There is only one John Basford

John BasfordThe 110th SLTC annual conference was a huge success, not least because of those who came along to hear John Basford give the Atkins Memorial Lecture. In his fascinating discourse John’s audience fell into two parts. One was astonished how little had changed in the last fifty years, and the other was astonished how terrible things were before the 1974 Health and Safety legislation. Working in one of the more traditional sectors of the industry John explained how he handles skins into the pits, fleshed over the beam, and used dog dung bating systems. The real atmosphere of tanning at the time came across, and clearly the 1950s were not much different from the 1850s, and perhaps hundreds of years before that, except that tanneries would have been smaller and colder still. John went on to describe some of the changes he has seen, and indeed implemented, and indicate how things might move in the future.

There was a larger than usual element of younger visitors. Some, of course, were from the University but others came from the Scottish Group, Pittards and overseas with visitors from Elmo in Scandinavia and from Italy. There were also visitors from other sectors, such as upholstery repair, who had not been seen before. Tony Covington gave an excellent talk on the tanning mechanism explaining how we should look at tanning in two stages – link-lock as he put it – rather than as simple cross linking. This now looks likely to be accepted industry wide and to be the basis of future studies of chrome and other tannages. Expect all the old JSLTC papers from 1930s to be dusted down and re-examined.

For the future the SLTC seem keen not to use the conference so much as a money maker but rather to invest in helping younger members attend and to widen the attendance from overseas. The AGM also agreed moves to try to start branches in developing countries such as Pakistan, accepting the fact that pricing will have to be adjusted. It is recognised that this is a delicate matter and a two year experimental period is planned, but with the journal coming on line rather than always needing printed copies and associated postage, gives the SLTC to work on different approaches for selected countries.

They are also looking to collect old sets of the Journal to send out to colleges and universities in the third world where they do not have them, especially where they have an interest in setting up an SLTC branch.

Mike Redwood

Wednesday, 03 October 2007

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