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Craft Club

  • Date: 14 August 2012
  • Artform: Visual arts
  • Area: National
A picture of a yarn-bombed tree A yarn-bombed tree

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Launched in 2010, Craft Club, provides young people with the opportunity to learn craft skills through 350 free after-school clubs. It comprises over 2,600 volunteers including parents, members of local Women's Institutes and enthusiastic crafters teaching young people craft skills across the UK.

The Arts Nation element of this work builds on this successful model moving it beyond schools to involve museums, libraries, arts venues, galleries and cinemas. The aim is to double the number of clubs and to introduce new audiences and participants to the arts, crafts, and other cultural offers. A new programme Hook 1 Pass it On will teach young people how to crochet alongside Knit 1 Pass it On that was launched in 2010.

It was always the ambition for Craft Club to expand beyond the school gates and the Arts Nation initiative has enabled a pilot year of community projects to trial this method of working. 11 training events will help volunteers learn how to pass on their skills to others and four family cinema events will provide an innovative setting for newcomers to experience working with yarn for the first time.

Placing events in community and cultural settings is expected to enable access to local knowledge and links with communities. Host venues will gain new audiences from the Craft Club pool of volunteers and participants plus a 'ready to run' national project to add to their outreach offer. The outcome will be a fresh opportunity for those family groups to continue regular attendance at cultural venues.

'Many of our visitors had no experience of yarn or knitting; it was something new and fascinating because it is not something practiced in their countries of origin. One twelve year old girl from a local school in Peckham was brought along by her mother because she had asked "What wool was".'

Bridget Virden, Learning Manager at Dilston Grove's Cafe Gallery Project

Collaboration with the National Federation of Women's Institutes and the UK Hand Knitting Association is central to the design of this initiative as these project partners will support the events by publicising and recruiting volunteers through their federations.

Achievements

It is early days but the findings from early pilot projects suggest that the use of yarn and the skills required to work it have a significant capacity to increase engagement with people whose participation in arts events is low.

'My overall conclusion is that yarn and the skills involved in using it have a tremendous capacity for the engagement of diverse audiences because of its simplicity and tactile nature.'

Bridget Virden, Learning Manager at Dilston Grove's Cafe Gallery Project

Key learning

  • learning to work with yarn offers an accessible and non-threatening pathway into participation in craft which has an appeal across different generations, cultures and abilities
  • embedding this programme in established community settings seems likely to help build engagement in culture among people who do not currently make regular use of arts facilities, museums, libraries and other cultural venues
  • delivery at the local level is challenging for a national organisation but is a key success factor
  • whilst the Craft Club website offers good training resources many of the potential volunteers are non-web users so participatory training days have proved essential
  • collaboration with national organisations such as the National Federation of Women's Institutes and the UK Hand Knitting Association has been key. It has enabled the establishment of a national programme which builds on the enthusiasm of makers and hobbyists to involve them in volunteering and potentially deepen their own commitment to their craft