Ancient Wessex Development Group - Launch Information

Bill Crumbleholme is working on setting up a group to work within the Heritage Industry.

This page sets out the launch details of the group in autumn 2008, with a description of the initial aims of the network. Some of these are being modified as the network develops.

This initial description is available as a downloadable Word document here :-

Click here to download launch document.

South West Lifelong Learning Network Logo

The feasibility study and initial meetings was supported and funded by the SW Lifelong Learning Network, click on the logo to visit their website and see what they do.

Ancient Wessex - Collared Urn

Ancient Wessex Development Group

Launch Document : August 2008


The aims of this new network group are:-

To promote the “Heritage Industry” within Ancient Wessex.

To encourage and train “creative” people to produce work and provide services inspired by the rich local resources.

To foster collaborative activities with existing cultural and heritage organisations.

To stage events working in partnership with those organisations and with outside agencies.

To develop a sustainable local economy, based on the abundant natural and human resources, servicing the growing cultural tourism market.

To form mutually beneficial links with tourism operators to promote the group’s activities as a source of increased business.

To seek engagement with educational establishments at all levels, providing opportunities for study and the involvement of students and pupils in events and activities.

To encourage research and understanding by highlighting the services and resources available at museums and interpretation centres.

To provide local people and visitors in the area with meaningful opportunities and experiences which help them understand and appreciate the area.

Ancient Wesssex : Inside Out : Enclosure Performance

Inside Out Festival September 2007 :
Enclosure performance at Hambleton Hill

First Developments

The group’s first main event will be a festival celebrating prehistoric Ancient Wessex in late summer and early autumn 2009, centred in Dorchester, but spreading into the surrounding prehistoric landscape. The main event will be staged over a weekend or two, with associated activities during the weeks before and after.

A calendar of further events and activities will be built up as the network becomes established.

A website will be set up to manage and promote the activities and those of the partner members.

Launch meetings

There will be launch meetings during October 2008, on Tuesday 7th for creative participants and Friday 31st for partnership organisations. These will be an opportunity at an early stage of the group’s development to discuss the various partners’ involvement and to strategically plan how the network will work.


The group has a fairly wide remit to start with, it will grow depending on the enthusiasm and motivation of the people involved.

“Ancient” is used to indicate periods more than a thousand years ago.

The geographical area of Wessex is disputed, indeed it has changed over time according to conflicts, power struggles and literary whims.

The first festival will be “prehistoric”, anything more than twice that long ago and centred on South Dorset.

Ancient Wessex - Map

The above map appears on the website

People and organisations will be invited to join the network, there will initially be no charge or membership rules as such. The founding partners will help to shape the development and expansion of the group and will be encouraged to recommend new partners.

There are two broad categories of potential network partners:-

“organisations” these are bodies that already function in the Heritage industry, they manage sites, funding, promotion etc.
“creative people” these are mainly individuals, although they may work in larger establishments or as small groups. There are locally based folk who need to be “retrained” to start working with Heritage as inspiration for their work and more widely based people who already work with existing ancient skills etc. All tend to have low profiles and are not well networked together – this project brings them together to work in collaboration and promotes them to the public and also to the above organisations – that is the focus and what makes this worth doing!

Ancient Wessex : Jane Brayne : Amesbury Archer :

Jane Brayne's Amesbury Archer

The word event is used to describe festivals and other one-offs managed by the group, staged by partnerships that come together for each one. Not all network partners will be involved in every event.

Activities are the specific individual parts that feature in an event or can stand alone or be done as smaller collaborations between partners in the network.

The nature of the activities is very wide, within the sphere of influence of the theme. It is hoped to develop activities that are relevant, thought-provoking and “authentic” in terms of being based on evidence – without becoming too strictly nerdish! Artists will always stretch the boundaries and archaeologists enjoy arguing about interpreting the evidence!

Activities are driven by those willing to undertake them. Existing creative people and educationalists will form the core partners, but new talent will also be encouraged. Collaborations will especially be encouraged to cross fertilize information and skills between the partners.

During events the activities will involve demonstrating, selling and informing the public in many ways.

In addition to “taking a pitch” at an event’s central location, partners are encouraged to stage activities in the lead up to and run off from the main event or as completely separate events. For example a village hall or other space could host an exhibition of work by a group of partners, during which a lecture is delivered by an archaeologist and a demonstration of a skill put on for people to watch and take part in. During an event bookings could be taken for a subsequent series of workshops (these can also be promoted through the group’s website).

