Saturday 27 February 2010

Coracle making for Edwardian Farm

A few weeks ago I had a phone call from the production company who make Edwardian Farm for BBC2 television. This is a follow on from the series Victorian farm ,which I greatly enjoyed: a season to season journey on how Victorian labourers farmed. They, at 3 days notice wanted a chap to make a coracle on camera with Alex Langlands, one of the stars of the show. I of course said yes, especially as it was being filmed at Morwellham quay, the other side of the moor from me. I tried to negotiate a proper fee that reflected not only the day's filming but expenses such as petrol and materials supplied. Getting tools and preparing jigs, etc., for such a days filming can also take a day. They of course said they had limited budget and we came to an agreement. The promise of being seen by a couple of million people and that this is the best advertising you can get is water off a ducks back to me, it is just a promise with no guarantee of more future work. I am not knocking it, and it is important to be seen, but it does not pay the rent today.

Above is Alex posing for a photo as we made a woven willow coracle.

I was filmed by a popular South West programme again making a coracle and taking the presenter out onto the Dart. The only feedback was a chap wanting to borrow a coracle as part of a flower show display. A few people recognised me from the programme but no great rush of people wanting coracles. A few years later I was again filmed by a programme on woodwork shown on Sky. Now, if anyone out there wants to film me making fan birds or other green wood crafts I would be delighted to oblige. Although I have made quite a few coracles and written a 'how to make a coracle' book, I am not just a coracle maker. I am also happy to present programmes on wood and trees and harbour a desire to have my own TV series, as I think the best people to present these are practising craftspeople.

Me and Alex: we did nor quite get the coracle finished and Alex had to finish sowing the cover on in his own time, and I had to bring the paddle back to the workshop to finish as we ran out of daylight.

I very much enjoyed the day as Alex has a good understanding of traditional craft and a passion for it; he is also very able and knowledgeable. We probably talked too much. The crew were great and the way they filmed and directed was exactly how I liked to work: just get on with it and explain and talk as we go. Any bits that needed to be re filmed were done on the spot and everything was very natural. How they are going to fit all this into 5 minutes I do not know.


  1. Nice work Sean, will look forward to seeing it on the box!

  2. Fascinating. What wood is used? Looks like wIllow from here but does it need something besides bendiness? What is the cover made from? Is the wood steamed at all? This post wants a followup! Sorry I can't catch your show; no TV. Hope it makes it onto YouTube: how to make a traditional coracle.

  3. Good stuff Sean, you are quite right about the bird in the hand being worth a lot more than two in the bush. I remember the sky show. I think it was called Wood-works with a boat builder called Anton (was it fitzpatrick?) I thought it was a great show. I think I may even have a copy of your star turn somewhere - remind me to look it out (or not).

  4. Look forward to seeing the piece on coracle making when Edwardian Farm is finally aired. The person without a TV might want to keep an eye out for it on bbc iplayer then they won't miss any of it. I watched the other coracle article on wood-works today as a matter of fact,spooky!


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