About this project
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?
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.
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.
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!
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."
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.
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).
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!
With sincere thanks to...
Anna-Marie Ramm – Director
Ana Duarte – Production Assistant
Shana Avery – Boom Operator
Tegan Adams – Camera Assistant
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
Risks and challenges
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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