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Paul Cummins, the man behind the ceramic poppies

Each year 32 million Remembrance poppies and 80,000 wreaths are made at the Poppy Factory in UK which is staffed by a team of 50 people, most of them disabled, former servicemen and women and their dependants.

Originally called the Disabled Society the factory has been employing wounded, sick and injured ex-Service personnel since it was founded by Major George Howson MC in 1922 in the Old Kent Road. It’s sole purpose was to produce poppies, with the workforce being severely wounded veterans from WW1.

In 1925, The Poppy Factory moved to Richmond, Surrey and there it continues to make poppies, remembrance crosses, sprays and wreaths for The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

It’s work is largely funded by the income that it receives from those poppy sales although it now also receives an increasing number of private donations.

The costs of making the paper versions of the poppy are kept low to ensure that 100 per cent of voluntary donations go straight to the Royal British Legion’s Appeal, but some of the snazzier versions of the little red flower – such as those worn by an increasing number of television celebrities and presenters, are not nearly as benevolent as they first appear.

Kleshna, one of a number of companies with an exclusive tie-in with the Legion, sells enamelled and crystal-clad poppies for up to £59.95 – and has admitted to giving just 10 per cent of the sales to charity, a similar percentage to that donated from the sale of the 888,246 ceramic poppies placed across the moat at the Tower of London, and each sold at a cost of £25, just £8.75 from which would reach the six charities, according to official estimates, while £12.08 would cover ‘costs’.

Paul Cummins, who owns the Derby factory responsible for the manufacture of the ceramic poppies, was originally bankrolled by a group of private investors who are controversially said to be making a handsome profit from the venture.

However, the six service charities concerned, Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO), Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion and SSAFA, will still benefit by over £1million each and interestingly enough, not one of them has publicly criticised the way the project is being run, saying they are pleased with whatever money they receive.

During the local build up to the Poppy Appeal, Facebook and other Social Media sites were awash with accusations about individuals who were said to be profiteering from the manufacture of poppies.

Alan Henderson‎ was advertising poppy items for sale on the ‘Orihuela Costa Buy and Sell’ page at a cost of 2.99 + postage, with Euro1 of each sale donated to the RBL poppy appeal. He was quickly accused of profiteering by a number of users but responded with the statement ‘There is no profit being made after material glue ect plus I buy the poppies before I donate your euro from the sale. I promise you no profit is being made from these.’

Gary Binks had quite the opposite view saying ‘ I am sick of hearing negativity on this site! Good on you Alan, don´t explain yourself as you don´t need to! It´s a great product..just a shame you have attracted negative reactions to it!’

Another facebook user, Dominique Lee, wrote ‘As the mother of a serving soldier I would gladly pay for one of these poppies. If the man says he is giving the proceeds to charity then surely can we not take him at his word. Sometimes people just think of a nice idea and don’t have the time to register as a charity. Let’s just look on the positive side and believe that this is just one person who would like to make a difference. I got the same kind of negative comments some time ago when I asked people to collect items to send to soldiers in Afghanistan for Xmas and was devastated at the character assassination i received.’

Of course the difference between Paul Cummins, his ceramic poppies, Kleshna, their poppy jewellery, and Alan Henderson and the like, is that the former two were commissioned by the RBL and Tower of London authorities to manufacture and sell their goods, making agreed contributions to a variety of appeals in the process, whilst Alan was not. So whilst the accusations of profiteering on the back of Remembrance will continue to be made, their actions are perhaps not quite as controversial as many people would like us to suppose.

I have to largely agree with the sentiments posted by Gary and Dominique. The contributions being made to the RBL and other service Charities by these companies and individuals would not otherwise be made so where is the harm in the actions they are taking as long as the charities continue to benefit.

Everyone needs to eat and recover their manufacture and production costs, whatever the size with people rarely able to devote their lives to a cause that pays them nothing.

So I’m hoping the whole issue continues to concentrate on veterans, the reason for the poppy and the millions of pounds and euros that have been donated to the appeal. It was Remembrance Day, 2014 is the Centenary of the outbreak of WW1, and an extremely important time in our history, so let’s try to remain focused on that.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45619/

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