The Great British Banjo Company Releases New Pictures of Shackleton Banjo

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The Great British Banjo Company has released pictures of the second prototype of its Shackleton banjo - believed to be the first production volume banjo to be made in Britain in more than 60 years.

Shackleton banjo, second prototype

Shackleton banjo, second prototype

We've had support on Kickstarter from all over the world. There is a real desire to see a British-made affordable banjo.

The Great British Banjo Company has released pictures of the second prototype of its Shackleton banjo - believed to be the first production volume banjo to be made in Britain in more than 60 years.

The pictures show an openback, single rim-rod banjo with a maple neck and 21 ply rim featuring ultra-thin plies and advanced ultra-hard glues.

Managing Director of The Great British Banjo Company explained: "Conventional banjo wisdom says that 3-ply rims are best, because they have less glue and more wood, giving more resonance.

"But on the rims of The Shackleton banjo we are using multi-ply rims with very thin wood layers and super-hard glues. This technology has been developed by Britain's leading drum manufacturer, who are building the rims for us.

"Sonic testing in University laboratories indicates that these rims have exceptionally good resonance qualities, and our prototypes support that," added Middleton.

The photographs show a rim made of Cherry and Birch, with a Pepperwood outer layer.

But the company emphasises that this rim is likely to be an extra-cost upgrade and the standard rim on The Shackleton is likely to be of maple, though using the same multi-ply technology.

The company, a small family-run enterprise in Norwich, Norfolk, UK, is raising funds for the development of The Shackleton banjo on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Middleton commented: "Sir Ernest Shackleton himself, after whom our banjo is name, said that at if you leave shore with funding secured then the hardest part of any expedition is behind you. We think we know how he felt. The funding is the tough part, but people all over the world are supporting us on Kickstarter and we are confident that we're going to make it."

The company has received pledges totaling nearly £16,000 ($25,600) towards its target of £30,000 ($48,000) which will enable it to produce its first batch of the Shackleton banjo.

The Shackleton will be the first volume-production to be manufactured in Britain for more than 60 years.

The instrument is named in honour of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the British explorer who led the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914.

The banjo belonging to the expedition's meteorologist played an unexpected but vital role in the journey, after Shackleton's ship Endurance was crushed by ice and had to be abandoned.

Although each man was only allowed to take two pounds in weight of personal possessions off the ship, Shackleton made an exception for the banjo, famously declaring: "We must have that banjo, it is vital mental medicine."

It proved a wise decision, because when Shackleton and a small team had to leave 22 men trapped on Elephant Island for several months while they set off on an 800 mile voyage in a small open boat to seek for help, the banjo played a vital role in maintaining morale for those left behind.

The marooned men held regular concert parties and wrote songs on the banjo.

"It's a fantastic story of British pluck and determination," explained Simon Middleton, managing director of The Great British Banjo Company, "and it has inspired us to undertake our own adventure: to build an affordable banjo in Britain, which has not been done for so many decades," Middleton added.

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 for the company in England by Malcolm McLeod, 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.

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