Revival of crafts can enhance heritage

HOW the heritage of the North-East can help its people and economy is highlighted in a new study .

HOW the heritage of the North-East can help its people and economy is highlighted in a new study.

Leigh Murray

Heritage attractions bring in £180m a year to the region’s tourism industry and the heritage sector supports almost 7,500 jobs.

But two years ago a survey found there was an acute shortage in the region of the traditional skills needed to safeguard its historical assets.

The North-East Historic Environment Forum set about tackling the issue and yesterday’s Heritage Counts report said progress has included:

A training programme by Northumberland National Park to turn out people with the skills to preserve the traditional boundary features of the area.

A drystone walling apprenticeship scheme by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership.

Newcastle College students learning from and constructing a traditional timber-frame building for Beamish Museum.

The organisation of a visit by Romanian craftspeople to County Durham to teach lime-making skills, resulting in restoration of a kiln at Cowshill in Weardale.

The National Trust in the region hosting traditional skills taster days.

One of the regional success stories is 19-year-old drystone waller Leigh Murray, of Wark in Northumberland, who joined the Northumberland National Park Authority’s Traditional Boundaries Traditional Skills project because she believes it is important to keep traditional skills alive and enjoy the outdoor life. Leigh said: “I have had a fantastic time on this training programme and can highly recommend it to other young people. As a result of doing this, I hope to set up my own business.”

The North-East Historic Environment Forum’s Heritage Skills project has attracted £82,400 from the Learning and Skills Council’s Train to Gain initiative – to train the trainers and allow North-East colleges to offer the new NVQ 3 in heritage skills.

Two bursaries in blacksmithing and stonemasonry have also been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, for training in two of the skills in most jeopardy. New heritage skills co-ordinator for the North-East, Andie Harris, said: “Although a huge amount of progress has been made in the first year of the project, we have much more to achieve.”

North-East Historic Environment Forum chairman, Carol Pyrah, said: “It is vital we retain the skills required to sustain the unique heritage of the North-East. …

“Learning heritage skills can be a very effective way into work for young people and those changing careers and allows us to contribute to the quality of life and a sense of place in our region.”

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People’s stories can inspire disaffected pupils

THE study underlines how heritage can inspire young people.

The Aspire to Achieve at Bede’s World, Jarrow, has given 250 young people in South Tyneside – many of whom were in danger of being excluded from formal education – the chance to enjoy their local heritage and develop new skills.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the North-East Regional Museums Hub and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, the project involved 11- to 19-year-olds in activities such as stained glass making and stone carving and traditional skills such as thatching and willow fence making.

Last year, projects included pupils from Newcastle, Durham and Carlisle taking part in a wartime evacuation re-creation and youngsters from Walbottle Campus and Heaton Manor schools in Newcastle studying how poor people were treated in the past.

It included a dramatisation by Northumbria University students of the 1838 case of Elizabeth Graham, who fell into poverty after her husband’s death and died in a police cell.

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History around the corner

THE North-East has: 66 accredited museums and two world heritage sites.

1,401 scheduled monuments.

12,150 listed buildings.

45 registered parks and gardens.

Seven entries on the national register of historic battlefields.

21 properties open under the Historic Houses Association.

70% of all adults in the region attended at least one historic environment site in
2005-06.

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