Make craft shops essential retail

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The UK Hand Knitting Association (UKHKA) has written to the Prime Minister to urge him to recognise the vital role craft and yarn shops provide supporting mental health and wellbeing to the country and citizens and designate them as essential retail.

Our organisation represents the UK hand knitting and crochet industry and wider craft community, including approximately 2,000 yarn shops and 5.7 million knitters and crocheters (Immediate Media Craft Intelligence 2019).

The UK’s yarn shops need your help at this time of crisis, just as they needed the government’s help back in 1940 when our organisation was first established.

During lockdown millions of people have turned to craft. This was not just to keep themselves creatively occupied but also most significantly to support their mental health in times of extreme loneliness and isolation. 

There is scientific evidence that crafting and being creative has an important role to play in safeguarding mental health.  The Stitchlinks/Cardiff University study in 2012 found that 81% of respondents felt happier after knitting; 54% felt happy or very happy but fewer than 1% remained sad.  Similar results were found by The University of Wollongong, Australia in 2018.  Currently, the Neuroscience department at Reading University are conducting research supported by a team of doctors in Milan.

The Olympic diver, Tom Daly, has been talking very eloquently about how knitting has improved his diving as part of his mindfulness routine.  The mental pressure he feels during competition has been alleviated through knitting and helps him to relax and focus.

As we progress through the pandemic, we are beginning to face a mental health crisis. Organisations such as Mind have already called on the government to plan for recovery, responding to ONS figures in August this year, which have found that rates of depression have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.

On so many high streets across the country there are retailers that can help.

Craft and yarn shops have a unique place in their communities and have been hard hit by the lockdown.  They are one of this country’s greatest assets, often run by selfless people who themselves see the social community service and friendship they provide a greater call than the need to generate wealth. You could say they represent the best of us. Scores of them have been making PPE for their local NHS, organising Scrub Hubs and mobilising their customers to volunteer when the country called for action.

Now we are calling on the public to urge the Prime Minister to recognise the vital role they play in our great society.

In any new or local lockdown, we are asking him to consider designating art, craft and yarn shops as essential retail in the same way as bike shops and hardware stores, as a further initiative to safeguard the mental health of our population.

Before we know it, winter will be upon us. Our first lockdown was blessed with unseasonably good weather allowing many people to enjoy their gardens and the outside space where this was possible. Not by choice, this winter millions of British citizens could be confined to their homes. Being able to continue to access supplies will provide support and mental fortitude. Anton Chekhov said: “People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they are happy”.

On behalf of all craft shops in the UK, please sign this petition and share it with your friends.