The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich
Norfolk Makers' Festival, 9-24 February
The Norfolk Makers’ Festival will take place at The Forum, in Norwich, from Saturday, February 9 - Sunday, February 24. For more information, visit norfolkmakersfestival.co.uk
Crafts have always been a big thing in my family. My mum is a knitter, a quilter and an expert dressmaker, and my sister is too. My brother dabbles in woodwork and metalwork and I’m pretty good with a needle and thread.
We do these things in the evenings, on the weekends and during our holidays. They help us to unwind and refocus and the doing part – the act of making something – has gotten us through some of the toughest times in our lives, from relationship breakdowns to the loss of a very dear loved one. And we’re not alone in this.
Crafting has seen quite a resurgence in recent years – last year, a study conducted by The Handmade Fair, an arts and crafts event run by Kirstie Allsopp, revealed that 75pc of the 1000 people surveyed attributed crafting to improved mental health.
Knitting has been widely dubbed as the yoga for your mind – patterned, rhythmic, meditative – and arts and crafts retailer, Hobbycraft, predicts that the nation’s passion for making will continue, with things like candle-making and calligraphy set to top the trends in 2019. The Duchess of Sussex is even rumoured to be a fan.
If you have always wanted to pick up a new hobby then help is, quite literally, at hand. The Forum in Norwich will host the Norfolk Makers’ Festival from Saturday, February 9 - Sunday, February 24 with 16 days of free exhibitions, demonstrations and taster activities to help get our county crafting.
“The Makers’ Festival is all about encouraging people to get creative,” says Jayne Evans, events and partnerships manager at The Forum Trust. “When visitors walk through the door of the Forum they can have a go, for free, at a huge range of arts and crafts.”
Over the course of the festival, there will be free taster sessions on everything from crochet, knitting, weaving, spinning and printing to painting, quilting, lacemaking, felting, whittling and much, much more, along with chances to attend workshops and meet some of Norfolk’s finest makers and crafters. Two huge knitted installations will also be set up, depicting Great Yarmouth’s seafront in the 1970s, and a Norfolk seamstress’ front room in the 1950s.
Whatever your age or ability, the Norfolk Makers' Festival will offer workshops and demonstrations for everyone. Picture: The Forum Trust“The festival brings people of all ages together in a gloriously creative and collaborative atmosphere,” says Jayne. “We make sure the programme of events and workshops offers something for everyone – some will be trying a new craft for the first time and others will be taking the opportunity to swap tips with other experienced enthusiasts.”
Lots of organisations will be taking part in the festival, including the Embroiderers’ Guild, The Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers, Norwich Sewicals and the WI. “We invite all sorts of Norfolk-based crafters, makers, enthusiasts, hobbyists, community organisations and businesses to take part,” says Jayne. “All of our contributors share our passion for sharing knowledge and inspiring people. This year some unusual creative activities are also being provided by Norwich Castle, the Broads Authority, Norwich University of the Arts, Norwich City Council, and the County Council’s Adult Education service.”
For Jayne, the festival is not only a celebration of local makers and artisans but also of the restorative power of craft. “Creative hobbies can change lives and save lives,” she says. “It sounds dramatic but it is true.”
“Over the past few years we have heard stories from people who have found that getting creative has helped them discover a new direction in their lives, overcome depression and anxiety, make new friends, and discover talents they didn’t know they had. Focusing on a creative task brings a sense of peace and a wonderful sense of achievement. You don’t have to be an expert to experience this. It’s the process of making that is so good for you.”
And for Jayne, organising the event has, itself, been a life-changing experience. “Four years ago I could knit a scarf – a wobbly scarf – and that’s it. Now I knit, crochet, make my own clothes and soft furnishings, paint and now I’ve gone completely bonkers and I’m starting ukulele lessons. The people I have met through the Makers’ Festival have inspired me and I am totally and utterly hooked.”
The Forum is a Millennium Landmark building, which was built in 2001 to replace the Norwich Central Library which burnt down in 1995. The Forum houses the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library which is one of the busiest in the UK, the BBC regional offices and studios, the Tourist Information Centre, a Pizza Express, Marzanos Cafe Bar and various tenants who help and advise people. The building is run by the Forum Trust who also curate a continuous free programme of events and exhibitions, both inside the building in a large Atrium area and also outside on the amphitheatre area which is ideal
Current exhibition Eastern Horizons Norwich 20 group