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The Maxability Story

Maxability was officially registered by Anita and Emile as a charity in 2015 (No. 1162002). Its formation was inspired by Carl Woolf, their son, who is deaf and physically disabled. To support him, and others with disabilities, Maxability set up ceramics classes so they could discover and develop their latent talents and artistic abilities.

What does Maxability do?

In recent years, a range of artistic and creative activities has been provided at Flightways (Barnet Council’s ‘drop-in’ centre, situated in the heart of a council estate in Colindale). The individuals using Flightways have varying disabilities, such as deafness, cerebral palsy, spasticity and other conditions, which impair their chances of employment in the community. The level of frustration and isolation experienced by those who fall into this group can be extreme.

In the early 2000s, centres like Flightways were being closed down all over the UK because it was decided that disabled people would receive personal budgets and decide how to spend their own money. At the same time, local councils began outsourcing services to private companies. In Barnet, Your Choice Barnet (YCB) was established to assist service users in accessing activities in the community. This idea sounded positive but turned out to be very difficult to implement, as no dedicated transport was provided and there were too few choices of activity available. Outside courses at colleges were attempted but usually proved to be more expensive than service users could afford to pay out of their personal budgets. In addition, many of them did not enjoy having to travel so much and sometimes found themselves in unsuitable settings. For instance, the bustling atmosphere of a busy further education college was not suitable for very disabled people or language-impaired deaf disabled people.

Maxability gradually took over funding of the activities within the centre. The quality of the work produced by our attendees has improved greatly over the past few years and there is a lively demand for the pottery, paintings and cards they create.

We registered Maxability as a charity in 2015 and we have been recognised as providing a unique opportunity for disabled people, to develop and maximise their latent talents and to experience the joy and empowerment, that creative work brings.

How is Maxability funded?

Currently, Maxability receives income in the form of donations given at 10 concerts hosted annually in Anita and Emile’s home in Southgate. These are performed by professional musicians of the highest calibre, and are invariably sold out. They also provide an opportunity to sell and raffle artwork produced by the service users.

Now Maxability has been registered with the Charities Commission, we have successfully approached funding organisations and corporations for donations to support our work. We are deeply grateful for the funding we have received from the National Lottery, the London Community Foundation, the Sobell Foundation, and the Joseph and Lilian Sully Foundation. And because of this we are able to keep the fees very low, so that we can provide the best tuition available and all the materials needed. We are fortunate still to be using the original Flightways studio despite the threats of demolition. Our ardent wish is that we become truly established as serving a vital function in the community that a permanent home will be established in the future.

We have been fortunate in finding a really great teacher with a rapport with all levels of student and particularly with people who are learning disabled. We have had a recent intake of students from Kisharon and they are delighted with their initial experience. We hope to go much further with them.

Meet our ceramics teacher, Vinicius Les

My name is Vinicius Les, and I’m an artist practising in fine arts and ceramics. I have been working as a tutor for Maxability since October 2015.

I met Anita Woolf when she was looking for a tutor for her courses. She explained everything she does at Flightways, and I was amazed to see a lady of her age with such vigour and such drive to do whatever it takes to provide an artistic environment and a social meeting-place of high quality. She offered her financial resources, her books, her art materials and, not least, herself.

From my own experience of working with people with learning disabilities/difficulties and mental health issues, I can tell you that people interested in arts wouldn’t like to replace these kinds of social activities with anything else, such as bowling. This is not because they would not like those activities but because, for a creative person, artistic projects are the most valuable and enriching ways of spending time.

The people I meet at Maxability are highly passionate about the arts, their cultural projects and their social activity. They have a great drive to succeed in their work despite being disabled, and they don’t complain about their situation when a difficulty arises. I can see how Maxability is a vital part of their life, both mentally and physically.

I believe that Maxability is very important for disabled people in the Borough of Barnet.

The Maxability classes take place in a welcoming and supportive atmosphere at the Flightways Centre, 1 The Concourse, Grahame Park, Colindale, Barnet, London NW9 5UX.

For full information on our charity, contact details and enrolment form for our courses, please visit:

Written by: Maxability