Over 100 guests backed the Education Manifesto for Craft and Making House of Commons
To the sound of screen-printing (Anthony Burrill and his team from Jealous Gallery were on hand to let people print their own Manifesto slogan) Crafts Council Chair Geoffrey Crossick introduced the speakers there to celebrate the launch of Our Future is in the Making – An Education Manifesto for Craft and Making.
Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and Shadow Secretary of State for Education, and Caroline Dinenage, Conservative MP spoke first, demonstrating the cross-party support the Manifesto has already received. Hunt reaffirmed this by saying that the Manifesto was important to all parties before championing craft, art and design as one of the country's unique selling points. But beyond this, he said, creative education is about "employment, happiness, self-discovery and learning". Hunt expressed concern about the worrying trend of removing practical components from the GCSE curriculum and ended with a rousing “I fully endorse this Manifesto”.
Dinenage spoke from personal experience about the connection between making things, design and creativity and business as she set up her own manufacturing business aged 19. Key to her success was a young enterprise scheme at school which made the connection between business and creativity which is still vital and, she explained, “why this manifesto is so vitally important”.
Travis Henry, Workshop Manager at Out of the Dark was up next. He shared how he changed from a person who thought "it's just a chair, you sit on it", via learning seat caning from a 92 year old craftsman, to someone who took pride in the “I did this” moment after making something. A sentiment which resonated around the room.
Hugo Johnson, a jewellery apprentice at The Goldsmiths' Company spoke about the invaluable support he received from his Master, tutors and peers which has led to a string of awards and a place representing England at World Skills 2015 in Brazil.
The notion of a craft education making you want to do the best you can was echoed by AS Level student Ella Kenneally from St Marylebone School. Kenneally spoke about the positive impact creative opportunities are having on the whole of her educational experience and achievements.
The final evocative personal story was from Edmund de Waal, who spoke with force and passion on the impact craft has had on his life and world view. “Craft is my life,” he said. He recalled beginning his apprenticeship at 16 and being told "the first 30,000 pots you make are the worst". Citing Primo Levi he spoke about 'man as maker' as intrinsic to humanity and the importance of being in touch with what you make yourself. He described how craft offers people the ability "to work with their own, on their own, with their own head, and even better with their own hands and make something that will last beyond them. Having an encounter with people who they do not know and who they cannot dream of. That is the value at the heart of making."
Finally Geoffrey Crossick reminded us that the Manifesto was just the beginning and hoped that it would inspire collective action to help secure a craft education for everyone.