Written evidence submitted by the Crafts Council
DCMS Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors
The Crafts Council is responding to this inquiry by setting out evidence of the impact on the craft sector of Covid-19 in relation to each individual Committee question.
1. What has been the immediate impact of Covid-19 on the sector?
The Crafts Council surveyed 600 makers and held two zoom Maker Meet-ups to understand the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their business and practice. The following is a summary of points raised:
Access to funding and practical support
Access to selling opportunities
In addition, we surveyed markets, fairs, galleries and intermediaries to find out the impact on those intermediaries and have summarised these findings below. Our main concern for those that are able to reopen is how they will manage to maintain social distancing whilst remaining economically viable:
A survey on Facebook has also noted that small business owners are struggling to balance running a business and care for their households:
It is also important to recognise the vital role that culture and craft are playing in supporting people’s mental health and young people’s education through the lockdown period. The 2017 inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing documented the evidence of the role of art in supporting mental health. Building on this understanding, the Crafts Council has:
2. How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?
Maker businesses noted that:
In addition, some galleries, markets and fairs have been able to use the furlough and rate relief schemes.
3. What will the likely long-term impacts of Covid-19 be on the sector, and what support is needed to deal with those?
Whilst some businesses are sufficiently financially secure that they are taking time to update websites and marketing, we are concerned that the isolation and precarity of many maker businesses means they may not survive the hiatus in income. We do not yet know what the scale of those business losses will be.
In addition to the points outlined in response to point 2, we would be keen to:
4. What lessons can be learnt from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealt with Covid-19?
DCMS officials have been in regular contact and keen to understand the impact of Covid-19 on the craft sector.
The Government response has, in general, been very welcome and has given hope to many people, with the exception of those types of support outlined above that have not met businesses’ needs.
It is worth noting that media reports suggest that in Germany cultural organisations were able to access financial support from Government within a matter of hours, but the process has taken several weeks in the UK.
At the Crafts Council, we are continually updating the advice on our website with information about both Government and Arts Council England (ACE) measures. In addition, we are holding regular online meetings with makers and other craft businesses to keep abreast of the impact and what may help. We are also working closely with partners, including the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) to get clarity on the support currently available and with the Creative Industries Council and WhatNext? to plan ahead. One example is our work with higher education to showcase creative graduates’ work in the absence of the degree shows which introduce them to potential employers.
On a positive note, we are promoting #artistsupportpledge which works on a simple premise to stimulate sales: makers post using the hashtag and once they reach £1000 of sales they pledge to buy £200 work from another maker. So far, the hashtag has been shared over 200,000 times on Instagram and nearly 45,000 times on Twitter, resulting in a number of sales.
5. How might the sector evolve after Covid-19, and how can DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?
Our new report The Market for Craft, for which the fieldwork was undertaken just prior to Covid-19 in the UK, reveals that our passion for craft has never been greater. 73% of UK adults had bought craft in 2019, purchasing almost 25 million handcrafted objects. In a significant shift, almost a third (32%) of today’s buyers are aged under 35, making this demographic the biggest buyer of craft today.
Not only do the findings demonstrate how there is a growing new generation of younger craft consumers, with total sales now worth £3bn to the UK economy, participants in our launch event in May were particularly interested in how to use the report to help makers and intermediaries to revive and sustain craft businesses after the virus. We will be using the rich segmentation and insight to help focus appreciation of who is buying craft, why and where and to support craft businesses and the intermediaries that support them (galleries, markets, fairs, retailers) to survive. However, it is still too early to say what shape this new market may take.
We have set out in response to point 3 above the ways in which we would seek support from DCMS. We would also wish to see DCMS working closely with DIT, in order to find innovative ways to boost exports that do not necessarily involve travel.