The next day we would be joining 5,000 other guests from all over the world to congratulate Count Anton W. von Faber-Castell and his company on their achievement. Our anticipation was tempered slightly by the inclusion in the welcome pack of Faber-Castell umbrellas. The evening was humid and threatening, and the main party tomorrow was to be outdoors. Sure enough, shortly after a refreshing al fresco landbier in the Hauptmarkt we retired to a nearby restaurant, the atmospheric Heilig-Geist-Spital, just as the heavens opened. A sustained and torrential downpour with an enthusiastic accompaniment of thunder and lightning. It was still raining Katzen and Hunde as we left and we thought of the poor Faber-Castell staff who would have been setting up the garden party that day.
The next day was fresher though still damp and grey, though the guests assembling after breakfast were in high spirits. Our hotel alone had guests from Bolivia, Peru, Korea, Japan, Czech Republic, France and the UK. As the first of the coaches arrived we found ourselves in the hands of Nicole, our designated escort for the event. Briskly marshalling the various nationalities, our German shepherd loaded us on board for the first event of the day at the Frankenhalle — the vast hall in the impressive CongressCenter Nuremberg.
Outside the Frankenhalle the excitement all around was palpable and we started to realise the scale of the event. Sixty countries were represented and the lead representatives of those were dressed in national costume. Everybody else was dressed somewhere between smartly and spectacularly. We accepted security passes, translation headsets and a glass of champagne and as we filed into the huge hall it felt like a cross between the Eurovision Song Contest and the Oscars.
Welcome messages were projected on an impressive 120m x 6m wrap-around screen and eventually the proceedings got underway. Tributes came in from German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel via a video screen, plus Dr. Günther Beckstein, the former Prime Minister of Bavaria, and Dr. Ulrich Maly, Mayor of Nuremberg. Count Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell, 8th generation of his family to lead the company, then gave a speech which was humble and inspirational. There followed a interesting programme covering the history of Faber-Castell, making good use of the whole of the giant screen. Fascinating stuff and far too much information to convey here but a key figure was Lothar von Faber, who in the mid-nineteenth century not only expanded and modernised the business, improved quality and secured valuable sole rights to high-quality Siberian graphite; he was also a pioneer and reformer in the areas of workers' welfare, social responsibility and education. He was elevated to the hereditary peerage for his efforts. The current CEO, Count Anton Wolfgang has continued in this vein — not only leading the brand strongly into the 21st century but doing so with a major commitment to international labour rights and environmental responsibility.
The history segued seamlessly into a spectacular laser show and the Count and his wife the Countess Mary took to the stage to a huge ovation. They were joined by their children and then by senior employees and finally by flag-bearers from the 60 countries. A rousing rendition of Queen's 'We Are The Champions' sung by an enthusiastic Malaysian manager concluded proceedings and we congregated outside in the (enormous) foyer for drinks and Nuremberg sausages. Fantastically, while we were in the hall the skies had cleared and the day was now officially gorgeous.
Nicole eventually ("I've lost Bolivia!") rounded us up and we were shipped back to our hotels to change into our party gear before being driven to the Faber Schloss for the evening's festivities. A stunning setting for a party: a beautiful and elegant castle, leafy grounds, huge gazebos to keep any weather off; pavilions representing each Faber-Castell manufacturing country; a big stage and a vast array of food and drinks tents. Sunshine + music + 5,000 happy people = a great time.
Highlights: The count's brother's eccentric performance on stage; scores of hyper-enthusiastic Malaysian employees; endless good German beer; a brilliant band; the British contingent's commitment to dancing to that band; a mesmerizing dance and light show after dark against the castle façade; fireworks; managing to keep going until 2am.
And at 10:30am the next day they bussed us back again to give us brunch!
A wonderful time was had by all and huge thanks go to Count Anton and his staff for looking after everyone so well, and to Stone Marketing, the UK distributor for Faber-Castell, for taking us along for the ride.
We genuinely believe that Faber-Castell is a great company with committed people making superb products, all with a concern for social and environmental issues. Cult Pens is proud to be a leading online retailer for Faber-Castell in the UK, with the widest range of Faber-Castell writing and drawing products available anywhere.
PRIZE! To commemorate both Faber-Castell's 250th anniversary and our inaugural blog post, we'll give away a Faber-Castell goodie-bag including a couple of anniversary items to the author of a randomly-selected comment to this post. Thanks for reading.
UPDATE! We've scoured the office for the prize contents and have put together a box of great bits and pieces from Faber-Castell, including some smart Design range pens, lots of pens and pencils altogether worth well over £120. Then we added some cute 250th anniversary items begged and borrowed from Faber-Castell. The draw will close at midnight Thursday 28 July 2011 BST (that's British Summer Time folks). We'll announce a winner on Friday. Thanks for all the comments so far!
AND THE WINNER IS... Count the comments... go to random.org... the adjudicators confer... drum roll... hush descends... Comment #3 - Andrew! Plus special judges prize to Louise at Comment #1 for being the first comment and the most surreal. Trumpet fanfares and it's all over bar the shouting. Thanks to everyone who commented - we'll do it all again in 250 years.