meetings with English Heritage, NADFAS and ICON

Tuesday was another meetings in London day. We had excellent meetings with English Heritage, NADFAS and ICON all of whom are supportive of what the Heritage Crafts Association are trying to achieve. We were given some good new contacts and ideas. One particularly interesting idea was looking at how English Heritage are already beginning to use heritage crafts skills (and not just building crafts) in their work. I have been working on a project this week carving a big dish for Dover Castle, this is part of a major project using many craftspeople to recreate the interiors as they would originally have been. I have already supplied bowls and mazers, this one is going to have a boars head served on it, it took me a while to find any useful reference to copy and the nearest we could find in the end was a rather nice though smaller and earlier dish I saw several years ago in Oslo, it was found with the Oseberg ship burial.

We particularly liked this dish as it had a chevron pattern chip carved around the edge, a symbol that survives on contemporary stonework nearby and which we used on the mazer rims.

I had to grind an old chisel to a skew angle and narrow edge to do the chip carving but once I got it right it worked really well.

In the evenings I have been working on a huge birch soup ladle.

It seemed everyone in the heritage world was waiting this week for the big announcement today of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s next major skills funding project.

They announced today

  • £2.3m will be invested as an extension of HLF’s successful £7m Training Bursary Programme

This is great news for the heritage building and conservation crafts, the bursaries have been a tremendous help in training in these valuable skills.

  • £5m will create a new programme, entitled ‘Skills for the Future’, to launch towards the end of the year. This will offer new work-based training in the skills that are needed to look after our buildings, landscapes, habitats, species, and museum collections.

Again this is good news for conservation of our physical or tangible heritage of things. What we need to see next is an equivalent scheme to protect the intangible or living heritage. All these projects concentrate on protecting things and the skills are seen as a way of doing that, the HCA believes that crafts skills are an important part of our cultural heritage in their own right. We should train blacksmiths not only because they help repair old buildings but because we were once a nation of smiths, it is our most common surname. Once we acept this then we can start to asses what we have such as the remains of the Sheffield cutlery industry, sadlery in Walsall, shoemaking in Northamton.

English Heritage recently bought a wonderful old silverworks in Birmingham, JW Evans, full story here the story reminded me very much of the scissor factory in Sheffield which I shall be visiting tomorrow. The problem is the building and tools are only a part of the heritage value of the place, the skills and accumulate knowledge of generations of craftspeople passed down through the generations is important too.

Comments are closed.