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uk Evening Post, Tuesday, May 26, 2009 25

FOCUS ANCIENTMARINERFURNITURE

Crafting success
A family business is bringing a touch of Indonesia to Lancashire thanks to its
collection of beautifully designed hand-crafted furniture, as Chris Visser finds out. opinion
R Cuthbert Culshaw
IBCHESTER is well-known
for its foreign influences.
Not only was it believed to be
occupied during the Bronze Age but
it was also the site of an ancient
Roman cavalry fort where historians
later uncovered priceless artefacts
Why councils
and human remains dating back to
the first century.
should listen
These days, there are no Roman
soldiers in sight, but another outside to small firms
influence from the East is causing
interest at one business. COUNTY council elections are due to
Family-run Ancient Mariner designs, be held on June 4 and the FSB is lobby-
manufactures and sells exotic hand- ing candidates to, if elected, positively
crafted furniture to traders - but engage with the small business sector.
instead of being made here in Lan- This is particularly relevant in the
cashire, Indonesian villagers spend current harsh trading environment.
hours carefully crafting them togeth- Why is this important? Because collec-
er using “traditional” techniques. tively small business is big business.
These include hand-woven chairs, Small firms contribute more than £1 tril-
cabinets and drawers made out of lion in turnover to the economy of the
mango wood and solid mahogany United Kingdom and employ 58% of the
tables and coffee tables. private sector workforce.
Each item comes complete with a As part of its Keep Trade Local cam-
brass plaque and scroll guaranteeing paign, the FSB has launched a Small
the product’s authenticity. Business Engagement Accord which it is
The idea came from Michael Ellis hoped every local authority in England
who travelled to Australia after will sign up to.
taking early retirement following a The principles of the Accord identify the
40-year career in the furniture trade. need for councils to consult with business
There, he found beautifully-designed owners and organisations on a regular
handmade furniture and brought the basis and to ensure business, including
idea back home with him. small businesses, is adequately repre-
Today, the business is run from a sented on local authority forums such as
Ribchester warehouse in Preston Local Strategic Partnerships.
Road by his daughters Rachael I was, therefore, disappointed to learn
Chadwick and Sarah Brown, while that the Preston Vision Board and its
son James has set up a second base in equivalent in South Ribble have no spe-
East Sussex. cific representation for small business.
Rachael explains: “The furniture is One of the issues frequently raised by
made in the villages of Indonesia our members is that of transport and
where we have helped hundreds of parking. The FSB believes that local
people find jobs. authorities must include parking policy
“It works as a particular area or when formulating their Local Transport
district makes a certain type of Plans with a requirement to consult with
furniture - one area might make a local people, businesses and other
mahogany table and other areas organisations.
make other things. Yet, this year, when retailers, large and
“The products are unique using tech- small, are trying to survive through the
niques passed down through time - worst trading conditions we have seen
it’s a traditional way of making things for years, Preston City and South Ribble
which unfortunately, in this country, Councils have raised their car parking
does not happen due to all of the charges again.
machinery involved. So, it’s time some of our elected repre-
“We have a factory base in Indonesia sentatives woke up to the fact that small
which provides the wood. We take businesses matter – they are a significant
the wood out to them - they do their contributor to council budgets through
crafting and it’s brought to the facto- payment of business rates, they employ
ry to be checked and finished. The local people and they spend most of their
process usually takes around eight money locally – and sometimes they like
weeks but can take 12 to 15 weeks.” to be consulted.


Her sister Sarah adds: “We have
invested in a loyal and hard-working
workforce, providing steady employ-
ment and also ensuring the long WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Sarah Brown and Rachael Chadwick of Ancient Mariner Furniture with some of their range
tradition of the highly skilled crafts-
manship of men and woman in the women who work together to successful year and have been up on The business is also looking to run its
Collectively small business is
villages will live on. produce the quality products. last year in the last few months. Indonesian factory base on biodiesel big business ... they make a
“Having highly skilled professionals
overseeing construction, we are able
And Rachael says business is very
pretty well considering the economic
“We are not offering the top-end
range of the market but it is not too
by planting Jatrofa trees around the
factory, which it is hoped will
significant contribution
to offer unique yet constant quality climate. Not only is it successfully expensive and offers quality. We eventually produce the energy
in both the colour and the polishing managing two warehouses in the UK always offer a warm friendly service needed to run the entire site. Cuthbert Culshaw is the chairman of the
process, ensuring that Ancient with around 10 employees but there and that’s the feedback we receive - Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
Mariner pieces are village produced are plans for the company to set up we are always on the end of the for Lancashire and Cumbria
products with the consistency of its own woodland to provide phone to answer questions. Online
factory made items.”
In fact, the business has indirectly
materials for new furniture including
mango and mahogany products.
“We are obviously keeping a lot of
people in jobs over in Indonesia but ● Furniture firm reduces working
Online
TO COMMENT on this article go to
helped to create more than 300 jobs She says: “We are doing absolutely we are looking to expand and create hours for staff www.lep.co.uk
for Indonesian craftsmen and fantastic. We have had a very more jobs in the UK.” ● Furniture slump hits retail sales