Social sustainability in craft makerspaces
Alessandra Fasoli blogs aboutexploring the cultural meaning of craft, makerspaces, and social sustainability. Alessandra is in the first stage of a PhD at Kingston University in partnership with the Crafts Council, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). She’s investigating what craft in makerspaces means for communities in Devon, where there is an active sustainability-oriented maker tradition.
The goal of this project is to develop a toolkit for stakeholders to promote and improve craft-led sustainability change, helping craft practices to have a meaningful impact in building environmental cultures as part of more structural sustainability strategies
Creative degree programmes under threat
The Office for Students (OfS) is the regulator for higher education in England. It recently consulted on three new policies which could have significant implications for Arts degrees. A new approach to regulating student outcomes sets out proposals for a minimum requirement based on numerical thresholds for all HE providers to deliver positive outcomes for their students. One measure will be the proportion of students progressing to managerial or professional employment, or further study.
If the proposals go ahead all degrees will need to have at least 60% of students go on to managerial or professional employment within 15 months. But creative graduates often go on to employment that includes part-time work and portfolio careers as people take time to establish themselves. It may take several years for a graduate to establish themselves in creative careers which are disproportionately represented by freelancers and sole traders. HE institutions that cannot meet the targets will either have to risk fines, cuts in funding and ultimately de-regulation, or decide to cut courses.
Crafts Council voiced deep concern in our response that creative degree programmes and the careers they eventually lead to will now be at risk if these proposals go ahead. We believe the particular characteristics of employment in creative practice should be taken into account in judgements, as evidenced in Dr Lauren England’s report for the Crafts Council Crafting Professionals: Craft higher education and sustainable business development (PhD research conducted at King's College London, in partnership with Crafts Council UK, 2020)
Decline in craft exports
New Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) figures show that 2020 was the first year since 2015 in which the value of goods exports was substantially lower than in the previous year. This fall was also larger than in the UK economy as a whole.
Between 2010 and 2017 we saw a growth in the value of UK craft exports of 31% to £4.84bn (DCMS figures). However, DCMS goods export figures for the crafts in 2020 show a fall of 32% between 2017 and 2020 from £4.84bn to £3.29bn.
The number of makers exporting to Europe (including EU) fell by 21% between 2020 and 2021, according to responses to the 2021 Crafts Council Annual Maker Needs Survey.
Top exporting regions for craft are (£bn):
Europe - 1.708 (EU 0.918)
Asia - £1.219
Americas - 0.332
Top exporting countries for craft (£bn):
Switzerland - 0.752
Gulf Countries - 0.536 (of which Qatar is 0.394)
France – 0.457
USA – 0.396
Hong Kong - 0.394
USA - 0.316
Italy - 0.109
You can find full figures here in the third link.
Meanwhile Make it British, a promoter of British-made brands, has found that 69% of consumers say that they are more likely to buy products that are made in the UK now than before Brexit and the pandemic, and that they are willing to pay up to 20% more for UK-made goods.
The continuing impact of the pandemic on creatives
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the financial stability, job security, entry, progression, and retention of ‘Black, Asian and ethnically diverse aspiring and current workers in the cultural and creative sector’. The University of Manchester study found they have also experienced racial and religious discrimination and negative effects on their mental health.
A survey from CVAN/Earthen Lamp survey shows that the average income of an artist is approximately £15,000 per annum. The average loss of income for a visual arts worker during the COVID-19 pandemic (so far) was just over £7,000.
Local government support for culture: manifestos and cultural districts
Culture and Heritage: A Manifesto for Local Government – Scotland shows that a strong cultural offer makes communities of all sizes more attractive places to live, work and invest. The manifesto explores how local government can play a transformational role in investing in Scotland’s shared culture and heritage for the benefit of all.
At the same time, A manifesto for local museums in Wales sets out how local authorities can invest strategically to ensure that Welsh museums are able to help create flourishing communities and play their full part in the recovery from Covid.
The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre reports on the relationships between cultural organisations and local creative industries in the context of a cultural district. It finds that ‘master-planned’ cultural districts have a significant impact on area branding and placemaking and that they strengthen the pull of creative businesses. But there is a need for more coordinated neighbourhood networks to support awareness of creative businesses in the locality.
New study on diversity within engineering
Bridging the Gap explores the socio-economic diversity within the engineering profession. The study from the Sutton Trust and the Bridge Group shows there are barriers to entry for poorer students. It highlights that the decline in the number of students studying Design & Technology GCSE may be a contributing factor.
Resources to support mental health through arts
Improving Access to the Arts for Mental Health summarises barriers and enablers to participation. The report follows the MARCH Network’s research on how community assets can influence mental health, in which Crafts Council was a partner. The March Legacy website has more materials showcasing research, policy, case studies and resources.