Grand Illusions was formed in 1996 (old by Internet standards!) and was originally designed as a way of sharing our enthusiasm for various science based phenomena, fun and games, and optical illusions. The Grand Illusions shop then started in 1998, selling a few items that are generally hard to source elsewhere. But we only exist on the web. We do not run a 'real' shop, and we do not stock items other than the ones you see on the web site.
We are based in this 18th century barn in rural Buckinghamshire, about an hour west of London. At night we hear the owls hooting and the deer barking in the surrounding fields!
We sell a range of items that are hard or impossible to find anywhere else. Some items we commission ourselves, such as the Einstein Hollow Face Mask or the Non Transitive Dice. Other items are hand made in small quantities by artisans working in different countries around the world. Many of our best items are made by a 'man in a shed' somewhere. These are not easy to track down, since people of this sort do not advertise and do not attend the big toy fairs. This is partly why we only sell a limited number of items. However we are always delighted to support small artisans, and the general 'shed economy'. We sometimes sell antique items as well.
Our aim is to have everything in stock, all the time. We do not take orders and then go and source the items from elsewhere. However occasionally an item will be out of stock. Please be patient when this happens - someone, somewhere is working hard to make more of that item!
We are happy for the content on this web site to be used for educational, non-commercial purposes, so long as it is off-line, i.e. please do not post our content on your website. You may not use our content for any commercial purpose, unless you have written authority from us in advance. A fee may well be payable in these circumstances. If you wish to link to our site, you are welcome to do so. You are also welcome to deeplink to our site, i.e. to link to pages within the site directly, rather than the home page. However we do not take part in 'link exchange' schemes.
The Grand Illusions Toy Collection
Our toy expert Tim has built up an amazing collection of over 18,000 toys during his lifetime. These are not for sale, but we share their wonders with you via video in the Toy Collection part of the web site. In most cases these are toys that are no longer made, so we are not normally able to help in sourcing these items.
Who is behind Grand Illusions?
Grand Illusions came into being in 1996 over a bottle of wine shared by Hendrik Ball and George Auckland, who at the time were television producers with BBC Education in London. It was the very beginning of the Internet and the BBC was just starting to create an online presence. We had just made a tv series about multimedia for the BBC ('This Multimedia Business') and had created the very first BBC website to accompany a television programme. This Multimedia Business was the first BBC television programme to show the website address on screen, and while very few viewers write in to television programmes, the barriers to sending an e-mail are much lower, and we found ourselves answering questions from our viewers in a more direct way than we had ever done as traditional tv producers. When the programme was subsequently shown in other coutries around the world, as BBC Education programmes tend to be, we were amazed and charmed to be suddenly getting e-mails from India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, etc, talking to us about the programme. Broadcasting is in many ways a one way medium. Here, all of a sudden, there was a two way process. It certainly gave a new dimension to the BBC motto, which is 'Nation shall speak peace unto Nation.' We were enormously excited about the possibilities of this new medium, and decided to create our own website in order to be able to experiment further and to learn.
That website, since we were both essentially science programme makers, was Grand Illusions. We were able to use the knowledge we gained from running our own web site to help our work at the BBC. And our BBC job certainly grew! Initially we had the only multimedia computer in the BBC - sound card, CD-ROM drive, scanner, multimedia authoring software, even a CD writer. And the two of us were a little multimedia team which grew to a small department of nearly 100 people, known as Digital Media. By then, there were small teams of people in other BBC departments who were starting to do 'digital things' and when they were all brought together into a larger department, there were nearly 700 people. The BBC now has a major online presence, and while we would not claim that it all began with that bottle of wine, it was wonderful to be in at the beginning of the ability to share content with people online. First at the BBC and now with Grand Illusions.
Hendrik Ball retired from the BBC a few years later, and has been able to concentrate on Grand Illusions, which has grown as a result. Tim Rowett became involved very early on. He is a personal friend of both of us, and he has also appeared in the odd television programme that we have made! His toy collection is the stuff of legend, and our documenting of his toy collection on the web site is an extension of a project simply to video Tim demonstrating the toys, which we started prior to 1996. Tim appears in all the videos, demonstrating toys from his toy collection, and also new toys that we have found for the Toy Shop. Hendrik is the person behind the camera. Adele Reuben helps with packing up the toys we send out, and is also our chief film editor. Adele used to work at the BBC, and has cut many award winning programmes in her time. So if you ring us up, you will probably speak to Hendrik or Adele. If Tim has popped in to do a bit of filming, you might get to talk to him as well!
Grand Illusions is a UK Ltd company, that was formed in 1996. Our company registration number is 3211597, and our VAT number is GB 878592553.
The registered address of the company is Grand Illusions Ltd, Springfields, Cryers Hill Road, Cryers Hill, High Wycombe, HP15 6LN, UK.
All correspondence should be sent to the above address.