Explore the research themes of Basketry Then and Now through our series of films. Each film captures the acts of making, researching, reflecting and communicating the history, practice and legacy of basketmaking and willow growing during the First World War.

Memory and Remembrance

Memory and Remembrance is a short film about the work of basketmaker and maths teacher, Mary Crabb. The film charts the beginning of Mary’s research into First World War shell baskets – in particular an example of a shell basket held in the collection at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, and follows with exploring the making of a replica. Mary also shares her own creative work, using basketry and textile techniques, focussing on the facts and figures relating to Cecil, her grandmother’s boyfriend killed in France in 1916.

The Sopwith Camel Seat

First World War aircraft were extremely flimsy and it was essential to save weight wherever possible to prevent the planes breaking up in flight. To this end, basketwork seats were used as they were both light and strong. This short film follows Tony Dyer, a flight test engineer, as he builds a replica First World War Sopwith Camel aeroplane cockpit to house an original compass which belonged to his grandfather. Tony is joined by Tim Palmer, who makes a seat for him, and Bunty Ball who explains more about basketwork aeroplane seats.

Willow Connections: Exploring Castle Donington

The Trent Valley in the East Midlands was once one of the most important areas for willow growing and basketmaking in the country. The parish of Castle Donington, on the border of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, was particularly well-known and in the 1890s had as many as 200 basketmakers, labourers and apprentices. In this film, local basketmaker Maggie Cooper takes us on a tour of notable sites around the village connected with its willow growing and basketmaking history, and makes a typical Castle Donington basket.


Willow Then and Now: Exploring Rothamsted Research

The National Willow Collection was established at Long Ashton Research Station in Somerset in 1923 after willow was identified as a strategic resource following the Frist World War. The collection moved to Rothamsted Research in 2002 and today contains over 100 pure species of willows (Salix spp.). In this film, scientists from Rothamsted Research take us on a tour of the collection and introduce us to some of their research into willow, including the growing of willow as a source of bioenergy, the molecular breeding and genetics that underpin the research, and how the research has uncovered exciting chemical diversity within the species.

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Willow Regrowth in Spring

A short time-lapse film showing the regrowth of willow in spring. It was shot over seven weeks between March and May 2017 at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, home to the National Willow Collection. After coppicing in winter, the cut willow stools (stumps) re-sprout to produce multiple shoots. This vigorous regrowth allows biomass to rapidly accumulate. Depending on the willow species used, the stems can be used for basketmaking or as a source of renewable carbon for bioenergy and biofuels. The ability of the stools to regrow from repeated harvests for up to 25 years with minimal input makes them of interest due to their potential to reduce carbon emissions.


Basketry as Therapy