Joining up the dots…family DNA #shifthappens #blogpost

22 Apr

Vans-1

This is a picture of my Grandfather, Joe Romer’s  Leyland Van and caravan in the late 1950’s.

He used it to travel to events, and in particular weddings. He would park in an adjacent street to the church where the wedding was taking place, and on cue, as the bride and groom came out of the church he would press play…on his reel to reel tape machine. This would mean that the loudspeakers on the caravan would play the sound of church bells. – You could have had the peals from Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster or even Chartres Cathedral played at your wedding.- Even if your wedding was in Accrington, Blackburn or even Rishton, where his company was based.

This was because many churches had sent their bells to be melted down as part of the war effort a decade earlier. So seeing a ‘livestreaming’ gap in the market he set off to do things that no-one else was doing, or even thinking of doing…

I started researching into his life and work after a visit to Liverpool Playhouse in January this year. The reason? When I arrived at the Stage Door to meet Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon I saw that the tannoy system used for calls was a very early model made by Romer’s of Rishton…

My Grandfather sold the business in 1968 and retired back to London where he was originally from. It is not something I had really thought about until this moment, the roots and DNA of his vision and passion.

He was born in 1904 and died in 1973. He set up the firm in Rishton in 1925 when he was just 21. In a small town in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire he made extraordinary stuff happen that still has a legacy today.

He moved up from London to marry my Grandmother who was a teacher in the town. Their house had a recording studio and he would make and produce records from his studio in his house in Rishton. In fact that is how my mum met my dad. She came to record a piano session at his house and my dad was the studio technician…

He always had the latest ‘technology’ in his house. I saw a tape cassette recorder when I was 4 years old – they were not in domestic use for at least another 10 years, and he told me that digital was going to be the future. I didn’t understand what this was. He was the first person I ever knew to have a digital watch, and he taught me to count in binary when I was 9.

He was always recording people, sounds, images and was fascinated by the then changing world of television. He used his love of recording and transmitting all his working life. Even in his retirement he devised and produced a marked playing card deck of cards for children called Magic Miniply that encouraged times table learning and counting.

So, when I saw the tannoy system at Liverpool Playhouse I set about some googling…

The company has put in the PA systems for Liverpool FC, Newcastle FC, Manchester Stadium and hundreds of others…

So as Steve Jobs was quoted as saying we join up the dots in retrospect, so I now realise that in some small way that his pioneering spirit has in someway filtered down through the DNA and is now making some more noise with what I now find myself doing…our livestreaming programme pilot-theatre.tv as we well as work with TED and Shift Happens – and the new work we are making with the greenscreen movie project #TKTKM

So thanks to Joe Romer who would have been 108 today. This was the world he told me about when I was little. He would have embraced it all and made some serious shift happen…Things we share? Exactly the same male baldness pattern and a love of making new stuff happen. What we don’t share? He wore a toupee – that was the 70’s I will forgive him. I will not be making the same hair faux pas… 🙂

For more info about the history of Romers of Rishton who are still delivering sound to people…

 

 

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