Marsh Heritage Crafts Volunteer Award

This Award recognises some of the many people who do a tremendous amount of work on a voluntary basis for heritage crafts. Whether independently, or as part of a craft organisation, these volunteers put in huge amounts of time and effort, sometimes over many years to make a real difference to their craft. The award winner could have volunteered their time on anything from event organising to administration to running craft websites to initiating new projects in the heritage crafts sector.

Nominations for the award can come from a craft guild or membership organisations, or individuals who have benefited from the volunteer’s work. The person nominated can be any age.

Nominations for the Awards can be submitted via the Heritage Crafts Association website. Entries are judged by a panel of experts in heritage crafts and representatives of the MCT.

Ian Pearson 2022

Ian started as editor of the British Society of Scientific Glassblowers (BSSG) journal in 1985 and gives demonstrations of scientific glassblowing and two to three evenings a week of volunteering for the BSSG. Ian was previously their Auditor/Visual co-ordinator and Abstract Editor and in 2002 was chosen to lead the BSSG as their Chairman until 2009 when he awarded Honorary Membership of the Society, followed by his Fellowship in 2011. The journal has grown in its importance to the BSSG as often it is the only contact the Society has with its membership and overseas members. As scientific glassblowing is on the Red List of Endangered Crafts, public demonstrations is the best way of advertising the profession. Ian is always willing to travel to attend and take part in these demonstrations no matter the distance involved. He is a regular attendee at BSSG council meetings always willing to give up his own time and if for any reason he cannot travel, he takes part by Zoom. 

Previous Winners

Colin Garrett

Colin has been a member of the British Violin Making Association (BVMA) since it was formed over 20 years ago and has been on the committee for a number of years in a voluntary capacity. Recently, he has given his time on many days of the week to revamp the finances of the organisation and has acted as Secretary at a number of meetings. It would not be an over-estimation to say that he has given thousands of hours of his time to the British Violin Making Association over the past 25 years. He has acted as Membership Secretary, Treasurer and as Company Secretary of BVMA Enterprises which is the branch of the organisation that handles commercial activities. Colin has also been Chairman of the BVMA and helped to publish most of the books that the organisation have put out into the world. At almost 80 years old, Colin is still involved with a number of other luthierie (the craft of building string instruments) organisations and shows real dedication to supporting the craft and those involved with it. He has never asked for thanks and has just got on with the job in hand, to preserve the craft in Britain for future generations.


John Savings

John has been volunteering for the National Hedgelaying Society since 1990. He puts all his efforts into doing so, promoting and encouraging others to take part in traditional skills and has even taught Prince Charles how to lay hedges. He attends many Country shows and events across the country with his bonsai hedge trailer that he designed himself displaying different styles of hedges, which requires a large amount of work to maintain throughout the year. At shows, John not only displays bonsai hedges but 26 different hedge plants where he holds a free competition to name them. John has great patience in training people, whether they are new to the craft or wanting advice and had great rapport with fellow hedgers and the general public and stresses the importance of hedges in the natural landscapes. 


Watch the Awards Presentation:

Toni Brannon

Toni’s background is in education – she is a qualifies trainer and NVQ assessor, skills that have been vital to developing training in the coppice and woodland craft sector and in her voluntary role on the steering committee for the National Coppice Apprenticeship Scheme. Professionally, she coppices hazel and sweet chestnut to produce materials for hedge laying, river bank repairs, garden products, fencing and other items for sale at summer shows.

Toni has been Membership Secretary of the Hampshire Coppice Craftsmen’s Group. In April 2013, she was elected one of the ten directors of the National Coppice Federation – in fact she was one of the drivers of this scheme to bring practitioners of the craft together. She is also a member of the steering committee for the National Coppice Apprenticeship Scheme, which delivers training in the coppice sector across the UK.

Toni has been a committed, friendly and cheerful volunteer in the coppice sector for over ten years. Her reach has gone beyond her own woodland and group and has contributed to improving training opportunities for coppice workers and woodland craft practitioners across the UK.

Suzy Bennett

Suzy spent 18 months working full-time to set up the Dartmoor Artisan Trail, an arts, craft and food trail that links artist and makers across Dartmoor. She paid all the set-up costs of the project out of her own pocket and ensured that all traditional trades and crafts were fairly and comprehensively covered in the project. Her professionalism and talent was highlighted when she managed to get the Trail featured in The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph (who named it one of the best travel experiences of 2017) and on BBC’s Countryfile. Suzy set up the Trail as a way to provide rural craft businesses with a new income stream from tourism, something which she achieved with great success. All of the 18 businesses featured on the trail noticed a significant boost in business, with higher footfall, sales and workshop bookings. Suzy has inspired local people to learn about traditional crafts and her model has been picked up by people wanting to set up similar trails around the UK, and as far afield as Madagascar.

