Funded! This project was successfully funded on October 12, 2013.

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The first affordable banjo to be manufactured in Britain for more than 60 years: The Shackleton is a quality banjo for the people!

Join us on a Great British Banjo adventure... to create The Shackleton!

Wow! We are so grateful for all the support we have received so far from more than 200 backers around the world, taking us into the top 2% of most successful Kickstarter projects ever! Thank you!

There have been over 117,000 projects launched on Kickstarter, raising an incredible total of £510,000,000. But only 43% of projects started succeed at all (57% fail and get no funding).

Only 5% of projects started have ever raised more than $20,000 (£12,450).

We have already raised more than £47,000.

If you'd like to play a part in a chapter of British-banjo history there is still time to pledge your support!

Sir Ernest Shackleton called the banjo 'Vital mental medicine', and we couldn't agree more.

That's why we are making the first affordable banjo to be manufactured in Britain for many decades: a banjo for the people, with the standard model costing just £300.

The necks and rims of The Shackleton are being manufactured in Britain by highly skilled and experienced instrument makers, using a combination of traditional craft skills and advanced techniques. The final build of each instrument takes place in Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

We've already developed the Shackleton through a series of prototypes and the picture below shows what the fourth prototype looks like: this one being the optional Oak Rim Special, with a maple and birch rim and burr oak outer. Gorgeous or what?

Shackleton Oak Rim Special
Shackleton Oak Rim Special

The production model will most likely be maple (to be confirmed). 

There will also be resonator versions in both Maple and Oak. See the rewards section for details.

Simon Middleton with a prototype Shackleton banjo, with optional Oak & Birch rim in foreground.
Simon Middleton with a prototype Shackleton banjo, with optional Oak & Birch rim in foreground.

And here is latest footage of our friend Solomon Amos playing the prototype Shackleton on the riverside in Norwich, being filmed for a special feature by BBC News.

Just below is the very first footage of the prototype of our new banjo in action. It looks like it was shot in 1963 rather than 2013, but we hope you like it... and we think The Shackleton sounds amazing!

The bright sounding banjo carrying the tune is The Shackleton itself, played by Mike King of Norwich band 'Hayley Moyses & The Bluegrass Forum'.

The deeper, mellower banjo is our Islander Ash Leaf model (hand built for us by Malcolm McLeod), played by Norwich singer-songwriter Solomon Amos. And fiddle accompaniment is provided by Hayley Moyses herself.

Shot right outside our workshop in the middle of the beautiful city of Norwich, Norfolk, UK, by Simon Middleton. Thank you to all.

We're naming our new banjo in honour of the Centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's heroic expedition to the Antarctic – because the banjo that Shackleton took on that trip played a vital role in his epic adventure.

We hope that you will help us to revive a Great British tradition, and enjoy some great rewards along the way.

The Islander Ash Leaf handmade banjo on which our new Shackleton banjo will be based.
The Islander Ash Leaf handmade banjo on which our new Shackleton banjo will be based.

In 2011 we began selling imported banjos as Banjos Direct. Last year we created The Great British Banjo Company in order to embark on a new adventure: to become the first production banjo manufacturer in the UK for sixty years.


The worldwide banjo revival...

In the last few years the banjo has made an astonishing return to popularity. In the USA it has been driven by the resurgence of roots and alternative country music, and specifically by the rise of a new generation of people playing and listening to Bluegrass and folk.

Crossover bands like The Avett Brothers and great individual artists as diverse as Abigail Washburn and Steve Martin are making the banjo 'cool' again.

And in the UK the banjo renaissance is championed by new-acoustic bands like the world-conquering Mumford & Sons.

The story so far...

We've already proved that we can produce a world-class banjo. Our limited edition hand-made Islander Ash Leaf, built for us by Malcolm McLeod, is the banjo that features in our Kickstarter movie at the top of this page.

The Islander Ash Leaf has had fantastic reviews from some of the best players in the world. Bob Minner (banjoist for Nashville star Tim McGraw) called the Islander "a stellar instrument", and has become an official artist-endorser of our products.

You can see Bob playing our Islander Ash Leaf (on which The Shackleton is based) in the video below.

Now we, The Great British Banjo Company, want to take the massive step of making an affordable production banjo, right here in the UK. A banjo for the people: really well made, great to play, great sounding, British, and low-cost!

