Some customers may remember the time when I only had room in my Felton Street workshop for just one family at a time. I provided umbrellas for waiting customers to use in wet weather!
Cambridge in the 1980s was an influential place in the history of period performance. I was making period clarinets and basset clarinets, within a quarter-mile radius of Christopher Hogwood (conductor), Trevor Beckerleg (harpsichord maker), Mark Stephenson (harpsichord maker), Anna Brock (violin maker), Juliet Barker (violin maker) and Nick Shackleton (collector and promoter of period performance).
We were also helped by other local artisans such as Tania James (silversmith), John Nightingale (silver and leatherworker) and Andrew Houston (professional photographer). Mark Stephenson not only made harpsichords but also hosted wonderful evenings of music in his candlelit workshop including, most memorably, a performance by harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson.
Staff numbers increased and more space was needed. In the early 1990s we moved to Homerton Street, where an admixture of workshop and retail shop served us well until 2000, when we moved to our present premises in Russell Street, off Hills Road in Cambridge, readily accessed by road or rail, or on foot. As our customer needs increased, the shop in 106 Russell Street shop slowly filled to bursting-point, prompting a redesign in July 2004 and a major expansion in 2006 when we took over 105 Russell Street as well.
In 2009, my second-in-command Timothy Taylor and I took part in Cranfield University's prestigious management development program, under the tutelage of Gerard Burke and Marihelen Esam. This prompted us to redesign the shop's layout in 2010, introducing extra services for customers. We now have four rooms set aside for customers to try instruments. They are designed to provide an acoustic barrier to the rest of the shop, without losing contact with our helpful and attentive staff.
The Cranfield program also inspired me to get back to my roots as an instrument maker, by founding Cambridge Woodwind Makers. The workshop is situated in Linton, a lovely village just outside Cambridge. CWM runs instrument-making and maintenance courses for woodwind and brass instruments, in the spirit of established teaching workshops such as The Cambridge Violin Workshop. It provides hands-on courses for amateur and professional artisans and instrumentalists. Specialist tutors include Tim Cranmore (recorder-making) and me (woodwind repairs).
In 2011, I took part in the BBC 4 programme Scrapheap Orchestra. The nine participants had to make instruments that sounded like modern orchestral instruments, out of scrap materials......... The culmination, a concert in the Royal Albert Hall, was an event not to be missed.