Rotherham defends its craft culture amidst controversial ranking as 'worst in the UK'

THE director of a borough-wide arts organisation has blasted the findings of a national survey which ranked Rotherham as “worst in the UK for crafts” - insisting the borough is “awash” with creatives.

Rotherham Council also hit back, defending the borough’s "vibrant and varied craft culture”. 

As reported in last week’s Advertiser, Rotherham was rated last out of 88 places in research commissioned by Liberty Fabrics, which analysed data including local resources and shops, crafting education levels, and social media interest.

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A spokesperson for Liberty Fabrics said: “What let Rotherham down was its lack of social media interest combined with poor results in education and key resources like knitting shops.”

The owners of Woolly Madness, a town centre family-run arts and craft shop that has recently expanded, disagreed, saying there was “plenty of interest”.

And this week Helen Jones, director of the Creative People and Places programme at arts organisation Flux Rotherham, said: “That’s not our experience of Rotherham at all - it is awash with brilliant makers and crafters.

“Maybe many of them don’t have TikTok accounts, as that looks like one of the metrics that has been used.

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“They also mustn’t have visited the Rotherham Bazaar (at Rotherham Market), which has numerous fabric and craft stalls.”

She also pointed to recent examples Flux has been involved with, based on consultation which revealed respondents were “particularly keen” on textiles and embroidery.

An Arts Council Collection tapestry exhibition by Turner-Prize winning artist Grayson Perry recently opened at Wentworth Woodhouse, with creative workshops running alongside, recent project

“The Threads that Connect Us” saw hundreds, from beginners to experienced embroiderers, stitching and quilting textile artworks.

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Artists worked with groups including The Community Tree in Canklow, S62 Community Group in Rawmarsh and The Maltby Quilters, as well as venues including Rotherham Minster and Rotherham’s Over the Rainbow and Hygge cafés.

FLUX’s recent pottery projects also attracted waiting lists of more than 60 for the events’ 20 places, she added.

Rotherham Council’s assistant director of culture, sport and tourism, Polly Hamilton, said Rotherham had a "vibrant and varied craft culture”, adding: “From our local professional and amateur artists and makers, to our craft events for all ages in neighbourhood libraries, to celebrating our crafting heritage through exhibitions, there are many ways that Rotherham residents enjoy craft activities.”