AN arts charity that helps and encourages young people who struggle with emotional and behavioural problems has been awarded a £7,200 coronavirus fund grant to help it cope with an increase in demand.

Kandu Arts, in Foghamshire, Chippenham, is seeing a rise in young people from all over north and west Wiltshire and Swindon who have had problems at school.

The 22-year-old charity says the grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund will help it rent more space to work in and fund extra staff.

The community foundation’s fund has raised almost £1.2m and has so far distributed £925,000 to groups tackling the fallout from the pandemic through more than 200 grants.

Kandu director Ed Deedigan said the return to school in September has prompted a spike in referrals. He said: “We’ve had two young people with Asperger’s, both of them were struggling in school but holding it together up until lockdown, were absolutely flying during lockdown and really happy – but when they went back to school they just couldn’t re-engage.

“It seems to be the new influx of young people we are getting who have had problems since going back to school. A lot of kids wouldn’t have been displaying any of the major problems of coping with school pre-lockdown.

“But because this curveball has been sent into homes, altering the whole dynamics of families, there are kids now suffering the effects of the uncertainty, the insecurity and the lack of continuity. The world is not what they thought.”

Throughout the lockdown and all over the summer Kandu kept in touch with dozens of young people it was already working with via phone calls, drop-in sessions and online events including weekly open mics and a virtual film festival.

The work was partly funded by a previous £3,800 coronavirus fund grant in April.

“We were preparing three weeks before lockdown so we had not only all of the academic material we needed but all of the emotional and mindfulness stuff we knew we’d need,” said Mr Deedigan. “Our staff contacted the young people on a daily basis and, as we are key workers, some were able to come in and see us.

“That’s why we kept a summer school going and another one at half-term and at Christmas because if we don’t, the chances of deep emotional and mental trauma happening are increased considerably and we have to be ahead of the curve.”

He said because of the regular contact, the young people it had been working with before the lockdown fared well. “A lot of our kids have actually flourished,” he said. “They have had a consistent scenario whereas kids in education have had a completely disrupted school year and I do feel for them.”

The group has used part of the latest grant to rent the Rotary Hall in Station Hill, Chippenham, to give it more space.

“Coming into winter, not having anywhere to meet was our biggest fear,” Mr Deedigan added.

“A private hall enables us to keep doing the educational things we do, during the holidays as well as in term time.

“We can continue our valuable engagement with young people. They do self-defence and fitness in there, as well as life skills and table tennis and so on.

“We’ve been able to maintain a safe environment and do some of the key stuff we do, working one-to one with people, it would have been a major struggle without the extra space.”

Kandu is about to extend its work in the town with its own community arts space. “We are renting the former Dorothy Perkins shop Emery Gate,” said Mr Deedigan. “We are really excited about it. We are going to have art and music and other organisations will be working with us to signpost people to where they can get some help.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are able to help fantastic groups like this because of the generosity of the people of Wiltshire but even though we have distributed almost £1m the need is still very much there and it is still growing,”

To find out more about Kandu Arts go to or search for them on Facebook. To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to