The Great British Banjo Company is a Norwich-based business owned by a small team of family and friends. Simon Middleton is founder and managing director: he's the creative force behind the biz. Co-founder Nigel Cushion is chairman of the business: he makes sure the business is managed properly and all your pledges carefully looked after!

Simon Middleton (the scruffy one) and Nigel Cushion.
Simon Middleton (the scruffy one) and Nigel Cushion.

The journey ahead...

The Shackleton Banjo is inspired by the great British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. In 1914 Shackleton led his brave band of men on an ambitious expedition to traverse the continent of Antarctica.

When his ship The Endurance was trapped in the polar ice and had to be abandoned, Shackleton insisted that the expedition's banjo be rescued, famously calling out to his men:

"We must have that banjo! It is vital mental medicine."

Shackleton's ship Endurance trapped in Antarctic ice (courtesy National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London)
Shackleton's ship Endurance trapped in Antarctic ice (courtesy National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London)

And Shackleton was right: he had to leave a party of 22 men on the icy shore of Elephant Island for four months while he led a small party to fetch help.

Those 22 brave men entertained themselves with concert parties led by their redoubtable meteorologist Hussey, playing the banjo. All the men survived the ordeal, as did the banjo, which is now in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

We are celebrating next year's centenary of that great adventure, by naming our banjo The Shackleton.

Shackleton's expedition banjo was the centre of morale-boosting concert parties in the Antarctic (courtesy National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London).
Shackleton's expedition banjo was the centre of morale-boosting concert parties in the Antarctic (courtesy National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London).

How does The Shackleton Banjo differ from our Islander Ash Leaf?

Both instruments are 5-string openback banjos of similar design and in that respect they are very closely related, but where the Islander Ash Leaf is a handcrafted (and therefore premium-priced) instrument, The Shackleton is a true 'production' instrument and as a result will be much more affordable for many more players.


A people's banjo!

We intend to retail The Shackleton at just £300

We can achieve that by pulling together the resources of experienced British manufacturers.

To make the necks (to our unique design) we are working closely with one of the UK's most admired guitar manufacturers (who have been building guitars in England for 40 years).

To make the banjo rims we are calling on the skills of a British drum manufacturer (drums and banjo rims are very similar technologically speaking).

Prototype rims for The Shackleton banjo
Prototype rims for The Shackleton banjo

Then in Norwich, Norfolk, our team will be working the final elements of banjo magic by assembling, finishing, and setting-up each instrument in our own workshop.

In other words we will be manufacturing The Shackleton right here in England, creating great instruments for customers in the UK and all over the world.

In fact we have already begun... we have already created functioning prototype Shackleton banjos (and very exciting they are too).

This is where you come in...

For the next stage of our British banjo manufacturing adventure we need your help.

Specifically we need £30,000 to help us fund development and manufacture of the first run of instruments.

UPDATE: OF COURSE YOU'LL SEE THAT WE'VE ALREADY PASSED THE £30,000 TOTAL (HURRAH & THANK YOU!). BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT WE DON'T NEED YOUR HELP. THE MORE PLEDGES WE SECURE NOW, THE QUICKER WE CAN BRING THE SHACKLETON TO REALITY, AND THE SOONER WE CAN ADD UPGRADES AND VARIANTS. PLEASE KEEP THOSE PLEDGES COMING!

Our aim is to put a banjo in every home: to rebuild the creative energy of music and adventure which 100 years ago sustained Shackleton's brave men on Elephant Island.

Please help us to make The Shackleton a reality, join the banjo revolution yourself, and be part of the revival of a Great British industry.

Claim great rewards...

We have created a range of terrific rewards to say 'thank you' for your support, including:

• Stylish T-shirts
• Great hooded sweatshirts
• Very cool enamel expedition mugs
• Beanie hats, hip flasks and stickers
• First-edition Shackleton banjos
• Highly collectible limited-edition Islander Ash Leaf banjos 
• The amazing Shackleton Centenary Expedition outfit
• Upgraded rims... and more! 


Thank you for supporting us!

