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Training bursary for musical instrument making

Golsoncott FoundationDeadline: 5pm on Friday 23 February 2024

This training bursary is targeted at trainees and prospective musical instrument making trainees who are experiencing financial hardship. It is sponsored by the Golsoncott Foundation and Jennifer Chen and is one of a suite of awards and bursaries offered by Heritage Crafts to support and celebrate heritage craftspeople.

Apply for up to £4,000 to start training in a musical instrument making craft or to further develop your skills.


Musical instrument makingMany people are dissuaded from training in musical instrument making because of the cost, and therefore the make-up of the sector is not truly representative of the mix of backgrounds that make up the UK as a whole. This bursary has been set up to help cover or subsidise the cost of training for someone who would otherwise be prevented from pursuing this career path as a result of the cost.

You could be just starting out on your journey in musical instrument making or at the point where you want to turn a hobby into a career, or you could already be a maker who is looking to further refine your skills.

Musical instrument crafts can include, but are not limited to, the making of complete instruments (such as bagpipes, guitars, steel pans and so on ), or to the specific skills that go into making an instrument (such as strings, valves, keys and so on).

If you are new to a craft and are struggling to find the right training for you, after your own research, please get in touch and we may be able to support. Successful applicants will be supported by the Heritage Crafts team to develop an action plan. We will work with you to monitor progress and support you to achieve your aims.


What can this grant be used for?

There are a number of routes to learning a craft skill. Applicants can apply for a grant for any amount up to £4,000 which can cover or contribute towards:

  • the costs of training with a craftsperson;
  • the costs of attending a specialist training course;
  • the costs of attending an accredited training course;
  • undertaking a self-directed programme of training with one or more craftspeople;
  • the cost of specialist tools or materials, books or study materials or low cost travel (no more than 25% of total budget).

The bursary cannot be used for general living expenses, research, promotional activities or anything else. Successful applicants will be supported by the Heritage Crafts team. We will work with to you monitor progress and support you to achieve your aims.


How to apply

Please apply by filling out the form below. We will also accept a video application of no more than 15 minutes in length in which you address all of the questions in the form below. You can access a list of questions here.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 23 February 2024. If you have any questions or need assistance with the application process, please email Tess Osman at

Assessment, shortlisting and final selection will be carried out by the Heritage Crafts judging team, and interviews will be carried out by Zoom. If you are new to a craft and you would like assistance with finding a trainer, please get in touch and we will do what we can to help.

Nine new grants awarded to help save endangered crafts from extinction

Monica Cass. Photo copyright Katherine Mager.

Monica Cass weaving a ‘tau tray’ using skeined willow in Norfolk. Photo copyright Katherine Mager.

A chair seater, a concertina maker and a brick and tile maker are among the recipients of the latest round of grants awarded to help safeguard some of the UK’s most endangered craft skills.

The Heritage Crafts Association, which is due to publish the third edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in May, has awarded a further nine grants from its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

This round of the HCA Endangered Crafts Fund has been offered with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The nine successful recipients are:

  • Duncan Berry, from West Sussex, to buy tools to enable him to pass on his skills as a flint waller.
  • Ben Bosence, from East Sussex, to develop and make bricks and tiles from waste clay that has been excavated locally.
  • Monica Cass, from Norwich, to train a chair seat weaver in skeined willow techniques, and document the process.
  • Collette Davies, from Monmouth, to help revive the craft of lipwork straw basketry.
  • Tom Frith-Powell, from Cumbria, to develop a gelatine sized paper as part of his commercial handmade papermaking charity.
  • Bob Green, from Brighton, to buy tools to enable him to develop and pass on his skills as a flint waller.
  • Jake Middleton-Metcalf, from Buckinghamshire, to be trained in making the critical working components of the English system concertina.
  • Tony Millyard, from Northamptonshire, to pass on flute making skills and to develop a new model of flute.
  • Dominic Parrette, from East Sussex, to build shave horses to allow him to teach trainees how to make Sussex trug and Devon stave baskets.
A hand made Anglo-German Concertina by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe. Photo copyright Jake Middleton-Metcalfe.

