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An Anniversary

Steampunk Victorian Leather Pen in wooden display box
Steampunk Victorian Leather Pen in wooden display box
Steampunk Victorian Leather Pen in wooden display box

May the Fourth 2021

I knew there was something familiar about today’s date. 

Other than my being a science fiction fan, May the fourth last year was significant because it was the day we announced that we could restart the supply of our non-essential goods to customers (see the Covid-19 info on the Belts site). 

So today marks a year since we began a new normal; one that has continued to evolve, and will continue to do so. We are still sanitising hands and surfaces, wearing face coverings and keeping our distance…

We are delighted to be able to welcome customers into our new-look shop, with the belt maker’s workbench right in the window, and a spacious shopping area inside. 

Those exciting plans I mentioned a year ago became a shop called ‘The Belt Makers and Friends‘ and inside you can now find a good range of gifts and accessories that compliment our belts, and that you might find around a person who belongs – for a part of their day at least – in an office, study or studio. Things like suitable leather bags and briefcases for the trip to work. Other items that brighten your day, such as a smart shirt and cufflinks to team up with a more casual trouser; comfy and bright, British made woollen socks; and leather pens that have been expertly hand crafted from our very own leather trimmings. 

The range is expanding all the time and ‘desk decor’ is an area we are aiming at for the near future. Where will we be this time next year? To quote Dave Lister, of the JMC mining ship, Red Dwarf: “It’s going to be fun finding out!”

Stay safe, people.

Marie

‘An Anniversary’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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Open longer for Christmas!

Christmas shop front
Christmas shop front
Christmas shop front

Open longer for Christmas!

The kindly Mr Jenrick has announced that retailers are permitted to open longer hours without the lengthy application process. Tomorrow our area exits the England Lockdown 2, into Tier 2 instead. I am here to let you know where that leaves Christmas shopping with The Belt Makers & Friends!

Open!!

From TOMORROW (Weds 2nd December) at 10am, we… are… OPEN!!

All our COVID-secure measures will be in place, both for you to shop in comfort and safety, and for the safety of our staff.

  • Hands: Everyone will be asked to apply the supplied hand sanitiser at the door
  • Face: Face coverings are mandatory (medical exemptions apply)
  • Space: We have 2m markings throughout the store and we may restrict numbers in store if required

New December arrangements

We are delighted to announce new shopping hours for December! We will be opening our door for a little longer this year, to allow for socially distanced browsing, over longer shopping days.

Thursday is traditionally late night shopping so we will keep our door open to all, until 7pm every Thursday, from now until Christmas.

We are introducing personal shopping appointment slots for Friday and Saturday evenings. On Fridays you can book appointments between 5 and 8pm and on Saturdays you can book between 5 and 7pm.

We will also open Sundays, from 11am-4pm AND Mondays, from 10am-5pm.

Press the image below to go straight to the bookings page!

See you soon!

‘Open longer for Christmas’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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Film making: a short but intense journey

Video thumbnail of me outside the rebranded shop front

Film making: a short but intense journey

Video thumbnail of me outside the rebranded shop front
Video thumbnail of me outside the rebranded shop front

Channel 4 threw down a gauntlet

The other boss and I happened to be watching Channel 4 on Friday or Saturday evening. Working with American Express, Lloyds Bank and several notable other sponsors, they played a short marketing piece for a competition to promote independent businesses. The call to action was: make a video.

Channel 4 throw down the gauntlet: make a video
Channel 4 throw down the gauntlet: make a video

Got to be honest, as much as I’m happy to stand in front of people (I’ve called bingo in the past to a hall of 800) and speak about the things that are important to me, the act of filming myself was a gigantic step into a perceptively complicated, and slightly scary unknown. I’ve recorded a few less-than-brilliant Instagram pieces for my charity marathon training but that’s it. No editing; didn’t have a clue where to begin with that.

The prize was for five independent businesses to get a 30 second advert made for them, and be shown on various Channel 4 channels, including during Cats Does Countdown at the end of the month.

