Bespoke shoemakers James Ducker and Deborah Carre of Carreducker are regulars at the Independent Shoemakers Conference, enjoying the camaraderie and generous sharing of tips and techniques. The conference is hosted by different makers and businesses every year, and in February 2020 they took the leap and volunteered to host the 2021 Conference, envisaging a conference in London with trips to their workshop and to showcase London’s shoemaking heritage.

Instead, the Covid pandemic presented them with an entirely different challenge, what to do if noone was allowed to travel or meet face to face? Desperate not to let the conference fans down, they decided to take the conference online for the first time, creating the first digital shoemakers’ conference and opening it up to a community of independent shoemakers across the globe.

It was a steep learning curve for a pair of shoemakers.

Over the following months they travelled the country filming and interviewing UK-based speakers, sent out briefing notes and questionnaires to overseas contributors and gradually edited together a weekend-long programme of films, along with live Zoom panel Q&As and Zoom meetings for delegates.

Such was the response from the 230+ delegates who attended that, rather than let their new-found skills go to waste, Deborah & James decided to make the Digital Shoemakers Conference an annual event each May.