Royal support for crafts initiative

23rd January 2016  |  OUR STORIES

Craftspeople delighted by support from HRH the Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales has always had wonderful respect for craftspeople working with tradition, and now he has taken on the presidency of a new organisation created by craftspeople themselves. The Heritage Crafts Association brings together all the crafts to celebrate and support the knowledge and techniques that have successfully been passed down through the generations and which now form an important part of the country’s cultural heritage.

From saddlers in Walsall and cutlers in Sheffield, to shoemakers in Northampton and basketmakers in Somerset, crafts have been an integral part of our towns and countryside. Our most common surname of Smith, and others like Thatcher, Potter, Turner or Cartwright, show that we are a nation of craftspeople. Some of these crafts are alive and well and others could see a resurgence given a little encouragement. Often a simple story in the press is all that is needed to turn a business round from struggling to thriving.

Traditional crafts have tended to receive little recognition or support, falling between the areas of heritage (buildings) and the arts (where only cutting edge innovative work is supported). Around the world, countries are beginning to recognise traditional craftsmanship as part of their living heritage.

Twenty years ago, locally sourced food, carefully produced by hand, was a quirky and alternative idea, yet it has seen a great resurgence. The Heritage Crafts Association believes that a similar resurgence of interest is underway in traditional crafts. People are looking for quality British-made products that last. Trevor Ablett, one of the last Sheffield pocket knife makers, has an order book full until Christmas. There are also people who would like to work in the crafts. After some press coverage last year, Alistair Simms, the country’s last master cooper, received 1,000 letters asking to be his apprentice. With a little support, the traditional crafts could see tremendous growth.

Robin Wood, Chair of the Heritage Crafts Association and a craftsman himself, said:

“We are absolutely delighted that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has become our President. There is strong interest in the crafts at the moment and tremendous scope for a resurgence. The traditional crafts have been rather overlooked, falling between arts and heritage organisations, and not within the remit of either. Particularly, the industrial crafts of our towns have been sadly neglected. We hope the presidency of His Royal Highness will bring more attention to this overlooked part of our national heritage.”

Whilst it may seem incongruous for a traditional craft organisation, the Heritage Crafts Association has grown rapidly through the use of social networking and the internet, proof perhaps that traditional crafts are not backward-looking but a part of a vibrant future.