SPAB Fellows: finding a balance

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2019 Fellow Matthew Wilson is a self-employed bricklayer which he combines with a career as an actor. Here he explores balancing his work commitments with the Fellowship, between men and women in building crafts, and between his two professions. 


Part of the joy of the Fellowship so far has been visiting sites and workplaces where the gender balance seems to be more…well…balanced

I am used to this in my other career where female producers, playwrights, designers, directors, actors, stage managers and technicians are common place (although there is a whole other story here demonstrated by the #MeToo movement).

No question there is still a huge way to go in all areas of the workplace, but the conservation world appears to be making progress. Certainly, visiting places like Holywell Glass and Hall Conservation can only give one hope.

Not only are these companies doing beautiful, varied and highly skilled work, the atmosphere within their workshops has a real sense of respect; true artisans, male and female, on a level playing field and working together with a genuine sense of pride for their heritage.


Such mixed atmospheres are a welcome change from the puerile, machismo-fuelled sites I served my time on where the very sight of a woman on a scaffold would almost lead to a downing of tools coupled with the obligatory crass comments and lecherous looks.

In between our blocks of two months, we Fellows have time back at work. I have found it great to reflect on our experiences and begin to consider how I am going to take what I have learnt into my working practices in the future.


True to form, I have been juggling some work on a Georgian property in Dulwich, coupled with work on a new piece of writing at the National Theatre.

At my costume fitting recently, I commented on the William Morris print dress my designer was wearing that day. Her name (and one to look out for): Grace Venning, daughter of former SPAB Secretary Philip! A happy meeting of industries that perhaps have more in common than people think.


The SPAB’s William Morris Craft Fellowship was founded in 1987. This unique annual scheme is designed to broaden the skills and experience of craftspeople from any trade who work in the repair of historic buildings. The programme gives Fellows the chance to travel countrywide together and learn on site from specialist craftspeople, architects and contractors working in building conservation.

We need your help to ensure its future. Please donate today to help keep this unique programme going.


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