THE BEEKEEPER, THE CANDLE-MAKER AND THE UPCYCLER
Across the nation, people are channelling their inner beekeeper, candle-maker and upcycler. Here three such ‘revolutionaries’ share their passions.
A quiet revolution has taken place across Britain’s villages, towns and cities in recent years. Traditional arts, crafts and hobbies that had been in decline have enjoyed a renaissance. Were he still around, Napoleon Bonaparte might struggle to recognise the “nation of shopkeepers” he famously described. Now Britain is awash with budding knitters, brewers, upcyclers and beekeepers.
The rediscovery of these crafts is evidence of how country life has influenced our towns and cities. People want goods that have been made with love, skill and care, and it is easier than ever to learn to become a maker rather than a mere consumer. Here are the stories of three people who have done just that.
Bringing up bees
Helen Jukes was brought up in the countryside. When she left to live in London in her twenties she missed rural life and wanted to find a way of getting closer to nature in the city. So she took up beekeeping, learning the art from Luke Dixon, of urbanbeekeeping.co.uk.
It was, she says, a “whole different way of being in the city. We tended hives on rooftops and in secret gardens – places you normally wouldn’t be able to access. It’s frightening at first, when a thousand bees come out of their hives and surround you. But I soon got used to it and the honey we harvested was delicious.
“When I moved to Oxford I set up my own hive and met local beekeepers – it’s a really good way of getting to know people. Now I work for an arts charity in Wales and Luke and I also work together on a charity [beefriendlytrust.org] that educates people about how to provide more flowering habitats for bees. It’s not enough to have hives, we have to ensure there are enough bee-friendly habitats with wildflowers. It’s great to have a passion and I would definitely recommend beekeeping."
Knitting and nattering
Deborah Trindy, who lives near Bristol, has knitted for years but always wanted to learn to crochet, so this year she joined a course run by the shop Get Knitted in Bristol, which also puts on workshops in crocheting and knitting and also has knit-and-natter groups. She enjoyed it so much that she signed up for two more courses and has now joined the likes of Eva Longoria, Madonna and Patricia Arquette, the stars who all like to crochet in their spare time.
She says: “It’s so much better to be shown how to do something personally by an expert than to watch it on YouTube, when it’s often hard to tell what is going on. On a course you meet like-minded people who live nearby. We practised different stitches and learnt how to read a pattern. I’ve made a baby blanket for my grandson and I’m going to make some baby clothes.”
Becoming a brewer
Anibal Torres, who works as a bar manager in central London, started out by going on a one-day course to learn how to brew beer. “You can go on the internet or get a brewing app or even buy a whole home brew kit online, but I prefer to buy the separate ingredients and create my own recipes,” he says. “For me the fun of it is to create something new and unique.
“I have tried out lots of different beer recipes on my friends. One was made with chocolate and orange, one was cucumber-based and another, my favourite, was a wheat beer with coriander seeds and lime, which is really refreshing.’
Anibal then attended a five-day course on practical commercial brewing at Hartingtons, which runs cookery courses and artisan food and drink courses in Bakewell, Derbyshire. “I wanted to learn more. Who knows, in the future I might open a microbrewery. It’s a very sociable pursuit,” he says. “I’ve become friends with people on the course who come from all around the world. Someone said to me, ‘If you brew beer you’ll have a lot of friends.’ That has certainly been true.”
Hobbies and craft courses
1. Urban beekeeping, London
2. Glassblowing, Wingfield, Wiltshire
3. Microbrewing, Bakewell, Derbyshire
4. Knitting, Bristol
5. Upcycling furniture, London
6. Chocolate making, Farnham, Surrey
7. Silver jewellery making, Beverley, East Yorkshire
8. Soapmaking, Broadway Worcestershire
9. Candle making, Newbury
10. Pottery, Glamorgan