Industry insider: Firecracker Works
10 Dec 2020
Looking to have their best year yet in 2020, and expand into the US, Ross Windsor, Head of Production at Firecracker Works give us the lo:down on how they adapted during the pandemic, the amazing work they did for care homes and the NHS, and what they predict for 2021.
Who are Firecracker Works?
Founded in 2007, Firecracker Works was born out of a desire to bring a level of perfection to the event industry.
We are specialists in creating and building visually stunning and practical environments. We provide a full creative design service, project and production management and have the luxury of designing and building most projects in-house. We prefer not to limit ourselves and our portfolio of work covers a broad range of industries across private event, product launch, experiential, pop-up, retail, fashion, permanent installation, conference, exhibition and prototyping for industry.
This January and February were the busiest we’ve ever had. We had already been in Paris, Barcelona and Milan and were building for clients in the US, Singapore, and Tokyo before everything toppled like a house of cards.
How has Firecracker Works responded to the pandemic?
We have always been ‘doers’. We have spent years thriving on the buzz of a challenge, be it finding creative solutions to problems others have walked away from, or taking on a brief with a very tight turnaround. It was obvious in March that everything we knew was being turned on its head whilst the world learned to deal with COVID and that was going to be the case for the foreseeable future.
We are used to being constantly busy. When suddenly the machinery fell silent we felt like observers on the sidelines and that isn’t a feeling any of us are familiar with or enjoyed. It was obvious that there were gaping holes in the supply lines for PPE and every day brought more stories of shortfalls in equipment across the country. We had machinery and space that we were desperate to commit to the cause.
In terms of PPE we recognised we could produce a huge number of visors in a short space of time so we found an open-source design for a 3D printed visor that we reconfigured for our CNC machine. This enabled us to produce much faster than printing. We worked out the processes, reconfigured the workshop, purchased the materials, and rounded up volunteers. We applied passion and pride and it felt great to have a purpose again. We used our contacts in the NHS and care sectors and our social media platforms to raise awareness that we had something we were giving away for free to those most in need. We supplied care homes and hospitals that had been left with nothing to protect their staff. The sense of gratitude from these very special people was really overwhelming at times. In the end, we produced around 12,000 headbands with 60,000 individual visors.
When the proper channels opened again for PPE supply and the initial panic had calmed down, we refocused back on the company to assess how we could survive the uncertainty of the next few months.
How has work been for Firecracker Works during 2020?
We have a new Head of Creative, Lee Cuffe, who joined us just before we locked down in March, and counterintuitively it may have been a ‘good’ time for him to start. Whilst everything was paused, he took the opportunity to examine our company image and then redefine our core values, vision and mission statement. We have rebranded and launched our new website. We want clients to know that we have a strong creative offering that can be engaged with or without our production arm.
We have also branched out into new markets. We are working with our local council to develop and redesign an area of Wimbledon that is quiet and unused. We will be creating installations, murals, stalls, seating and planting to give residents and shoppers a space to enjoy. It will be centred around a message of sustainability and the ‘15 minute city’ idea to encourage residents and shoppers to maximise the use of the local community and facilities.
We are also looking at a number of exciting permanent retail, interior and hospitality fit-outs, as well as developing prototypes for industries that previously jetted back and forth to the Far East to manufacture their products but who no longer feel it is justifiable for the foreseeable future.
What do you predict for the New Year?
It has obviously been an extremely tough year for retail but we think the industry will come out fighting and will be proactive – you will see a broad spectrum of retail developing bespoke creative experiences for shoppers to drive footfall. It has been interesting to see how the big fashion houses have adapted to produce beautiful runway shows virtually. New Bond Street has as many beautiful Christmas storefronts as it has ever had so they have confidence that there will be a desire from the public to visit the stores. The industry is full of amazingly talented and ambitious professionals who will find fantastic creative solutions to overcome any obstacles in their path. It’s the most human instinct.
People will still want to meet face to face, people will still want to socialise, people still want to have events where they can be amongst other people, albeit cautiously to begin with. I think people are slightly over this completely digital experience. The future is going to be an amalgamation of those things. It will come down to balancing budget and environmental sensibility with the human experience.
We are lucky to have a number of large projects confirmed for next year. We are building and storing those now to ensure we have capacity next year to take on new projects in 2021.
Despite having to make some tough decisions we have grown a lot emotionally as a company in 2020 and we are excited to expand on that in 2021. We are cautiously optimistic and can’t wait for events to get going again - to be back on site producing premium, engaging experiences. We are already sensing a surge in activity and a desire to get on with life as close to normal is definitely building.
We fully expect a strong return in spring next year. We can’t wait to feel the surge of adrenaline rush once again.
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