The second President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, established by Heritage Crafts Association President HRH The Prince of Wales, is now open for nominations. Each year the President’s Award presents £3,000 to a heritage craftsperson who will use the funding to ensure that craft skills are passed on to the future.
The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) published the latest edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in 2019, which revealed that there are 107 endangered crafts in the UK. Crafts deemed critically endangered range from bell founding and damask weaving to orrery making and reverse glass sign painting. Other endangered crafts include a number of musical instrument making crafts, including brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, harps and Northumbrian pipes.
Applicants for the President’s Award are invited to submit proposals to help secure the survival of their craft, which must be listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ on the 2019 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.
The President’s Award will be presented at a special reception at Dumfries House, home of The Prince’s Foundation, as well as at a prestigious winners’ reception at the Houses of Parliament.
The Award judges are renowned advocates of craft skills:
- Jay Blades, BBC The Repair Shop, Jay & Co;
- Kate Hobhouse, Chair of Fortnum and Mason;
- Paul Jacobs, Co-Owner of Ernest Wight scissor makers
- Patricia Lovett MBE, Chair of the Heritage Crafts Association; and
- Simon Sadinsky, Deputy Director of The Prince’s Foundation.
HCA Chair Patricia Lovett said:
“The UK has a hugely rich cultural heritage of craft skills which can be regarded as important as our great historical buildings and treasured objects – all the result of great craftsmanship. However we are in danger of losing a number of these crafts where our research has found that in some cases there are only one or two makers left. The Heritage Crafts Association hopes that by focusing on endangered crafts with this wonderful award initiated by our President, The Prince of Wales, the craft skills will be passed on to future generations.”
Applications are invited from those practising a craft listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ on the 2019 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts. Applicants must explain how they will use the £3,000 award to help secure the survival of their craft.
The closing date for applications is Friday 30 April 2021 at 5pm. Shortlisted applicants will be expected to attend the Awards Ceremony at the Houses of Parliament in Autumn 2021 (COVID permitting). The winner will also be expected to attend the presentation at Dumfries House (date to be confirmed).
Click here to download the application form including further instructions
Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown we have been running a series of free online events on Zoom. Here you can find out what event we have coming up. Click here to re-watch the recordings for some of the previous events.
HCA South West of England members Zoom meeting – 10 March 2021, 7pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the South West of England and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA Scotland members Zoom meeting – 16 March 2021, 4pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter, Mary Lewis, Louise Butler and Helen Voce exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in Scotland and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA North of England members Zoom meeting – 22 March 2021, 7pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter and Chrissie Freeth exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the North of England and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
Lida Cardozo Kindersley in Conversation – 30 March 2021, 7pm
Join us in conversation with lettercutter, typeface designer and author Lida Cardozo Kindersley MBE, in her own workshop where we’ll be able to see some of the pieces she is working on. Lida is considered the foremost lettercutter currently working in the UK and her work in slate, stone and other media includes carved memorials, plaques, inscriptions and sundials can be seen at many public locations across the country and beyond. Among her works are the main gates for the British Library, designed with her first husband David Kindersley.
HCA Northern Ireland members Zoom meeting – 6 April 2021, 7pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter and Emma Whitehead exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in Northern Ireland and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA East Midlands members Zoom meeting – 20 April 2021, 7pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter and Sally Morgan exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the East Midlands and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA West Midlands & Marches members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Mary Lewis and Mike Taylor exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the West Midlands & Marches and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
Click here to watch the recordings of previous online events
The Heritage Crafts Association has been recognised by the Ruskin Society with a special award for its contribution to supporting and safeguarding heritage crafts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ruskin Society exists to bring together people who are interested in the life and work of John Ruskin and to promote understanding of Ruskin and his legacy. John Ruskin was one of the most important art critics and social thinkers of the nineteenth century. His ideas inspired William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement and had profound political implications regarding the effect of industrialisation and free markets on the ability of people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives
At the Ruskin Society Annual General Meeting, held to coincide with the celebration of the 202nd anniversary of Ruskin’s birth, the Society’s Chair, Professor Francis O’Gorman, said:
“What is special for us [about the Heritage Crafts Association], apart from the obvious Ruskinian activity of preserving endangered crafts, is that the HCA set up a COVID-19 fund earlier in the pandemic offering small, but possibly extremely valuable, grants to sole traders and small businesses to help their activities become sustainable during the pandemic, which of course has gone on far, far longer than we anticipated. Thank you from the Ruskin Society, and our thanks and prize under these exceptional circumstances go your Association.”
