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  • Zephyr Collection [detail] by Crafts Council Maker Laura Elizabeth Glass. Photo: Traffic Jam Studio

Policy Brief November 2017

We bring you –

Budget and Industrial Strategy white paper

The Crafts Council welcomes commitments to innovation and tech in the 2017 Budget and recognition of the role of the creative industries in the Industrial Strategy white paper. But we share the Creative Industries Federation’s disappointment about the lack of ambition in the white paper in terms of skills policy and the failure to recognise that the drop in creative education is a major threat to the growth of the creative sector and the wider economy.

We are pleased to see a commitment to outline ‘agreed’ and ‘advanced’ sector deals in the white paper. ‘Advanced sector deals’ - those that are currently being negotiated with government - include the creative industries and will be announced later. The Crafts Council, as a member of the Creative Industries Council (the joint government/industry forum), has contributed to the development of the draft sector deal for the creative industries. New money for the Cultural Development Fund, to provide investment to culture and the creative industries, is likely be packaged as part of any sector deal agreement.

Other Budget announcements included a review of the Apprenticeship Levy, to ensure it works better for industry, and a commitment to work with businesses, lenders, insurers, the British Business Bank and the Intellectual Property Office to overcome barriers for business. The Government’s commitment to maintaining the current VAT registration threshold of £85,000 for the next two years is also welcome. This means that many craft businesses will not suddenly be drawn into the VAT regime. The Government has also confirmed that Making Tax Digital will only be a requirement for those with a turnover above the VAT threshold.

The Government has pledged part of its ‘industrial strategy challenge fund’ to an ‘audiences of the future’ project that will help creative and tech industries transform the way audiences engage with the UK’s world-class content through immersive technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality. This follows on from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s announcement of the Creative Industries Clusters programme and brings the total of innovation investment into the creative industries through the challenge fund up to more than £110m. The Crafts Council is actively involved as a partner in several proposals to the programme and Statements of Interest submitted earlier in November can be found here.

The Crafts Council will continue to contribute to the discussions and to making the case for craft.

Further research on the economy

The latest Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Economic Estimates 2016 show that crafts’ contribution to the economy has grown by 14.6% between 2015 and 2016, from £368m to £421m, and by 44.3% between 2010 and 2016, as measured by gross value added (GVA). (Note that the DCMS methodology currently uses only the ‘the manufacture of jewellery and related articles’ to derive these figures. The Crafts Council has recommended using a broader set of standard industrial classifications (SIC codes) to measure craft – see Measuring the Craft Economy.

More than 90% of MPs in a new poll believe the UK creative industries are vitally important to the future of the UK’s economy, job creation and positive perceptions of Brand Britain.

An Arts Council England (ACE) report finds that the arts and culture industry grew by 10.4%, (£10.7bn in 2014 to £11.8bn in 2015), five times more than the UK economy which grew by 2.2% (GDP). The culture sector generates £2.6bn for the Exchequer, equating to £5 of tax contributed for every £1 of public funding provided to the industry. A further report suggests the economic impact of arts and culture could be even greater. The report explores the ways in which other creative industries rely on the arts and culture industry.

A data-led guide from Nesta and SAGE on the state of small business in the UK looks at the local-authority level characteristics of growth, productivity and other factors in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It finds that SMEs have disproportionately driven job creation since 2010 and that high productivity doesn’t accompany high business survival rates.

A new briefing from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Industry in Britain – an Atlas, finds that UK industry is dominated by small firms, with around 99% of firms being classed as ‘small’ (0-49 employees). Firms where the owner manager is the only worker are the largest category, making up around three-quarters of firms in all regions. (This group is typical of the craft sector in which 88% of makers are sole traders.)

The National Campaign for the Arts’ Arts Index 2007-2016 shows that real terms sponsorship fell by 20% in 2014/15 and that local government funding has fallen by over a third since the Index began in 2007/8.

Improving Places: Culture & Business Improvement District partnerships finds that Business Improvement Districts can help communities thrive and drive economic growth. The report calls on the Government to introduce tax incentives for such partnerships.

The British Council has published a piece by John Newbigin entitled What is the creative economy? that discusses how the idea of creative industries and the creative economy has changed in the last 20 years.

Craft participation

In response to a request from the Crafts Council, DCMS have just published data for adult (16+) participation in craft activities, 2016/17. In a comparison with the figures for 2014/15, the data show:

  • 21.6% of adults participated in craft. In comparison with the figures for 2014/15, this represents an increase of nearly 2 percentage points. The only region in which participation has fallen is the East Midlands, by 1.7 percentage points to 21%.
  • Black and minority ethnic (BAME) participants have increased by 5.2 percentage points to 15.3%, as against white participants who have increased by 1.7 percentage points to 22.6%.
  • The number of people with a disability or long term illness has increased from 22.6% to 26.8% compared to those with no standing illness or disability who increased by one percentage point.
  • The biggest increase in participation by educational level is from those with trade apprenticeships (from 13.4% to 20.2%).
  • The biggest increases in age group are in the 25-44 age range (an increase of 2.7 percentage points to 20.2%) and 75+ (an increase of 3.5 percentage points to 20.4%).

Education and skills

Creativity and the Arts in the Curriculum summarises UK evidence and sets out the economic case for creativity and the arts. It explores how creativity is addressed in national curricula and looks at specific strategies relating to creativity in education.

A debate on government support for the arts in the House of Lords addressed funding, the quality of arts education and the availability of affordable artists’ studio spaces. Viscount Eccles called for museums to be able to further support contemporary craft practice

A briefing from Nesta and the Cultural Learning Alliance says broadening STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – to STEAM, by including arts, would better prepare students for a career in the 21st Century.

A report from King’s College London shows how arts practitioners have been inspired to try new creative approaches and to create innovative projects by partnering with academic researchers. The research is based on analysis of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the national assessment of research quality across all UK universities.

The UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) has been appointed as the sector skills body for the fashion and textiles industry, replacing skills development organisation Creative Skillset.

The Education Policy Institute report, Free Schools in England, finds that free schools are helping to meet the need for additional school places but have been ineffective in targeting areas of low school quality. It considers their popularity with parents, their demographic composition and emerging findings of their impact on pupils' attainment and progress.


Caring for Cultural Freedom: An Ecological Approach to Young People’s Cultural Learning, research from A New Direction, explores how cultural learning happens in a place and how it can best be supported.

The British Council has responded to the European Commission's decision to block UK cities from Culture Capital bids. Meanwhile three international cultural policy networks have launched a manifesto that aims to improve the quality of cross-cultural collaborations.

The European Commission has published a position paper, Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture, intended to contribute to a November Leaders' meeting on the future of education and culture.

The Art of Soft Power, a new study of cultural diplomacy from King’s College, London, reveals how art is deployed by diplomatic missions for two main purposes, to help countries to reach out and stand out.

In a parliamentary question, the Earl of Clancarty asked whether the Government intends to ratify the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Lord Ashton of Hyde responded that 'It is necessary to carefully prioritise resources towards those Conventions that will have the most impact on the safeguarding of our heritage, such as recent ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property. However, the Government fully recognises the contribution that the UK's oral traditions, social practices and festive events make to the country's cultural fabric, and continues to encourage communities to celebrate these practices and to continue them for future generations'.

Evidence from the Welsh Government shows that lack of access to suitable transport prevents people from taking part in culture or heritage. They have published guidance and case studies, designed to help cultural organisations increase access.