WeNo Insiders Guide To…B’s Balloons!

 

Intro­du­cing B’s Bal­loons, West Norwood’s very own bal­loon and party sup­pli­ers, nestled on the corner of Bloom Grove oppos­ite the cemetery. Our intrep­id FEAST report­er stepped through the cheery bright-pink door to talk bal­loons with owner Bev and busi­ness part­ner Julie.

The first ques­tion had to be: “How did you get into this line of busi­ness?” Bev explains how she star­ted by dec­or­at­ing fam­ily parties, mak­ing a room look good by adding flor­al centrepieces, dress­ing the tables, and pos­i­tion­ing shaped bal­loons. She can still recall her very first centrepiece con­sist­ing of a candle hold­er, flor­istry rib­bon, gyp and a rose. In 2003 she com­pleted a wed­ding dec­or­at­ing course and took a begin­ners course with NABAS (the Nation­al Asso­ci­ation of Bal­loon Artists and Sup­pli­ers).

After the intro­duc­tion to bal­loon work, she began using heli­um for dis­plays, and it has gone from there, with Bev work­ing for a shop in Ful­ham in 2008, doing the dec­or­a­tion for cel­eb­ra­tions, and run­ning her own busi­ness from home and in Croydon’s Sur­rey Street mar­ket. In 2010 Bev finally obtained the cur­rent premises. Being on the corner, the shop boasts two dis­play win­dows – one of which Bev con­stantly redresses to show­case bal­loon cre­ations. Bev smiles… pass­ersby have been known to come in to com­pli­ment an arrange­ment or sug­gest it’s time for a new one! She remem­bers dis­play­ing a cum­ber­some Union Jack flag made of bal­loons for the Queen’s Jubilee.

It became clear as the con­ver­sa­tion progressed that there is a whole spe­cial­ist world of bal­loon artistry that most of us don’t know about. Julie men­tioned she has been twice to the Inter­na­tion­al Bal­loon Artistry Con­ven­tion, trav­el­ling to Chica­go and Bel­gi­um to join the annu­al show­case of bal­loon sculp­tures. At the Bel­gian con­fer­ence, she cre­ated an Egyp­tian Eye of Horus in a com­pet­i­tion. Appar­ently the Japan­ese are known for cre­at­ing bal­loon dresses… Julie swiv­elled the com­puter screen to show our intrigued report­er – you have to Google it! Bev com­ments “Julie excels at twist­ing” and they flipped open an industry magazine, Bal­loon Images, to demon­strate the type of cre­ations demand­ing twist­ing. Bev has also made fantasy flowers just out of bal­loon latex. The day-to-day run­ning of the busi­ness keeps Bev busy for long hours… par­tic­u­larly when they are dec­or­at­ing for a func­tion – so much so that the next mod­ule of her Cer­ti­fied Bal­loon Artistry course is on the back burn­er, but Julie has com­pleted the extens­ive train­ing. 

So, what has been the most mem­or­able order? Bev pauses… 2,000 bal­loons for a film set about three years ago. The shoot was in Dul­wich so she hired a van to deliv­er the bal­loons. It took six hours for two of them to hand-tie each bal­loon with a rib­bon! Bev has also provided dec­or­a­tions to Stella McCart­ney… she thought it was a prank call until she was given the address. Gen­er­ally, the most com­mon, large, spe­cial occa­sion orders are for arches or columns of bal­loons.

Aside from bal­loons, the shop sells the other items you might need for a cel­eb­ra­tion. You can order per­son­al­ised ban­ners, and buy cards, children’s birth­day party ware, con­fetti, and party blowers. Bev offers children’s birth­day pack­ages that can be themed, includ­ing cake, favours, cups and plates. The shop also has a license to sell fire­works, which are kept under lock and key. These are pop­u­lar four times a year: Diwali, bon­fire night, Christ­mas and New Year.

The most enjoy­able part of the job? For Bev it is still the sat­is­fac­tion of trans­form­ing a room for someone’s wed­ding or a christen­ing. This is the event-dec­or­at­ing part of the busi­nessdress­ing a whole room with flowers, chair cov­ers, table linen and crock­ery. They do on aver­age three christen­ings a month plus wed­dings, which are more sea­son­al. In addi­tion, the prox­im­ity to the cemetery isn’t that incon­gru­ent because Bev and Julie dec­or­ate for funer­als too. The func­tions can make for a long day. For a Sat­urday event they can be up into the early hours pre­par­ing. Bev com­ments the most recent wed­ding was in Croy­don on a Sunday, and they star­ted at 9.30 by dress­ing the Church with flowers and deliv­er­ing the bridal arrange­ments. Unusu­ally they had to cover all the chairs because the pews had been removed for refur­bish­ment. Next they dec­or­ated the recep­tion venue con­sist­ing of 14 tables and a head table. The work day las­ted until 11.30pm when all the guests had gone and they could pack down.