Heritage Crafts Association Operations Director Daniel Carpenter, who was presented with the award, said:
“We would be honoured and delighted to be receiving this award in any circumstances, but there are two reasons that make this particularly special. Firstly, because it has been given in recognition of the work we have been doing to support heritage craftspeople during this difficult pandemic year. Secondly, because it’s in the name of John Ruskin, whose thinking on the importance of meaningful work and his influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement lives on today, and we ponder how more difficult it might be to resist what often seem like overwhelming forces of consumer capitalism and the erasure of craftsmanship, were it not for his legacy.”
This year many of these skills, and the craftspeople who embody them, have been pushed to the brink, and the future of many of the at-risk crafts featured on our HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts have become even more precarious. In response to this we have been proactive, in increasing our support through hardship grants and our Endangered Crafts Fund, offering the inaugural President’s Award for Endangered Crafts set up by HCA President HRH The Prince of Wales, and reaching out to our members through online events and peer-support networks, accelerating our programme of work thanks to the dedicated efforts of our fantastic staff and Trustee teams, and with the support of the Dulverton Trust, the Swire Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Pilgrim Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Marsh Christian Trust.
The presentation was followed by a fantastic talk by Dr Rachel Dickinson entitled ‘Ruskinian Wealth Today: living well in the wake of COVID-19’.
Veronica Main from Hazelmere in Buckinghamshire has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021, in recognition of a lifetime spent researching, practicing and teaching the craft of straw plaiting for the hat industry.
Veronica was nominated by the Heritage Crafts Association in this year’s New Year Honours, following 19 previously successful nominations since 2013. Last year, the charitable organisation – which was set up in 2009 to support and champion traditional craft skills – published the latest edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts, the first report of its kind to rank craft skills by the likelihood they will survive into the next generation.
Once an important trade in the UK, straw hat plaiting is now critically endangered on the Red List, with only a few remaining craftspeople. Veronica has made it her life’s mission to ensure that these skills are not lost, and only last week was on BBC Radio lamenting the closure of Luton hat firm Olney Headwear.
Veronica has been involved with Wardown House Museum and the Culture Trust in Luton for over 30 years – first as volunteer, then ‘Hat Plaiter in Residence’, and finally as Curator – becoming the go-to expert for the history of women’s hats and hat making. She has been a consultant on straw work to museums across the world, including the V&A and the Museum of London.
Hat made by Veronica in collaboration with Lucy Barlow for the ‘Royal Ascot at Home’ millinery auction 2020 to raise money for NHS Charities.
Over the years Veronica has taught many hundreds of people the skills of straw plaiting in the UK, US, Europe and Bangladesh, where she taught straw work to the women of Sreepur village, to increase their repertoire of craft skills.
Veronica is a Queen Elizabeth Scholar, Wingate Scholar, City & Guilds Gold Medallist, and member of the Guild of Straw Craftsmen and the National Association of Wheat Weavers (USA). She is a founding member of the British Hat Guild, a group of 33 professional milliners at the top of their game, each selected for their highly individual contribution to millinery. In 2003, she published Swiss Straw Work, a comprehensive guide to straw plaiting and other techniques that were common in Switzerland and across Europe.
Veronica continues to innovate and find new ways to share her knowledge of straw hat plaiting. Concerned that skills and knowledge could be imminently lost, she has created a website to share her knowledge and has embraced social media as a tool to disseminate her skills.
HCA Operations Manager Daniel Carpenter said:
“Often it is only in retrospect that we realise that particular craft skills have survived purely thanks to a few dedicated individuals, working tirelessly to safeguard the future of our intangible heritage so that future generations can use them as a basis for innovation, industry, connection and wellbeing. Veronica is a shining example of this and we are delighted that we have been able to recognise her skill and commitment through this successful MBE nomination, putting her up there among other great luminaries of public life.”
