The first time I noticed there was a business in Canterbury’s St Peter’s Street called Dodgems & Floss, I was intrigued.
Was it the latest uber trendy cafe? Or a funky hipster clothes shop? Perhaps it’s a travel agency specialising in retro holidays to resorts like Margate and Clacton.
Peering through the window, it didn’t look like it sold anything. Well, not anything you can physically take away like a latte, a daft hat or a travel itinerary for a three-day sojourn on the Isle of Thanet.
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Like many of the biggest and most successful companies in the world today – Google, Facebook, YouTube and so on – what it sells is not something you can actually handle except through a device like a laptop, phone or tablet.
With so much business done online, this is where Dodgems & Floss comes in. Its aim is to help companies maximise their potential with carefully tailored digital marketing strategies.
Dodgems & Floss describes itself as “a collaborative design studio crafting experiences through delightful design”.
It states: “We are designers, developers, animators, photographers, videographers and business leaders. We use technology and design thinking to help make life easier and more enjoyable for users of products and services.”
Behind the firm is Ben Fitter-Harding, a prominent Conservative councillor who chairs the local authority’s property and regeneration committee, and his husband Jonathan.
The other two directors are Andrea Downey, who, like Ben, is a University of Kent graduate, and Tony Georgiades.
Along with the other members of their team – Chelsea Rosner, Michael East and Stuart Porro – they each bring a set of skills to the work Dodgems & Floss does.
Ben explained: “As a collaborative design studio, we work closely with our clients and build through ideas with them.
“We look at things like branding and web design and we can do things like video and help develop their digital presence.
“Although we are Canterbury based and Canterbury focused, we have a global reach. One of our biggest clients is in Sweden and we recently won a tender for a childcare and education provider in Los Angeles.”
Ben says the firm derives much of its satisfaction from working on local projects. It supports the Umbrella Centre, a mental health drop-in centre in nearby St Peter’s Place, and has worked with The Pound next to Westgate Towers and Canterbury Pride.
Its work with remote clients can in this digital age be conducted via live video from a room downstairs in the St Peter’s Street office.
Near the conference room is a pile of purple beanbags. Upstairs a designer sits on an attractive Chesterfield sofa as he concentrates on his work.
The lighting is low and the whole office tastefully decorated – in other words, it’s completely unlike any other office most of us have been in.
There are no banks of desks with screens, no people sitting opposite one another mechanically going about their tasks.
Splashes of colour adorn the walls – and the staff themselves. You won’t find 20th century grey suits and ties here. T-shirts and strong patterns are the rage.
And if Dodgems & Floss is anything at all, it represents that awesome Canterbury blend of old and new, of tradition and ultra-modernity, of a glorious past and a future we cannot begin to know.
This is a firm which stands tantalisingly at the vanguard of the next New Age – right here in a quaint and cobbled Canterbury street…