After possibly the most tumultuous year ever experienced collectively, and continuing the tradition laid down by AJ of a Christmas speech of sorts; I wanted to say a few words before we break.

We are midway through the Winter solstice, the 3 darkest days of the year and only days away from Christmas, and for those who always delay their Xmas shopping and didn’t preempt the major lockdowns… good luck…

For us at Unusual, It would be amiss not to acknowledge the significant losses experienced in 2020. It has felt like a very dark year all round, with colleagues and friends having gone through the unhappy but necessary process of redundancy as our income all but dried up. Through the loss of our Boss, AJ - father, husband, grandfather – and someone who represented a second Dad, a mentor, a friend to many here. The loss of the wonderful Paul Taylor, who brought so much to the development and culture of Unusual, with the same work ethic, flair and aspirations as AJ - to do your best, never give up and have a bloody good laugh while doing so, even when exhausted by the volume of work. A unique generation who combined with those still here today, and indeed all the workforce, old and new, created and sustain the ‘The Unusual Ethos’. 

Although it has been an incredibly difficult year, for so many of us on a personal as well as professional level; we are still standing, still showing up, holding true to the vision laid down by AJ many moons ago. And upon the foundations laid down by AJ and the founding team, we have the opportunity to continue building Unusual into the future. It is testament to the way the company was managed in the recent past that we can be assured of moving confidently forward, despite the toughest year experienced to date. I want to especially thank Brian Rose, Steve Porter, Simon Stone, Robin Elias and Simon Tiernan for playing the long game so exquisitely well.

In the 21st year of the new millennium, we can think of it as a new chance, a coming of age, a ‘phoenix from the flames’ moment for us all at Unusual. As our industry reboots, we will be there, ready and primed building upon those firm foundations of yesterday; we will be Unusual 2.0, a leaner, greener more efficient version, where good communication, strong commitment and collaboration are key.

As we hold a vision of what it means to be ‘Unusual’, each one of us can play our part in contributing that quality of determination, that attitude of just ‘getting it done’ that we learnt from the older generation. Confidently, we can continue to push forward with the work we do have, from new large scale theatre shows in the West End, to installation pieces in Saudi Arabia … from the Olympics, back round to a new design for next year’s Christmas lights in central London, with many more jobs in between. Combine with that the continued support of the government furlough scheme, extended through to the end of April and suddenly we see that we can breathe again.

A little while after AJ died, I had a random article flag up on my PC’s news feed. Titled - Jako? to b?dzie'…. all my life I had called AJ ‘Jacko’, so the title of the piece stood out.

I clicked on the link to reveal an article about a lesser known Polish phrase – Jakos to Bedzie with the following description –

The Polish Phrase That Will Help You Through Tough Times- It seemed apt, so I read on… To quote -
In Poland, the concept of ‘Jako? to b?dzie’ is acting without worrying about the consequences. It’s reaching for the impossible. It’s taking risks, and not being afraid. In our daily lives, it can simply mean doing something out of the ordinary. Taking the unusual route.
It describes that ‘creative tension’ we can feel when challenged by life – a restlessness that’s unsatisfied with the status quo and a boisterousness that is always stimulating and often astonishing, pushing us on to achieve incredible things.

It is considered a perfect philosophy for tough times.

On that note, all that remains is to wish everyone a well deserved break, a happy Christmas and a healthy 2021. Thank you all for your amazing support - family, friends and industry colleagues. See you on the other side.

Tom Harper