The Heritage Skills Festival at Lincoln Cathedral on 23 and 24 June grew out of the European Stone Festival that was held in the cathedral grounds there in 2012. That had been an exciting, inspiring event supported by the Masons' Livery Company and it was with the help of the Livery Company that this summer's event grew over the past two years.
Stone carving formed a major attraction in the Festival again this year, but this time 25 of London's livery companies supported the event, the first of its kind outside of the country's capital, as well as groups from the Cathedral. Along with stone carving there were demonstrations of woodworking and woodturning by the Companies of Joiners and Turners, bricklaying and roofing by the Tilers & Bricklayers, plasterwork by the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, paving by the Paviors Company, joinery by the Joiners & Ceilers and leadwork by the Plumbers. There were the Wheelwrights, Coachmakers, and the Cathedral's own stained glass team as well as the Company of Glaziers.
The Saturday (24 June) was also Armed Forces Day, with military parades and bands adding to the excitement in the town. On the Friday (23 June) there was a procession of the Livery Companies in their ceremonial gowns to the Cathedral followed by a special Evensong. There was even a concert on the Saturday evening by singer Cliff Richard at the Castle, which faces the Cathedral in Lincoln, drawing crowds to the town. Many of the concert-goers visited the Cathdral beforehand.
The Cathedral had been keen that the event should not smack of commercialism, which is why the Livery Companies, with their many charities supporting training in the crafts, in particular, made ideal companions for the event.
One man who visited on Friday said he would definitely be back with his son on the Saturday. "His future is here," he said, referring to the skills on show, many of which will have been eye-openers to the visitors.
Peter Clark, this year's Master of the Masons Company, was one of the many Masons Liverymen at the event. He said: "This event started off slowly about two years ago and grew and grew to quite staggering proportions. We [Worshipful Company of Masons, to give the Livery its formal name] provided the vital 'seed' funding to make the event happen. Not a lot, but enough.
"Our friends the Broderers had four pitches whilst our stand was somewhat different – our stonemasons performed marvels in 36 hours. Their efforts raised well over £7,500 for the Cathedral. The Company has purchased one piece, called A Whale of a Time, carved by Emily Draper of Winchester Cathedral, that will be presented to the Sherrifs for auction at their September Ball. Proceeds will go to the Lord Mayor's Appeal."
Masons marks were being collected during the event with a bottle of Champagne for one lucky participant who submitted their mark to be included on the Masons Register of the marks (the register is online, to see it click here). The winner was Laura Jeary, who was sponsored by the Masons Company as a student and is now a full time stonemason at Lincoln Cathedral.
Carol Heidschuster, Works Manager at the Cathedral, said on the Cathedral's website beforehand: "The aim is to showcase the historic crafts that went into the construction of the Cathedral; and those that support and enhance its daily life. Most importantly, the event will demonstrate how all of these skills are kept alive today. The Cathedral’s own staff and volunteers will be working with and alongside the Livery Companies. There will be displays, demonstrations, and hands-on have-a-go areas, with something for all ages. Inside the Cathedral there will be displays such as embroidery, glove–making, clock making, saddlery, flower arranging, stained glass, and much more. The Parish Clerks will be giving short Mystery Play performances; the Coachmen are bringing new and old vehicles; the Broderers will be working with the Cathedral Needlework team. On the East Green, there will be marquees for those Livery Companies relating to the heritage construction trades: stonemasonry; lead work and joinery."
The event concluded with an auction mostly of goods that had been made in the demonstrations during the event, with all the money going to the Cathedral. As Peter Clark said, the stone carvings contributed more than £7,500 and the whole auction raised about £23,000.
There will be a report in the next issue of Natural Stone Specialist magazine (subscribe here) and below are some more photographs from the event.