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   Inside Out - South: Monday February 6, 2006

 

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Poole Pottery

Poole pottery
Red hot designs at Poole Pottery

Inside Out looks at the innovative tableware being developed by the South West's famous Poole Pottery.

Best known for their traditional designs, the firm's new pottery marks a change in direction and a more contemporary style.

Red hot pottery

An important new design is about to come out of the kiln at Poole Pottery.

It's the company's first ever batch of red tableware.

Red is a difficult colour because red dyes are not usually safe to eat off.

There are only a few reds on the market, but most are actually pink or orange.

Poole Pottery has invented a red glaze that is food safe, but they don't know if it will fire properly in the kiln.

The company has been working on this red crockery for three years.

If it works, the company says it will be the first truly red dinner service that has ever been made in Britain.

It's an anxious moment for designer Karen Ford as she watches the first plates comes out of the kiln:

"I'm a little bit nervous. We have been working on this for some time. We're never quite sure what will come out of the kilns."

Not all the pieces have fired correctly, but the new technique has been a qualified success:

"It has worked but we always have to adjust the glaze... we're confident enough to put it into production."

Saving grace

The red tableware is part of a campaign to save one of the most famous names in ceramics.

Poole Pottery has been turning out its distinctive products for more than 100 years.

Founded in 1873 it was originally called Carter's Industrial Tile Manufactory before becoming Poole Pottery.

It was well known for producing Art Deco style pottery, and also became one of the south's most popular tourist attractions.

But the old factory on the quay was knocked down five years ago to make way for luxury flats.

The company moved to a new factory but soon ended up in administration.

It has now been rescued by a business consortium, and the new man in charge has brought in his wife as head designer.

Designed for success

The company will now succeed or fail on Karen Ford's new designs

And there's good news on the way - John Lewis has agreed to stock the red dinnerware.

The only bad news is that Poole Pottery have only got a few weeks to turn the order around.

Karen Ford
Designer Karen Ford at Poole Pottery

Managing Director Garry Hilton and his team are also talking to Selfridges and other stores.

Garry's hoping that he'll be able to phase in the orders so he doesn't have a huge production job at one time.

It's hard to increase production quickly, because every piece is hand painted.

This traditional approach is expensive - most of Poole's competitors mass produce their ceramics in the Far East.

But it's not just cheap foreign labour that can make Poole seem uncompetitive.

The intricate designs can also add to the price.

"You have to be able to paint it in time. It might look beautiful, but a saucer at £300 - you wont sell very many," says Garry.

The peacock feather design is particularly time consuming.

Launch time

Three months later, the factory hosts an open day for former employees and collectors.

Many of them are fanatical about Poole Pottery.

At lunchtime, the red plates get their first public airing.

It's a tricky audience, as many of the visitors are traditionalists who prefer the older designs.

So what they think of red dinnerware?

Some are a bit aghast at first - "I don't know what it would look like with gravy," says one former employee.

Others are instantly won over:

"That colour is stunning. I am going to buy some. I have done my kitchen in red and that colour would be great".

Looking to the future

In January 2006 it's time to assess how the tableware has been selling after two months in the shops.

The big question is - has anybody been buying it?

The good news is that the stores are happy with the initial response.

And Poole Pottery is also heartened by the reaction from buyers:

"It's going to take a while to establish itself. It's going to be a niche. It's up against some stiff competition. It's quite a radical departure." Karen Ford, designer.

The red plates haven't taken the world of crockery by storm, but they haven't been a sales disaster either.

Poole Pottery is hoping that it's another small step on the road to recovery.

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School Prom

School prom
Big occasion - the Proms

Inside Out follows children from the south of England as they prepare for the biggest concert of their lives at London's Albert Hall.

They'll be performing at the 2005 Schools' Proms.

For the last 18 years it has been the chance to introduce a generation of young people to showcase their talents.

Twelve groups from across the UK are performing with the largest by far coming from Hampshire.

Six hundred and fifty young people from 100 different schools have come to the Prom for an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza.

Just getting everyone here seems a logistical nightmare, let alone preparing them for the biggest concert of their lives.

Fame and fortunes

Inside Out follows the fortunes of dancers from Wildern School near Southampton who started rehearsing two months ago.

Children at Prom
Stars in their eyes - the children get ready for their big night

Hampshire Music Service has also been asked to write a piece which could be sung by as many children as possible.

The piece is called 'World Song' and the children have to sing in Zulu, Bengali, Maori, Swedish and Mexican Spanish.

The whole production is a challenge for everyone involved from the children to their teachers and the organisers.

But with a sell-out audience, the School Proms looks set to be a huge success.

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