Sunday, 18 April 2010

HCA planning for the future

Friday and Saturday were spent in London again.

Friday was meetings with charitable trusts who we hope may help fund the Heritage Crafts Association's work and also gave us good advice about how efficient, successful organisations work. Then after a night in a cheapy £35 hotel (a cellar room near Earls Court) it was back to our committee meeting rooms which are a stones throw away from Trafalgar Square, another cellar room but this one is free, loaned to us by a supporter.

After just over a years hard work we feel the Heritage Crafts Association is established as an organisation, we have good links with the various individual craft organisations and many good contacts within government and the charitable sector. We still have no money but as more folk are beginning to sign up to our friends scheme that is helping.

This committee meeting then focussed on revisiting our priorities for action. This is something we did last November when our prime priorities were advocacy work within Government and DCMS and holding a forum to bring all the various craft organisations together. 

Now we are established we feel we can start to address some of the issues facing craftspeople more directly.  Our key focus over the coming months will be on these issues. Broadly they are either about helping make businesses more viable with promotion and marketing help or about issues of passing skills on to the next generation.

We hope to create a database of traditional craftspeople working around the country. This we hope to make publicly available through a craft map which will be searchable by region or craft. We are already being asked regularly by journalists for details of craftspeople that they can do stories on and it would be good for this information to be more widely available so that say someone in Suffolk looking for a basketmaker or boatbuilder could easily find them. The research needed to create this database will also highlight any particularly endangered crafts so we may have an endangered list such as the rare breeds survival trust have. We also hope to run a course in internet marketing for craftspeople, we have many skills in this area within the HCA committee and with recent developments in web2  software it is easier than ever for craftspeople to sell their work direct to customers at retail price.

On the training side of things we wish to support the transmission or passing on of craft skills, especially in the most endangered crafts. There will never be one simple solution to training needs, different approaches will be needed for different crafts and situations. It was interesting to see from our online survey of craftspeople that only 8% of respondents came into their craft through traditional apprenticeship and over 50% were in one way or another self taught, perhaps drawing inspiration from having done a short course and read all they can on the subject. In each individual case we will hope to find ways of helping skilled craftspeople pass their skills on to new learners using methods that suit both parties.

We also discussed the closure of the excellent NETS training at Hereford and the cutting of Weave at Dundee and will be doing whatever we can to oppose and publicise these losses.

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