I like Kirstie Allsopp. I like her dresses and her glossy dark hair and I like her kitchen. Location, Location, Location would just be a dull show about deluded wannabees without her sharp humour (‘so Tabitha and Henry, you have a budget of £500k, you’ve viewed 750 properties, you’re living in a cardboard box, about to give birth to triplets and you don’t like this wonderful Cornish beach front property. FOR GOD’S SAKE WHY?).
I have enjoyed watching Kirstie trying out different crafts. Just as I don’t want a crash pad in Chelsea, I don’t myself want to knit a hairbrush cover but in my parallel and wholly imaginary world I knit my own lovely jumpers in colours of heather and I make church windows and give away handmade presents every Christmas.
But I just don’t know what to make of Kirstie’s latest series for Channel 4, ‘Kirstie’s Handmade Britain’. Each week she learns a craft such as quilting or flower arranging and then she enters a county show with the items she has made, with the express intention and some expectation of winning. Yes, winning.
Coming from a family of crafts people, I get how much skill these crafts require and how much time and single-mindedness they demand, especially at a competitive level. I also think that these crafts, being considered as ‘female’ crafts are underrated and under-appreciated. So in going out to win, I do not get the point Kirstie is trying to make.
Are these crafts actually easier than they look so any reasonably practical person could dash off a winning item after minimal practise? In which case the crafts people are either a bit rubbish or are pulling the wool over our eyes. Or are these crafts as difficult as we know them to be but Kirstie is so bathed in wonderfulness that she doesn’t need the years of practise? Either way, craftswomen and men are badly served by the series. The cushion she made should not have won and I found myself feeling quite cross on behalf of the other competitors that it did. And did she honestly expect to have any chance of competing against the flower arrangers? Maybe not, but she looked gutted that she didn’t get placed. ’Humility’ I wanted to say to her, just show a little bit.
There has also been an underlying sense through the series that these crafts are being done by yokels, yokels with their silly out-dated ways and their ridiculous provincial country shows. I think I’ve picked up a channel 4 smirk. But maybe that’s just me being a bit oversensitive.