Dorset Family create home-made crackers this Christmas - Meet the Ferndown Family
PUBLISHED: 13:13 13 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:26 20 February 2013
Jeremy Miles meets the Ferndown family whose Dorset-made crackers will be gracing some very fine tables indeed this Christmas...
Jeremy Miles meets the Ferndown family whose Dorset-made crackers will be gracing some very fine tables indeed this Christmas
Question: Were did Napoleon keep his armies? Brief pause for dramatic effectAnswer: Up his sleevies. Boom, boom, ha, ha ha! Yup, its Christmas cracker time again. But did you ever hear the one about the crackers that sold for a 1,000-a-box? Honest, they really did.
Here I am in a nondescript business estate in the hinterland of east Dorset watching festive fun central in action. Over the road theres a sheet metal works and a couple of dozen yards away theres an ambulance depot. But here in this bog-standard warehouse theres more glitter and tinsel than youd see in a lifetime.
Youll also find that box of 1,000 crackers - quilted, embroidered, beaded and hand-crafted for Fortnum and Mason. Theyre not actually a thousand pounds each! You get six for your grand and theyre packaged in a seriously posh walnut box. The gifts are a cut above the usual too maybe a little silver plate, an egg-cup, spoon or sugar bowl.
This is Celebration Crackers - a business based in Ferndown, near Wimborne, that for the past six years has imported, produced and distributed literally millions of crackers each year. These range from bumper packs aimed at supermarkets, party organisers and hotels containing 50 basic crackers, costing around 13p each, right through to the aforementioned thousand pounders. The top end of course comes with specially branded Fortnum & Mason gifts. The lower echelons take their chances with the time-honoured tradition of cheap and cheerful fun. For these crackers the company generally buys in its own novelties, jokes and paper hats.
In between comes a fascinating array of manufactured and custom-made products. Celebration Crackers are serious players in the festive market and count among their clients prestigious names such as Harrods, Selfridges, John Lewis and Liberty.
The company is run by husband and wife team Sam and Kim Lam who bought the original business, then based in Devon, in 2006. When we first started we commuted for three months. recalls Kim. It was a two-and-a-half hour drive each way. We were exhausted. Gradually it dawned on us that the business could operate from anywhere and so we brought it back home to Dorset.
Sam handles the admin and deals with the export orders. These not only include major international clients but also a variety of Brit-Shops around the world. The kind of places you can buy Marmite and digestive biscuits, says Kim, who runs an impressively slick team of home-workers and the small but dedicated Celebration staff. They produce custom-designed crackers for a mixture of corporate and individual clients and include the Lams son and daughter, James and Aimee.
The cracker business was a totally new venture for Sam and Kim, who previously ran a school uniform business, so there were many lessons to be learnt as Kim recalls. I knew nothing about crackers or their production. I remember just standing in the warehouse and looking at what wed taken over; there was just stuff on shelves everywhere. I hadnt a clue how it worked. I didnt know what to say when Liberty or some other important client phoned up. It was a very steep learning curve.
However it wasnt long before Kim developed a deep fascination in these festive fripperies. I found myself obsessed with how they were constructed. Every shop I went into I was looking at every single cracker and working out the cost. I went sort of crackers forensic! she laughs.Kim most enjoys the creative side of her work.
Im a ribbon and paper girl really. I love the colour and the design. I have ribbons to die for, she says. But to find all these, including some absolutely beautiful papers with exquisite designs, takes an awful lot of background work and air miles.
Each year Kim flies to Germany for the annual Paper World Conference in Frankfurt looking for ideas to inspire. She particularly likes the Italian papers, especially the Rossi range whose subjects range from carousels to carrots.
There is a constant demand for themed crackers, which is where these special decorative papers come into their own. Gardening, wine, food and pets are particularly popular subjects to be captured in crackers, while the companys bespoke Eco-Crackers, with eco motto and eco gift, think packets of seeds and cookie-cutters, are one of their biggest sellers.They also get some unusual requests. Kim gestures towards a huge cracker Sam is working on for toiletries company Soap and Glory
They wanted a six foot cracker filled with a selection of their products.The company also make bespoke crackers. Just send us your colours and themes and we will sort out a selection of crackers designed especially for you, says Kim. Cracker contents range from finger puppets to alcoholic minaturesRunning a team of carefully trained home-workers, involves meticulous planning as Kim explains. The different jokes, coloured hats and labels all have to be absolutely right.Theres also help from outside. Local postman, Andy, often pops in to contribute a joke or two along with the days delivery. Kim sums up working at Celebration Crackers in one word fun
Were a great team and we have a good laugh, she says.Further information at crackers.co.uk