UK’s only Banjo manufacturer continues expansion

The Great British Banjo Company, which launched just over a year ago with a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly £50,000 has announced five new banjo models which will come on stream from January 2015.

The company is Britain’s only banjo factory, and the first in the country for more than 60 years.

The company says the reason it is able to expand its range in such a short time period is due to the ability to manufacture almost entirely in house.

Its first instrument, an openback banjo named the Shackleton after the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton has sold some 200 units, including exports to the USA.

Founder and managing director Simon Middleton said: “We’ve been able to expand the range so quickly because everything is designed, prototyped and manufactured entirely in-house in our Norfolk factory. This approach allows us to innovate very quickly and gives us complete control of the quality of our output.

“The new instruments are all superb quality in sound, feel and aesthetic appeal. They’re more expensive than Chinese imports, but actually they’re not that much more expensive when you consider the desirability of handmade British products,” Middleton added.

The company adopted the Shackleton brand name for its instruments because of the important role of a banjo on Shackleton’s 1914-16 Endurance expedition. Shackleton described the banjo as “vital mental medicine”.

The association with Shackleton has proved so positive for the company, which now employs three full time and three part time staff, that they recently launched a range of Shackleton beers and Shackleton knitwear. A full clothing range is in development for launch next year.

Middleton added: “It’s a superb range of British hand-crafted instruments, and we’ve achieved it in just over a year, thanks to fantastic customer support and our passing for making great quality products at attainable prices.”