People will make, design, sell, perform, teach, run workshops etc. working in many different “art forms” and areas of knowledge; from painters and potters; textile and basket makers; jewellers and tailors; stone, metal and wood workers; food producers and cooks; story-tellers and authors; poets and singers; dancers and actors; curators and researchers; teachers and lecturers; guides and re-enactors.

The events will feature activities such as lectures; exhibitions of work; displays of information; workshop sessions; guided mini-bus tours of sites of interest; guided hilltop rambles; performances (music, literature, dance, re-enactment etc); “sporting” events (archery, javelin, running, walking, horse riding, boating, nurdling etc); “countryside skills” (farming, building, food production and cookery, etc).

A bit of blue skies thinking has come up with ideas such as working with local hotels to feature an event in their marketing, or even arrange a tailored set of regular activities specifically for their guests; to stage events to coincide with the visits of cruise liners in Portland, when the passengers are taken to a special location and given the works! The growth of cultural tourism has already started and this group is well placed to serve its needs.

The educational aspect would be aimed at the general public and the staff of existing organisations dealing with heritage. Educational work with schools and community groups will be undertaken, if the desire and funding is found.

Competitions could be run for people to enter their own created work, inspired by the theme, this could be targeted at professionals and/or amateurs of all ages, the selected “winning entries” could then be exhibited during the event and perhaps even toured afterwards.

Ancient Wessex : Display of Black Burnished Ware

Bill Crumbleholme's display of Black Burnished Ware

Audience Profile
The audience profile is mixed, probably families (something for all members of the family to do!), some individuals, “Time Team” fans, Culture Vultures and Heritage junkies!
People with an existing interest wanting to meet “experts” and similar people to extend their knowledge and understanding.
In addition to targeting the tourist market, there is a demand from the local population, especially people recently arrived in the area to live, who want to find out about the historical background and landscape.
An aim is to get people involved with the activities, rather than just watching or listening - learning and appreciating practical skills and being encouraged to undertake research.

Ancient Wessex : Audience at Bonfire Firing Demonstration

Audience at Bonfire Firing demonstration

The website will provide information about the events and activities with links to partners’ sites, details of what the partners offer
An archive of previous events and activities will be built up as a knowledge base, with images, video and podcasts captured during the activities.
The aim is to enable the partners to edit their own pages and post listings to a calendar of events and activities.
The public would be able to sign up for email alerts, RSS feeds etc.
The site could be used to take bookings for events and conduct surveys for evaluation and to inform future development.

Management and Administration
During the feasibility study period the group will remain as informal network, its development into a constitutionalised body will follow according to the strategy agreed.
Bill Crumbleholme is the initial motivator of the group. He works as a potter, specialising in prehistoric wares. He teaches pottery classes and runs workshops, as well a selling his replicas and contemporary pots, which are often inspired by ancient ceramics. He was heavily involved with the management of the Dorset Art Weeks open studio event promoting visual artists from 1996 to 2004. He is chairman of the SW Open Studios CIC. His is a working director of Alacrify Ltd, involved with graphic design and website programming.
Diane Crumbleholme is a teacher, recently moving from secondary to adult and family learning.
Kate Verkooijen is an illustrator and artist, currently undertaking an MA in experiental archaeology at Exeter University. She has worked in the field and with Dorset County Museum.

The SW Lifelong Learning Network has agreed to seed fund the group’s start up and feasibility study. This covers the initial partnership meetings and discussions.

It is expected that applications will be made to seek grants from lottery funds, development agencies and specialist institutions to enable the group to be professionally managed and promoted, administration costs to be met and to stage the first event.
Partner organisations will be encouraged to seek funding, unlocked by their involvement with the group and the events. The aim is not to be a drain on their resources, but to enable them to expand their own activities by providing access to extra resources.
Sponsorship may be possible, particularly if an event ties in with a commercial enterprise’s target audience and interests.
Partners will not be charged to join the group and it is hoped that events will be funded such that their involvement does not cost anything and may indeed be rewarded by the payment of expenses, if not appearance fees.
The issue of charging the public to attend events will be discussed and may depend on the level of grant funding received.
Partners running activities will be able to set their own scale of charges and it is not envisaged to charge any commission on fees for services or sales of goods.

Watch this space!