The fabulous Oak & Birch rim with Burr Oak finish (see Shackleton 'Oak Rim Special')
The fabulous Oak & Birch rim with Burr Oak finish (see Shackleton 'Oak Rim Special')
Shackleton Banjo Beanie Hat
Shackleton Banjo Beanie Hat
The unique Shackleton expedition enamel mug.
The unique Shackleton expedition enamel mug.
The Great British Banjo Company T-shirt in ringspun cotton.
The Great British Banjo Company T-shirt in ringspun cotton.
The unique Shackleton expedition enamel hoody.
The unique Shackleton expedition enamel hoody.
The distinctive Shackleton banjo gig bag
The distinctive Shackleton banjo gig bag
Inspirational books by Simon Middleton, creator of The Shackleton Banjo project
Inspirational books by Simon Middleton, creator of The Shackleton Banjo project


With sincere thanks to...

FILM MAKERS

Anna-Marie Ramm – Director
Ana Duarte – Production Assistant
Shana Avery – Boom Operator
Tegan Adams – Camera Assistant

MUSICIANS

Martin Johnson of Norwich band The Penny Bloods.
Singer/songwriter/banjoist Solomon Amos.
Mike King of Norwich band Hayley Moyses & The Bluegrass Forum.
Banjoist/guitarist extraordinaire Bob Minner
Clawhammer and old-time music giant Dan Levenson

PLUS

Build of Islander Ash Leaf banjo: Malcolm McLeod of Brighton Banjos.
All of our logos and artwork: graphic designer Matt Copland.
Antarctic photographs: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

         

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The biggest risk of this project is underfunding. But our small team of five people is completely committed to seeing this through and we have the experience (in enterprise, marketing, accounts, banjo building) to ensure success.

A major challenge is the marketing, but company founder Simon Middleton has long experience as a brand-oriented marketer, and we know what we have to do.

And biggest challenge of all of course is to make a truly great quality and superb value British banjo. But we've been building towards this for two years and we have the experience, skills and commitment to make it happen, together with excellent partnerships with expert manufacturers in the musical instrument industry.

FAQ

  • We have done detailed planning for the development costs of a new British-made banjo and the target figure takes account of all the development costs involved, and the first batch of instruments.

    Last updated:
  • We've been selling imported banjos for several years now, and very good they are too. We import Gold Tone banjos from the USA for example (which are part manufactured in China and then finished in USA), and these are superb instruments.

    But from the beginning we have wanted to produce a home-grown instrument. Partly just out of pride and relishing the challenge, and partly because we believe that there is a market for a British-made product.

    The great challenge is to produce a British-made instrument which can compete with imported instruments. We think we've found a solution to that, and with The Shackleton Banjo we aim to prove it.

    Last updated:
  • For us the appeal of Kickstarter is that it is genuine community funding. We are calling on the banjo enthusiasts of the world (who are legion, and growing in number everyday) to help us bring back to life a once-thriving British industry niche.

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  • We have structured our rewards to be 'stand-alone' rather than cumulative. With some Kickstarter campaigns every reward level includes every other lower reward level too, but we wanted our first-edition Shackleton banjo reward to be valued at the same price as The Shackleton's initial sales price when it becomes available to buy, i.e. £300. To make this work we have had to keep the rewards separate.

    If you would like to pledge a higher amount for The Shackleton, for example £345, then we will make sure that you get The Shackleton banjo plus the appropriate reward for the additional payment.

    This principle applies to all the rewards.

    Alternatively, backers can pledge more than once, at different levels, to claim different rewards.

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  • Pledge £10 or more
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    12 backers

    SET OF SHACKLETON & GREAT BRITISH BANJO CO. VINYL STICKERS. A new reward (introduced Setptember 28th) Everybody loves stickers for their instrument cases. This reward gives you a set of four different high quality vinyl stickers featuring logos and designs of The Shackleton Banjo and The Great British Banjo Co.

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  • Pledge £15 or more
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    36 backers

    A new reward introduced by popular demand! Unique Shackleton 'Vital Mental Medicine' Antarctic expedition enamel mug (perfect for sipping your cocoa around the campfire)!

