Mindset Group Crackin’ On

October 31st 2019

Members of Beamish’s Mindset Group have created beautiful North East-associated crackets, which are now on sale in the Entrance Gift Shop.

Following the launch of their hugely popular Beamish bags, the group, which is for people living with dementia and other long-term health conditions, couldn’t wait to get started on their next project.

Crackets on sale in the Entrance

A cracket is a small stool that was used in the mining industry to support a miner while he was digging for coal underground. Beamish visitors can see examples in Francis Street in The 1900s Pit Village.

Speaking just before the crackets went on sale, Malcolm, who has been going to the Mindset Group since it was set up in October 2018, said that he has “absolutely” enjoyed the project and added he had a “super, super time” making them.

Malcolm continued: “I have learnt new skills. It has been really positive and I’ve really engaged with it. I’ll be over the moon when they go on sale and visitors start buying them.

The group is just unbelievably good. I get a great kick out of it. It’s very, very nice to be involved. I’ve met lovely people and Beamish is just a one off. It’s extraordinarily good.

John, another member of the group, added: “It has been very interesting to learn the history of crackets.”

Tanya Wills, Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator at the museum, said: “The group has again produced a fabulous product that is of excellent quality and something to be very proud of. They have really enjoyed learning new skills as well as being part of a social group.

The profits from the sales of the objects will be used to keep the group running, so it gives the participants a real sense of achievement. It has been a lovely project to be involved in and shows just what someone living with dementia can still achieve with only a little support.

The Mindset Group’s first project involved designing and printing tote bags which feature Beamish buildings, transport and collections.

A lot of thought went into deciding the next project for the keen group, who meet weekly at The 1940s Farm’s Orchard Cottage. A visit to the Beamish stores to see the museum’s collections proved just the ticket.

Jill Brewster, from the School of Design at Northumbria University, is on a PhD placement at Orchard Cottage and has been leading on the group’s projects. Along with fellow researcher and Senior Lecturer Colin Wilson, she is researching the benefits of craft activities on wellbeing.

Jill said: “The wooden crackets give even more meaning to the Mindset Group – they are creating products that contribute to a sense of belonging and distinctiveness for local people. These items have been made at the museum, in a lovely atmosphere and they’re one of a kind.

With the bags, it was more of an individual project, each maker worked on their own design. This has been more of a team effort, they’ve been working on different parts of a batch of ten crackets at the same time, as a co-creative group.

Simon Harrison, who is a member of our Transport Team and also helps out with the Mindset Group, said: “This group is fantastic. When you hear their craic and how they’re talking, they’re able to be how they were in a workplace 20 years ago. It gives the group purpose, it’s great for them to see projects through from start to finish and they really reap the rewards when the items they have made go on sale. The more we sell, the more we can do.

It’s great for them to be working on different projects as well. We don’t want to come in and do the same thing day in, day out. Scrap bits of wood from Beamish’s workshops were used to make the first few prototypes. It’s taken a long time to get to something we can sell.

“Members of the group have learnt new skills, how to paint, working with woodwork, but not just practical skills, they’ve learnt interpersonal skills too. The project has allowed them to go back to the way they were. No one had met each other before the group started and everyone gets along so well.”

Brian was part of a previous group held at Orchard Cottage and started attending the Mindset Group when it was first set up. He said about the projects he had been working on: “I love it. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. My dad was a miner and used to use a cracket when he was digging down the mines. His would have been a lot smaller though, and was used to protect his shoulder as he lay on the ground.”

It has been suggested that the name cracket comes from miners sitting down and “having a bit of craic”. Whatever the reason, we think the talented group has done a brilliant job.

The Mindset Group crackets are available from the Entrance Gift Shop and cost £40 each, the printed bags can also be bought in the Gift Shop for £5 each. All proceeds go back into the running of the group. Subject to availability.