Quick on the Draw 13


What a nice surprise. I was just just driving home from work when I turned the radio on and heard the end of “Quick on the Draw“, a programme from Radio 4’s In Business series of programmes. This programme picked up two topics that The Economist covered over the last few months: Staedtler vs. Faber-Castell and the Mittelstand. Today’s Radio 4 programme featured an interview with Axel Marx, Managing Director of Staedtler, and Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell. Axel Marx talked about the Wopex and Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell talked about the perfect pencil and the luxurious Graf von Faber-Castell collection. I only heard the second half, but hope to listen to the whole programme on the BBC iPlayer soon1. I am not sure whether the content can be accessed outside the UK, though. If not: the programme will be repeated on Sunday, 17th May 2011, at 21:30 on BBC Radio 4. Even if you are outside the UK you should be able to listen to Radio 4 live over the Internet.

You can also read comments about this programme from the presenter Peter Day on his In Business page.

Two more comments:

  • It was nice to hear people speaking with a Franconian accent on the radio, even though the accent was not very strong.
  • I was not surprised to hear Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell in this programme. He is the one who is often representing Faber-Castell in the media. Last month there was a rare chance to see his brother – in a children’s programme on the TV channel of the public broadcasting authority for the German Freistaat (Republic) of Bavaria. The programme (“Ralphi”) explained how pens and brushes are manufactured and Faber-Castell was represented by …not Count Anton, but Count Andreas von Faber-Castell, who settled in Australia in the 1970s.
  1. According the the information currently displayed on the BBC iPlayer page the programme will be available online until 2099, if I access the programme with my phone the programme is said to be online for about 300 more days …but usually programmes are only available for a week, so I would not be surprised if this programme will disappear from the iPlayer []

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13 thoughts on “Quick on the Draw

  • memm Post author

    Can you listen to the programme online? As far as I know the BBC iPlayer does not play videos outside the UK (unless you use some tricks), but I am not sure whether radio programmes can be accessed or not.

  • Gunther

    Very exciting! Thank you for sharing that information – I have just listened to it and found it very interesting. – Accessing the radio programmes in Germany is no problem (yesterday I have listened to a feature about library music, presented by collector and label owner Johnny Trunk) but I don’t know about the videos.

  • Stationery Traffic

    Thanks for the link Matthias. I listen to Radio 4 a lot, but missed this one when it was broadcast. Yes, BBC radio programmes are available on the internet via iPlayer; there are thousands of Brit ex-pats around the world who listen to the BBC all the time via the internets. TV is a different matter because of licensing issues.

    I had known of the rivalry between Staedtler and Faber-Castell but not of the Mittelstand companies; British firms which expand tend to go out of family control eventually, even when family members are still involved in the management (eg Sainsbury’s, Cadbury’s).

    Gunther, I caught that programme about library music too (listening to it again now). I have a couple of Jonny Trunk’s records (on vinyl) and a CD or two around here somewhere. I have a briliant compilation CD of library music used in the 1970s cop series The Sweeney, which included Barbara Moore’s “Steam Heat”. I don’t know if any of that music was heard on German media but here in England it was ubiquitous on the television and many of the recordings are still in use today – such as Mastermind.

  • Gunther

    Bruce, that’s very interesting! As a fan of 60’s and 70’s soundtracks I was immediately hooked on library music the first time I became aware of it, and when the first compilations appeared I had to get them. Now I have quite a few albums and CDs, including some original German LPs. Re “The Sweeney”: I assume it’s the album “Shut It!” – it’s excellent (I have it too). I haven’t noticed any features or similar about library music Germany media but in view of the fact that this is a niche I wouldn’t be surprised it it had a dedicated scene (like Hamburgs’s Mojo Club for soul jazz). – I have just looked for KPM recordings out of curiosity and was suprised how many are offered …

  • Gunther

    I remember the German version very well – it was aired as “Die Füchse” back then – but of course the original dialogue that can be heard in snippets on the CD is way better. Put your trousers on, you’re nicked! 😉

  • memm Post author

    Bruce, I don’t think there is an extraordinary rivalry between Mittelstand companies or between Staedtler and Faber-Castell, but it makes for a good story. I assume most of us who like stationery do buy both, Staedtler and Faber-Castell. Companies have a look at what their competitors do and keep an eye on them, but I don’t think that is very different with Mittelstand companies than it is with any other company.

    I enjoyed reading up on Java and Bert Kaempfert, after reading one of your facebook posts, last month or so – I will definitely listen to the radio programme you two discussed. 60′s and 70′s soundtracks …makes me think of very early episodes of Derrick (Les Humphries), before it changed to more electronic music and synthesizers in the 80’s (Frank Duval).

  • Stationery Traffic

    Could it be possible that Staedtler and F-C talk up the rivalry to boost sales? It must be unusual today to have two rival companies in the same industry so close together geographically. I buy pencils from both, and I’m delighted they’re still in business and long may that continue.

  • Gunther

    I don’t how how much of that rivalry is marketing but much more puzzling to me in that context is the discrepancy between Faber-Castell’s focus on their history and the lack of historical themed products, especially in this year which marks the company’s 250th anniversary.

  • memm Post author

    For me rivalry between brands has a negative, teenager-heavy connotation (e.g. Vauxhall vs. Ford, Jordan vs. Posh ;), XBox vs. Playstation) or makes me think of Jeremy Clarkson.
    I think the press talk it up, not the companies. If asked directly about their competitors they will then reply in a way that does of course sound as if there is a rivalry, but that is because of the questions asked …and if asked about their innovations Staedtler would emphasise that they are the only ones who have the anti-break-system lead protection and can manufacture something like the Wopex (BTW, wouldn’t the Wopex material be good for manufacturing other things, e.g. a container for a sharpener?) or Faber-Castell would emphasise that no one else can produce the grip dots of their 2001 pencil (even though Staedtler might have cracked that, see Staedtler’s bling pencils), but there is not one specific attitude regarding rivalry throughout these two companies. Some employees might think of it as a rivalry, but some might not care. I still believe that it is not worse here than it is in other industry sectors, but I am sure it makes for better reading/listening, so the journalists like to their pencil stories this twist.

    Gunther, you are right, it is a shame that there is a lack of appropriate products to mark the anniversary. The 250 years Castell 9000 pencil was nice, but was only available in very small numbers at the Paperworld. Good that there will be the “Faber-Castell since 1761” book. Even though it is only supposed to come out in June it is already available on eBay.