Dunlop Aircraft Tyres Celebrates Centenary with Book, Film Launch
Last night saw the celebration of Dunlop Aircraft Tyres’ Centenary take place in earnest following an open day and a visit to the company’s Fort Dunlop plant by The Duke of York, with the launch of a new commemorative book, the premiere of a film by artist Angus Boulton commissioned to celebrate the centenary and the introduction of a new corporate video. The venue for the prestigious occasion was The Wapping Project, London’s last Hydraulic Power Station, now regenerated as a post-industrial exhibition space and restaurant by Australian theatre director, Jules Wright.
Company chairman and managing director Ian Edmondson noted that the Power Station “used to power the dock gates in London docks, Tower Bridge and provide power for the scenery and curtains in some of London’s theatres. More than 100 years old… I hope that you will agree with me that it is indeed an appropriately interesting venue for this evening.”
Attended by customers, stakeholders, suppliers and friends of the company, the event also boasted the presence of designers from the company’s hundred year history. Edmondson welcomed guests who “were or are owners of the business,” representing “evolutions of ownership and change”. It was noticeable how the surroundings of The Wapping Project, with its leftover machinery left in place to produce the buildings not inconsiderable character, reflected this theme; an integral process of celebrating so significant an anniversary being the revision of past times.
“I particularly want to say special thanks to the family of René Charvillat who was the previous owner of the company,” Edmondson said, introducing the former chief’s wife Sylvia and their two sons. The chairman explained that he credits Charvillat with providing the foundations for the company’s current strategy, which involves doubling its size over the coming few years.
Looking back briefly on Dunlop’s history, Edmondson continued: “It started 1 June 1910 – Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company published its first aircraft tyre price list, marking the start of the production of tyres dedicated to aircraft… only seven years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight…
“Two pounds, 11 shillings and sixpence got you a tyre. However then you had to buy an inner tube and a cover, which apparently came to about £5 all in – I reckon, with the help of various Google searches, that £5 is worth £400 today, but if you measure it according to proportionality of gross domestic product – and who doesn’t? – that would be about £4,000. Needless to say our tyres today don’t cost £4,000, but do cost more than £400.”
Just as The Wapping Project reconfigures its past by changing functionality from utilitarian to aesthetic, Dunlop Aircraft Tyres is using its centenary to take stock of where it is heading. The commemorative book devotes space at its end to the joint venture in China, as well as charting the company’s history. Edmondson suggested that the company’s presence at the Singapore Air Show for the first time this year was indicative of this forward facing agenda; Dunlop announced its new plant – formally opened in November 2009 – for retreading and distributing tyres in the Asia region under the name Dunlop Taikoo; very much an Anglo-Chinese venture: “Honk Kong Aircraft Engineering Company is our principle partner,” says Edmondson, noting the other positive that HAECO and its PCR subsidiary credited in the name of the joint-venture Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Company are parented by Swire Pacific, part of the UK conglomerate John Swire & Sons. “I am particularly delighted to see with us here the chief executive of HAECO, Augustus Tang,” he added, acknowledging his guest.
Following the address, guests were treated to the first showing of ‘Aeronautica’, the commissioned film, in the former pump room. All guests received their own book and copies of the film as they left the evening’s festivities, which had successfully straddled the themes of the company’s current forward momentum and the retrospection of 100 years in business.