I just downloaded some pictures I took on my last London trip for the the Heritage Crafts Association committee meeting last Sunday. We meet in a basement room just round the corner from Charing Cross which is kindly provided free of charge for us. Charing Cross tube station has rather nice artwork with images of medieval craftsmen at work and one image shows a riddle being used.
This seems somehow appropriate since the business of Mike Turnock the last riddle maker has become almost symbolic of the work we are trying to do. When Brian Crossley and I visited Mike last December it really looked almost certain that the craft would die out within a couple of years when Mike retired, he is 64.
Here are a couple of images from that earlier blog post.
The great news now is that since the HCA have been publicising his work and the plight of the craft Mike has had several approaches from people seriously interested in taking the business on when he retires including a local family that would like to run it as a family business training their 17 year old son to make the riddles. If that came off then the craft would be off the “critically endangered” list for many years.
I was thinking back this morning to my time working in nature conservation for the National Trust. For a time I worked at Toy’s Hill in Kent epicentre of the 1989 “Great Storm” and an area with some of the last remaining lowland heath in Kent. In nature conservation we used to survey and asses what we had of value on a property with particular interest given to habitats and plants and animals which were rare locally or nationally.
It seems like we need to work in similar ways with our traditional crafts now, surveying what we have, finding out which are in danger locally or nationally and taking steps to ensure they survive. When I look at the money and effort that would be put into preserving the last breeding site for a particualr butterfly in Kent say it seems incredible that no money or effort at all goes in to preserving the knowledge of the last sievemaker in the UK.
Whilst trying to find a bit of information about when the Charing Cross images were installed I came across this http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1265_frost/?p=14 site which gives some fascinating information on the history of the name Charing Cross which dates back to the year 1290. We live in such a fascinating country with so many layers of interconected history.