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Exeter Dialogue with Science Roadshow- Cardiff Heritage Craft Festival

Wednesday, 27 May, 2015
Linda Hurcombe
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
10 participants from the University of Exeter; interacting closely with St. Fagans staff members, other openarch partners, a variety of visiting crafts people, volunteers and 5,418 visitors

This was the first venue for the Exeter Dialogue with Science Road Show (a series of final workshops involving public presentation). This large, well published event organised by Steve Burrows and the team from the National Museum of Wales allowed a group of students, crafts people and staff from the University of Exeter to come together and demonstrate a variety of craft skills including flint knapping, skin processing, and basketry and cordage for an impressive number of visitors.

All of these skills were covered in the earlier intensive series 4 Exeter workshops on learning crafts skills. It was great to see skills which were the focus of these workshops taken forward and presented in a public context where over 5,000 visitors make their way around the site over the course of the day. Jasna Lesjnak from Calafell, Spain joined the demonstrators at the Heritage festival and building on some of the skills she learned in the basketry and plant fibre workshop, demonstrated esparto grass and flax processing.

Professor Bruce Bradley assisted by MA student Matt Swieton demonstrated flint knapping from prehistoric techniques through to the historic manufacture of gun flints. Local expert basket maker Linda Lemieux, assisted by MA student Emily Fawcett, ran short workshops aimed at children where they could weave a willow fish as well as demonstrated more advanced basketry and cordage making techniques. Theresa Emmerich Kamper demonstrated fur tanning processes at the heritage festival and was located in the yard of the historical tannery found on site. The interaction with both the general public and the other crafters was beneficial not only for raising awareness of skin tanning as a craft, but also to hear about and learn from other's experiences with this craft. MA students Mike Pitts and Leo Geisweid both helped at the various stations over the course of the day including helping to interpret the ‘Touching the Past’ project for visitors.

The ‘Touching the Past’ project built on the 3rd Exeter Workshop ‘Touching the past: engaging the public with the sense of touch replicas and modern technologies’. This project received Arts and Humanities Research Council funding and many of the textiles which were highlighted in the workshop such as the Falkirk Tartan and the White Horse Hill materials were also reproduced as 3D prints as part of the Touch project. Both Dr. Linda Hurcombe and Dr. Penny Cunningham spent much of the Heritage Festival explaining and helping visitors, staff and volunteers to explore the sensory based project.

The variety of craft skills being demonstrated at the Heritage Festival was impressive with 47 demonstrator stalls on site for the event. The public seemed fascinated by the scope on offer and the large amount of visitor participation encountered by the Exeter demonstrators spoke volumes about the general interest level of those visiting the festival. Many of the learning points taken away from this experience will go on to be implemented by the Exeter team in the next Dialogue with Science Roadshow events planned for this summer.