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Founder of learning disability workshop receives MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

The man behind a local craft workshop for people with learning disabilities has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s special 90th Birthday Honours List published today (Saturday 11 June 2016).

Barrie Evason, from Ripon, has been awarded an MBE “for establishing Jennyruth Workshops, a place of work for people who have learning disabilities”.

Jennyruth Workshops, based at Bridge Hewick near Ripon, provides a productive workshop for adults with learning disabilities to gain work and life skills from making and selling a wide range of everyday products.

Barrie originally set up Jennyruth Workshops in 1989 to provide something for his son Jonathan, who was born with Down’s syndrome, to do when he left school.

Not content with his son attending somewhere where he would simply be ‘looked after’, Barrie and Jonathan set up a small craft business where the two made mainly wooden toys to begin with, and sold them at craft fairs. Barrie believes that both the making and the selling provided Jonathan with dignity in his life.

‘Jennyruth Workshops’ is named after Jennifer Ruth, one of the five children with Down’s that Barrie and his wife Sue have adopted over the years.

Jennifer sadly died aged 6 months but the other five children, now aged between 31 and 52, became the founding members of Jennyruth Workshops. As they reached school leaving age each of them wanted to join their brother and be part of the workshops – and today they all still attend the workshops up to five days a week.

With all the children working together and enjoying it so much, Barrie and his family realised that they had something that would be worth sharing.

Other families obviously agreed because, in the 13 years since Barrie set it up, Jennyruth Workshops has gone from strength to strength and now supports around 30 adults with learning disabilities, making a wide range of hand crafted wooden, sewn and metal gifts, from toys and games to household and garden products.

Barrie is delighted to be awarded the MBE in this, the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List, but is keen to acknowledge that recognition for the success of Jennyruth belongs to more than just one person.

Barrie said:

I was just the one who had the idea.

Many people, some with professional skills, some very good DIY-ers, and many who were just prepared to come along and give us their support in any number of ways, are responsible for that initial idea coming to fruition.

I’m only sorry I can’t cut up the award and give them all a piece, but whenever any of them see the letters MBE after my name I hope they will take it as their reward, too.

I did what I wanted to do, and my reward is seeing the wonderful place we have, where people who have learning disabilities can come to gain skills, use those skills, and live a rewarding life.

To find out more about Jennyruth Workshops, buy their goods online or find out how you can donate or volunteer, visit, phone (01765) 606620 or e-mail

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