I’ve known them for more than 30 years. I shared their flat for 2 years when I was studying at the Royal College of Music, and their generosity to me when I was a penniless student knew no bounds. They housed me for a peppercorn rent, frequently fed me, built me an instrument, and allowed me to learn from watching them work, seeing lutes being built, and meeting the many professional colleagues who visited them.
They have run their workshop for 40 years, and have built hundreds of beautiful instruments, like this one:
They have made a huge contribution to research, by measuring, photographing and publishing plans for dozens of historic instruments in museums.
As some of the more colourful and sociable personalities in the lute world, they are well-known and popular in international early music circles, having been regulars at European music exhibitions for decades.
Until recently their workshop was bustling, as they had a waiting list of orders from around the world. It was also a unique space, one of the iconic addresses in the lute world, and a lynchpin of the community of artists and artisans whose workshops are located in the same yard.
However, around 2014 Stephen began to feel unwell, and put this down to the stress of a recent fire in their workshop, and possibly to the inhalation of toxic chemicals. His health has continued to deteriorate and a prolonged search for a diagnosis eventually revealed Multiple System Atrophy, a devastating condition which profoundly affects the sufferer’s mobility and communication. Stephen is now wheelchair-bound, unable to move or speak, and is a prisoner in their now unsuitable home. Sandi has become his full-time carer, so both are unable to work and they have fallen behind with orders promised to customers and in some cases already paid.
They urgently need to relocate to a wheelchair-accessible home with an in-house workshop, where Sandi can resume work with Stephen safely beside her. He remains as passionate and knowledgeable about lute making as ever, and his advice will remain fundamental to their instruments, whilst she is keen to return to full-time instrument making for their loyal customers, from whom demand is as high as ever.
This campaign is to help them with the huge costs of relocating both their home and their workshop, and to support them whilst Sandi gets lute production back on track. Costs include estate agents’ and solicitors’ fees for the relocation, removal costs - including the specialist removal of heavy equipment and a substantial stock of precious timbers, plus whatever adaptations (wet room, wheelchair ramps, door widening, etc) their new home may require to accommodate Stephen’s wheelchair.
If they are not able to relocate, their situation will remain desperate, their workshop will remain silent because Sandi cannot leave Stephen unattended, and the music world will be deprived of their peerless instruments. They have been bravely battling this situation without outside help for years, but their income has been profoundly affected by Stephen’s illness, and they are unable to fund the complex and challenging relocation without your assistance. Your help will incur not just their gratitude but that of everyone who will again be able to enjoy their beautiful instruments and the music that results.
As my own thank you to supporters, I have set up a YouTube channel which carries the iconic address of their workshop,
11a Peacock Yard.
It will host a variety of lute-related material, of the highest quality and regularly updated, generously contributed by professional colleagues in recognition of Stephen’s and Sandi’s enormous contribution to the lute world over decades, so the address will remain current in the early music world, and a new, permanent musical resource will be created, free to enjoy. Do please support us if you can - even a small donation helps - and please share our story. Thank you!