Even the weather did its very best for us over the August Bank Holiday weekend, just testing us with only one sharp shower on Sunday afternoon, which did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm that characterised the three days of the Traditional Skills event.
Not only did we have skills aplenty on display, in the guise of the supremely talented craftsmen and women, but also the passion that goes with a love of the crafts and skills they continue and the materials they work with. Watching these people in action and listening to them talk about their work was a true privilege, and gave the visitors an illustration of their enthusiasm for what they do.
There was enthusiasm unbounded for the hands-on opportunities, displayed by both the young and not so young. Hundreds of commemorative bookmarks were produced under the guidance of the Bookbinders; hundreds of holes drilled in pieces of wood with hand tools, and medieval joints demonstrated by courtesy of the Woodworkers; machine- embroidered motifs were proudly taken home, and perhaps have even given two teenage boys thoughts for GCSE choices! Stone was chipped and stained glass arranged; iron was shaped at the Blacksmith’s forge and letters were shaped with the Calligrapher’s quills.
The Wallingford Scouts, providing refreshments and supervising the car park as a means of fund-raising, showed modern youth in a very positive light and were on hand to help, cheerfully and enthusiastically, whenever a job needed doing.
There was so much to watch, talk about and do that many visitors had to return more than once. Everyone involved loved the event – the craftspeople spoke highly of the genuine interest shown by the visitors and of the happy atmosphere. The visitors loved what the craftspeople provided for them. Those of us involved in the organisation just loved to see it happening as we had envisaged it.
The reactions and comments from the craftspeople and the visitors leave us in no doubt that Traditional Skills is a very special event. By its nature its outcome is immeasurable. We can only wonder whether one day someone will announce that what they saw and did at Traditional Skills took their life in a certain direction.
Perhaps anyone who may have thought that we had simply organised a repeat of the 2008 event will realise they missed a real gem in 2010. Those of us who were there know we were part of something very special which will live long in the memory.
(Blogged by Sue Dixon, principal organiser behind the Traditional Skills 2010 event)