Pamela Emerson

NI Big Sock is a community participation project encouraging people to learn the skill of English paper piecing and contribute to the creation of a wold record breaking patchwork Christmas stocking. Pamela has planned, coordinated and delivered the project since inception and has managed to engage over 1000 participants and developed a strong network of volunteers from Northern Ireland and beyond. Volunteers and participants have learnt new skills by utilising traditional methods, made new friends and become part of a vibrant and enthusiastic sewing community.

Pamela has dedicated her time to share her skills and develop the project consistently over the last year, visiting over a dozen voluntary groups, holding over 30 pop up workshops at craft events and managing the logistics and communications that come with organising such a large scale project. Groups and individuals are now coming to Pamela in order to be a part of the project thanks to her use of social media, where people have shared their experiences and helped to promote the craft that was found to be a new experience even for experienced stitchers.

Jean Leader

Since the 1980s, Jean has been involved in the craft of lacemaking, volunteering between 1 and 6 days a week of her time to the craft. Jean is an active member of the Glasgow Lace Group freely sharing knowledge and skills, and carrying out officer roles including organising exhibitions, courses, and other events.

Jean has chaired The UK’s Lace Guild as well as its education sub-committee, overseen the publication of high quality instructional material and worked on a database for the Guild’s collections. She also launched the first Guild website in 1997 and continues to serve as webmaster.

Jean has worked to promote the craft internationally and is a member of OIDFA, the international lace organisation, taking a particular interest in the freehand lace and now running the OIDFA website with its unique translation facility.

Jean has shown ongoing work with the care and cataloging of lace collections at the Lace Guild and Glasgow museums. In 2013 her and her husband launched a lace identification app available to individual collectors and curators. Jean is also an excellent lace maker herself!

Brian Boorman

Brian Boorman is a volunteer at the Faversham Creek Trust, which works to restore Faversham Creek in Kent by developing a training scheme for shipwrights, fostering traditional boatbuilding skills and promoting tourism linked to Faversham’s maritime heritage. The Trust has refurbished the old gasworks Purifier Building to act as a base for their activities. Brian has worked hard in helping to restore the building which had been closed for decades, by fitting windows, doors and staircases, working on the roof and plastering and painting. His efforts have meant that the Trust has been able to deliver its work much sooner than expected, with the maritime skills now being practiced in the building.

Brian has also spent countless hours organising successful fundraising events and has approached businesses and individuals to provide raffle prizes which are often the work of local artists and craftspeople. Brian has also recruited a number of volunteers to the Trust, acting as a mentor to them and making them feel valued and welcome. Brian worked in the boatyards in Faversham before they closed down as well as on the restoration of the Eye of the Wind ship at Iron Wharf and the reinstatement of the quayside at Standard Quay in the 1970s. He has a continuing interest in maritime skills in Faversham and is a tireless advocate of their vital role.

Angela Brown

Angela first joined the committee of The Lace Society as the librarian and took over the onerous task of cataloguing and sorting the collection of 1,000 books into the different types of lace. Details of these are now available on their website, allowing easy access to the information for members. When the founder of the Society passed away, Angela took over as Chair and saved it from collapsing with her strong guidance and dedication. It is now a friendly, thriving organisation which has been running for over 44 years and is always striving to satisfy its members’ requirements.

Angela, with her great knowledge of lace, has been able to ensure that members always gain from her experience, both practical and theoretical. She has ensured that study visits benefit members with the choice of lace shown, discussed and handled. Her knowledge has also assisted many private collectors and museums with the identification of lace. She often attends meetings to discuss the future of lace and through one of these meetings she was instrumental in putting a film maker and teacher together to create a DVD promoting lace. She is always willing to teach a new lace maker. She has also instigated a local design group which helps lace makers with the design of new patterns and the adaptation of old ones, in order to provide new patterns for lace in the future.

Captain James Portus

Jim Portus is the organiser, creative director and driving force behind “FishstockBrixham.” Fishstock is a one day event, that requires a great deal of work all year round and is a celebration of the fishing heritage and the crafts associated with the maritime industry. 2011 was the third event focusing on showcasing heritage skills across the fishing industry, including trawl making, withy pot making, net making, metal rope splicing and included as a highlight the sea shanties of the Port Isaac Fishermen’s friends. The event was the inspiration of Jim Portus and takes place due to the extensive hours, commitment and dedication that he gives to the event.

Without the enthusiasm and commitment to FishstockBrixham, the old crafts related to fishing and it’s heritage would not be showcased in Brixham during Fishstock. The event gives the general public the ability to not only watch but also take part in the craft making and celebrate the skills through watching craftsmen at work. Jim’s aims and objectives are to promote the crafts and skills through intergenerational opportunities throughout the day.