How arts and crafts bring the Good Life

Lockdown has prompted a renewed interest in craft skills. Here, Hazel Davis talks to Charlie Gladstone, founder of the crafts and music festival the Good Life Experience, about the importance of creativity and why an interest in crafts should live beyond Covid

Charlie Gladstone must get bored with people constantly referring to his wealth but if he is, he wears it cheerfully. He might live in a castle and be descended from a legendary prime minister but this doesn’t mean he lives in an ivory tower. “Yes, we live in a big house and we have material wealth,” he says, “we’re easy targets and rightly so.” However, all the Gladstone children, bar one, work in the creative industries and he himself worked in A&R, discovering the Charlatans and managing They Might Be Giants.

It can be hard, when one comes from such distinguished stock, for people to take your creativity seriously but, Gladstone says, he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that creativity necessarily comes from struggle. “Look at Hockney and how innovative he’s been in later life,” he points out. It’s an evergreen topic but still one that bears revisiting when the arts are in such crisis.

In fact, Gladstone has been quietly doing his own bit for the arts during lockdown. And for the last few years, in fact. He’s the driving force, along with musician, presenter and poet Cerys Matthews and her husband Steve Abbott, behind the Good Life Experience (TGLE) festival, which the friends established in 2014 on the Hawarden Estate in North Wales and which will be taking place again this coming April. He also founded vintage brand Pedlars with his wife Caroline and across various projects has continued employing more than 100 people after lockdown: “The festival, farm shop, café and [Glynne Arms in Hawarden] pub are our way of paying ourselves and contributing to society a bit,” he says.

Poster by Kieran Riddiough for the 50/50 project

The festival might have gained a name among makers as a good place to showcase wares but perhaps less well known is that during lockdown TGLE has employed 50 creative freelancers and paid them what they wanted to be paid on a range of creative projects. The team also sold thousands of charity posters during the same period and offered 100 tickets for next year’s festival on a pay-what-you-can-afford rate. Artist Kieran Riddiough was commissioned to create a set of posters promoting TGLE contributors and guests and a social media post to share the 50/50 project with other contributors. He says, “It’s been really great to see such an organisation willing to support creatives during an incredibly tricky period. Everything that the Good Life Society creates and promotes feels genuine and community focused, which is exactly why I wanted to be involved.”

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes