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Worshipful Company of Basketmakers' Trade Fair 2024

The invitation to the SBC to attend the 2024 Trade Fair in London was unfortunately late in going out to members due to a technical hitch with the email system.

I had been invited by Dorothy Walker, this year’s Prime Warden, to demonstrate and provide the basket for the Honorary Liveryman, the Duchess of Gloucester, so I was already going.  Charlotte Boxall boldly took up the invitation, and so began her endeavour to organise transport, accommodation and a display of members’ baskets for the SBC.  Charlotte was able to extend the invitation to the NBG, thus representing two groups.  The SBC and NBG have close links so it was appropriate that these two groups were represented side by side.

Travelling by train down to London laden with work was no mean feat.  A photo is attached of Charlotte at King’s Cross Station.  Hat’s off to you Charlotte, and somewhere in there is even a bunch of fresh flowers from her garden to adorn the display with colour and charm.  Thank you, Lorna Singleton for the photograph, who was very neatly packed with one hand spare and able to use her camera.

Our short time in London was chaperoned by Sasha Keir, Chair of the Trade Committee.  Lugging mountains of baskets and luggage would have been unpleasant, so it made the whole experience straightforward and immensely enjoyable.

The venue was the beautiful Dutch Church, hidden away down alleyways and cobbled streets in the middle of the City.  It is the oldest Dutch-language protestant church in the world.  The original building was granted to protestant refugees for their church services in 1550 but it was destroyed during the London Blitz. The present church was built around 1950 to 1954.  

The SBC and NBG tables included work by eleven people, at least seven of whom were members of both regional groups.  Some baskets had been brought down from Scotland by Dorothy Walker, and some were sent by post.  Unfortunately, a couple of SBC members’ work failed to arrive on time, let down by Parcelforce.  The rest, and probably the majority, were transported by Charlotte.   The display included examples of different string samples, looping with linen, items from esparto grass, New Zealand flax, rush, bark and then willow baskets made up the majority of the display.   Also available was Liz Balfour’s booklet "Fishing Baskets of Northumbria”.  Not all the baskets were for sale, notably Alan Winlow’s heritage trio of a Northumbrian fishing creel, a curling basket and a backpack made for a reenactment on Hadrian’s Wall, all there to add interest and information.

The Army Cadets formed a very impressive guard of honour and welcome to the Duchess of Gloucester, as well as manpower setting up and taking down at the end of the day.  They were a great bunch of young people and embraced the opportunity to learn how to make string.

There were over fifteen other tables in the hall representing individual makers and regional groups, many with familiar faces.

The Trade Fair was open to other Livery Companies, BA members and invited guests only.  I love history so it was interesting to find out about other Livery companies and how they support their trade, some of which have had to evolve into something else.  One such Company is the Horners (did you know horn was once hammered into thin sheets and used as window panes?) "Recognising the working of horn was no longer a viable industry, the Company had the great foresight to adopt its modern equivalent, the, Plastics Industry”.   Other Trade Companies are relatively new such as Information Technology granted Livery status in 1992.  I think I’m right in saying that the Basketmakers’ Company has not changed since it was established in 1569, with the endearing motto "Let Us Love One Another”. 

Sasha Keir attended the Northumbria Basketry Group Gathering at Wooler last year to emphasise the work of the Company and the support available both to individuals and groups.

The next Trade Fair will be in 2026.  From now on this event will be held every other year on the even numbers, and the Basketry Competition will be every other year on the uneven numbers.

NB Many thanks to Helen Jackson, who is a member of both NBG and SBC, for sending this article. Alan

Author Details

Author Name: Helen Jackson
Publish Date: 17th April 2024

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