Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Flint knapping

Flint adzeI am booked to go on a one-day flint knapping workshop in July with master knapper John Lord. I can’t wait to learn a little of this ancient skill. Perhaps I’ll make some arrowheads for my new bow!

Val and John Lord began their prehistoric technology research projects in 1975, when they were engaged by the Department of the Environment, (now English Heritage), to take custody of Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mining site at Lynford, Norfolk.

During the period from 1975 to 1988, both Val and John strove to master the art of flint knapping, and as they progressed, they willingly shared their newly gained knowledge with members of the public. In the late 1970s they met Ray Mears, with whom they immediately began to exchange information. This arrangement has developed into a firm friendship, and John is now the flint knapping instructor on Ray’s Primitive Technology & Ancient Skills courses.

In 1987, John left Grimes Graves and English Heritage, in order to lead life as a professional flint knapper. Val stayed on at Grimes Graves until 1992, before developing her present role as a cordage and textile specialist, with the use of natural fibres. In 1992, both Val and John decided to pool their technologies and put their combined primitive technological skills on the road. You may now find them demonstrating their ancient art anywhere between Orkney and Guernsey.

I’ll post more information, and hopefully some pictures, after the workshop.


New advocacy organisation for traditional crafts

For a long time I’ve felt strongly that traditional crafts have not been properly supported or championed in the UK. In the political sphere they have fallen into the gap between the arts and heritage, poorly placed to take advantage of either public funding stream.

The same is not true on the continent, where UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) makes Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) one of its major themes. UNESCO’s web pages list many of the Government-initiated projects to preserve and champion traditional crafts and other practices, with representation from most of the EU member states. The UK is a notable absentee, as for one reason or another, there hasn’t been the political will to do anything about it.

It was serendipidous then, that as my feelings that something should be done were reaching a peak, I came into contact with a group of people who were committed to doing just that. After corresponding for some weeks, I was invited onto the committee, and we met in London yesterday to form a new advocacy body for traditional crafts.

I’ll leave the rest of the details under wraps until we are ready to officially launch, but the task appears clear – to use the positive example of other EU countries, the terminology of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the stories of real-life craftspeople, to make clear to policymakers and funders one stark fact – that unless we do something soon, we will lose many of our traditional crafts for ever.

There are several endangered crafts where few, or even only one, practitioner remains … many of these already in retirement age. It seems a crime to just stand by and let these valuable elements of our culture to die while a disproportionate amount of money is being spent on preserving stately homes and such like. Even a redistribution of funding of two per cent to ICH would make the world of difference.

More to follow…