Black Country Chainmaker says a fond farewell

Today (Friday 30 Sep), Black Country Living Museum wishes one of their blacksmiths a fond farewell. Kevin Lowe started his contribution to the Museum as a volunteer in 1992 and, when an opportunity came about for him to learn how to forge chain and nails, he was keen to apply. Some 20 plus years later, after training a host of new metalworkers, Kevin is hanging up his hammer and picking up the golf club, taking an early retirement.

Unlike their more traditional, glass-case counterparts, Black Country Living Museum’s visitors are immersed into an open-air environment where they can see, smell, hear, touch and taste history. Living interpretation and working demonstrations enable people of all ages and backgrounds to gain first-hand experience of how the Black Country played a central role in the creation of the connected, industrialised world we all benefit from today.

Kevin’s role was pivotal to creating the immersive environment that the Museum is famous for. As a metalworker (principally a chainmaker) Kevin demonstrated, on a daily basis, one of the many crafts that anchored the Black Country to the centre of the industrial revolution. A now rare skill, Kevin’s abilities have been invaluable to the Museum. In training a new generation of metalworkers, Kevin has helped to ensure that the Black Country’s rich history of chainmaking remains undisturbed, as his trainees now go on to share the skills they learnt from such an inspirational member of staff with the next generation of museumgoers.

Discussing his favourite thing about chainmaking, Kevin said: “Being able to pass on the skills, as well as enjoying the job and the people. I’ve never woken up in the morning and not wanted to go to work.” When asked about his lasting impressions of BCLM, Kevin laughed: “Friendly staff. Watching the Museum grow. Don’t worry I’m going to come back; I want a pint in the Elephant and Castle and I will have some fish and chips, which I haven’t done for a very long time.”

Current Museum employee and metalworker Sebastian ‘Seb’ Edwards was trained by Kevin, having joined as a volunteer several years ago. When asked about his role, Seb explained: “Not many people can say they’re a chain maker, a Black Country chain maker. To be one of the rare few to make chain at BCLM, while learning from Kevin (and subsequently the people that he learnt from) makes me feel more connected to the history of the Black Country.”

Chatting about Kevin’s retirement, Seb said: “It’ll be a real shame to see him gone. But no one ever really leaves the Museum, they always come back to visit because it’s like being part of a family.”

BCLM’s Head of People and Culture, Sukhi Baden, discussed how Kevin is a prime example of the benefits of volunteering at the Museum: “His skills and passion as a volunteer ultimately led to a tremendous career, with many colleagues benefiting from his knowledge, expertise and the enthusiasm for nail making and many other heritage skills.”