We have a really useful boot stand which my mother gave me a while ago - but there are only pegs for four pairs of wellies and we are five, and often many more, so I thought I'd buy another one to go alongside. Happily there was a sticker on the base of the stand telling me it had been made by the Lord Robert's workshops, so I Googled them and ..... wow! What a find! It turns out that they are based just outside Edinburgh and not only do they make welly stands but a wondrous range of beautiful TRADITIONALLY MADE brooms and brushes of every sort imaginable. What could be better for Twice!
I shot off down to the factory to meet Chris Denny who runs it. What I found was both fantastic and depresssing. The workshops were founded in the 1890s to give employment and training to disabled ex-servicemen. At one time there were 11 such workshops but this is now the last one. They men make brushes in the traditional way - which, of course, means first class quality. Everything from clothes brushes to library brushes to yard brushes. Really beautiful stuff. As a business, it runs as a significant loss and so the charity that runs it - SSAFA Forces Help - have decided that it must close at the end of June this year. So, in the same moment, I had found a source for some of the best products that I've come across for Twice and lost them too.
All is not quite lost for the 11 disabled servicemen currently working there - the Scottish Government is aware of their plight and things are being done behind the scenes to try and save the workshop - but at this stage it doesn't look too good.
I went down again on Monday to order brooms and brushes and, walking around the workshops, it seemed really senseless that the workshops are closing. The cost to the state of having to pick up financially where the workshops leave off will be very close to the shortfall that they are currently have each year. Plus, because there has been the Sword of Damocles hanging over them, there has been very little marketing or selling going on which only increases the shortfall. The thought of losing not only employment and purpose for the men working there - all of whom have more than done their bit for us - but also losing the knowledge and skills that go into making these beautiful brushes - is really awful. Once it's gone, it's gone.
I'm not sure what I, or anyone else, can do to help, but if there is anything I will be doing it and I'll post on this blog so that you can keep up with it if you're interested. I am pretty sure that there is a good market out there for what they produce, with some decent marketing.
Aside from that, I have recently put together a series of workshops in May and June and sent out invitations for a two day sale here on 12th and 13th May and I am now panicking big time about how much has to be done....