THE art of blacksmithing is still well and truly alive in the Craigavon area.
And the craftsmen and women of Tannaghmore Blacksmiths Workshop (TBW) are so talented that a prestigious award is within reach!
The Craft Skills Awards are taking place in London today (Thursday) with Prince Charles giving out the awards and renowned television presenter Kirstie Allsopp compering.
The Tannaghmore Workshop is the only group from Northern Ireland shortlisted.
Traditional crafts such as blacksmithing are at risk of dying out if more isn’t done to pass on the skills, so the Craft Skills Awards were developed in 2011 to help do this. The awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, maintaining and developing the skills of the craftsperson and others.
Passing on and developing these skills are vital for creating and maintaining crafts for the future and to ensure that crafts survive and flourish as a vibrant part of the economy.
TBW has been shortlisted in the category for ‘Encouraging craft skills in informal settings’ along with four other nominees.
“We are absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for these fantastic awards,” said Jonny Kerr, Arts Development Assistant at the Council.
“It is inspiring to see such high profile awards being used to help keep traditional crafts such as blacksmithing alive. It is vitally important that we preserve and sustain these skills and at TBW one of our main aims is to work hard to ensure that we can pass on our expertise to others to support the next generation of makers.”
TBW is based in Tannaghmore Animal Farm, a facility run by Craigavon Borough Council. It began in November 2008 and was originally intended to last for six weeks.
However, the popularity of the workshop, the dedication of the tutors, and the impressive achievements of students meant that it continued month after month, and is now beginning its fifth year.
As well as training up to 60 students in traditional blacksmithing skills, TBW has produced two large scale public art projects for Craigavon Borough Council, the stunning ornamental gates to the Animal Farm, as well as the Master McGrath sculptures which adorn the maze in Tannaghmore Gardens. The fact that these sculptures were produced by students with no previous metalworking experience makes their achievement all the more impressive!
Tutors Eamonn Higgins and Steve Murphy have two distinctive styles and influence the students in different ways while encouraging experimentation built on a firm base of tradition and time-honoured skills. Steve is currently smithing for HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ series which has been a huge hit world-wide.
“To have been shortlisted for these awards is a tremendous achievement and we are all extremely proud the Tannaghmore Blacksmiths Workshop,” added Councillor Ronnie Harkness, Chair of the Leisure Services Committee.
“The commitment of the tutors to both their students and to passing on these incredible skills to ensure that this highly specialized craft doesn’t become a ‘forgotten profession’ is extremely commendable. It is also apparent that the enjoyment factor is a huge part of the blacksmithing appeal, not to mention the joy of seeing the finished product. We wish them all the best of luck at the awards.”