There is harmony and a warmth of community here, and laughter, despite my lack of crafting ability.
The success of the initial Making Well programme in 2022 generated considerable interest among its participants (and our crafters) in being able to continue to meet and have more opportunities to engage in traditional craft in their community. Initially, people began to meet spontaneously to maintain the connections and friendship they had established during the course. Given the degree of interest and commitment to benefit from Making Well, in November we set about establishing the Crafters’ Cafe at the St John’s Centre in Brecon.
Early on, around 10-12 people attended the café each week, predominantly by individuals who had participated in Making Well course at our nearby centre at Llanfellte. A year on and more than 100 individuals have attended Crafters’ Café sessions and we consistently welcome 15-20 people every week to enjoy a variety of traditional crafts. Sessions have been adapted to suit differing levels of ability. The age of attendees has ranged from 20 – 93 years.
With funding from the Ashley Family Foundation, we aim to introduce new Crafts each month, inviting guest Crafters along to share their skills with the group. We return to our regular ongoing Crafts in between which include knitting, hexagonal hand sewn patch work, willow weaving, rag rug and wool latch hook rug making, back strap loom weaving to name a few. We encourage attendees to take home with them particular crafts that they feel confident with and aim to reach out to local organisations that are supporting people in the community. In addition to those who attended the Café as a consequence of their participation in Making Well – 28 so far – a variety of local organisations have signposted people, summarised as follows:
The timetable of returning crafts means that some people have had experience of learning the skill of that craft and some haven’t, which in turn brings out the former’s innate desire to help the latter, which furthermore ingrains a culture of ‘each one, teach one’. This has happened without words or instruction and according to Matt, who is co-facilitating the sessions, “it feels like, given the right conditions, community always blooms.”
We recently did a group project in making a banner for the Frazz parade in Brecon and the commitment to getting the banner looking right was incredible, seeing as we had no idea what was the ‘right’ look, whatever was added or subtracted looked like it was supposed to be, ultimately the banner looked as you would expect, a coherent voice in many tones.
There has been a flow to and from the making well program and there is also a natural signposting that occurs within the group, as you can tell by the age range there is such a wealth of talent and experience that is shared between the crafters in that that there are few questions that cannot be answered. This by no means is in relation to the craft at hand but goes into all aspects of life outside the café, from a good walk nearby, to a good ploughman’s, to a good plumber.
This follows that although crafters’ café is not a therapy session, there is an enormous therapeutic benefit to the crafting session in itself , as well as people feel seem to free to talk about other issues in their lives, difficult matters on which they may need advice or to be shared, as well as successes. People describe Crafters as a springboard for getting back out there doing things and as a great way for people who have moved to the area to act as a catalyst for making friends.
In July this year, we were honoured to proudly present the Crafters’ Café and the Fathom Trust’s staff and volunteers to HRH King Charles III during his visit to Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Such has been the success of the Crafters’ Café, we have opened a second venue in nearby Crickhowell, in partnership with local charities Peak and Mind and we are delighted to be developing this over the next few months.
I didnt know that I could derive so much pleasure from attending the Crafters' cafe. It's not only the learning of new crafts but it's the wonderful welcoming atmosphere of being together with others and feeling a part of a community that is so inspiring. That to me is the most important thing. Making and learning with others, chatting or not as the mood takes you. But after a session I come away feeling uplifted and smiling. A big thank-you to Heather and Matt and everyone who made it happen. Helen
I found Crafters' Cafe at a low point in my life. I was on long term leave and badly needed some structure and a sense of worth. Meeting once a week and spending time with people, some of whom had much worse difficulties than me, was a real lifeline. Helping others and just having a place to go once a week really helped my mental health and sense of self respect