Unrecognised and unloved: Patrick Burgoyne on the state of creative education

Education is vital to the UK’s phenomenally successful creative industries. Yet its value to the country appears to be going unrecognised in the government’s plans

The David Mellor Bus Route. Photo: Patrick Burgoyne

Just outside the village of Hathersage in the Peak District, on the site of the old town gasworks, is the David Mellor factory, design museum and shop. The extraordinary Round Building houses the factory where Mellor devised an ingenious production system for making his much-coveted cutlery. The museum and its surroundings display the work Mellor produced in a career that spanned Sheffield workshops and a Sloane Square store – the latter bringing beautiful homeware to discerning, design-aware shoppers when it opened in 1969.

In the spaces between the buildings, visitors can discover Mellor’s influence on everyday street life in Britain – from bus shelters and postboxes, to streetlamps and benches. A traffic light takes centre stage in the museum itself (a 1966 design still in use today). It would be hard to find a better example of a designer’s ability to improve everyday life – from the rarefied to the mundane – than here.

On the frame of the bus shelter, which Mellor designed in 1959, is the David Mellor Bus Route. Set in order to resemble a typical route map, it charts Mellor’s career from Sheffield School of Art (Mellor attended classes there from age 11), to the RCA and his workshops, stores and factories, ending at the Round Building opposite. 

According to this government, the subjects that Mellor studied at university, the very building blocks of his career, are no longer a ‘strategic priority’

All along the way, Mellor’s work supported British manufacturing, adding value, raising quality and supporting highly skilled jobs in areas of the country where they were much needed. For a government that has declared its commitment to ‘levelling-up’ England’s northern towns and cities and its desire to secure skilled employment for the citizens of those places it characterises as ‘left behind’, you would think that Mellor’s career could provide something of a template for success. Here in Hathersage is a map of how British creativity can drive the economy and benefit us all. 

And yet, according to this government, the subjects that Mellor studied at university, the very building blocks of his career, are no longer a ‘strategic priority’.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes