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  • Glyphs and Loops (Sequence of 6) [detail], Katherine Swailles. Photo: Steve Speller

May 2016 Policy Brief

May policy brief

This month we bring you -

News in politics

Bills announced in the 18 May Queen’s Speech  include:

  • The Higher Education and Research Bill which will remove barriers for new universities to be set up and introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF may come to include data on graduate salaries and full time employment, an approach which risks omitting the breadth of freelance and portfolio working taking place in craft; and
  • The Intellectual Property Bill which will change the law relating to legal action in cases involving patents, trademarks and design rights and make it easier for companies to settle intellectual property disputes out of court.

The Commons Select Committee that scrutinises the work of DCMS is conducting an inquiry into Countries of Culture, exploring the main challenges facing the cultural sector, the impact of local authority funding constraints and the balance of funding between London and the regions. Oral sessions have included discussion of the Government’s Culture White Paper and the role of museums.

New mayors were elected at the beginning of May in four English cities. Sadiq Khan pledged the following in his manifesto for election in London:

  • A cultural infrastructure plan to identify what needs to be done to sustain London’s future as a cultural capital
  • Creative Enterprise Zones providing dedicated spaces for artists to live and work in
  • Strengthened planning protections for small industrial and creative workspaces
  • London Borough of Culture scheme, focusing on a different area each year
  • Love London pass, giving residents cheaper access to shows, galleries and museums.

Marvin Rees in Bristol pledged to lead a European Capital of Culture bid. Paul Dennett in Salford and Joe Anderson in Liverpool had no specific priorities for arts and culture.

Creative education

The Crafts Council was a signatory to a letter in The Telegraph urging the Department for Education to rethink the treatment of creative subjects in the EBacc. The English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) is a performance measure across a core of five academic subjects – English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language. There will be a debate in Parliament on 4 July on the treatment of the expressive arts in the Ebacc for which the Crafts Council will provide a briefing.

A report claims UK graduates in the creative arts deliver earnings which are roughly typical of non-graduates. Those graduating with creative arts degrees were found to be the lowest earners after ten years of working, out of 21 university degree subjects. The study, carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the UCL Institute of Education, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge, uses tax and student loan data from 260,000 people in the UK.

Furthering research  

Innovate UK is inviting applications to two funds that could accelerate the potential for craft innovation to add value to the economy:

the connected digital additive manufacturing competition which includes both additive manufacturing and connected digital manufacturing; and
manufacturing and materials.

While the scale of expected submissions is large, both competitions encourage microbusinesses to collaborate on proposals and to work with higher education. The pace of such innovation is accelerating, as a new report commissioned by the Crafts Council from KPMG will demonstrate - Innovation through craft: opportunities for growth (launch 6 July) assesses the impact of innovation through craft at the individual firm level.

The UK Research Councils (RCUK) have published their Delivery Plans for 2016-2020. The three priority areas of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) include design (with a focus on the public sector) and heritage. Building on learning from the Knowledge Exchange Hubs and the Brighton Fuse, Bristol-Bath by Design and Creative Fuse North East, the AHRC will launch a new Creative Economy Fund towards the end of 2016.

Connecting to Innovate is a preliminary report on the achievements of the AHRC knowledge exchange hubs for the creative economy. The hubs have broadened academic involvement in the creative economy, driving new research and increasing investment in micro-businesses.

Seed funding has been allocated to ten partnerships as part of a two-year pilot project nurturing collaboration between academics and creative small businesses. The Exchange, hosted by The Culture Capital Exchange, has plans to award a further 20 more grants to collaborative research projects.

The National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing has launched a database of health and wellbeing activities in museums and galleries.

Digital technology

Nesta’s State of the Art: Analysing where art meets technology using social network data uses data from the platform Meetup to identify technologies and trends that may be increasingly important to the creative industries (including 3D printing, virtual reality and the internet of things). It highlights the important role of makerspaces.

The Digital Revolution, a new report from the Edge Foundation, calls for radical action to prepare young people for industrial automation. The eight-point plan includes providing 3D printers and design software for all primary schools, reintroducing young apprenticeships and letting young people take computer science or design and technology instead of a foreign language GCSE.

And are computers killing off craft? Not a chance says Grayson Perry. He explores how digital technology offers the craftsman and the artist creative opportunities that were previously too expensive for an individual, too time-consuming or just plain impossible.


Taking Part is the DCMS survey of participation in the cultural and sport sectors in England. The latest figures show how art has most the consistent participants between 11/12 and 14/15.

A lovely little report from the US National League of Cities outlines How Cities Can Grow the Maker Movement. It provides insights into common trends and makes recommendations about how cities can support makers through public-private partnerships, maker faires, links to local manufacturing growth and by creating innovation districts.