The HCA encourages anyone who supports the continuation of traditional craft skills, whether or not they are makers themselves, to become HCA members. We have set up an Endangered Crafts Fund to provide small grants to projects that increase the likelihood of endangered craft skills surviving into the next generation, and are currently seeking donations to save more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion.
Traditional British hat making skills have suffered a major hit with the announcement of the closure of historic firm Olney Headwear Ltd, makers of the iconic Peaky Blinders hats.
On Monday the company – which has produced straw boaters, panamas, fabric hats and caps since 1914 – left its factory at 106 Old Bedford Road to make way for housing developers to build 31 apartments.
Despite overseas competition leading it to focus on more artisanal production such as the hats for the Peaky Blinders TV programme, Olney was a viable company until COVID-19 saw the closure of most of its retail network. As recently as September the company announced that it would be relocating to a new site, a prospect that has now evaporated. Its termination means the end of traditional straw boater making in the UK and the end of commercially-made pattern-piece caps and hats in Luton, as well as the loss of 25 jobs and the skills that went with them.
The traditional boater has a double brim and is blocked twice, the second time on a specialist machine. Some of the Olney machines have been passed to other companies and individuals, with Culture Trust Luton Museums acquiring the iconic Brochier boater blocking machine.
As well as making Peaky Blinders caps, the company also made the famous ‘Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker hat, and supplied hats to private schools including Eton and Harrow. The closure is bound to have knock-on effects on other Luton hat companies and allied trades, who looked to Olney as the strong and stable industry core. The town is home to the last large commercial hat block maker and the last commercial bleacher and dyer.
On hearing of the closure, members of the hat making trade are calling on the local Luton Borough Council to support and assist the remaining companies.
Daniel Carpenter, Heritage Crafts Association Operations Manager said:
“While our first thoughts are with the workers who have lost their livelihoods, as the national charity for the safeguarding of craft skills we are also concerned with the loss of an important part of our shared intangible cultural heritage: their embodied knowledge and skills. Whilst it is good that some of the machines has been saved, unused they become little more than relics of cultural loss. Finally, but not insignificantly, we also think of future generations whose repository of craft skill will be diminished as a result.”
Read the full press release
The last operating bellfoundry in Britain has been saved just in time for Christmas, thanks to £3.45m from the National Lottery.
Since 1859, the iconic Loughborough Bellfoundry, home to John Taylor & Co bellfounders, has cast more than 25,000 bells that are hung in over 100 countries, in churches, cathedrals, universities and public buildings. 20 million people in Britain, and hundreds of millions worldwide, hear a bell cast at the Loughborough Bellfoundry every day.
Bells from the foundry have even entered popular culture – the bells from St Thomas’s Church, in Fifth Avenue, New York, which can be heard on The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s Christmas anthem Fairytale of New York, were cast at the site. However, the globally unique, purpose-built Victorian bellfoundry was at serious risk of being permanently lost without urgent repairs. The closure of the bellfoundry would be a huge loss to traditional craftsmanship, with bellfounding raised to critically endangered in the 2019 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.
Now, thanks to the £3.45m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – and match-funding bringing the total to £5m – the site will be secured for the future and used to train a new generation in bell-making skills, deliver an engagement and outreach programme, increase access to the unique archive, expand production and develop the onsite bell museum as a heritage destination, attracting visitors from around the world.
Hannah Taylor, Chair of the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust, said:
“This news is the best possible Christmas present and will ensure that the foundry, its buildings, the museum and rare archive will be protected, and that Loughborough bells are heard and enjoyed by many future generations around the world… As well as to protect the site, our aim is to make the Loughborough Bellfoundry the global centre for the art of bell making and learning and provide an engaging and exciting visitor experience. Thanks to National Lottery players, we can do exactly that.”
Bellfounders John Taylor & Co employ a team of 30, with a range of highly specialist heritage skills including casting, tuning and finishing bells. It produces all of the associated parts and mechanisms such as frames, headstocks, wheels, hand-bells, carillons and bell ropes.