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From the West End to his own Workshop

Theatre set builder branches out into the furniture industry

When a young theatre set builder from Leeds built a kiddie’s picnic bench as a favour to his mum, he never could have dreamed that he was taking the first step on his new career path.

Jack Tosney, 22, had worked in the theatre industry for four years and was slowly building himself a reputation. He started sweeping floors in a theatre set production workshop and within a few days was offered a full-time job to learn the trade - from there, he was hooked.

He had a bright future ahead of him and was looking forward to a career that could potentially see him travelling the world. But, like thousands of others, when COVID-19 hit at the beginning of 2020 all his work dried up.

Jack remembers the day well: “I was working freelance for a company and when all their work stopped, so did mine. My last day working in the theatre industry was Thursday, March 21.”

Quick to bounce back, the following Monday Jack was one of thousands of people who took an essential job at a supermarket during the first national lock down. After his 12-week contact was up Jack was considering his options when his mum asked him to build a children’s picnic bench for a friend. Once completed she posted the piece of furniture on Facebook and within a week Jack had orders for 60 more waiting to be completed.

“I started painting them different colours and sharing pictures online, and more and more people started ordering them,” Jack said. 

When the first lockdown was coming to an end, Jack saw the demand for adult benches grow as many venues were looking to create outside seating areas. “I was contacted by some and also reached out to others,” he said. “That became very big part of my business and it has continued to be.”

Jack now offers a range of furniture alongside his trusty picnic benches, with items including children’s mud kitchens, artists easels, gazebos, garden benches and garden bars. He was even commissioned to create a memorial bench for one customer.

Jack credits his initial success on the personal service he offered. “I delivered the pieces myself and enjoyed meeting my customers face to face, even if it was socially distanced at their doorsteps,” he said. 


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