Furniture Council to boost exports

The UK furniture industry is to get a British Furniture Council and “has just one shot” to speak with one voice, according to Ray Leigh, master of The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers.

Leigh is to set up the British Furniture Council to unite the industry and boost exports.

The move follows last week’s National Furniture Forum when Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, urged the industry to “get to grips with the wider issues involved,” adding, “it’s no good acting single-handed” (DW 3 March).

Leigh stresses the importance of “achievable” objectives for the council. “If nothing has happened a year from now we’ll lose credibility.” He plans an April meeting with representatives from furniture trade associations and design, including the British Contract Furniture Association and the Chartered Society of Designers, plus the Department of Trade and Industry. The CSD will propose a practising designer to represent professional design interests.

Leigh will act as council leader for a year, but he expects the furniture industry to “make the council work and choose its leader”. The DTI is expected to fund individual projects.

The council will initially be based at the WCFM London headquarters, which will fund administration. “We expect about 15 council members, but no funded positions,” confirms Leigh.

The forum triggered reaction against design, with one speaker accusing design of “hijacking the conference”. Paul Atkinson of Atkinson Associates spoke at the forum and feels the furniture community in general “finds design some sort of a threat”.

MFI deputy chairman John O’Connell supported the “one voice” plan. “Anything that puts the interests of the industry forward is a good thing,” he says.

O’Connell dismisses the design debate as “sterile”. He says: “Some people say design is irrelevant and some say it’s the be all and end all. We should all work together, whatever our views.”

O’Connell dismisses the design debate as “sterile”. He says: “Some people say design is irrelevant and some say it’s the be all and end all. We should all work together, whatever our views.”

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