Flather becomes Master and Bird steps up at Kolbus

Darryl Danielli
Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Stationers’ Company has elected what is believed to be its first Master from the print machinery supplier fraternity as it inches closer to unveiling the £7.5m revamp of Stationers’ Hall.

Flather wants to connect with the industry outside of London
Flather wants to connect with the industry outside of London

Kolbus UK chairman Robert Flather was formally installed at Goldsmiths’ Hall on Tuesday (6 July) in front of 75 invited guests. He takes over from Stephen Platten, the former Bishop of Wakefield, and will assume the role for a year.

Yorkshireman Flather said that the theme of his tenure will be “more than just London” with the goal of extending the livery company’s reach beyond the metropolis.

“The Stationers’ roots, right back to [almost] medieval times, literally started with book printers, book binders, limners, illustrators and booksellers working from stations around the St Paul’s churchyard and it controlled the medieval book trade within the city, but it’s very much a different world today,” he said.

“While we have quite a lot of publishers as members, which is still fairly London centric, most of the people producing the physical manifestations [print] are generally outside of the M25… so I just want to make sure we continue to connect with our industry outside of the small locality called London.”

Ironically he said the pandemic had already helped expand the Company’s reach, with virtual gatherings accessible to members regardless of where they’re based.

Flather’s duties will also include the ongoing implementation of “Vision 350”, which involves a significant modernisation of the historic Stationers’ Hall building, a stone’s throw from St Paul’s Cathedral, which began last year. Work is expected to complete sometime in 2022 ahead of the building’s 350th anniversary the following year.

Flather became a stationer in 2001 and has long held the ambition to become Master, partly to follow in the footsteps of various forebears who had served as Master Cutlers with the Cutlers of Hallamshire due to strong familial links with the Sheffield steel industry.

However, in a break with tradition - Masters are typically retired from their chosen professions - Flather will maintain his role as Kolbus UK chairman, although as a result of his election he has stepped away from his operational role as managing director of Kolbus Autobox.

Instead, Greg Bird, who was appointed Kolbus UK managing director last year, has added the role of managing director of the circa 50-staff box-making equipment manufacturer to his duties.

Kolbus acquired Autobox in 2018.

Bird (left): It is an exciting time at Kolbus

Bird praised Flather’s role in developing Kolbus’s businesses in the UK and said he was looking forward to guiding Autobox into its next chapter as he took “great pride in being involved with a highly successful UK manufacturing company” and was especially looking forward to supporting its apprentices, to help them mirror his own experience of forging a career in the industry.

“I am keen to create opportunities for all our young people to develop and progress within Kolbus, just as I have done over my career.

“It is a great honour to be trusted with both Kolbus UK and Kolbus Autobox,” he said.

“It is an exciting time as Kolbus continues the journey into supplying machinery to the packaging industry, whilst still maintaining an involvement in its traditional book binding equipment market”.

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