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The Early Days

When I first joined Search Press in November 1989, I was the Order Processor and had to operate a beast of a computer called a Burroughs B80. In fact, I think the reason I got the job was because my then boss and company founder, Lotti de la Bedoyere, was relieved to find another B80 handler who could tame it and keep it in check. It literally filled the whole of my office and could be quite intimidating if you allowed it to get the upper hand.

I can't say I always enjoyed processing orders, but I loved the creative, crafty buzz that was always going on around us. There were also several large, boisterous dogs in the office that got under our feet all the time, but they added to the homely but quirky, crazy atmosphere that still persists at Search Press today.

In the early days we were a small and compact company, with Lotti running a tight ship and hollering orders to us from the helm. Our canteen was in a portacabin, which in winter would fill up with condensation from the Calor Gas heater. I’ll never forget having to turn the water off in the evenings to avoid pipes freezing overnight and having to turn them back on in the mornings before we could make our early morning cups of tea.

Our on-site warehouse was much smaller back then, and managed by Bernie, who worked in it solo for many years. Whenever Bernie had a holiday, I would take my turn with some of the other office staff to pick and pack orders. We all prayed that he never went away in the Winter, as it was freezing down there then. And he was never allowed to go off sick!

Warehouse move  Warehouse move
Warehouse move in 2012

It was very much ‘all hands on deck’ at that time, and we invariably had other jobs too. Our Accountant Paul (another long-term member of staff who is still with us today) took time out at lunchtimes to work in the garden, and Jennifer our Production Manager, did all the catering for our parties and special events – including the occasional lunch for Lotti and her Bank Manager, which Lotti attended in her best WWF T-shirt, trackie bottoms and trainers or muddy wellies.

 Lunch in the garden Lotti
(L) The Search Press office garden; (R) Lotti

For many years our small, dedicated team worked together to publish successful art and craft books. We had very little staff turnover, as no-one ever wanted to leave. Then in 1997, there was a surprise announcement. Lotti decided to retire after almost 30 years at the helm, and hand over the reins to her son Martin!

Martin and his wife Caroline came from a corporate, academic publishing background, and so we were all a little concerned that it would spell the end of our quirky, cosy work life that we had all come to love and enjoy. But thankfully they brought along some smart business acumen, which they fused nicely with the best of our Search Press eccentricities, to maintain a viable but happy workplace. It future-proofed the business and paved the way for the award-winning successful company we are today, proudly celebrating our 50th year.


Lotti celebrating 21 years of Search Press Martin & Caroline Winning Publisher of the Year 2011
(L) Lotti at Search Press's 21st birthday; (R) Martin & Caroline winning Publisher of the Year 2015

A few years later in 2003 our Publicity Manager retired, and to my surprise I was offered the job in Publicity and a major change of direction. Once I’d got over the shock of being offered such a brilliant job, I accepted the position gladly, and I have loved every minute and day of my 18 years in Publicity, which has in fact gone by in a flash.

 Most Crazy Moment

There have been some crazy times at Search Press, but this one will stay with me forever. I dressed up as Mrs Doyle from the TV programme Father Ted, with Production Manager Inger as Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques, and together we hatched a plan to gate crash our annual Sales Conference (attended by our distributors, representatives, and associates from around the world) in our rollers, aprons and tea trollies. It started out as a joke, but soon grew into a scary dare. We knew this was the most important conference of the year, and that the overseas delegates would not be familiar with Mrs Doyle or Mrs Overall, but still we egged each other on, convincing ourselves either it would be a huge success, or it would flop badly and we'd get our marching orders. Well, we did it, and we're both still here to tell the tale! But I do still remember a look of horror on Martin's face while he tried to work out what on earth was happening... then a few people started to laugh, and Inger and I breathed again!

Mrs Doyle & Mrs Overall
Mrs Overall and Mrs Doyle!

Search Press Parties

Search Press is renowned for its great staff parties, and my favourite was probably a few years ago at the Christmas party when we dressed up in colourful Bollywood costumes and enjoyed some beautiful dancing by professional dancers, who also tried in vain to pass on some of their dance moves to us!

Bollywood Christmas Party 2011 Bollywood party!
Bollywood Christmas Party 2011

Publicity Relationships & Collaborations

In my role as Publicity Manager, I have worked with a wonderful array of art, craft and general magazines. To their great credit, like Search Press, they are still thriving and very much loved and valued by their readers. To name a few, there's Leisure Painter, The Artist, Crafts Beautiful, Stitch, Woman's Weekly, The People's Friend, and My Weekly.

