2011 may look like being a year of austerity but for the traditional crafts it may prove to be the most exciting year for a long time. I believe this year will see an explosion of traditional crafts in the media and by the end of 2011 the profile and status of traditional craftspeople will be raised and their skills recognised.
In January 2009 I wrote about the need for a traditional crafts organisation which became the Heritage Crafts Association. Last year I predicted 2010 would be the year traditional crafts became recognised as part of our heritage and we finished with the Heritage minister stating exactly that.
This year I believe we need to redefine what "heritage" is. Heritage in the dictionary is defined as everything that is passed down from one generation to the next which we value including material objects and skills, knowledge and customs. This is not backward looking it is our inheritance and it is our duty to keep it alive and pass it on.
Unfortunately "Heritage" in the UK has had a very narrow meaning, on the DCMS website we find "The historic environment is the physical legacy of thousands of years of human activity in this country, in the form of buildings, monuments, sites and landscapes." but no mention of living heritage or cultural traditions. We need to change that situation so that everyone from government ministers and Whitehall advisers to newspaper editors and ordinary people in the street recognise that heritage means everything that we have inherited, all those things from our regional accent to folk songs, traditional craft skills to favourite recipes passed from one generation to the next. UNESCO recognise this as do 126 countries signed up to the 2003 convention on intangible cultural heritage.
Things are changing. For the first time we have a high profile conference for all the traditional crafts at the V&A, this will be an exciting event with many crafts represented and some fantastic inspirational speakers, tickets are limited so book soon to be sure of a place, be there and be a part of the change that is coming in the traditional crafts.
HCA have some great work in progress that will be in the press in the spring. 2 major surveys, the first surveying crafts of the metal trades of Sheffield, the second a major survey of all the councils of England finding out which are doing things to promote traditional crafts and have a named person responsible in the way they do for the arts or for the built heritage. Early results show this is going to be a very dramatic piece of research when we publish.
HCA continue our high level advocacy work. We have been promised a meeting with John Hayes the skills minister who recently called for a new arts and crafts movement and in February we have a meeting called by Lord Patrick Cormack of influential people from the world of heritage to discuss the position of traditional crafts.
We are involved in several very interesting media projects which will see traditional crafts in the limelight with opportunities starting in just a couple of weeks time though we can not give out details yet.
If you want to be involved and to support us in our work sign up as a friend, join the facebook group and book for the spring conference. Hope to see you there.