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Five new trainees for York Minster over the next 5 years

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Five new trainees for York Minster over the next 5 years as cathedral crafts given funding lifeline to help preserve English cathedrals in the pandemic

As part of a longer-term investment aimed at keeping alive the specialist skills needed to repair and maintain our cathedrals, the Hamish Ogston Foundation (HOF) has joined forces with the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship (CWF), to fund 21 stonemasonry and joinery trainees at English cathedrals in 2021.

Emergency funding of £535,000 will give the twenty-one trainees, and their employers, stability at a time of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without this support, some of the trainees would have had to call a halt to their studies and others would have faced redundancy, with the strong likelihood that their skills would have been lost to the heritage sector.

At York Minster, the new funding will enable the recruitment of five new trainees over the next five years.  The HOF project will also support two of the Minster’s current students, plumber Trevor Foots and stonemason James Digger through the remainder of their studies this year.

Welcoming news of the funding, Trevor said:  “The funding from the HOF will mean I can continue to receive the training through the CWF. This course has meant I have learnt and seen more than I otherwise would have done in my role at the Minster”.

Stonemason James said: “Honestly, I have been quite stressed about the start of Level 5 of my course as I am currently furloughed, I have no access to the archives, and I am unable to communicate with a number of colleagues that would be excellent sources of information. It is a great relief to hear that the Hamish Ogston Foundation support will enable the course to continue online for the rest of this year, this has allowed me to settle and enjoy the lectures, really absorbing the information with which we have been provided. The future modules no longer seem quite as daunting, and I am now rather excited for the year ahead”.                                                                                                        

Kathryn Blacker, Chapter Steward at York Minster said:  “The CWF and the skills it supports have been cherished and nurtured here at York Minster for over twenty years. We are committed to developing our current cohort of talented craftspeople and to ensuring the Minster’s Works Department continues to enable opportunities, hone traditional craft skills and blend new technologies for generations to come. The news of this generous support from the Hamish Ogston Foundation ensures this unique scheme will be secure for the next five years.”

The funding marks the first phase of a five-year, £2.8m HOF/CWF project to expand heritage training at English cathedrals. Even before the pandemic, many cathedrals were reaching crisis point, with no dedicated public funding to help them address the backlog of repairs. Their financial position has been made much worse by COVID-19, in the wake of which it is unlikely that any cathedral will have the money to take on heritage craft trainees in the short term. The HOF/CWF Craft Training project, details of which will be published shortly, will be key to maintaining the flow of skilled craftspeople on whom the future of our cathedrals depends.

CWF Executive Director Frances Cambrook said: “We are very excited to be working with the Hamish Ogston Foundation on this important initiative. Cathedrals, like everyone, have been hit hard by the pandemic and the immediate future of our craft training programmes was in jeopardy. The funding will enable training to continue online throughout the rest of this academic year, avoiding the loss of trainee positions, and enable us to plan confidently to increase training opportunities over the next four years”.

To find out more about how the Hamish Ogston Foundation supports York Minster click here.

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