Can a family survive for a year on British-made goods?

By Graham Satchell
BBC News

media captionThe family who will only buy British-made goods for a year

Can a family survive for a year buying only British-made goods? That's the challenge the Bradshaws from Kent have given themselves for 2013.

Angry at the failure of big corporations like Amazon and Starbucks to pay full rates of corporation tax James, Emily and their two-year-old son Lucan have decided to support British-owned firms and workers in troubled economic times.

"As soon as I heard about Amazon I decided I wasn't going to buy my Christmas presents from them," says Emily.

"It all snowballed from there. The rules are actually fairly simple," she says, "it has to be a British company and the items must be manufactured in Britain and that's pretty much it."

A trip to the local high street in Westerham shows just how tricky their year could be.

Most of the items in a household goods shop are made in China. The labelling in a clothes shop is unclear.

Much of the fruit in the supermarket is imported from overseas. But the Bradshaws remain undaunted.

"For the first time I can remember it's OK to be proud to be British," says James.

'Fun project'

"We had a great year with the Olympics and the Jubilee. We're doing this because we think it will be a fun project but if we can do something by buying British goods and helping the British economy then we will," he added.

James and Emily are only two weeks into their challenge and have struggled to find everyday things like nappies, olive oil, batteries and garlic.

Clothes have also proved difficult. Very few items on the high street are made in Britain and Emily has found the labelling rather confusing.

"My wardrobe might get quite old this year," she says.

Emily and James have searched extensively on the internet and started their own website to appeal for help. One early success was tea.

Emily has discovered a company in Cornwall that grows and blends Earl Grey tea.

"It is more expensive than other brands, but I think it's worth it," says Emily.

They have also found a firm in Kent which makes combs and another which makes toothbrushes. But cost is a significant issue.

James asks: "Are we as a country able to produce certain items at a price point that we're used to?

"We might come out at the end of 12 months and say perhaps not. Perhaps we physically can't compete and maybe we're better suited in the end to just the premium end of the market," he added.

If the Bradshaws cannot find something they are looking for they will either go without or find an alternative.

They have tried nasturtium seeds as an alternative to black pepper corns - although James says it tastes like "old man's trousers."

Deciding exactly how British a company is or not is not easy.

Proud industrial history

The Bradshaws say they are feeling their way but admit to feeling let down by British companies who have moved their manufacturing overseas.

Britain has a long and proud industrial history but in the last 50 years it has been in serious decline.

The government wants to re-balance the economy and encourage more manufacturing.

But competing on price with countries like China and on engineering with countries like Germany is not easy.

Mobile phones are worrying James. He cannot find a British maker and will need a new one this year.

But he has already made his own valve radio and is convinced there will be enough British-made component parts for him to make his own mobile phone.

"If it's possible to source the raw ingredients for a mobile phone - and I am not talking anything to rival Apple - I'll certainly have a good bash," he says.

Can they survive for a year on British-made goods?

Only time will tell but the Bradshaws remain determined to carry on with their experiment to see if buying British is a viable lifestyle choice for the future.

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