How the city’s cutlery industry got stuck in to change view of House of Commons

Philip Benton at work at cutlery firm Chimo Holdings, in Eyre Street, Sheffield.
Philip Benton at work at cutlery firm Chimo Holdings, in Eyre Street, Sheffield.
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When the House of Commons announced it would be replacing its prestigious silver cutlery with ‘budget’ tableware from Vietnam, the news was taken like a stab in the heart by Sheffield’s cutlery industry.

But manufacturers and MPs were galvanised into action by city public relations man Andy Evans and their quick-fire campaign earned local manufacturers the chance to tender for the contract.

“I heard the news report in bed on a Sunday morning,” says Andy Evans, who runs Pure PR. “The idea the House of Commons would be buying stainless steel cutlery from the Far East outraged me. I know Sheffield manufacturers and understand the pride with which they maintain the highest standards of production.

“I spent breakfast -time emailing Sheffield’s MPs, asking them to help the Commons committee see sense. I knew we needed to get the manufacturers’ voices heard, so I contacted them. Chris Hudson from Chimo Holdings, Charles Turner, chairman of Made in Sheffield, and David Grey, The Master Cutler, all offered incisive comments.”

The campaign moved swiftly. By Monday morning, Andy had received a call from Angela Smith MP saying she and Clive Betts MP were tabling an Early Day Motion calling for the House of Commons to re-consider. There was talk of a planned mention at that Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time. Statements were issued and the national media swooped. Nick Clegg, who had written to the Speaker of the House, was interviewed quoting Chaucer’s mention of Sheffield cutlery.

“Having obtained the assistance of MPs, manufacturers, the Master Cutler and Made in Sheffield, with Sheffield Chamber of Commerce also making phone calls, we had Team Sheffield up and running,to turn things around,” says Andy. “But I knew we still had one more angle to play so I lobbied the chairman of the committee that decides such purchasing contracts.”

By Tuesday afternoon it was mission accomplished. “We heard that the contract would be open to Sheffield’s finest cutlery-makers, which is what I had set out to achieve,” said Andy.

“Now the hard work begins. Manufacturers, Made in Sheffield and the Master Cutler will be advising the House of Commons committee on the art of cutlery-making and liaising on requirements and costs.”