiser for the Ruskin Mill Trust, which oversees the work at Clervaux, added: “We are so grateful for the proactive approach Darlington Building Society has taken with us, and the genuine interest it has in what we do.

“The shepherd’s hut has quickly become an instrumental part of school life as a textile classroom, and this collaboration with James is another very practical example of the Society’s support.”

To find out more about James and his work, go to: www.jamesowenthomas.com