It was interesting to hear that despite training opportunities there is not much uptake by young people to follow a career path in crafts. Many leave rural areas and head to the larger towns and cities for employment. Indeed some villages we drove through had an abundance of derelict houses and one we were told had 300 homes occupied out of a total of 1000. So what can be done to encourage young people into a career path within crafts? The model of an apprenticeship whereby the individual receives training through a dual system is an approach which works well. This involves a combination of theoretic training in an educational establishment combined with practical training in a crafts enterprise. Over the last few years Historic Environment Scotland has directed funding into apprenticship schemes in a number of its directorates. In the area of conservation there are paid apprenticeships in tradition crafts such as stonemasonary, joinerary, plumbing and painting. Individuals receive a wage and are guarrenteed employment after successful completion of the training. Indeed apprenticeship schemes across Scotland in all areas of work are on the rise.
We have returned home from our trip to Bulgaria refreshed with new ideas and an insight into how other European countries approach connecting communities with their natural and historical environment. Bulgaria takes a holistic approach by including arts, heritage, festivals, folklore and history into their engagement around our natural and cultural heritage. They encourage their citizens to engage in crafts using inspiration from the natural world, to appreciate the intrinsic value of nature and to conserve special places for future generations.
Our short but fabulous visit to central Bulgaria, demonstrated without any doubt that the Bulgarian people maintain, and continue to foster, a deep and genuine respect for their identity through their cultural heritage. Their high regard for ancient traditional skills and crafts are embraced with a proud consideration, and this is ultimately clearly demonstrated by the way they incorporate ancient traditional skills and crafts into modern day life.
Throughout the week, a theme emerged in the use of heritage in the projection, and reformation, of Bulgarian identity. Having only recently emerged from a long period of Soviet Russian domination and even more recently having joined the European Union, there seemed to be a desire to present Bulgaria as a modern European nation that had a shared history with the rest of Europe.
Key Objective: Living and working in a remote rural area in the far North of Scotland I applied to participate in the Cyprus Programme to see if there were any useful comparisons between the two countries to explore opportunities for sharing/learning from one another as to how best to incorporate traditional skills back into fiercely competitive economies.
Our guide was Velislava Chilingirova, who turned out not only to be eminently knowledgeable and unfailingly skilled at group management, but also patient, generous, warm, funny and full of life; in short, a terrific ambassador not only for Bulgaria but also for the programme. Through Velis’s vast network of contacts, we as a group were privileged to be treated to site and museum visits that covered the full spectrum of Bulgaria’s heritage, all the while learning from practitioners who enthusiastically shared their expertise and experience. In addition, Velis made special arrangements to visit places and people not on the original programme;