World Record-Beating Woman's Weekly Bunting

In 2013, we collaborated with Woman's Weekly to facilitate their accreditation for the Guinness World Recordslongest knitted bunting. Hundreds of its readers from all around the world joined in and knitted sections of bunting, which was then put together at the WW Head Office. All they needed was somewhere big enough to hang all three kilometres of it, in a continuous loop, so the accreditation could be awarded. And what better place than the Search Press warehouse! On the day Andy Murray won Wimbledon for the first time, Sunday 7th July 2013, a group of us gave up our Sunday to staple 3.2 kilometres of knitted bunting to pallets and boxes all around the warehouse.

 Author Party and Bunting 
Bunting and the Author Party


Over the next two days, we had an open day for Woman's Weekly readers to come along for afternoon tea and to view the incredible bunting, and the colourful spectacle became the backdrop for a huge party to celebrate our amazing authors.

Search Press Author Party 201
The bunting and our authors

Since then, the record has probably been beaten, but we are still proud to have helped Woman’s Weekly attain the record in 2013.


Frankfurt and London Book Fairs

Another of my favourite events of the year was attending the Frankfurt Book Fair each October, which I did for many years. I don't think this had anything to do with Publicity – I was in the right place at the right time when the job was on offer, and I loved it so much no-one could stop me going – until now!

It was a whirlwind of presenting new titles, selling books, and meeting and chatting to booksellers and book lovers from all over the world by day, and parties, dinners and the odd drink or two by night. And we had to do it five days on the trot, and still be on the stand from 8.30am on Day 5 to present, sell and smile!

Frankfurt 2003 Frankfurt 2019
Frankfurt in 2003 and 2019

In the early days, we would travel to Frankfurt in Martin's car – four of us squashed in around boxes of books, posters and stationery. Some years we'd stop overnight in a beautiful German village, meet up with friends, enjoy the bierkellers a little too much, and have to set up our stand the next day with huge hangovers.

I attended the London Book Fair too, over the years, and though it was not quite as hectic as Frankfurt, it was just as lovely meeting and chatting to all kinds of book buyers from around the world.

Setting up at the London Book Fair 2013  London Book Fair 2013
London Book Fair in 2013

Patchings Art Festival

I had the joy of taking part in the Patchings Art Festival in Nottinghamshire for many years. I'm a huge Glastonbury Music Festival fan, and for me, Patchings is the Glastonbury of Art. It was a privilege to host our lovely authors’ demos in the Search Press marquee and to see each artist demonstrate their incredible talent with ease and professionalism - David Bellamy, Jean Haines, Vic Bearcroft and Matthew Palmer, to name just a few. I loved meeting the dedicated art enthusiasts in the audience, who travelled from all around the country, come rain or shine, to be there at their art mecca each year. It was a very special time for me, and it definitely never felt like work.

Enjoying the sunshine at Patchings Haidee Jo at Patchings in 2019
At Patchings Festival

Patchings has been going for over 25 years and is still owned and run by the Woods family. Chas, Liz, Pat, Rachel and Gary are the most warm and welcoming hosts to their scores of exhibitors and thousands of visitors, and I will always treasure my Patchings memories.

Coach Trips to France

We have had some memorable coach trips to France, but one really sticks in my mind. My predecessor, Jean, was not a fan of boat trips, and elected to stay at the office and answer the phones. While she gaily waved us off from the office door, we were all blissfully unaware that she had been locked out, and while the rest of us embarked on our jolly trip, enjoying the croissants shared out by Caroline, Jean was frantically trying to get back into the office to carry out her promised phone cover duty. There were no mobile phones in those days, so she couldn’t contact us, but her stoicism kicked in and she persevered until she got back into the office, some three hours later. When we returned the next day with hilarious tales of our adventure, Jean had her own surprise drama to share with us.

On the Coach Meal in France
Trip to France in 2008

Company Growth

And to show it wasn’t all fun and parties, the company has progressed magnificently over the years. Back in 1989 we had an annual turnover of £718,000, with 300 books on our list and ten members of staff. Fast forward to today, our turnover is £7m, with 2,300 lines and almost 40 members of staff. And we are very proud to report that during the last difficult 12 months, we were able to adapt to its challenges, make some adjustments to our marketing and increase our sales. Of course we know that we are extremely fortunate to be in a creative industry that many people turn for comfort, wellbeing and healing, in times of stress, and we are very proud that our craft books and our free online tutorials have helped some people along the way.

Final word

So, there you have a small snapshot of some of the many adventures and experiences that I have enjoyed at Search Press. And of course, there may have been a few down times too, as happens in life, but I can honestly say that I don’t remember a single one, and my decades at Search Press have been a joy, with wonderful memories to last me a lifetime. Long may Search Press prosper, and continue the great ‘work hard, play hard’ motto, while publishing the very best in art and craft books, under the careful, expert guidance of Martin and Caroline at the helm.

 

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