Pottery supporters rally against Crawfordsburn closure

Robin Masefield and Ciaran McFerran outside the pottery with a collection of signatures they have collected for a petition to keep it open.
Robin Masefield and Ciaran McFerran outside the pottery with a collection of signatures they have collected for a petition to keep it open.

Campaigners who unsuccessfully fought the closure of a community pottery studio in north Down have vowed to carry on in the hope of having it reopened.

The Camphill project in Crawfordsburn is part of the wider Glencraig initiative involving disadvantaged people and those with special needs working alongside local residents.

More than 600 people have now signed a petition calling for the Pinewood Pottery to continue operating in the heart of the picturesque village, where it has been based for the last 10 years in the expert care of German potter Gerhard Kruger.

Before moving to the shop facing the Old Inn hotel, it threw its first pot 25 years ago at a site on the Cootehall Road, and the pottery’s unique tablewares now grace the kitchens of discerning customers around the world.

Two of the Pinewood potters, Helen and Sean, have been at the heart of the studio’s production for almost 20 years – honing their skills in the sheltered, family environment they know and love.

Robin Masefield, who launched the petition, said it would be tragic if no alternatives to closure for the loss-making pottery were to be explored.

“The total sales for the current financial year are already 50 per cent up on last year, according to Glencraig’s own figures, and they have attended no less than 28 craft fairs – including a lovely session up at the Ballycastle Old Lammas Fair where Sean, who comes from Ballycastle, gave a demonstration of making pots on the wheel,” he said.

“What we are saying is ‘let us work together to explore all the options’ and those options include working with, and taking advice from, Invest Northern Ireland. We should also be exploring grants and thirdly, but absolutely crucially, there are opportunities for much-improved marketing through the Glencraig website.”

A number of meetings are due to take place between the Camphill Community Trust and interested parties but it is understood a reopening of the facility is not on the agenda.

A spokesman for the trust said it was only after much deliberation that it was decided not to renew the lease which expired on December 31.

“This difficult decision is a purely economic one, based on the cost of supporting the pottery over the past number of years.

“Unfortunately, due to the current economic climate, the community does not have the resources and can no longer justify supporting recurring deficits,” he said.

“Please be assured that in arriving at this difficult decision the management council has explored all options, as all Camphill Glencraig workshops provide valuable opportunities for our residents and all those engaged in workshop activities,” the spokesman added.