Wakefield artist bound for Parliament to promote endangered neon making

Neon lighting
Neon lighting

Wakefield artist Richard Wheater has visited Parliament to give a presentation on neon making - the skilled craft he is helping to keep alive in the city.

Neon Workshops was set up in 2010 by Richard in his home city, out of frustration that there was nowhere in Europe to learn neon hands-on in a creative environment. Now in its ninth year, Neon Workshops cater specifically for the creative industry, consulting, fabricating, installing, teaching and exhibiting neon, with the hope of inspiring future generations.

Richard spoke with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Craft in London yesterday, which was set up on the advice of the Heritage Crafts Association and not only celebrates endangered crafts, but also looks to address the challenges of passing on craft skills. The Heritage Crafts Association includes neon making on its Red List of Endangered Crafts.

Neon lighting was discovered by British scientists in 1898 and, up until 2003, West Yorkshire was the European centre for neon production, where at one time there were around two dozen workshops. Richard is one of the few people in the country who now makes neon.

He said: ““I’m grateful to have this platform to speak about such a special British-discovered material as neon. Just over a hundred years young, it continues to excite such a wide demographic of people, has deeply infiltrated our culture, and yet few realise the dwindling number of UK neon makers. I hope to introduce its relevance to the next generation.”

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, who joined Richard at Parliament, said: “Wakefield has always been a hub of industry and creativity, and it is right that we celebrate and take pride in our craft heritage. I am delighted that Richard is being recognised in Parliament for his dedication to the craft.”