For the last three years we have on occasion opened our doors to the public as part of the Art Trail during the local Larkhall Festival. Running three demonstration forges and setting up displays around the workshop gives us the opportunity to shout about what we do, not only to the general public, but also to a targeted audience of professionals from the heritage and built environment sectors.
This year we decided to open our doors to the general public on Saturday, 2nd May, followed by a CPD event on Tuesday. Saturday saw over 150 people come through the gates – not bad considering the poor show Mother Nature put on! Tuesday was split into two two-hour sessions; 30 people in the morning, 40 in the afternoon. The first hour was given over to demonstrations and general wandering around the displays, the second hour being devoted to a talk and slide presentation.
The title of the talk this year was ‘An Introduction to the Care and Repair of Historic Ironwork’. Based around the NHIG Conservation Principles, the aim was to make sure that attendees left a little more knowledgeable about how to recognise historic ironwork and how they might begin to specify appropriate treatment for such objects. While in no way a comprehensive ‘How To’ guide, the general consensus from those who attended was that their eyes had been well and truly opened. A great result! With this wider field of view, participants will at least give a second thought to the ironwork they encounter and therefore entertain a chance that it will be dealt with appropriately.
Invites suggested a voluntary donation of £15 to the NHIG and a total of £310 was raised.
In writing the talk and targeting our audience, it became apparent that those most in need of education are the ones least likely to attend. Conservation officers, especially, are on my “A” list to educate, but we managed to get only a few in. From talking to these, it would appear that their underfunded departments don’t allow the time or money for enough officers to attend events. While it is critical that other conservation professionals and architects are targeted, it is the conservation officers who are on the front line when it comes to recognising what may or may not be appropriate with regards to conserving traditional ironwork.
So overall, a great weekend with our visitors better informed about historic ironwork and myself better informed in how we continue to effectively educate and raise awareness with those who would benefit most.