Bernard Leach
Bernard Leach at work. Photograph: Crafts Study Centre (c) The British Travel and Holidays Association

For obvious reasons, the full schedule of events to celebrate the Leach Pottery’s centenary has been somewhat slimmed down, but there is still much happening to celebrate this significant landmark.

It is not anticipated that there will be activity on site at the pottery until at least the end of June, although this may be revised in light of ongoing government advice.

At the heart of the vibrant amended centenary programme was the Leach 100 Celebration Weekend in from 15th-17th May, which will no longer physically be taking place. But there will still be interactive social media activities posted through the Leach Pottery channels.

Thirty organisations across the UK will receive a Raku bursary which will help them host their own Raku firing (when possible and safe to do so). Each venue can then submit one pot to be included in an exclusive exhibition at the Japanese Embassy, London, again as soon as it is safe to do so.

Shoji Hamada. Photograph: Crafts Study Centre (c) The British Travel and Holidays Association

A global Pottery and People Exhibition will also go ahead, launching this month via the Leach Pottery’s social media platforms. Followers of the pottery’s pages will be encouraged to share their favourite piece of ceramic and their stories, with a number of these pieces being curated into a physical exhibition, when possible. Leach Pottery’s exclusive 100 Year Limited Edition Range is currently being designed, which will be launched later this year and will be available exclusively from the Leach Pottery. 

Other activity includes the Home Challenge. Pupils from primary schools to sixth forms are invited to get creative and submit a design for a new ceramic piece, responding to the theme A Pot for Sharing. There are pottery-themed prizes for each age category, from clay materials and workshops, to mini-apprenticeships and residencies.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, art teachers across the UK have been assigning this as homework to ensure it is still possible to be carried out safely, meaning the initiative is likely to have more involved pupils than it would otherwise have witnessed. A series of ‘how to’ videos for potters of all levels and abilities are available via the Leach Pottery website and social channels.

Leach Pottery director, Libby Buckley, said: “Leach Pottery has always demonstrated resilience against an ever-changing backdrop, and has stood and survived the test of time, continually innovating and responding to challenges. And, in the determined spirit of our founders, this is how we continue to operate unabated.

‘We are celebrating Leach 100 in different capacities, and are already seeing the opportunities to drive awareness’

“We had planned an extremely full, comprehensive, and exciting programme of free hands-on clay activities and demonstrations, as well as a number of events, cultural visits, and international exchange programmes, much of which we have understandably had to postpone. However, we will resurrect as much of those as possible as soon as we are able to.”

She added: “As a result, we are celebrating Leach 100 in different capacities, and already we are seeing the opportunities to drive the awareness, impacts, and involved numbers in some of our programme elements even further, which is extremely encouraging.

“We are sure people will continue to celebrate with us, learning from, honouring, and continuing the legacies of Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada in fresh and exciting modern ways throughout this critical year for us, and well into the future.

“I would very much like to take this opportunity to thank all at Arts Council England, Garfield Weston, Saskawa, Art Fund, Cornwall Council, and at St Ives Town Council, Andrew Mitchell, and the Community Chest fund, as well as the Sylvia Waddilove Trust, for providing ongoing support and encouragement for our now ‘pivoted’ 100 programme. I also wish to extend that thanks to all of the volunteers, team members, customers, supporters, partners, and followers, who are also coming with us on this amended journey.”