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I first became interested in organs after my brother became house organist at his school. Having an engineer father and a music teacher mother, it was really "no contest". Having begun a career in precision engineering with an apprenticeship in a plastics mould-making company, and part-time college, I was more than ready to begin taking church organs apart and rebuilding them, with the help of an enthusiastic friend.
After several successful jobs on church organs, and one in particular on a fair organ, I was ready to go professional. My first real workshop (with partner, Judith Howard) was a railway arch in Loughborough Junction, just a mile from central Brixton. The arch was big enough to assemble a decent-sized church organ, and could house two full-size 89-key fair organs at the same time. Our first employee was Andy Tidman, related to the Tidmans who used to produce fairground rides in the age of steam.
In late 1989 we were forced to look for alternative premises when British Rail decided to increase our rent by 95%. By that time Judith had found herself another workshop in which to work on making and restoring organ pipes - her speciality, and I had a relatively new apprentice, Anna Herbert, fresh from Cape Town, later to become Anna Page. We were extremely fortunate to be offered a few days in a guest house in Pembroke Dock, West Wales, and during that time had found the ideal place. It was right beside the Cleddau River in a brand-new business park. It actually had windows - with a fabulous view of the river, a double bonus. We became its first tenants in April 1990, as sole trader, "John Page, Organ-builder" During our time there we employed one other trainee.
There was not much work for church organs in that area, but most of our new mechanical organs were built in the new two-storey workshop. This was short-lived, however, mostly due to a devastating recession. The business closed in October 1992. Our equipment was then moved to a store house while a new workshop was being found. During that time I worked for my brother in graphic arts in Milton Keynes. It wasn't long before a new "garden" workshop was established. I am eternally grateful for the friend who provided this new organ-building home. I carried out several fair organ restorations there before moving everything into a garden workshop of my own, this time in my own garden.
It was fortunate that Cosgrove, home of Keith Emmett & Sons, was very close by, where I was able to make use of more space for work on larger organs.