Rare craft skills on the brink of extinction new research shows

Radcliffe Red ListNew research by the Heritage Crafts Association and supported by The Radcliffe Trust has found many traditional craft skills in the UK to be hanging on by a thread.

Seventeen crafts have been identified as being critically endangered, including coach and wagon making, saw making, metal thread making, and swill basket making. These crafts have very few practitioners, usually spread across just one or two businesses, and few have any trainees. The reasons crafts become critically endangered are varied, but may include limited opportunities for training, low financial viability, or no way for the skills and knowledge to be passed on.

Greta Bertram, who led the research on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:

“The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts is the first research of its kind in the UK. We’re all familiar with the idea of a red list of endangered species, but this is the first time the methodology has been applied to our intangible craft heritage. While some crafts are indeed thriving, the research has shown that all crafts, and not just those identified as critically endangered, face a wide range of challenges to their long-term survival. When any craft is down to the last few makers it has to be considered at risk as an unpredicted twist of fate can come at any time.”

The UK has amazing heritage buildings which are supported by different agencies and which also can also provide a source of income.

We also have a great heritage of traditional craft skills and world-renowned makers, yet these skills and knowledge receive little recognition or support, largely because they fall between those bodies which advocate for heritage and focus on buildings, monuments and artefacts, and the arts which emphasise the new and innovative. Thus, heritage craft skills have declined rather than thrived in the way that they could have; by replenishing and enhancing the stock of treasures which populate our heritage buildings and people’s homes.

Ian Keys, Chair of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:

“We would like to see the Government recognise the importance of traditional craft skills as part of our cultural heritage, and take action to ensure they are passed on to the next generation. Craft skills today are in the same position that historic buildings were a hundred years ago – but we now recognise the importance of old buildings as part of our heritage, and it’s time for us to join the rest of the world and recognise that these living cultural traditions are just as important and need safeguarding too.”

Prestigious Churchill Fellowships awarded to the heritage craft sector

Crafts & MakersThe Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has just awarded eight Travelling Fellowships to people dedicated to working in the traditional crafts, including the woodworking crafts such as joinery, cabinet and furniture making.

The Churchill Fellows will investigate new ideas and techniques in various heritage crafts specialisms, helping to ensure a healthy and sustainable framework for the future of the industry.

This is the third year of a partnership between the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and the Heritage Crafts Association. During this time 27 Fellowships have been awarded, an investment of over £170,000 in the UK craft sector. Past projects include research into sustainable furniture design, bronze casting and stonework techniques.

This year’s Fellows include:

  • Alana Madden, a Cabinet Maker from Dulwich, who will be travelling to Japan and the USA to study approaches to increasing the representation of women in the construction industry.
  • Romily Alice, an artist and neon bender from Leeds, who will be travelling to Germany and the USA to study neon making with master craftsmen.
  • William Grant, a sheet metal worker from Spilsby, Lincolnshire, who will be travelling to Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA to investigate prototyping techniques for creative sheet metal work.
  • David Tucker, a designer and master blacksmith from Derby, who will be travelling to Norway and Sweden to explore the influence of Scandinavian craftsmanship on contemporary British blacksmithing.
  • Rajni Patel, from Ashburton, Devon, and Relationship Manager at Arts Council England, who will be travelling to India and Japan to research traditional and contemporary craft practice.
  • Faye McNulty, a textile designer from Hackney, who will be travelling to Australia and Japan to study traditional and sustainable textile print processes.
  • Jack Darach, a recorder maker from Brighton, who will be travelling to Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland to discover strategies for rejuvenating the craft of recorder making.


Julia Weston, Chief Executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust said:

“Churchill Fellows in our Crafts and Makers category have used the experience of travelling overseas and meeting with others who share their specialism as inspiration to deepen their contribution to their field. Our hope is that our 2017 Fellows will also enjoy the experience of a Fellowship, and return to the UK equipped to strengthen the crafts industry so that sole practitioners and the traditional crafts can continue to thrive”.

We are recruiting new trustees!

HCA TrusteesThe Heritage Crafts Association is the only organisation that exists to safeguard and promote traditional craft skills in the UK. We are looking for trustees with experience of:

  • fundraising
  • PR and external communications (including social media)
  • membership development (including Customer Relationship Management)
  • HR

…to join our passionate board. You don’t need to be a craftsperson to join us – our trustees are a mixture of practising craftspeople and those with an interest in supporting heritage crafts.

You will be expected to attend five Trustee meetings per year (meetings are held in central London, on Saturdays usually 11am to 4pm) and one Annual General Meeting, with additional input up to a maximum of one half day per fortnight.

Download the full Trustee role description here

For an informal discussion, contact Ian Keys, Chair, at ian@heritagecrafts.org.uk. To apply, send a CV and a short covering letter outlining your motivation for applying for the post and your relevant skills and experience to Sally Morgan, HCA Administrator, at info@heritagecrafts.org.uk.

HCA welcomes new Chair

Ian KeysWe are delighted to announce that Ian Keys has agreed to take up the role of HCA Chair.

Passionate about our heritage, Ian is also Honorary Secretary of the Historic Houses Association (Wessex) and actively involved in local campaigns around his Somerset home.

Until recently he was a director of a contemporary arts and crafts gallery, chaired a number of boards in the charitable, public and commercial sectors, was a company director, and, prior to that, was a senior local government officer.


“Heritage crafts and our cultural heritage are a vital part of our being – the very oxygen that surrounds us – and we need to ensure they continue to enrich and inform both our lives and the lives of future generations.”

Adopt a Potter launches Clay College Stoke Crowdfunder

Mugs - photo by Florian Gadsby

Photo by Florian Gadsby

The Adopt a Potter charitable trust has launched a Crowdfunder to raise £20,000 towards the £200,000 total needed to open Clay College Stoke, a not-for-profit, independent training college set up by potters for the new generation of students.

Building on the success of the apprenticeship scheme and developing their remit, Clay College Stoke will be the UK’s first skills-based, independent institution to focus on teaching a new generation of potters the essential skills they require to make a living from their craft. Students will be taught by world renowned potters who share a passion for keeping this tradition alive.

Here’s Lisa Hammond MBE and Chair of Adopt a Potter, who you can also hear speak, along with her apprentice Florian Gadsby, at this years HCA Conference on 6 May 2017 (click here to book).



HCA welcomes new Trustee

c44a7071-f680-426b-a8ab-7788f1e622f5The HCA is thrilled to welcome onto the board a new Trustee, Richard Hefford-Hobbs.

Richard is a member of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers and has a particular interest in intangible heritage skills, and is very keen to raise their profile and preserve them for future generations. Although Richard actively researches the area, by day he runs an engineering firm in Cambridge.