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Are Textile Skills In The UK In Jeopardy?Insights from the Craftworks Show 2024

To answer the title of this article - 

Are Textile Skills In The UK In Jeopardy? Yes they are. Unless we act now. 

Thanks to organisations like Heritage Crafts we are becoming more and more aware of specific skills in the UK that are in danger of becoming extinct. Heritage Crafts have put together a series of lists based on the severity of risk, skills in the UK are in of ceasing to exist. What is shocking is the length of these lists and the skills in question that are in jeopardy.

a women in front of the Shoreditch Town Hall centre where the annual Craftworks Show is being held.
Abigail Amphlett at the Craftworks Show 2024

On behalf of LLUK (Luxury Lockstitch UK ) on the 15th May 2024, I attended the Craftworks Show at Shoreditch Town Hall in London. The event spanned over three days featuring several panel discussions with industry leaders in the craft sector, that are pioneering the protection of textiles heritage.  

Shoreditch Town Hall itself is a beautiful historic building with several floors and lots of rooms, making it the perfect location to host a heritage skills event. Each room was divided into sections for brands and individuals to display their talents and educate the onlookers about their craft skills. 

Four heritage framed artworks, crafted by artisans at the Craftworks Show.
Heritage Craft Artwork at the Craftworks Show 2024

Learning Journeys & Craft Careers - Apprenticeship / Internships VS University

Speaking to presenters, you could really tell they loved what they did and were proud to share their passions and talents. One artist, in particular, discussed his learning and educational journey, wh ich prompted me to ask whether apprenticeship or internships were more beneficial than university education. He completely agreed, suggesting that earning and learning first can save time and money. Gaining experience before investing in further education allows one to seamlessly integrate into the industry with less financial strain.

three people sitting in a panel discussion at the Craftworks Show 2024
Fortnum & Mason Panel Discussion

Panel Discussions - Highlighting the Future of Craft Skills

The first panel discussion of the day talked about the importance of showing young people that craft is a viable career. For craft to have a future, there has to be an interest from the next generation and it is our responsibility to nurture, encourage and support them.

The second panel featured Jo Newton from Fortnum and Mason and one of their recent ceramic artists Emma Lacey. Emma shared her experiences as a supplier for the famous brand, while Jo discussed balancing heritage and modernity. Jo stressed the need to honour heritage while being contemporary, relevant, and appealing to the next generation. She said that supporting skills and promoting them to the consumers is essential for heritage to thrive in the future.

The third panel discussion covered the necessity of changing the conversation around heritage and crafts, highlighting the people behind them. Craft isn’t just about the end product, it’s about the artisans who refine their skills and become experts in their field. We need to show young people that skills can provide a lifelong career that is worth investing in.

Conclusion - Protecting Textile Skills in the UK

This event showcased the expertise and quality involved in craft. It encompassed a passion for skills and highlighted the necessity to protect them.  I am so grateful to LLUK for the opportunity to attend this event and learn about the skills shortage and to hear from industry leaders about what we can do to help prevent the shortage from rising. We need more events like this one to raise awareness, make a difference and prompt people to act before it’s too late.

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