C4 raises a glass to brewery scheme that employs the disabled

Ignition Brewery taproom, Sydenham. Pic: Ignition Brewery

The work of a Lewisham brewery which trains people with learning disabilities has been recognised by Channel 4, as they took part in an ‘ad-break takeover’ to mark International Day of People with Disabilities. 

Channel 4, in partnership with NatWest, Nationwide Building Society and Sainsbury’s, donated advert time to social enterprises which champion people with disabilities. 

The campaign aims to celebrate the positive contribution that people with disabilities make to the UK economy, and included soap producer Beco, chocolatier Harry Specters, and South London’s Ignition Brewery.   

Based at the Sydenham Centre in Lewisham, Ignition trains people with learning disabilities to brew and serve beer. The team also has a pop-up bar at Catford’s Broadway Theatre.  

Ignition is a not-for-profit company which pays the London Living Wage to all trainee brewers.  


Nick O’Shea and Will Evans, the brewery directors, who had no previous brewing experience, believe that with the right support and care, their team can brew beer that competes on the open market and satisfies their customers.  Evans told Eastlondonlines: “The original staff team are still working at the brewery. The team works together as an unconventional family.” 

The brewery and taproom sits on Sydenham High Street at the heart of the community, providing a warm and inclusive place for people to meet and enjoy locally brewed beer.  

There is a clear appetite and support for what they are doing. Evans describes the response from a crowdfunding campaign to fund the community taproom as “magnificent”. They raised £24,195 in just 35 days in June 2018. “The best thing about the crowdfunder was the response we had from local people. It was wonderful.”  

The brewery’s ad on Channel 4 was part of PurpleSpace’s Purple Light Up campaign, which aims to celebrate the global contribution of people with disabilities.  

Channel 4’s Chief Commercial Officer, Jonathan Allan, said: “It’s great to work with these three great brands to donate this unique ad break, which we hope will encourage businesses to realise the value that talented people with disabilities bring to the workplace.”  

People with disabilities face numerous obstacles when applying for jobs and are underrepresented on television. The ad campaign aims to challenge perceptions and attitudes towards people with disabilities.  

The team at Ignition Brewery plan to expand next year to offer a training centre and visitor centre and are hopeful that other businesses will follow suit.  Evans said: “We are trying to encourage others to look at how our approach might offer them a different way of being more inclusive in their employability.” 

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