NW Craft Network, Highlights of 2021

people around a table filled with colourful clay and tools make buttons and other craft objects

2021-22 was another extremely challenging year as North West organisations responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, various lockdowns and phased opening up.

people arounda  table with coloured clay and tools for working it, making buttons and colourful craft objects
‘Hands On’ Bursary Launch workshop at Manchester Craft and Design Centre

Many fantastic craft events took place, and provided a context a lively exchange of research, inspiration and information. Events include….

  • British Textile Biennial 2021 at various venues and communities around Lancashire
  • Degree shows online and bricks and mortar at Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Bolton and across the North West
  • Lakeland Arts commissioned Rosie Galloway Smith to create Weathering the Storm, a textile installation at Blackwell House in Cumbria drawing on local experiences of lockdown and some of the beautiful patterns featured in the house.
  • Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair online in July and live at Victoria Baths in October
  • Past, Present, Future: Celebrating Craft, a collaborative show across Liverpool venues at the Walker Arts Gallery, Bluecoat Display Centre and Williamson Art Gallery showcasing North West based craftspeople currently focusing on Paul Scott and Stephen Dixon. This was also one of Crafts Council’s 50 year celebrations, ‘Make! Craft! Live!’
  • Wendy Roby – Materials, Mark Making and Minimalism by Arts in the Community Stockport at the old Hat Works, Stockport, plus Stockport Together Again, created for Stockport MBC.
  • Trading Station: How hot drinks shape our lives at Manchester Art Gallery, with accompanying tile making project with Joseph Hartley to roof the Trading Station tea house.
  • The Creative Step Programme was adapted and delivered online by Creative Lancashire
  • Hands On bursary project at Manchester Craft and Design Centre and Joy: Every Day, the 15th annual MMU Exhibition award returning after a lockdown pause
  • The Textiles and Place Conference, online Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with the British Textile Biennial
  • Digital talks by Gawthorpe Textiles Collection throughout the year, community projects at Vallery Street Textiles Studio ‘Collateral’ project with artist Bridgid McCleer and ‘Patterns of Migration’ for the British Textile Biennial 2021 plus Green Canopy soon to open that displays work made with the local community around the theme of ethical fashion
Image shows textile art comprising many printed and stitched textile pieces arranged in a spiral
62 Group artist Jane McKeating @Whitaker Art Gallery, part of the British Textile Biennial 2021. Photo Rachel Milbourn

We met to share expertise and good practice and develop shared priorities…

  • At our July 2021 meeting Jonathan Ball from Designmine worked with us to develop a process to explore our NWCN priorities. Sandra Dartnell of Creative and Cultural Skills also presented
  • For our November 2021 meeting we finalised our new priorities……
    • Craft and health and wellbeing
    • Diversity and Inclusion
    • Maker support
  • Our next meeting will be face to face at the National Festival of Making on 10 June, an opportunity to reconnect in person
  • We’re exploring a face to face/digital combo for future meetings. That way we get the added value to making connections with the accessibility of digital meeting

We collaborated on shared projects…

The Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool Museums and The Williamson were awarded Arts Fund money for a joint curatorial research project and exhibition series, Past, Present, Future: Celebrating Craft, showing a variety of North West makers. This was also selected as one of Crafts Council’s 50 year celebration events

The University of Bolton collaborated with the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair to provide workshops during the fair, and Manchester Craft & Design Centre had a stand showcasing the Hands On bursary makers

A tiled room with Arts and Crafts era stained glass window contains a display of craft and a maker setting up her work
Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 2021 at Victoria Baths, Manchester

We agreed short term actions to take our priorities forward, and help to strengthen the sector….

  • Built a new website, clarifying our vision and purpose and reviewing our language and visual presentation for accessibility and inclusion
  • Worked together to identify three priorities to guide and shape our programming, projects and collaborations, and agreed a small number of short-term actions to take our priorities forward
  • Compiled a calendar of community events and festivals that align with our priorities that take place around the North West with a view to promoting conversations and programming around these.
  • Reviewed our governance and recruitment processes to put diversity and inclusion at their heart. We’re in the process of rewriting them and we’ll be having a recruitment drive in 2022-23 for both the main NW Craft Network and the Steering Group
  • We agreed to map craft and wellbeing activities and regular maker support provision delivered by our members across the North West

We helped to build a healthy craft ecology in the region and nationally…

  • The NWCN is vigorously participating in the Craft UK forum to increase connectivity and the flow of information between crafts organisations widely across the UK
  • NW Craft Network members took part in all the Craft UK working Groups: Markets and Fairs, Education, Diversity and Strengthening the Sector
  • Victoria Scholes contributed an article on the impact of freelancing (very high in the arts) on diversity to the Crafts Council’s Toolkit for Change which comes out of their Diversity Working Group.
  • Manchester Craft and Design Centre also contributed a case study on the Hands On bursary project to the Crafts Council’s Toolkit for Change
  • A number of Network members participated in the University of Bolton’s Industry Advisory Board to offer a range of perspectives on the industry to shape and support the teaching programme
  • Past, Present, Future: Celebrating Craft, an exhibition featuring many North West Makers in a join project by The Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool Museums and The Williamson participated in the Crafts Council’s nationwide 50 year celebrations, Make! Craft! Live!

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