When Alasdair Flint founded Flints in 1981, he could have had little idea as to what the company would become over the next 40 years.
Alasdair had been building sets for opera and theatre companies for many years and had become increasingly frustrated by a lack of a single source to meet his requirements building and painting scenery. Flints was born out of that frustration, and our range of products grew rapidly to encompass products for stage engineers, propmakers and stage management as well as scenic artists and carpenters, Alasdair’s original customers.
Spreading our wings
By 1986 Flints had outgrown our original premises, and the company moved to Harker’s Studios in Queens Row, Walworth in Southeast London. This fine old building had been home to Joseph Harker who was extremely well regarded Victorian scenic artist and which originally housed 4 paint frames used for painting theatre backdrops, the largest being able to cope with backdrops destined for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This building was to remain our home for nearly 30 years.
Originally we rented out the two surviving frames on the first floor to scenic artists, while downstairs we had a warehouse and trade counter with a little van servicing clients in the West End and the many scenic workshops that were based in South East London at that time.
The start of something great...
At first our catalogue was a simple typed price list, which gained a handsome watercolour wrap in 1994, but Alasdair had always seen the value in a fully illustrated catalogue which was a source of information and inspiration for anyone interested in backstage theatre. First published in 1997, the catalogue has become a reference work in its’ own right and is essential reading for students and practitioners. Each edition was slightly larger than the last, with new products being added to service the needs of both existing and new industries joining the ranks of Flints customers. Our work with customers in film and television increased over the years with the education sector also growing in importance for us throughout the nineties and into the new century.
Our work overseas expanded too, and we found new customers both in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, and in the Far East with customers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. In 2009 we completed our largest export order to date to the Royal Opera House in Muscat and in 2021 we appointed our first official overseas distributor, HME Services in Australia.
The internet age brought Flints to the attention of a whole new group of customers, many of whom had absolutely no connection to the theatre, but who were looking for interesting and unusual products, often to pursue a hobby or craft. By 2012 the Queens Row warehouse was bursting at the seams trying to satisfy our, by now, diverse range of customers and so the decision was made to move to larger premises in Deptford, a couple of miles down the road from Queens Row. We operated from both buildings for a time, before the old Harkers Studios were converted into yet another block of flats in 2014 despite an energetic campaign to save them by a group of scenic artists and the Harker family.
A new chapter
In 2018 Alasdair decided that it was time to spend more time with his boat, and on his retirement sold the company to a group of Flints staff who have continued to run the business along its’ founding principles. After more than 40 years in business, we continue to seek new customers in new industries and in overseas markets while remaining focussed on our original customers in live and recorded entertainment.