Silk firm fly­ing flag for sewing her­itage

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE - KAREN BRIT­TON

VIP guests were this week given a tour of a firm aim­ing to ‘bring sewing back to Macc’.

Ron Smart, 76, of fam­ily silk firm RA Smart, in­vited dig­ni­taries and guests to the fac­tory, on Grimshaw Lane, Bolling­ton, for a spe­cial event to show the work they are do­ing to keep tex­tiles skills alive and pro­mote Macclesfield as a silk town.

Vis­i­tors toured the firm’s new sewing room and met some of the ap­pren­tices who are learn­ing the trade with the hope of bol­ster­ing the skills base in Macclesfield.

RA Smart, run by Ron and his fam­ily who lives in Macclesfield, has pro­duced fab­ric for decades, open­ing in 1972 to make screens for screen print­ing be­fore in the 80s start- ing to print silk for fash­ion and later for mens ties.

But it was only re­cently that the com­pany started to sew items too.

They took on home sew­ers to pro­duce house­hold tex­tiles such as tea tow­els and aprons, and then last year opened a sewing room to in­crease pro­duc­tion.

But Ron, a grandad of two, mar­ried to Ca­role, whose daugh­ter Alison and grand­son Daniel work at the firm, said it wasn’t easy to find skilled staff.

He said: “We ad­ver­tised but couldn’t find enough skilled sewing ma­chin­ists. I guess sewing isn’t cool enough for some young peo­ple to­day. But now we’ve taken on around 16 lo­cal peo­ple and trained them up, and want to show that it is a pro­fes­sion for young peo­ple.

“We’re fly­ing the flag for UK man­u­fac­tur­ing and it’s all hap­pen­ing right here in Macclesfield.

“Macclesfield was al­ways a sewing town and we want to pro­mote that, We’re bring­ing sewing back to Macc.”

Ron says they hope to take on up to 50 ma­chin­ists and start sewing clothes for fash­ion de­sign­ers

e firm

is run­ning ap­pren­tice­ships with Macclesfield Col­lege so trainees work full time but go to col­lege one day a week to qual­ify for an NVQ.

One ap­pren­tice is Emma Shel­don, 22, from Adling­ton, who had been hop­ing to make a ca­reer out of her love for sewing.

She said: “It was great to find an op­por­tu­nity so close to home.

“I learned ba­sic sewing be­fore pick­ing up more skills. I’ve found it hard to stick to a job but love it at RA Smart, we’re like a fam­ily.

“Peo­ple may.think of sewing as some­thing for grannies but it’s not. It feels great to go out wear­ing some­thing you’ve made.”

Emma Caven­der, 30, a mum of two from Macclesfield, ap­plied with no for­mal sewing ex­pe­ri­ence.

She said: “I’d done bits at home and knew it was some­thing I’d like to try but had never seen an op­por­tu­nity. You need to be cre­ative, pa­tient and have steady hands, and it’s so re­ward­ing.

“I’m very proud of Macclesfield and it’s great what RA Smart is do­ing to bring sewing back to the town.”

●● Ron Smart, front left, with (clock­wise from back left) Bolling­ton mayor’s con­sort James Ni­cholas, MP David Rut­ley, Cheshire East mayor Wes­ley Fitzger­ald, Jane Jones from Macclesfield Col­lege and Bolling­ton mayor Amanda Stott at RA Smart in Bolling­ton

●● Award-win­ning wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher Ben Hall in ac­tion. He is due to give a talk at Macclesfield Cam­era Club’s next meet­ing

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