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Making the walls of Blackburn great!

As part of our #newwave project, Graham & Brown set out to challenge some of the country’s leading design talent to develop concepts that would stretch, excite and innovate, conventional wallpaper.
 
Part of the group included Lizzie-Mary Cullen who’s unique illustrative design talent immediately captured our imagination, and got us thinking about a rather large blank wall we had in our reception.  In essence we wanted to capture what makes Graham & Brown, Graham & Brown – our rich history, the places we operate in and our future and a mural at the front of our Design Centre seemed the most appropriate and creative way to do it – after all we are all about: Creativity. Design. Colour. Indeed our original boardroom (which has been preserved in its original state from the forties) featured a scenic mural painted by two of our designers at that time – so there was a neat symmetry in bringing our story up to date.
 
The illustration took four days to complete (watch it in time lapse here)  and captures our rich history and that of the surrounding town of Blackburn our home since 1946, as well as some of the places, as an international business, that we operate in around the world.  As Lizzie-Mary say’s (and you can watch her behind the scenes insights here) “[It’s] an historical map, of Graham & Brown, it’s history and it’s wallpaper designs and the things that have shaped it as a company“.  Lizzie-Mary even used some of the platinum paints in the work.
 
It brightens up everyone’s day whether you work here, or visiting for the first time – it really is a work of art with many hidden stories….



This detail captures the fireplace in the old boardroom bedecked with two portrait photographs of Harold Graham and Henry Brown – many a deal would have been done by the roaring fire, not with a contract of pen and paper but with a handshake over a glass of whiskey
 
The money tree.  In the eighties during the recession, one of the newly formed DIY retailers’ acquired another DIY retailer and their financiers paid Roger Graham a visit.  The basic premise was now they were a bigger retailer, with more stores their terms should be improved (even though G&B supplied both).



During the meeting Roger called the gentleman over to the window.  “Do you see that?”, “What?” replied the gentleman, “Out there – do you see it?”   “All I can see is a tree” replied the confused guest.  “Exactly, I can’t see a money tree either” to which the gentleman knew the discussion was over, and that the terms would be staying as they were.



The Graham & Brown lorry – was green – and made deliveries to London twice per week!- John Carter, Operations Director, was a passenger on such a trip at the ripe old age of five.  He certainly started young!  The Driver eventually became Henry Brown’s personal chauffeur and at the time, was the only chauffer to ever get 100% in the Chauffeur test for being a Rolls Royce driver.
 
If Graham & Brown has a theme tune, then this is it…..”What goes up, must come down, Superfresco makes it Easy it’s by Graham & Brown…” during the course of Lizzie painting the mural we had to ring our friendly musician Richard Bodgers.com to transcribe the music from the advert, in order for Lizzie to paint it.


To take a musical step back to 1983 visit to watch the commercial that inspired it here


This element of the mural merges, two images from completely different eras.  The shape infers Graham & Brown’s very first surface print machine installed in the forties, the pattern on it, is Frames, a design spawned from the minds of artists, Wood & Taylor, to celebrate national drawing week and allows people to add their own art and images to it.  It can even be seen in ITVs Coronation Street.



India Mill – the building most associated with production of wallpaper here in Blackburn, and Lizzie’s favourite part of the mural, due to her passion for architecture.  Probably because the building has a very classical style and is one of the many “Cathedrals” of the industrial revolution that fuelled Britain into leading the world in manufacturing.  How re-assuring then that we’re still here, still making, and still selling our products all around the world.



The canal, links the production facility and design centre, of Graham & Brown’s head office, and like India Mill, is an echo of the infrastructure that drove the industrial revolution, and figuratively is still the start of a wallpaper’s journey across the globe.  Always with an eye on our environmental impact, Team G&B keep the canalside neat and tidy for the enjoyment of all.


The “Julien MacDonald phone box”.  When Julien was approached to take part in Childline’s campaign to customise an iconic British Telephone box in aid of the charity – his immediate idea was to wallpaper it.  Cue his iconic “Butterflies” wallpaper and a little bit of magic.  Suddenly on display in Trafalgar Square, London, was this beautifully wallpapered phone box.  After the event, Graham & Brown successfully bid to purchase the phone box, which now sits alongside the canal, getting curious stares from passing long-boaters.


The morris minor.  Sneeking in behind the Manhattan skyline is our wallpapered Morris Minor.  When we were looking for quintessentially British images at the start of our “Making the walls of Britain Great” campaign, a wallpapered Morris sprang to mind.  Of course there was a little bit of jiggery-pokery but the finished effect was stunning and of course – different – to any other wallpaper ads out there.  It’s so popular even the Morris Minor’s owners club wrote an article about it.