British banjo company launches Kickstarter campaign to develop affordable British banjo

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Norwich, UK based business The Great British Banjo Company has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to build The Shackleton, the first affordable British-made banjo in 60 years.

New visual identity of The Shackleton banjo from The Great British Banjo Company.

New visual identity of The Shackleton banjo from The Great British Banjo Company.

We must have that banjo! It is vital mental medicine.

Norwich, UK based business The Great British Banjo Company has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to build The Shackleton, the first affordable British-made banjo in 60 years.

The Great British Banjo Company – the Norwich, Norfolk-based business founded by brand author and musician Simon Middleton – has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the development of a new British banjo called The Shackleton.

The company is hoping to raise £30,000 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter and has made a campaign film using local musical and film-making talent.

The Shackleton will be the only low-cost banjo that is genuinely manufactured in Britain, and the first production banjo to be manufactured in Britain for many decades.

The company is naming the banjo in honour of the Centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's heroic Endurance expedition to the Antarctic of 1914 – because the banjo that Shackleton took on that trip played a vital role in his epic adventure.

In 2011 the company began selling imported banjos as Banjos Direct. Last year they launched The Great British Banjo Company in order to embark on a new adventure: to become the first production banjo manufacturer in the UK for sixty years.

In the last few years the banjo has made an astonishing return to popularity.

In the USA it has been driven by the resurgence of roots and alternative country music, and specifically by the rise of a new generation of people playing and listening to Bluegrass and folk.

In the UK the banjo renaissance is championed by new-acoustic bands like the world-conquering Mumford & Sons.

Founder and Managing Director of the company, Simon Middleton, said: “We've already proved that we can build a world-class banjo. Our limited edition hand-made Islander Ash Leaf which we launched last year has had fantastic reviews from some of the greatest players in the world.

“Bob Minner, banjoist for Nashville star Tim McGraw, called the Islander ‘a stellar instrument’, and has become an official artist-endorser of our products. Other leading players have also praised it.

“Now we want to take the massive step of making an affordable production banjo, right here in the UK. A banjo for the people: really well made, great to play, great sounding, British, and low-cost,” said Middleton.

“We have launched a two month campaign to raise £30,000 on Kickstarter to enable us to bring this vision to life.”

To support their fundraising campaign Middleton recruited three Norwich banjo players and a new graduate in film-making from Norwich University of the Arts.

“We have been incredibly fortunate in being able to enthuse three fantastic local banjo players to appear in our movie, all playing our Islander Ash Leaf banjo. We’ve got Martin Johnson from Norwich band The Penny Bloods, the brilliant Mike King from the Norfolk bluegrass band Hayley Moyses & The Bluegrass Forum, and the talented young singer songwriter Solomon Amos.

“All of them appeared free of charge because they wanted to support our project.

“And we managed to recruit a terrific young film-maker Anna-Marie Ramm to direct and edit the film,” said Middleton.

They’ve all done such a professional job on our Kickstarter movie, which will really help to get our story across.

The Shackleton Banjo is inspired by the great British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. In 1914 Shackleton led the ambitious Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to traverse the continent.

When his ship The Endurance was trapped in the polar ice and had to be abandoned, Shackleton insisted that the expedition's banjo be rescued, famously calling out to his men: "We must have that banjo! It is vital mental medicine."

Shackleton was proved right: he had to leave a party of 22 men on the icy shore of Elephant Island for four months while he led a small party to fetch help.

Those 22 men entertained themselves with concert parties led by their meteorologist Hussey, playing the banjo. All the men survived the ordeal, as did the banjo, which is now in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

The Shackleton is a 5-string openback banjo of similar design to the Islander Ash Leaf which the company launched last year. But where the Islander Ash Leaf is a handcrafted (and therefore premium-priced) instrument, The Shackleton is a true 'production' instrument and as a result will be much more affordable for many more players.

The company intends to retail The Shackleton at £300, putting it into direct competition with imported instruments.

Middleton explains that the company is pulling together the resources of experienced British manufacturers.

To make the necks The Great British Banjo Company is working closely with one of the UK's most admired guitar manufacturers (who have been building guitars in England for 40 years).

And to make the banjo rims they are collaborating with a British drum manufacturer.

“Drums and banjo rims are very similar technologically speaking,” Middleton explained.

The company’s small team will be assembling, finishing, and setting-up each instrument in their Norwich workshop.

Middleton said: “We have a romantic notion that we want to put a banjo in every home: to rebuild the creative energy of music and adventure which 100 years ago sustained Shackleton's brave men on Elephant Island.”

The Shackleton crowdfunding campaign can be found at on the Norwich, UK based business The Great British Banjo Company has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to build The Shackleton, the first affordable British-made banjo in 60 years.

Company Information:

The Great British Banjo Company Limited, which also owns online specialist store Banjos Direct, is based in Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

The company works with local craftsmen as well as instrument manufacturers in other parts of Britain.

The business was founded by brand adviser, business author and musician Simon Middleton and has grown rapidly to become the UK's best known banjo specialist retailer and manufacturer.

In 2012, the company launched the Islander Ash Leaf banjo, hand-made in England, which has received glowing reviews from professional players in the UK and the USA.

The Great British Banjo Company is a private limited company, owned and managed by a small group of family and friends in Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

For further information, visit: http://www.thegreatbritishbanjocompany.com .

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