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    7 backers

    SHACKLETON BANJO EXPEDITION BEANIE. A new reward (introduced September 28th). Warm and yet 'cool' this black explorer's knitted beanie carries the unique Shackleton Banjo 'Vital Mental Medicine' branding. Perfect for cool evenings at your favourite festival, playing round the camp fire, or Antarctic exploration! + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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    20 backers

    THE SHACKLETON BANJO T-SHIRT in 'The Shackleton Banjo' design: a unique and enviably cool T-shirt in soft ringspun cotton (choice of 6 sizes) + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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    3 backers

    SPECIALLY SIGNED COPIES OF SIMON MIDDLETON'S INSPIRING BOOKS: 'BUILD A BRAND IN 30 DAYS' & 'BRAND NEW YOU'. Simon Middleton, the creator of The Shackleton Banjo project, is also an inspirational and popular author about brand creation, small business growth and personal development. Both these great books (see covers at bottom of page) have received terrific reviews, and have changed readers' businesses and lives, all over the world. For this Kickstarter reward you'll receive a copy of both books, signed and with a personal message of thanks from Simon.

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    13 backers

    SHACKLETON T-SHIRT & ENAMEL MUG SET: Soft ringspun T-shirt in 'The Shackleton Banjo' design + our unique Shakleton 'Vital Mental Medicine' enamel mug + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £45 or more
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    7 backers

    EXPEDITION HOODED SWEATSHIRT in 'The Shackleton Banjo' design + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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    2 backers

    VITAL MENTAL MEDICINE HIP FLASK. A new reward (introduced September 28th). A good quality steel hip flask for your favourite restorative tipple! Brilliant for festivals, camping, or a evening's jamming at home! Complete with the unique branding of The Shackleton Banjo. The hippest hip flask of them all. + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £55 or more
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    4 backers

    BRITISH ARTISAN-CRAFTED LEATHER 'SHACKLETON BANJO STRAP'. With a distinctive design inspired by Edwardian era travel gear, this beautiful quality banjo strap is made in Britain and will fit any banjo. Colour options to be confirmed.

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  • Pledge £110 or more
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    0 backers

    OAK & BIRCH BANJO RIM WITH BURR OAK FINISH. For you to fit to your own banjo neck. This fabulous British-manufactured 21-ply Oak & Birch rim with Burr Oak finish has caused such a stir that we are now offering it as a standalone reward (see photograph). Featuring 21 ultra-thin layers of Oak and Birch, with ultra-hard advanced technology glues, this is a wonderful sounding and looking rim. 11" outer diameter. Perfectly finished inside and out. Supplied as a blank (no holes, no bevels, non-varnished) for your banjo project.

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    0 backers

    ADD A MAPLE RESONATOR (FITTED, WITH ALL HARDWARE) TO YOUR SHACKLETON BANJO. Turn your Shackleton openback banjo into a bluegrass style resonator banjo. To pledge for this option select the banjo model you want, and pledge an additional £150. Please message us on Kickstarter to tell us that you want the resonator version. Shipping included. Only available with a Shackleton banjo.

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    0 backers

    ADD A HIGH QUALITY PICKUP. Add a very high quality state-of-the-art Schertler pickup to your Shackleton banjo. Fitting included.

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  • Pledge £240 or more
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    5 backers

    BUILD-YOUR-OWN-SHACKLETON BANJO KIT! A first edition Shackleton banjo with a difference: you build it! We send you everything you need including an instruction manual. You just need a spanner a tape measure and some patience! All wooden parts are precision cut and fully finished, so you don't have to plane or sand or saw!! You'll be making your own a collectible signed 'first edition' Shackleton banjo and you'll get a special certificate to say so! + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £250 or more
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    0 backers

    ADD A BURR OAK RESONATOR (FITTED, WITH ALL HARDWARE) TO YOUR SHACKLETON OAK SPECIAL BANJO. Turn your Shackleton Oak Special openback banjo into a bluegrass style resonator banjo. To pledge for this option select the banjo model you want, and pledge an additional £250. Please message us on Kickstarter to tell us that you want the resonator version. Shipping included. Only available with a Shackleton Oak Special banjo.

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  • Pledge £295 or more
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    1 backer

    OAK & BIRCH BANJO 'COMPLETE POT ASSEMBLY' WITH BURR OAK FINISH. Complete pot assembly, with standard hole placement for you to bolt right on to your own banjo neck. With hardware including brass hoop tone ring, all brackets, tension hoop and Remo head, plus twin rim (coordinator rods) and No Knot tailpiece. This fabulous British-manufactured 21-ply Oak & Birch rim with Burr Oak finish has caused such a stir that we are now offering it as a standalone reward (see photograph) but ready to use! Featuring 21 ultra-thin layers of Oak and Birch, with ultra-hard advanced technology glues, this is a wonderful sounding and looking rim. 11" outer diameter. Perfectly finished inside and out.

