One of the key jobs of the Heritage Crafts Association is what we call advocacy. It is largely about meeting as many influential people as possible and letting them know about what is going on the world of traditional crafts and what they may be able to do to help.
Yesterday was a good example of our Advocacy work, HCA vice chair Patricia Lovett and I first met with James Evans research manager at Creative and Cultural Skills. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence to say that there are certain problems in the traditional crafts, particularly with some crafts only being done by a few people who have not managed to pass the skills on to the next generation. We would like to explore the “skills gap” with some well defined research which could then be used to argue the case for funding. A good example of the way this can work is research undertaken by HLF the National Heritage Training Group with Construction Skills which led in turn to the the HLF bursary scheme with many new apprentices in the building crafts.
Then we met with Jeremy Hunt shadow Culture Secretary, he was receptive to our message and having spent 2 years in Japan has seen how traditional crafts can be valued and also marketed as part of a tourism package. They will not be closely defining their heritage policy before the election Jeremy said that would appear a little like measuring for the curtains before you have bought the house. But we hope he will give us a nice quote about traditional crafts being a valuable part of our heritage.
Last meeting of the day was at the V&A with Glenn Adamson head of graduate studies and Edward S Cooke Jr professor of history of art at Yale. Together with Tanya Harrod they are editorial team of the Journal of Modern Craft. The name modern craft may put some traditionalist off as the name Heritage crafts may make the HCA sound very old fashioned or backward looking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Glenn and Ned have a tremendously deep understanding of all aspects of material culture and are every bit as much interested in the traditional as the innovative. One area that we all three felt was of particular interest and has been overlooked is the industrial crafts. HCA have been a bit of a lone voice highlighting the plight of crafts such as the Sheffield cutlery trades and it was a great pleasure to share this interest with others.
With all these meetings we never know what the long term outcomes will be. I guess the whole thing about advocacy work is just getting the message out, telling as many people as possible about the issues facing traditional crafts in the UK and discussing potential solutions. The more it is talked about the more likely we are to find solutions. I guess all our HCA supporters and facebook friends are doing their own bits of advocacy by passing HCA details on and sharing messages, It all spreads the word and there really feels to be a head of steam building which must have an effect down the line.