Just Flutes In The Spotlight
Based in beautiful 16th-century premises located in Croydon (South London), Just Flutes have been supplying flutes, piccolos and more to players all across the world for over 35 years!
With an on-site workshop for repairs, adjustments and custom made headjoints, as well as an extensive sheet music offering, Just Flutes really is a hub for all your fluting needs.
This month, we interviewed Adam Clifford to find out more about this wonderful music shop and learn about some of their more unusual instruments…
What is the story behind Just Flutes?
We actually started as two businesses that came together! Just Flutes was started in 1985 in Twickenham by Chris Hankin, a flute teacher and freelance player, who saw that there was a gap in the market for a specialist shop selling sheet music, instruments and accessories. The sheet music catalogue quickly became famous across the world for being probably the most extensive of its kind, listing almost everything that was available in print for flute.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Myall Musical Instruments was started around the same time in a small village outside London called Walton on the Hill, specialising in woodwind instruments and, in particular, flutes. In the late 1980s, Jonathan Myall bought Just Flutes and the two companies merged. Now, the business has a strong (80%) leaning towards flutes, but we still sell a large number of clarinets and saxophones, too.
What can customers expect when they come to visit you?
We have absolutely everything a flute player could ever dream about. Flutes from £150 to £30,000; flutes in all shapes and sizes, accessories, and of course a huge selection of flute music! We still have the same ethos as when we started: if it’s in print, we will have it!
Our shop is based in Croydon, in south London, in what is believed to be the oldest shop in town. It’s a beautiful Tudor timber-framed building dating from around 1550 give or take a few years. Customers are often surprised to see such a beautiful building in Croydon, which is more widely known for its 1960s Brutalist architecture! Walking through the door is like stepping into the Tardis: the shop front is tiny, but the showroom goes back a long way and we are in fact spread over three floors. We’re lucky enough to have one of the most beautiful practice rooms of any music shop in the world!
For customer-facing roles, we only employ flute players, which means that our customers can have the advice of a musician who really knows the ins and outs of each instrument. Our staff have usually studied flute at music college or university level, so can themselves play to a very high standard.
Have you got an unusual instrument in your shop?
Currently, we have a Subcontrabass flute in G. It’s about 8 feet tall and has two bends in; if unwrapped, it would be around 12 feet long! It sounds two and a half octaves below the concert flute and requires a lot of puff. It was made by Eva Kingma in the Netherlands, who specialises in low flutes; it sells for £21,500!
See if you can spot it in the virtual tour below…
What has been the most popular instrument to pick up and learn over lockdown?
We’ve sold lots of beginner flutes over lockdown, including to nurses and doctors on the frontline who needed a way to unwind in their time out.
What additional services do you offer?
We have a fabulous repair workshop run by Ian McLauchlan, who also makes flute headjoints on-site in silver and gold.
Go on, tell us about your most famous customer…
We’ve sold flutes to the principal flutes of the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera House… Lots of people who are famous in the flute world, but probably the most well-known non-flute player was James May (Top Gear) who drove down on his motorbike one day to pick up a flute! We don’t know whether it was for himself or as a gift for someone else, though!
How do you get involved in your local community?
We put on lots of events for the wider flute community, including lessons and workshops with some of the world’s leading flute players. At the start of lockdown in 2020, we ran a series of daily warm-ups for flute players, and a series of lessons for players to start learning the tin whistle. Latterly we’ve had a series of online events for adult amateur flute players to improve their playing, learn new repertoire and – because it’s what community is all about – socialise!
In one sentence, why do you think music shops like yours are vital to your community?
In non-Covid times, our shop is a bustling hub for flute players to meet and socialise: we never know who will walk through our doors on a given day and what opportunities for players can develop from a chance encounter!
Why do you think payment options like the Take it away scheme are of value to your customers?
Buying a musical instrument is a serious investment, and a good flute often comes with a big price tag. Spreading payments via Take It Away with an interest-free loan makes the flute much more affordable to players who would otherwise not be able to access these kinds of instruments.