DURING the past few months, I have visited many organisations across Devon, but few have been as unique as MAKE Southwest in Bovey Tracey.

MAKE Southwest is an acclaimed exhibition space for contemporary craft and design, as well as a leading charity for craft education, which attracts 150,000 visitors a year.

Founded in 1955 as the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, MAKE Southwest moved into its current home at Riverside Mill in the 1980s, and has been successful in regaining its Arts Council National Portfolio status for 2023-26.

One of MAKE’s latest exhibitions, PULP, is an international exhibition, including work from more than 30 artists, which showcases paper in all its forms. Each piece varies in size, and ranges from hyper realistic plant replicas to whole suits of armour made from a single sheet of paper.

It was great to have been able to visit and see first-hand the huge contribution this exceptional local craft education charity makes to the Bovey Tracey economy.

I am in the process of supporting its application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which I hope will allow the charity to expand on its ongoing educational aims.

Devon is an important region for craft and MAKE Southwest is not the only organisation working hard to preserve this rich cultural heritage.

Last month, I also had the great pleasure of visiting the Dartmoor Shepherd’s Workshop and Woolshed in Chagford.

The Dartmoor Shepherd is a local business which sells interior items and accessories using the sheepskin from its own flocks of native rare breed Dartmoor sheep, which graze in Chagford.

The business is family-run and comprises of a shop in Chagford, where it sells its produce, and a farm workshop just outside of Chagford, which I was given a tour of during my visit. 

Owners Lewis and Flora began their craft and farming business after graduating from university in 2016, and their story is an impressive one.

For those who are interested, The Dartmoor Shepherd has a fantastic website which includes information about their business ethos and its origination story. They even write a regular blog, which discusses a range of agricultural issues.

I have also been busy up in Westminster this week. In my capacity as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I have been working alongside the Prime Minister to outline the Government’s plan for ensuring the welfare system supports more people off benefits and into work, helping to grow the economy while being sustainable for the future, and directing help towards those most in need.

Our plan aims to give everyone who can do so the tools to start, stay and succeed in work, and the next generation of welfare reforms will modernise how we assess a person’s capability for work.

Work is good for people, and I want to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from it.

More from Mel at: www.melstridemp.com .