The project is part of a two-year investigation into how contemporary ideas of work, craft and ritual can shape perceptions of value in the built environment, applied to create an essay film that follows the delivery of twin public buildings, a town hall and festival hall, as part of an indefinitely prolonged festival of fulfilling work in the town of Rugeley, Staffordshire.
The Arts & Crafts movement saw craft as an antidote to the numbing and dehumanising effects of industrialisation, able to create a highly skilled and fulfilled artisanal workforce. Although early industrialisation may have upset notions of skilled work, industrial communities grew resilient – many towns across the UK still lean on the identity and societies born from their industrial past. However, work present today in the post-digital economy is increasingly disconnected from its site, immaterial, impermanent and increasingly less human. Rather than viewing this as a hopeless, destined future, this is another step in a cycle of resilience for working communities. This is an opportunity for fulfilling work to break loose from precarious labour, and to be placed back into the creation of the loci of spiritual prosperity. This is modern craft. Modern craft seeks to incorporate the skills and techniques of the post-digital workforce. It is impartial in regard to form-finding, material, tradition, and scale; and above all, seeks to embed a meaningful practice of building for the sake of building to create a lasting edifice and appease the mind and soul.
The film is a documentary, following the effects of modern craft on Rugeley over several decades, exploring how it is manifested from when it is ‘discovered’ in 2017, to its blossoming and then to its re-seeding. Sitting among the ex-mining landscapes in the foggy, yet bucolic Trent-valley, Rugeley is a town where poverty runs rife, public space is stale and work is prescriptive. Each November, the incongruously named Amazon fulfilment centre offers jobs that triple the local unemployment rate, and takes them away two months later. The town seeks an architecture of resistance and resilience.