Rotherham rated last in national survey of arts and crafts, but local shopkeepers disagree

Martin and Rachel Willis at their town centre shop Woolly Madness.Martin and Rachel Willis at their town centre shop Woolly Madness.
Martin and Rachel Willis at their town centre shop Woolly Madness.
ROTHERHAM has been rated last in a national survey of the UK’s places for arts and crafts — but shopkeepers in the borough for whom business is booming beg to differ.

The research, which was commissioned by Liberty Fabrics, looked into various forms of data including local shops, crafting education levels, and social media interest for 88 places.

Rotherham was placed last, with Sunderland just ahead at 87th and Chelmsford at 86.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The top three places were London, Leicester and Brighton, according to a study by the international wholesale business.

Sheffield and Doncaster were midway on the table at 43 and 48 respectively.

A spokesperson for Liberty Fabrics said Rotherham’s “worst for crafting” status was not due to its smaller population and area as that was accounted for to ensure results were as fair as possible.

“What lets Rotherham down was its lack of social media interest,” they said, “combined with poor results in education and key resources like knitting shops.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But managers at Woolly Madness, a town centre family-run arts and craft shop, disagreed with the survey’s findings.

Martin Willis, who runs the shop with wife Rachel, said they moved into new premises at the Old Town Hall to expand the business.

“We opened in 2019 and were in the market for three years,” he said.

“We moved to the new unit at Christmas because we needed more room.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s gone through the roof. There’s plenty of interest and it’s growing every day.”

The researchers said hobbies such as crafting became more popular "almost overnight” due to the pandemic, with Google Trends data for sewing seeing a big spike in April 2020 as lockdown began.

They also noted a longer-term trend of crochet increasing in popularity.

Mr Willis said the pandemic had contributed but there were other factors.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“With the cost of living continuing to go up, for some things it works out cheaper to make it yourself,” he said.

He credited diver Tom Daley with the boost in crocheting, after the Olympic champion showcased his creative work online.

Woolly Madness plans to start crochet sessions.