Wednesday 13 February, 2008

The train from Northampton to London is a busy one these days and very often filled with busy Corium Club members. Of course it might be Dr Martins staff heading for their design office in Covent Garden (we need to find the imperative that will persuade them to bring this back to Northampton) but it is very frequently someone on the way to the many “leathery” guilds – saddlers, glovers, leathersellers etc – for meetings such as the Museum of Leathercraft and the Leather Conservation Centre.

It seems crazy for essentially Northampton based bodies to go to London to meet but anyone who has spent time in the fine buildings the guilds have will recognise the attraction of a free lunch and the super facilities these places offer; as well as the value in keeping in touch with them to ensure they have you in mind when making their annual donations. Most of those reading this will have at least seen the Leathersellers Hall and have a feel for how special these organisations are in the world leather industry.

Anyway the train was full this morning, with some opting to go from Wellingborough since the parking is easier and the trains better. Both organisations met in the Saddlers Hall just by St Paul’s Cathedral. The Museum of Leathercraft is really gearing up to drive the museum to the next stage of getting the fabulous collection out of storage and into public view with discussions on location and cost topping the bill. While there is a mountain to climb it looks as though the trustees are really ready to make this work. If interested look at the video on the Museum’s web site.

The Conservation Centre is of course active and on the Campus. Indeed it celebrates its thirty year anniversary this year. If you are around the Campus it is always worth going by to see what fabulous motor car or carriage they are working on at the moment. Right now it is an 1899 Luzmann, which I have not seen but think is the famous Opel open car. They are also working on a Jaguar seats and Aston Martin door panels as well as a lot of books.

These sort of organisations link in with the University to the extent that they consolidate the argument that Northampton is a global centre of knowledge in leather. We have identified about 100 companies large and small in Northampton involved in leather from Churchs/Cheaney employing 500 people down to one man bands. This continued present relevance in terms of current business, teaching and research and heritage encourages the move to increase world wide awareness of Northampton as a leather town and county. This is important for the BSLT as it depends on international activity to maintain its income. Mark Wilkinson has already been out in Dubai to talk to a leather seminar and to the leather fair at Chennai. The Indian leather industry is truly on the move and we want to do more than maintain our position in that market, but to improve it a lot. The close cooperation with the CLRI continues.

Those of you with Ethiopian alumni friends may have noted that the Ethiopian industry is about to put duties on the export of unfinished leather with high duties on raw and lesser ones on pickle and wet blue. Ethiopia will soon be moving to only finished leather.

Hong Kong APLF is not far away and Mark Wilkinson, Jeffry Guthrie-Strachanand I will be there. The Corium Club party will happen as usual on 31 March 2008 in Room MR209-210 of the Convention and Exhibition Centre at 6pm. and the Master of Leathersellers will be there. Some of you may know him – Anthony Collinson. He used to work for Barrow Hepburn, Irish Leathers and Porvair before moving on to bigger things in the city. No long speeches this year. Lessons have been learnt.

Mike Redwood

13th February 2008