Back in 2008 I blogged about the need for a traditional crafts organisation.
For those that don’t know in the UK we have the Crafts Council which supports the modern art end of the craft spectrum contemporary innovative” craft but we had no similar organisation for those of us who chose to work making more traditional functional work.
In a letter to me in 2001 Kim Evans exec director Arts, Arts Council England said
“You are correct in your analysis of support for innovative craft practice; this is where nationally funded organisations have focused their attention over the past twenty five years or so. Indeed this has been the case with the visual arts as a whole where the innovative has been prioritised over the traditional, one reason being to make the most of limited funds” “It is unlikely that the Arts Council would see itself taking a more inclusive role in this area.”
So now that 25 years is nearer 40, still what government funding comes to the crafts is primarily directed toward the innovative contemporary crafts. We have some of the best traditional craftspeople in the world working in the UK yet they have not had representation, support, promotion or help with passing on their skills to the next generation. That was the background that led me with friends to setting up the Heritage Crafts Association.
In the six years since we set up the organisation we have come a very long way. I am most proud to have helped assemble and worked alongside such a fantastic team of voluntary trustees. Together we have secured backing from many influential friends including HRH The Prince of Wales as our President. We worked with Skills Minister John Hayes to map the sector establishing just how economically important the trades and crafts are contributing £4.4 billion in GVA (Gross Value Added) to the UK economy, that is the sort of figure that gets politicians interested, it is the equivalent of the petrochemical industry or the whole of the Scottish food and drink industry.
Whilst this sort of high end lobbying is important I have always said the HCA should be judged by changes that can be seen by craftspeople in their workshops. Despite working with very limited funds we have managed to put together a great suite of Heritage Craft Awards which not only give much needed financial support but also recognition. Perhaps the highest awards we have helped achieve however are the various folk we have nominated for National Honours. I can speak from personal experience when I say that as a craftsperson being awarded an MBE changes the way many folk view the work that you do, suddenly folk take us seriously.
Now the time has come though to stand down as chair. 6 years has demanded a lot of energy and kept me away from the workshop. It is a long time since I camped by a beach and went surfing. We have found a excellent new chair in Jonathan Lloyd-Platt who will I am sure lead the organisation on to greater things. I hope to have more time in the workshop, and more time on the beach and in the woods.