Heaven and Hell: with Russell Langham

Ipswich-based furniture maker Russell Langham

Ipswich-based furniture maker Russell Langham - Credit: Andrew Camp

Encouraged by Mr Bailey his woodwork teacher, Russell Langham the owner of Ipswich based furniture makers R.E.H.Kennedy gained an enthusiasm and passion for items made from wood.

Princess Diana’s personal desk was made at Kennedy’s and was exhibited at Buckingham Palace to mark the 20th anniversary of her death.

Fifty years on, he, along with a team of highly skilled craftsmen, produce exceptional quality furniture for global superstars and customers locally.

Princess Diana's desk in an exhibition

Princess Diana's desk, which was made by Kennedy's, was part of an exhibition to mark the 20th anniversary of her death - Credit: Contributed

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on Kennedy’s?
I expect we have all experienced periods of anxiety and stress during the past 12 months, being unsure as to what the future had in store.

However, we are without doubt far more fortunate than those that have lost loved ones during this time.

What is your connection to East Anglia?
I was born in Ipswich or to be more precise the front room of 113 Back Hamlet.

I went to Clifford Road Junior School and Copleston school and have worked in the town my entire life.

I met my then teacher Wolfe Powell at the age of 12, to this day, he visits me each week at Kennedy’s always fascinated to see what we are making.

Local football has always been a passion and today I enjoy watching my grandsons play in the local league.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?
Would most probably be sitting on the sea wall at Sheringham eating fish and chips out of the paper, which was historically where my family spent our holidays.

What is your East Anglian Hell?
It would have to be the A140, I use it on a fairly regular basis to visit Notley Upholstery that we use, based in Norfolk.

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What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
Before lockdown it would have been my local pub’s Wednesday special. Since lockdown, we support as many local cafés and restaurants as possible, doing takeaways.

Thank goodness they can start welcoming customers back now.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
It’s no fun when it is closed due to the strong winds, the view from The Strand under the Orwell bridge and down the river is always worth a second glance.

It always take my breath away.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?
The Christian names of my 11 grandchildren, although I would probably have to pass if I was asked their birthdays.

What is always in your fridge?
It would have to be bottles of sparkling water and Greek yoghurt with honey which I like to mix with granola.
What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Our customers are not dependent on us, we are dependent on them.

What’s your favourite film?
The Godfather or The Green Mile, more recently The Dig for putting our Suffolk accent on the big screen.

Caps off to Ralph Fiennes and his voice coach Charlie Haylock.

What was your first job?
Apart from the paper round and Saturday job in the local greengrocers, it all started back in June 1970, as a 16-year-old apprentice cabinetmaker at Titchmarsh & Goodwin for a starting wage of £5.4s & 6 pence a week, I still have that payslip.

What is your most treasured possession?
It would have to be my late father’s Omega Seamaster watch, I had a lovely bespoke leather strap made for it a few years ago by Mia Sabel leather design.

Who do you admire most?
Anyone with the skill of design and making things with their hands, just like the watch strap.

What is your biggest indulgence?
Would most probably be my 1984 Mercedes 280SL, spends around 350+ days of the year locked in the garage and only comes out for an MOT and service and the occasional wash.

What do you like about yourself most?
That’s a difficult question for someone so shy and reserved as me, it would have to be my sense of humour and with that the ability to make people laugh, nothing sounds better.

Ipswich furniture maker Russell Langham at his drawing board

Ipswich furniture maker Russell Langham at his drawing board - Credit: Andrew Camp

What’s your worst character trait?
I do tend to interrupt during conversation, and the top of my desk is a mess.

On the plus side, it is hand made by Kennedy’s.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?
That’s an easy one, The Grand Resort Hotel, Limassol, Cyprus. We have been there so many times over the last 20 years. I’m relaxed as soon as I walk through the door.

Best day of your life?
It would have to be the days my kids Chloe and Oliver were born.

It’s always good fun when the our rather large family meet up.

What’s your favourite breakfast?
That’s an easy one - marmalade on toast with a black coffee...in bed on a Sunday...thanks, Denise x.

What’s your favourite tipple?
Gin and tonic, although I’m not really bothered when it comes to alcohol, always the nominated driver.

What’s your hidden talent?
I like to think I can do a pretty good stand-up comedy routine, which I have been called upon to do a few for at various local football clubs, friends birthdays and charitable events.

What’s your earliest memory?
The tin bath, that hung on the fence just outside our back door at Back Hamlet, the outside toilet next to the coal shed.

The black and white TV and the trek to the phone box when you wanted to make a call. Try explaining all those things to your grandchildren.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Smile.....written by Charlie Chaplin and sung by Nat King Cole

Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I do enjoy the karaoke evening at my local pub, but perhaps the regulars don’t when I sing.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
That I would never play football again after breaking my leg very badly.

I was only 29 and loved playing football, I was absolutely devastated...after the mess my leg was in, I was so relieved that I still had it, having been 10 minutes away from losing it. 

That break changed my life forever.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else.
All the family live here, the business is here. I am biased, is there anywhere else nicer than this part of the world to live and work from?

What do you want to tell our readers about most?
I urge your readers to please consider supporting British manufactures.

Along with welcoming them to come along and see first-hand our amazing workshops and showrooms, steeped in history at R.E.H.Kennedy in Ipswich, 
that I am so hugely proud of.  https://www.rehkennedy.co.uk/

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