The Bradshaws are a family who set themselves a challenge to buy for one year only goods made in the United Kingdom. As they say on their website (www.britishfamily.co.uk), “this means all our food, clothing, house-wares, electronics, fuel, in fact everything we buy, must be made, designed or produced in Britain by British companies.” Their one caveat is that they will use medicine or pharmaceutical items which may not meet their rules.
Five months in and it has been a surprisingly difficult challenge. Fortunately they weren’t emptying their house of anything not produced in the UK before they started on their quest, otherwise there wouldn’t have been much left. So little is now produced here; it is mind-boggling to think that it is impossible to buy a single item in a Poundland store that has been made in the UK. Virtually everything is designed, made and packaged in the Far East, shipped over here and sold for a quid. How the hell is any profit made one might well ask? Well it clearly is, as Poundland is thriving. As 85% of children’s toys are made in the Far East, Buying British made is a real problem. There are about twelve such manufacturers but most are at the upper end of the market price-wise. Is it any wonder most cash-strapped families head for Poundland?
We once had a fantastic textile industry but it is difficult to find garments made in Britain now. The Bradshaws have blogged about the difficulty of finding for instance British-made underpants (unless you want woolly ones made in Yorkshire). They comment on the three assumptions about buying British made, that is that the clothes cost more, are of better quality and one enjoys better customer service. They found that this was not always the case (but bargains were only to be had if the garments were in a sale).
Any technological gadget is also a problem; a British made mobile phone is impossible to source; fridges, TVs, X-boxes, hi-fis are all made abroad. Furniture and kitchenware is also tricky; IKEA seem to furnish most modern homes and nothing British made is on sale there. The Bradshaws have also had problems finding British wallpaper that was anywhere near affordable and are completely unable to source lightbulbs.
As a vast amount of this country is given over to agriculture, buying food grown here should not, one would think, be hugely problematic. It can be sourced but you have to search hard. The supermarkets, even ones sited next to the cauliflower fields in Lincolnshire, tend to import fruit and vegetables. Using a local box scheme is the easiest way to source local produce. There is a tea grower in Cornwall which the Bradshaws discovered after realising Twinings tea was actually made in Poland. Of course buying British food also means eating seasonally which would perhaps be a good lesson for us all. It is thought-provoking to read the Bradshaw’s account of their year and to marvel at how little is actually produced by the sixth-largest economy in the world. In 1968, a campaign was launched called ‘I’m Backing Britain.’ I’m sure many would like to back Britain now but globalisation has made it increasingly difficult to do so.