8th July 2020

It was thanks to Mark that we took up the challenge; I thought it would be too complicated to consider in the short lead time… we had until midnight last night to apply.

Still shot of both of us filming the video introduction
Still shot of both of us filming the video introduction

A mission of four parts

The task was split into four parts: 30 seconds about the business, 60 seconds about our comeback from Covid-19 and how we keep our customers safe, a 60 second video tour of the premises (had to leave some out to squeeze that in) and they asked for a party trick, also in 60 seconds.

My biggest challenge was going to be the editing. The last time I was anywhere near an editing suite (which was very exciting) I was at college and they used tape. You know, the linear, magnetic kind! You physically cut it up and use special sticky tape to splice it back together in the right place. There was a little guillotine and everything. I was only watching, as that fun stuff wasn’t part of my own coursework.

YouTube logo
YouTube logo

Naturally, I headed to YouTube school to take a crash course in random-access video editing.

After some searching, a few false starts, and downloading three or four different editing apps on to my phone, I found one that was recommended by a YouTuber and partner, who demonstrated (badly) how they had used it to edit a video on their own channel; shot, edited and uploaded entirely from their phone. It seemed to be a good app that would do all the things I needed but there were gaps in the presentation and I was missing valuable info.

Onward!

No more time to dwell on that! Next we needed to have an idea of what to say and also where to say it. I didn’t want the first two sections to just be a head shot of one of us doing a ‘piece to camera’ as that didn’t seem to me to be very exciting. I’m not sure that ‘exciting’ actually describes the finished result… but it’s certainly not all headshot interview style.

Marie in front of some belt shelves
Head shot interview, TBMF style

One thing I was sure of was that I wanted to have both of us in it. There are personalities behind independent businesses and these needed to be represented. Oh my, though: 30 seconds to describe my business? A near impossible task. Perhaps in future I can learn how to add a web address graphic to relevant sections to give more detailed information but yesterday was not that day. Had to go with the extreme abridged version.

Am I a diva for insisting on a script?

We timed each section and I realised that if I was going to speak clearly enough, I needed to limit even further the number of words I used. It got to a point where, when we wanted to talk about normal things, that we discuss with customers on a daily basis, we couldn’t remember any of the words we used! Having completely forgotten how to speak, it was time to sit down, quickly gather thoughts onto paper and start again.

We were on a roll (no pun intended) by the time I stood outside the shop, gesticulated enthusiastically at the signage, and shouted across the road in the hope that the tiny phone mike would pick me up!

Finally, the party trick

Party trick? Did they mean juggling? The only thing we can do that people love to watch is make a belt appear in front of their very eyes.

Mark at the bench smiling with 3 finished belts
Job done!

This normally takes around an hour and a half of careful placement of each and every tool stroke so we were going to have to be artful to fit this into 30 seconds. I was already thinking along the lines of adjusting the video speed… I was putting a good chunk of faith into being able to fathom the missing jigsaw pieces in my editing knowledge, by the time we got back home after filming was over.

It’s all in the teaching

Knowing that the editing was going to take place on, let’s face it, a tiny phone screen, meant that any further research needed could take place on the laptop.

Thankfully I found a great tutor. A no-nonsense, down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is Australian called Justin Brown from Primal Video. If you ever need any modern editing help, do try him out. It was a great relief to find a presentation that I could easily digest in the even shorter, short time remaining.

Following his advice I worked backwards and found the right clips. Justin had clearly demonstrated how to pull in different recordings, and quick ways to cut out extra work so although we poured over this project, from scratch, non-stop for around 9 hours, it could have taken so much longer and not been completed at all.

A good result

For a first, very green attempt, I’m pretty pleased. Obviously there’s huge room for improvement but we went with what we had, which at the start of the day, was just the phone! We learned some new skills, got our entry uploaded, finished filling in the web form and hit the go button.

For future reference, uploading three and a half minutes to YouTube, and waiting for it to process and become available for watching, takes the best part of an hour. I’ll bear that in mind for next time…

Please do have a look and tell us what you think!

‘Film making: a short but intense journey’ was written by Marie Buckfield