University cocktail party at the Leathersellers Hall in London

Just a few days ago I attended a University cocktail party at the Leathersellers Hall in London . It was not a leather event but one where the University makes use of the Leathersellers offer of a fabulous venue in London when they want to entertain and meet people. I get the impression that the BSLT used to keep the venue rather to themselves and Leathersellers are pleased to see this wider use being made.

In her talk at the event the Vice Chancellor Ann Tate picked out leather as a special area for the University with its wide range of advanced high level courses and strong international footprint. At the same time she highlighted growth in areas such as Business and Engineering moving much faster in Northampton than the UK national averages at this time.

Much of her talk was about the local community around greater Northampton area. First from a point of view of the huge financial importance that the University plays in the local economy and second how much the University prides itself on making education accessible to those who might not have expected to take a higher degree. Three thousand students pass through the University degree ceremonies each year.

Access for worldwide leather students

In a way our leather community is not unlike that around Northampton . It’s a small community albeit a global one and a community where many people know each other. It’s also a community where a lot of good technicians and tannery managers have skills that would allow them to achieve more but not the means or awareness to make the jump. At Northampton the BSLT have tried to help with grants and scholarships but while these remain important constraints of both time and money have been big barriers. Hence over the last few years a series of new courses which can be taught by distance learning have been rolled out. These include the M.Sc. course and a distance learning Leather MBA. At the same time we have seen a big growth in short courses tailored for individuals and small groups. These are mostly done in house but are also very successfully shared the team from newly established local company Leather Wise Ltd who themselves run some highly thought of courses for retailers.

Tannery development

To support all this the experimental and teaching tannery is vital so it is really good news that Mark Wilkinson has negotiated a big financial package for redevelopment. Some older machines overdue replacement will be changed and the experimental drum area will be largely rebuilt. One area where we have always felt somewhat deficient is in finishing where both space and equipment are lacking. Leather finishing has now moved on from padding and spraying and some of the activities worked on in our fashion school are more advanced than we have been able to do in the BSLT. So this time the plan is to make more space available to widen the scope of finishing and make an investment that integrates textile finishing as carried out in fashion closer to leather finishing. Mark will be spending nearly £1million on this. Any suggestions or financial help would be really helpful.

Mike Redwood

7thJune 07