Well, Tenth Glen Heritage Farms very first Traditional Skills Festival is definitely an event we are going to repeat. It was created for the core purposes of sharing knowledge and keeping traditional skills alive by teaching people new skills, supporting the professional craft and skills industry and providing opportunity for the less experienced to put themselves out there as well as be an enjoyable weekend for all involved, crafter and visitor alike. An event to inspire the curious, induct the newcomer, light a fire under the amateur, provide a stage for the hobbyist, an audience for the professional and eager apprentices for the masters of the crafts. Next year’s date is in discussion so if you missed it this year then stay tuned.  

It was a fantastic weekend packed with busy workshops, interesting and inspiring demonstrations, and some very impressive displays. On Saturday there were full and half day workshops in wool spinning with Lorna Shannon Weaving and heritage quilting with Jacki from Heritage Quilts NI. Over lunchtime there was a really informative talk and demonstration on many aspects of homesteading with Vicky from Isla Rose Farmhouse. On Sunday, there were basket weaving workshops with Clive from Welig Heritage Crafts and a natural dyeing workshop with Malú from Talú. Sunday was also the day of the craft trail which saw around 20 fantastic demonstrations, displays and activities spread across the farm for people to explore.

Workshop participants all went home with a selection of willow woven display trays, quilted heat mats, naturally dyed bandannas, and even their own hand spun yarn to stitch or crotchet with as well as newfound skills and the know-how to apply them.

Our craft trail was a really big hit for all visitors with many great reviews. The concept of taking what would most often be squashed into a busy marquee and spreading it across several acres of hay meadow, woodland, orchard, and wetland made for a really chilled out atmosphere and an enjoyable day for all. A lot of luck with the weather didn’t hurt either, the sun shone all afternoon then as the last display was cleared away the sky’s erupted with thunder, lighting, storm winds and hailstones resulting in a timely lock-in in the barn!

We are very pleased that among the two dozen or so crafters and skilled people who took part, five of them were making their debut live appearances at our event and each one had a very successful and motivating weekend.

From carpentry to quilting, potato growing to preserving food, from flint napping to farming worms, butter making to basket weaving, hedgerow foraging and herbal medicine, from spinning wool to shepherds crook shaping, natural dying to nettle soap, mining for iron ore and music filling the air, we are very proud to have played even a small part in preserving such a wide and wondrous mix of traditional skills.

With transferring skills and supporting the traditional skills and craft industry our foremost objectives, we opted to not charge for anyone to take a stand nor charge any commission on sales. We also strove to make the weekend accessible for all by having a range of pricing options for the workshops, some free events, and no charge for under 18s on the craft trail. We are very appreciative of the established demonstrators and the musicians who embraced the spirit of the event and gave up their time for free and the workshop instructors who all shared the ticket sales volume liability, reducing our financial exposure. Also, a massive thank-you to our friends, family and supporters who helped up to and throughout the weekend, the event couldn’t have run without their invaluable assistance, and to the Glenravel Historical Society for their support.

While we didn’t sell out all the workshops and had a smaller turn out for the craft trail than expected, the feedback we have received suggests it was definitely a case of quality over quantity with visitor numbers, everyone really engaged with and valued what was on offer. The end of June seems to be a bad time for events, we had a lot of crafters who wanted to be involved and gave their apologies as they were away on early summer holidays. It will likely be late May or early June next year so get in touch to get involved.

Financially we pretty much broke even, but as a first event with no sponsorship nor funding and having achieved our objectives for the event, we are actually quite happy with that. What’s more, we can see lots of potential and interest in developing the event in the future and can see that it has the potential to become a significant fundraiser for Tenth Glen Heritage Farms. In terms of network expansion, awareness and profile raising it was a resounding success and has given us a real motivation boost to push forward . . big things are afoot!

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