For most of our history, making things by hand was the norm, and the skills were passed from one generation to the next. In this digital age, when so many spend their days in front of a computer screen, the thrill and sense of satisfaction in taking time to make something yourself is that much more important.
Yet there are crafts that form part of our cultural heritage which are in real danger of dying out. The skills and techniques required are known by only a few, in some cases only one, as craftspeople become older and retire from their work, and there is no-one coming into the craft to take their place.
Recent research for BIS shows that over 169,000 people work in Heritage Craft businesses, using traditional hand skills to provide products and services in response to growing public demand. The sector is set to grow in the future; the research anticipates a 12% growth in employment in the period leading up to 2022.
For the first time, the research also highlights the significant economic impact of Heritage Craft, with the sector as a whole contributing £4.4 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy. This is striking for a set of skills and jobs which are often considered hobbyist occupations or lifestyle choices.
The current threats to our craft skills
In 2014 we were commissioned by the Headley Trust to write an update to the publication Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future by E. J. T. Collins. Our report can be downloaded here. We have also prepared a summary of the key issues here.
The Heritage Crafts Association firmly believes in the importance of these crafts as a fundamental part of our living heritage.
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