Photo courtesy of Lewis Brockway 2012
1. The late night shopping experience
Posted by Andy Clarke
ED’S NOTE — We have featured Andy’s adventures with his innovative Curve coffin from the very beginning. Here, he describes the experience of exhibiting at a Christmas shopping event organised by his local Chamber of Commerce in Tenterden, Kent.
And so it came to pass, on a cold winter’s evening in deepest darkest Kent, that I found myself ferrying freshly made and painted Curve coffins back and forth between my small farm-based workshop and the 8 by 8 high street plot that was to be my pitch for the evening.
Now, I wholeheartedly agree that, perhaps, coffins are possibly not everyone’s obvious first choice as a stocking filler, but as newly signed up members of the local Chamber of Commerce, Wealden Coffins were invited to attend the Christmas late night shopping event alongside other local businesses and organisations. We were positioned in a prime position alongside a local scout group and the Kent Air Ambulance and opposite a local hostelry from whence came an abundance of festive entertainment. A good pitch I thought although without any of the usual mod cons – gazebo, outside lighting, thermal underwear etc.
I say ferrying (above) since at this moment in time we are not in possession of a sensible vehicle for the carriage of coffins and so they sit proudly on the roof bars of my resourceful Renault Clio. As you can imagine, this spectacle alone has raised many an eye in the Kent countryside and further afield as we transport our coffins around the country. However, we’ve used this tried and tested method on several occasions to deliver our beautiful coffins to funeral directors as far afield as Brighton (around 30 miles) and Central London (around 50 miles – which included a fair jog around the M25 en route).
Whilst delivering a sample to ARKA in Brighton last year, at one point we found ourselves in a funeral convoy, with a traditional hearse up front, a funeral limousine and then our little Clio with one of our coffins aloft. Fortunately, in many ways, the Curve doesn’t really look like a traditional coffin and so I think many people assume we are just transporting a painted ottoman.
Anyway, eventually I was all set up and raring to go in the high street with three of our Curve coffins on trestles (2 of which were hand painted and a third which was plain timber), a stack of marketing literature and details of our exciting “Design a coffin” competition! First prize a £20 Amazon voucher!
Despite the cold – and blimey it was cold! – quite a few people had braved the weather to enjoy the festivities, take in the sights and fill themselves on free mince pies and mulled wine from the various stalls and shops that were open. And very soon I started to get people stopping and looking and pointing and even a few people who wanted to chat.
I always knew that it could be quite controversial to have a coffin stall at a Christmas late night shopping event – well, it’s not normal is it? – and I think the Chamber of Commerce were quite brave in their decision to invite us but I was quite surprised at the level of interest we received. We had a very mixed reaction from people as they passed but reaction we did get as well as some interesting follow-up PR from the local press.
Interestingly, the majority of people didn’t seem to realise that I was promoting coffins. I had many people rush up to me asking, “What are they?” and swiftly followed up with an “I knew they were” or an “I told you so” or even an “that’s five quid you owe me” when I confirmed that they were indeed coffins.
I must admit I did get a few people who suggested that it wasn’t particularly festive and even one gentleman who muttered under his breath, but loud enough to make his feelings heard, that it was “bloody outrageous”. But at the same time I received a lot of very positive feedback from people who wanted to talk about the interesting new look of our coffins, were pleased that we had brought a “taboo” and hidden away subject out into the open, who were interested in the construction of the strange curved coffins or who were just interested in having a chat.
Extraordinarily, following a conversation with the event organiser, we may also have the potential of exhibiting one of our coffins at Godington House, during their annual “sculpture in the gardens” exhibition!
So, all in all, a pretty good evening I thought, despite eventually losing the feeling in both my feet and my fingers, and definitely something that I would do again. It was a real eye-opener to see how the public reacted to our presence and yet the praise we received far outweighed any negative sentiment. I think it is time that we brought our industry out into the open and let people see some of the options available to them before they have to make a purchase!