Following anecdotal evidence that traditional crafts were not recognised at local government level, instead slipping between heritage (buildings) and the arts, the HCA conducted a survey into the support local councils (at city, district and county level) in England give to heritage/traditional crafts in their areas.
The survey was conducted by volunteers and members of the HCA, by telephone, between November 2010 and March 2011. Two main questions were asked: (1) is there anybody within the council with a remit for traditional crafts, and (2) are there any council-led (or other) initiatives to promote and protect traditional crafts? The survey was also used as an opportunity to raise awareness of the HCA and to gain contacts within councils.
354 councils were contacted, of which 241 responded, giving a response rate of 68 per cent. Of those 241 councils, only 42 (17.42 per cent) have an officer whose remit includes traditional crafts – 11.86 per cent of councils overall. Just over half of these officers (52.38 per cent) are involved in the arts in some way, with culture also being prominent. However, 134 councils are involved in some sort of activity to support traditional crafts – 55.60 per cent of responding councils, and 37.85 per cent of councils overall. Quite strong regional differences can be observed in these figures.
The survey also produced valuable qualitative data. It became clear that, in many councils, there is a lack of understanding of what is meant by traditional crafts. Work with traditional crafts often happens quite informally and on an ad hoc basis. Councils often associate crafts with arts development services, but many councils are losing this service as arts are not statutory. Furthermore, within the arts context it is common to prioritise the innovative over the traditional. There is also a lack of cohesive strategy between district and county level councils with, in several cases, each thinking the responsibility for traditional crafts falls to the other.
This report concludes that local council support in England for traditional crafts is by no means universal and leaves a lot to be desired. While some councils are doing good work and others have schemes which could be expanded to benefit craftspeople, this report concludes that councils could do much more to recognise this valuable part of their local cultural heritage and to support and promote traditional crafts across the full range of their services.
There is support for heritage crafts at national government level and John Hayes, the Minister for Skills, has publicly given his support for heritage crafts. This support needs to be extended to local government. This report recommends that the HCA continues to raise awareness of traditional crafts and their needs within local government. The results of this survey should be used to produce guidelines and give advice on how councils can support traditional crafts in their areas. It is also recommended that local councils work together on a county and regional level to develop a strategy for supporting traditional crafts to ensure that they do not slip through the net.
Read the full survey report (.pdf, 774kb)