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July 16, 2018

#002 Rugmaker Extraordinaire - Heather Ritchie

#002 Rugmaker Extraordinaire - Heather Ritchie

Welcome to the Inside Yorkshire Podcast. A podcast full of stories and tales from the people of Yorkshire.  In this episode your host Susan Baty-Symes interviews Heather Ritchie the President of TIGHR (The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers) and founder of the not for profit Rug Aid Organisation, teaching visually impaired Gambians to make rugs. What a tale she has to tell!

Susan introduces Heather’s amazing story that has taken her to America, Canada, Australia and even to teach in Africa. Heather wasn’t originally from Yorkshire but since falling in love the with Yorkshire Dales in 1971 she has been there ever since and her passion for helping others through her wonderful rug making skills is something to behold!

Susan and Heather discuss the incredible work she has done in Africa, and how the fine art of rug making has helped to provide vital medicine and an important education to visually impaired Gambians. Heather's inspiring story includes tales of teaching 50 blind beggars to make rugs, fundraising to build schools and even sending white canes and talking watches over in an attempt to improve their quality of life.

Discover how Heather managed to lease a building in Gambia, paint it purple, orange, red and yellow and turn it into the most colourful workshop around for visually impaired Gambians to come together, make rugs and raise funds to support themselves.

Susan and Heather conclude that rug making gives these wonderful people  confidence and independence.


  • “My mother wasn’t a rugmaker, people always seem to think if you’re a rugmaker you take after your mother.”
  • “When teaching 50 blind beggars to make rugs I had to get the message across to them. I began talking about fishing, you’ve got your hook you’ve got your net, and they all know fishing.. so it helped them understand”
  • “They could make a living from rug making and it helps them support themselves and their families.”





Susan has been living in Yorkshire for over 30 years. She is passionate about the county she has adopted as her home and she never ceases to be amazed at the wealth of talent ‘Inside Yorkshire’ and the tales that people tell.




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