Original post : 18 June 2013

Crafts IS a creative industry

If you have been reading our blog posts lately you will have heard about the DCMS’ proposal to change the creative industries classification system, which could in effect have the craft sector excluded from the list. You will have seen how we promoted and supported an e-petition that was set up which reached in excess of 27,000 signatures stimulating a response from the DCMS – quite a victory!

The deadline for responses on the consultation document was 14th June and thanks to all of your comments we were able to formulate a very focussed and evidence-based document. So what did we say?

The proposal suggested that the craft sector did not meet its requirements in terms of how many people it employed, how much trade it exports, gross value added (GVA) and how many businesses traded within the sector itself. As mentioned in previous posts the craft industry was valued in research from Creative and Cultural Skills together with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to generate £4.8 billion GVA (about the same as the whisky industry) and it employs 210,000 people within 85,000 businesses. These were the figures we stressed to the DCMS

We also made it clear that the DCMS Creative Industries classification system needs further investigation for it to be successful, including some more research into the craft sector itself. It seemed to us however, that the main issue was down to the VAT threshold. Many of us working in the craft industry are self-employed or employed directly by very small businesses which means our VAT income is naturally low. In fact the average earning within our industry is £65,000, just £12,000 below the threshold for registering for VAT. We put it that with 34% of craft businesses predicting growth within the next ten years it is vital for the sector not be excluded, only to be restored and the system re-worked again at a later date.

Tradition

The Craft industries are arguably the UK’s oldest and most traditional trades. This should be embraced as opposed to being left on the shelf due to a few minor complexities. Of course we understand that it is a difficult sector to measure and define but perhaps an effort should be made to do just that, rather than to completely disregard it from the DCMS Creative Industries classification. According to David Gauntlett in his book Making is Connecting, Craft isn’t just a group of dusty old traditions but at the forefront of a paradigm shift in the way economies behave as we move  “towards more of a ‘making and doing’ culture.”

The sector has also proved to be a vital one in terms of training and education. According to the DBIS figures 40% of people who work in the trade sector are taking part in apprenticeships. This figure is astonishing and further proof that our wonderful, vibrant sector needs protecting and preserving!

The list of proposed Creative Occupations was also of massive interest to Planet Handmade - 81% of us use craft skills on a daily basis. The inclusion of some other occupations however was, in our opinion, very questionable. People such as librarians, sales directors, and translators do a fantastic job and provide a lot to Britain and the economy, but do their jobs belong in the creative industries category? It seems unfair that amongst all the actors, musicians and publishers, craftspeople are not included.

A broad industry

It is understood that under the current system the crafts sector is listed as a number of groups. It has been stated that the reason for not including the craft industry in the new DCMS classification system is down to the fact that there is not a sufficient amount of data about the industry. Perhaps this is something to be considered before the new classification system is finalised. It is the duty of the Office for National Statistics to ensure that all research carried out is fair and inclusive. Without the data including the craft industry the new system and any subsequent report on the subject will not have been conducted or written fairly.

The lack of data in the industry is talked a lot about by Hilary Jennings of Creative and Cultural Skills who supports the view that craft is vital in sustaining our cultural heritage. Within her report titled “Towards a Definition of Heritage Craft” she shows just how broad and significant the sector is. She says: “The UK’s heritage craft sector is among the richest and most diverse of the creative and cultural industries. It is also one of the hardest to reach with practitioners often geographically spread, working alone or in small workshops and outside of conventional networks. The sector has traditionally proved difficult to map, ranging as it does from skilled semi-industrial trades such as pottery in Stoke to one-person workshops practising traditional crafts and composed of many niche practices with relatively limited communication and sense of common cause across specialisms.”

So with our response submitted all we can do is wait and hope that the pencil-pushers nice, friendly researchers at the DCMS and the ONS realise that they could be making a huge mistake. Don’t forget you can still sign the petition at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49537

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