Kirstie’s Handmade Britain – and the point being made is?

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.

3 thoughts on “Kirstie’s Handmade Britain – and the point being made is?

  1. Interesting post. I’ve not seen the show, I find that actually watching Kirstie on TV ruins the girl crush I have on her! However your point is really good. I expect is also easier to become good at a craft when you are being paid to and can devote your who time for weeks on end to doing in. Most of the rest of us start out by squeezing these things in around real jobs and domestic responsibilities.

  2. I have watched some of the programmes. They’ve been enjoyable fare, but it’s left me wondering that if I’d pitched the programme idea to Channel 4 – “hey, wouldn’t it be great if you filmed me as I try all these lovely quaint-sorry-I-mean-retro-cool-crafty-projects-and-I’ll-make-sure-we-visit-lots-of-different-areas-so-we’re-not-accused-of-being-metrocentric” – would they have run with it?

    What makes a celebrity doing cosy nostalgia-ridden things more attractive than a non-celebrity doing cosy nostalgia-ridden things? Or is it all part of a conspiracy to make us feel that if we aren’t keeping chickens/bees/pigs in our spare time, have perfectly angelic children, running the school fete, making autumnal jams and chutneys, have a ‘darling husband’, and are turning out a cushion or a flower arrangement that is the envy of the neighbours, we have somehow failed.

    I want to shout “people did these things as a necessity, not as a frivolous indulgence”. Patchwork quilts and cushions were made from fabric scraps, chickens and pigs were kept for food, chutneys were made to use up every last bit of seasonal fruit to last a family through winter. Yes, people did – and do – enter county shows for pride and to win, but I also think it’s a shame that the programmes I have seen haven’t explored the commercial side of County Shows. Farming is a business, not a hobby.

    And I didn’t think the cushion she had made should have won either.

  3. A really interesting post that I found via Netmums bloggers. I have been watching the series too but have become increasingly fed up with the emphasis on winning shows. In my opinion, the programme undermines craft making as something that can be picked up really quickly but these skills take years to develop. I used to make my own clothes years ago and it wasn’t something I could learn to do just like that. As for that cushion, I agree, it didn’t deserve to win either.

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