Through­out the inter­view there was a steady trickle of cus­tom­ers: a woman need­ing large foil “9” and “0” bal­loons for her mum’s 90th, which she was going to drive inflated to Corn­wall; a young dad look­ing for a 1st birth­day bal­loon; phone calls about func­tions; and someone col­lect­ing 20 heli­um bal­loons.

Bev com­ments how the qual­ity of the bal­loon latex is import­ant – it’s cheap online and the bal­loons don’t last, which can ruin an event. “You learn some tricks from years of exper­i­ence”, Julie divulges. “In hot weath­er, don’t inflate to the full, as the bal­loons expand out­side in the heat – they will all pop if you don’t know that!” There’s dis­ap­point­ing news for some of us… inhal­ing heli­um to enter­tain your friends with a squeaky car­toon voice is bad for you – if you take too big a breath, it deprives the brain of oxy­gen… now you know!

 

So any future plans for B’s Bal­loons? Bev responds without miss­ing a beat – hope­fully more cor­por­ate events and big­ger premises to work in so they can cre­ate grander dis­plays.

 

B’s Bal­loons

388 Nor­wood Road

SE27 9AA

 

Mon–Fri 10 to 5.30pm (closed Wed­nes­day) and Sat 9 to 6pm

 

www.bevsballoons.com

Holiday Feast

Time to get out the knotted hanky and buckets and spades, it’s August, so it must be Holiday Feast!

We’ll be get­ting arty and crafty with hol­i­day themed crafts – mini sand­castle mak­ing and salt dough sea creatures to paint at Artis­ans, whilst over at Fam­ily Well­being, we’ll be dec­or­at­ing paper swim­suits and shorts on the kids activ­ity table and hav­ing fun with more sand and beach­balls.

At St Luke’s we’ll have a brand new folk band enter­tain­ing us, The Con­quer­ing Her­oes – and we’ve heard they do a bit of dan­cing too! They’ll be fol­lowed by Mon­key Wrench, whilst Steve and the Hats and Uff­ing­ton 357 will be doing their thing down at Artis­ans.

 

Poetry Slabs will be back at the Old Lib­rary with an Amer­ic­an theme this month – fea­tur­ing the work of Pulitzer Prize-win­ning poet Eliza­beth Bish­op, from 2.30–3.30pm. “wry, sly, some­times exot­ic, fre­quently gritty, sur­gic­ally craf­ted and strangely witty”.

 

Nature is an infin­ite sphere of which the centre is every­where and the cir­cum­fer­ence nowhere.’ Blaise Pas­cal 

The Por­tico Gal­lery will be show­cas­ing the work of young artists in an exclus­ive show, ‘People in Res­id­ence’ bring­ing togeth­er recent gradu­ates from Wimble­don Col­lege of Art. The exhib­i­tion cel­eb­rates unity and com­munity. 

 Artists:

Clara Dias 

Katie Fletch­er 

George Hill-Baker 

Rosa Luetch­ford 

Sam McGoun 

Rafael Mendes 

Melanie Twig­ger 

 

Private View Fri­day 4th August, 18:00–21:00 

The exhib­i­tion is then open to all on Sunday 6th for Feast!

 

The Book and Record Bar will have Cake Lab, with Alex Pater­son (The Orb) and guests, DJing from 2 until 7 on the Sunday, with fully licensed bar and cake.

As ever, Wingit will be wow­ing us with song and dance from the young people of West Nor­wood.

At Retro Vil­lage, keep an eye out for a vin­tage sum­mer theme, with pic­nic ware, sum­mer frocks, and col­our­ful sun­nies, whilst at the Food Fair we are excited to have bakers Brett and Bailey, reg­u­lars in Crys­tal Palace, at Feast for the first time (Chas and Momo are away for one month, but don’t worry, they’ll be back!).

We’ll also be wel­com­ing back Vegan for Non-Vegan who make amaz­ing pasta and gnoc­chi which is vegan AND glu­ten free, so spread the word to your vegan & GF bud­dies.

So, grab a sunhat and sunscreen, keep your fingers crossed for the weather to hold (it WILL!), and we’ll see you there!