Government proposals to remove crafts from its list of recognised creative industries have triggered "disbelief" and "frustration" in the sector...

Article published by Dezeen Magazine on May 1st.

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The super-rich, privately-schooled ex-bullingdon club member who implemented this apalling policy said of the creative industries, "Our creative industries are one of the jewels in Britain's crown". The man doesn't have the social intelligence to realise the irony of his comment.

In the UK there is a fear of people with dirty hands, a terror of manufacture, of making, of people who make. It is a fear on the newly-middle-class left of being exposed as "working class" and an historic fear on the right of the working classes in general. Makers are attacked on all sides.

 

What doesn't get counted, doesn't count – Pickled DNA by Louis Thompson. Photograph: Ester Segarra
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) issued its paper for consultation on classifying and measuring the creative industries in April. This new paper proposes the removal of 'crafts' as a recognised category within the creative industries. This is of great concern to us and the thousands of makers and organisations across the UK who contribute to one of the most vibrant craft sectors in the world.

DCMS states that the removal of crafts as a recognised category would not have any impact on funding and they have reassured us that it believes craft is still a very important sector. However to omit this as a category denies makers, craft agencies and organisations and the government itself robust and commonly agreed data that evidences craft's importance. Without data, the sector understandably has concerns that it is less visible than other parts of the creative industries, on the principle that "what doesn't get counted, doesn't count".

The Crafts Council and other organisations provide programmes to help makers' businesses grow, but in order to gain funding for this we need data on how many businesses we're contributing to and an understanding of the scale of the sector.

So why is DCMS proposing to remove crafts? The consultation says:

"Most crafts businesses are too small to identify in business survey data, so while there has been a crafts section in the former classification, we've not been able to provide GVA [gross value added] data.

"We recognise that high-end craft occupations contain a creative element, but the view is that in the main, that these roles are more concerned with the manufacturing process, rather than the creative process."

The Crafts Council report, Craft in an Age of Change (2012) found that of 23,000 contemporary craft businesses in the UK, 88% are sole-traders, many of whom fall below the VAT threshold. This makes data collection challenging. However, the same report also shows a sector that has an estimated income of £457m (larger than music downloads and only slightly smaller than West End theatres) with a GVA of £220m.

The Crafts Council continues to be involved in direct talks with DCMS but our views have not been taken on board to date. We will be formally responding to the current and seeking to propose alternatives.

In the meantime we are collating responses from a passionate sector that is mobilising via social media to get their voices heard. Over 16,000 people have seen our Facebook post on the consultation; nearly 500 have clicked through the link on Twitter and over 2,500 people clicked through to the official statement on our website.

Quotes from our Facebook community include:

"Many crafts people in the UK working in their chosen field have studied design at art college along with manufacturing skills. To produce good quality, well-made designed pieces, the creative process is part of the manufacturing process."

"This feels like a slap in the face for all craftspeople like myself who are constantly battling with a balance of creativity, concept, making, design, marketing etc. Do we need to separate these things? Is a designer with no hands-on experience more creative than someone who design and makes? The government surely should be valuing small businesses, not downgrading them."

"It devalues one of the fastest growing UK industries at the moment, and doesn't recognise that at the heart of craft, and craft business, is creativity. It's sad to think people are valuing digital over physical creativity, they should have equal status as it's even more important as we move further into a digital world, to hold on to handcraft and manufacturing."

A number of other organisations, including the Heritage Crafts Association and the Associated Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group are actively engaged too. We hope that collectively we can provide a compelling argument to DCMS for reinstating crafts as a category in the classification of the creative industries.

Julia Bennett is research and policy manager at the Crafts Council. If you want to contribute to the Crafts Council's response to the consultation, please email policy@craftscouncil.org.uk

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