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Focus on Workshops

Posted September 25, 2013

jeweller

Hatton Garden is unique.  In an area less than one square mile, you can purchase a rough stone, have it polished, buy precious metals and the services of a designer, commission the craftsmen and women in the workshops, and your dream jewel will be turned into 3-dimensional reality. The workshops are the heart of Hatton Garden, run by people who have spent their lives honing their skills, having been apprenticed to a master craftsman for up to seven years.

In the 1980’s things changed in the UK.  ‘Big Bang’ heralded the birth of an economy dominated by financial institutions and global group-think – and we saw the demise of manufacturing.  The myth became a mantra “… it is not viable to manufacture between the City and the West End…”  and it spread from London across the UK.  Manufacturing, which had been at the heart of the industrial revolution, was suddenly considered to be an unnecessary evil.  Appreciation of the skills of the many people who worked in specialised industries up and down the country also disappeared, to be replaced by the concept that we didn’t need those skills anymore – that they were old fashioned.  Computers could do that work now.  Sometimes they can!  And sometimes they can’t ….

Two decades or so later and we see a country that is divided into a very wealthy and international capital city and the rest of the country – with another property bubble in London and houses in the north of England being given away for £1.00.  Suddenly we are talking about the problems of the demise of manufacturing, the lack of jobs, the uncertainty, low skills levels and zero hour contracts.

polisher

Which brings me back to Hatton Garden – and also to the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter and to some old factories in the back streets of Sheffield that have been converted into workshops.  In a very small way, we are seeing the re-birth of the designer-maker, beavering away in these tiny rooms, some developed by the more far-sighted local councils who understand that this is the way forward and that from small beginnings giant companies can grow.  In Hatton Garden, the London Borough of Camden developed some brand new workshops in Kirby Street, specially designed for jewellers and silversmiths.  The Goldsmiths’ Company invested in the development of the Goldsmiths’ Centre in Britton Street, and they have also launched new apprenticeships schemes to encourage young people to train as jewellers and silversmiths.  Suddenly, the media are all talking about the ‘M’ word again – manufacturing!

It is only the beginning.  It is just a start and we have a long way to go before our manufacturing base will make any serious impact on our devastated economy.  Small businesses need support and nurturing – a job for national governments perhaps?  Lets hope so.