A hand made Anglo-German Concertina by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe. Photo copyright Jake Middleton-Metcalfe.

These nine projects follow 18 awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as scissor making, sail making, damask weaving, boot tree making, cockle basket making, folding knife making, neon bending, coracle making, fan making and swill basket making, coppersmithing, withy pot making, disappearing fore-edge painting, plane making and kishie basket making.

As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and the HCA hopes to work with many of the unsuccessful candidates to identify other funding and support opportunities.

HCA Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis said:

“The impact of COVID-19 in the last twelve months has only compounded the pressures on those at-risk craft skills that were already on the verge of being lost, but have so much to offer a post-COVID future, as productive and fulfilling ways to rebuild a sustainable economy. These projects will realise some of that potential.”

The Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds. The forthcoming 2021 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts is funded by the Pilgrim Trust.

The HCA continues to seek further donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion. Donations are welcome at any time.

Free reed instrument making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Free reed instrument making


The making of free reed wind instruments, including accordions, melodeons, concertinas and harmonicas.


Status Endangered
Historic area of significance London
Area currently practised UK – generally the South of England
Origin in the UK 19th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 11-20
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1 – Geoffrey Crabb is retired and sometimes makes concertinas for fun
Current total no. of leisure makers



A free reed aerophone is a musical instrument that produces sound as air flows past a vibrating reed in a frame. Air pressure is typically generated by breath or with a bellows. Various free reed instruments have been invented since antiquity.

The accordion was introduced from Germany into Britain in about the year 1828. The instrument was noted in The Times in 1831 as one new to British audiences and was not favourably reviewed, but nevertheless it soon became popular. Other accordions appeared, some featuring only the right-handed keyboard for playing melodies. It took English inventor Charles Wheatstone to bring both chords and keyboard together in one squeezebox. His 1844 patent for what he called a concertina also featured the ability to easily tune the reeds from the outside with a simple tool.

Further innovations followed and continue to the present. Various buttonboard and keyboard systems have been developed, as well as voicings (the combination of multiple tones at different octaves) and different methods of internal construction to improve tone, stability and durability.



  • Metal working
  • Wood working
  • leather working
  • Industrial design
  • Illustration
  • Musical competence


Local forms




  • Accordion making
  • Melodeon making
  • Concertina making
  • Harmonica making
  • Harmonium making


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Despite there being a good market for making and repairing these instruments at the moment, often the dealer takes a significant percentage of the cost price.
  • Traditionally made concertinas using individual reeds that consist of five pieces per reed, with two reeds and two leather valves used for each button (for push and pull notes) are very labour intensive and consequently very expensive with makers having in some cases ten year waiting lists.
  • There is no formal education route to learning the craft, and none of the existing makers currently have an apprentice.
  • Raw materials: Most materials (brass, aluminium and steel and many woods and leathers) come from the
    EU or further afield. They are becoming much more expensive to import, if they are even available.
  • Market issues: Brexit is making it difficult to survive as the the biggest market is in Southern Ireland.
  • Market issues: increased taxes on exports to Europe may dissuade EU customers from buying British made instruments

Support organisations



Craftspeople currently known

The following makers use a combination of fabricated and bought components.

  • AC Norman & Co – Concertina makers, antique free-reed specialists. Make and restore mainly concertinas but also Flutinas, Lap-organs, other antique accordions, harmoniums etc.
  • Marcus Butler concertinas (Marcus Butler has passed away but his company continues to make concertinas in his name)
  • Dave Cox, Marcus Music– concertinas
  • Anthony James – concertinas
  • Paul Harvey – specialises in vegan concertinas using no animal products
  • Edward Jay 

There is a list of concertina makers on the website.

Melodeons and accordions have always been assembled by different companies, with specialist firms making and supplying reeds, buttons, bellows etc. The harmonium (reed organ), made in huge numbers in Victorian times, hasn’t been made in the UK for many years.


Other information

While there are relatively few concertina makers the number has been seen to be stable over the last 40 years.