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  • Pledge £300 or more
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    45 backers

    YOUR OWN SHACKLETON BANJO. First edition Shackleton banjo: a collectible signed 'first edition' Shackleton banjo from our very first production run + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £375 or more
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    13 backers

    SHACKLETON BANJO & BRANDED GIG BAG. First edition Shackleton banjo: a collectible signed 'first edition' Shackleton banjo from our very first production run + a high quality gig bag specially embroidered with 'The Shackleton' logo + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £450 or more
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    14 backers

    SHACKLETON 'OAK RIM SPECIAL' BANJO. A very special edition Shackleton banjo, with fabulous Oak & Birch rim with gorgeous Burr Oak finish (see picture) PLUS higher grade tuners. This is a highly collectible signed 'first edition' Shackleton banjo from our very first production run but even more special ! + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £460 or more
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    5 backers

    CENTENARY SHACKLETON BANJO EXPEDITION SET. A fantastic set for the adventurous banjo player, celebrating next year's centenary of the 1914 Endurance expedition. Includes all of the following items: Signed first edition Shackleton banjo; The Shackleton branded limited edition padded banjo gig bag; The Shackleton Banjo T-shirt; Shackleton Banjo enamel tin mug (perfect for sitting and sipping round the campfire); Unique Shackleton Banjo expedition sweatshirt (for those cool evenings) + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £525 or more
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    4 backers

    SHACKLETON BANJO & BRANDED GIG BAG, "OAK RIM SPECIAL" VERSION. Signed first edition Shackleton Oak Rim Special banjo (with oak rim and upgraded tuners) + a high quality gig bag specially embroidered with 'The Shackleton' logo + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £610 or more
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    4 backers

    CENTENARY SHACKLETON BANJO EXPEDITION SET "OAK RIM SPECIAL" VERSION. A fantastic set for the adventurous banjo player, celebrating next year's centenary of the 1914 Endurance expedition. Includes all of the following items: Signed first edition Shackleton Oak Rim Special banjo (with oak rim and upgraded tuners); The Shackleton branded limited edition padded banjo gig bag; The Shackleton Banjo T-shirt; Shackleton Banjo enamel tin mug (perfect for sitting and sipping round the campfire); Unique Shackleton Banjo expedition sweatshirt (for those cool evenings) + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £715 or more
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    3 backers

    SHACKLETON BANJO & BRANDED GIG BAG, "OAK RIM SPECIAL" VERSION WITH SCHERTLER PICKUP. Signed first edition Shackleton Oak Rim Special banjo (with oak rim and upgraded tuners) + a high quality gig bag specially embroidered with 'The Shackleton' logo + a very high quality state-of-the-art Schertler Resocoil pickup, fitting included. + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £2,000 or more
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    2 backers All gone!

    YOUR OWN ISLANDER ASH LEAF BANJO. Support the development of The Shackleton by pledging to receive its hand-made antecedent The Islander: a magnificent handmade-in-England openback banjo described by Nashville banjo star Bob Minner as "a stellar instrument". Desirable, collectible, unique!

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  • Pledge £2,500 or more
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    1 backer All gone!

    THE ISLANDER/SHACKLETON COMBO SET. A wonderful handmade Islander banjo 'for best' and a first edition Shackleton banjo 'for anytime'. Two great banjos, plus all of this: The Shackleton branded limited edition padded banjo gig bag; The Shackleton Banjo T-shirt; Shackleton Banjo enamel tin mug (perfect for sitting and sipping round the campfire); Unique Shackleton Banjo rugged sweatshirt (for those cool evenings) + a personal thank you and your name on our website.

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  • Pledge £3,000 or more
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    0 backers

    THE TALK: "CREATING A BRITISH MANUFACTURING ENTERPRISE". An inspiring, motivating and informative presentation for corporate and organisational audiences, personally delievered by the creators of The Shackleton Banjo and The Great British Banjo Company. Simon Middleton is an internationally known brand-building expert and author who speaks at conferences all over the world. Nigel Cushion is one of the UK's leading independent company chairmen, an acclaimed speaker, and founder of the leadership and community movement 'nelsonspirit'. Already in demand as speakers: you can book Simon and Nigel now to motivate your audience with The Shackleton Banjo British-manufacturing story.

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Funding period

- (60 days)