Years of austerity bring new era of ‘make do and mend’

 ·         Latest must-have ‘heritage’ skills include preserve making and home brewing
·         Older people custodians of crafts now sought after by under 25s

·         Yorkshire epicentre of bakers, Wales of home brewers and London of crochet experts

‘Heritage’ crafts once written off as old fashioned are experiencing a renaissance fuelled by recent austerity, with the skills possessed by the country’s elders now coveted by the under 25s.

According to research by older people’s charity, the Royal Voluntary Service, there is a high level of interest to learn a new skill or craft with 80 per cent of 18-24 year olds saying they would consider learning one if they had the option.

The Royal Voluntary Service commissioned the research to celebrate the launch of GrandFest – taking place in London this June – the UK’s first one day festival created for the older generation to share craft skills such as knitting, crochet, brewing and wooden toy making through a series of master classes.

The skills the under 25 year olds are most eager to master include baking (19 per cent), cooking (22 per cent), ballroom dancing (19 per cent) and knitting (18 per cent). However, on the wish list and also set to make a comeback, are home brewing, preserve making, home grown fruit and vegetables, model making and crochet.

Many of these craft skills are well known to older people, particularly those who lived through the war and grew up in years of austerity, and these ‘original makers’ want to share their know-how. Nearly three quarters (74 per cent) believe it is vital that traditional skills are passed to the next generation to keep them alive.

Particular knowledge gaps currently exist for preserve making (older people are nearly five times as likely to have the know-how), knitting and learning how to ‘grow your own’ (more than twice as likely) and home brewing (nearly twice as likely).

Felicity Kendal, Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador said: “Being able to create something from scratch or ‘make do and mend’ something from old is a valuable skill to possess. It’s wonderful that there is now a surge in demand for traditional crafts such as preserve making and crochet and that through GrandFest there is an opportunity to learn from those who have fine tuned their knowledge over the years.”

Every region is master of a different skill; the East of England is home to the most green fingered Britons capable of growing their own (35 per cent), while cooks (62 per cent) and knitters (23 per cent) are most prolific in the South West, home brewers in Wales (nine per cent), bakers in Yorkshire and Humberside (45 per cent), crochet experts (10 per cent) and ballroom dancers (eight per cent) in London, preserve making in the South East (11 per cent) toy and model makers in the North East (11 per cent). 

Over half (67 per cent) of over 65 year olds practice at least two hobbies on a regular basis and continuing to enjoy their passion contributes significantly to their health and wellbeing. Fifty seven per cent say it improves their quality of life by benefitting their mental health and 38 per cent, their physical health. 

David McCullough, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: “We know how much value older people place on their hobbies, but these pastimes are so much more than just fun. They play a really important role in the lives of older people, from staving off fragility and dementia, to helping them keep physically active and bringing friends together. Many of our 36,000 volunteers are over 65 years old and they, and the older people we support, have a wealth of experiences and skills worth sharing which is why GrandFest was conceived.”

Royal Voluntary Service supports over 100,000 older people each month with a range of services from Good Neighbours, Community Transport and Books on Wheels to more interactive services such as Knit and Natter and Men in the Workshop.

The Men in the Workshop service provides a place where older men can come together to recreate local traditional crafts, learn new skills, reminisce and socialise. The workshop also provides opportunities for the wider community to get involved, including the younger generation, to learn from each other, share skills and build friendships.

 Tom Wilson, Men in the Workshop member says: “I like doing things, I’m very handy so the workshop keeps me active and using my skills.  I also get to meet friends and have some company as I don’t get much at home. You can’t go wrong, everyone is happy.  I tell everyone about the workshop, and I get people to buy our items too.”

 Grandfest, taking place on Saturday 13th June, will see talented older people ‘taking over’ Old Street, home of the hipsters, to host a series of masterclasses. For further information or to book a place in a master class visit:
About Royal Voluntary Service

·         Formerly known as WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service has been helping people in Britain for 75 years. 

Originally set up as the Women’s Voluntary Service in 1938, the charity played a crucial role during the Second World War. 

Whilst keeping the same values of community service, Royal Voluntary Service has now focused its work on helping older people to remain independent and get more out of life.
Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary organisations in Britain with 40,000 men and women helping people in their homes, the community, hospitals and in emergencies.
The charity is a founding member of the Campaign to End Loneliness, a partner in the Big Lottery funded project, Shaping our Age, a supporter of the Malnutrition Task Force and a member of the Care and Support Alliance, the Falls and Fractures Alliance, Age Action Alliance and the Dementia Action Alliance.

Royal Voluntary Service has Investing in Volunteers status in recognition of its good practice and effective volunteer management.

·         For more information on the Royal Voluntary Service please visit

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