5 Minutes With The Cast of The Importance of Being Earnest

August 7, 2014

Paying homage to Oscar Wilde’s way with words,  Smythson  recently created a special edition 2015 diary, with an iconic quote from Wilde’s last play emblazoned across its navy lambskin binding.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

Smythson celebrates the play’s long-awaited return to the West End by collaborating with Wilde’s favourite place to dine: Hotel Café Royal, to offer a bespoke theatre package. Stepping behind the scenes with the cast of The Importance of Being Earnest, we delved into the world of acting to discover what it’s truly like to perform one of Wilde’s most celebrated works.

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NIGEL HAVERS – Algernon

SMYTHSON: What is the strangest thing a role has required you to do?
NH: Learn to drive a tank!

SMYTHSON: What made you want to bring The Importance of Being Earnest back to the West End?
NH: I love the play so much; having done it in 1982 at the National Theatre I wanted another go at it.

SMYTHSON: What is your favourite quote from the play?
NH: ‘All women become their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does – that’s his’

sMYTHSON The Cafe at Hotel Cafe Royal - The Importance of Being Earnest 2Nigel and Cherie enjoy a spot of afternoon tea at Hotel Cafe Royal

CHERIE LUNGHI – Gwendolen

SMYTHSON: Were you a fan of Oscar Wilde’s work before The Importance of Being Earnest?
CL: I had only seen a couple of plays and had read and enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray and recited The Selfish Giant to music so my knowledge was limited. I’m now a huge fan and consider him ahead of his time.

SMYTHSON: Do you and Gwendolen have any characteristics in common?
CL: The younger me probably does – headstrong, passionate and romantic – but that’s youth for you!

SMYTHSON: Do you have any particular techniques to help you remember your lines?
CL: Practise, practise, practise, over and over, especially before going to sleep. I approach learning lines like learning times tables – repetition. And sometimes writing them out helps.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

MARTIN JARVIS – Jack

SMYTHSON: Did you have any apprehensions about repeating the same role you did in the past?
MJ: Of course, especially in having to inhabit the energy and passion of a young man of twenty-nine! What has been interesting is that both Nigel and I have enjoyed bringing an extra emotional depth and understanding to the characters we first played over thirty years ago.

SMYTHSON: Favourite quote from the play?
MJ: ‘…it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?’
This is Wilde at his perceptive, topsy-turvy best.

SMYTHSON: Do you prefer being on stage or behind the scenes in radio?
MJ: No preference. I have been lucky enough to work on great plays on radio and in the theatre. Whether the writers are Ayckbourn, Frayn, Pinter, a play is always gloriously ‘the thing’. It’s a privilege to serve them in whatever medium.

CHRISTINE KAVANAGH – Cecily

SMYTHSON: Do you prefer stage or television?
CK: I love all medium but most actors’ first love theatre.

SMYTHSON: What was your second choice of career if you chose not to be an actress?
CK: You can only be an actor if you have no second choice as it’s a very tough profession. ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken.’  I have my own company called TheVoicehouse that records people’s life stories and memories.

SMYTHSON: Why did you choose  to work with The Importance of Being Earnest?
CK: It’s a technical challenge, it’s a great comedy and to be reunited with Nigel Havers again is always a joy. Wilde is precision engineering – you need to relish the language and the sound of laughter is always a pleasure.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

ROSALIND AYRES – Miss Prism

SMYTHSON: Do you still get nervous before the curtain rises?
RA: Yes of course, but a little apprehension is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes.

SMYTHSON: What life lessons would you give to your younger self?
RA: To learn to be ‘good’ nervous and not the nervousness that prevents you from doing your best possible work. Do a great deal of work on the play before you start rehearsals!

SMYTHSON: What’s different about Oscar Wilde’s work?
RA: Acting in Wilde is similar to acting in Shaw. They are expert wordsmiths and you need to play the whole line, following the arc of their thinking. You can’t break up the sentences into modern little sections. It doesn’t work.

Sian Phillips – Lady Bracknell

SMYTHSON: Do you and Lady Bracknell have anything in common?
SP: No. (Possibly, energy). Maybe also, alas. A mistaken belief that I am in the right most of the time.

SMYTHSON: How do you think the industry has evolved in the past 10 years?
SP: It’s strange but one never thinks of the theatre as an industry (unlike the film industry) and yet it is one, contributing hugely to the wealth of London (insufficiently acknowledged by the City). Nothing major seems to have altered in the last decade.

SMYTHSON: Once you get started in acting, is it difficult to find your genre?
SP: I don’t think one is meant to find a genre. It is rather expected of one to be able to turn one’s hand to anything. And that certainly leads to a more rewarding working life.

the importance of being earnest NIALL BUGGY – Reverend Chasuble

SMYTHSON: What’s your favourite Oscar Wilde quote – is it from the play?
NB: The poem Heles ‘To drift with every passion, til my soul is a stringed lute upon which all winds can play’

SMYTHSON: What do you tend to do after the show to relax?
NB: Go home!

SMYTHSON: Favourite quote from the play?
NB: ‘Who has the right to cast a stone against one who has suffered? Cannot repentance wipe out an act of folly? Why should there be one law for men, and another for women?’

 

 

 

A Celebration Of Wilde’s Way With Words

July 17, 2014

oscar wilde smythson

‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.’ Celebrated globally as a literary icon, Wilde’s stories were a paradox in themselves – comedies were marred with tragedy; satire built on romance and observational protagonism. But arguably Wilde’s best work was his own life – a tangle of drama and mystery that combined to create an ambiguous story with many chapters left untold.

Situated in the heart of bustling Regent Street, Wilde would visit the Grill Room at Café Royal every day. Now reincarnated as a luxury hotel, Café Royal has joined with Smythson to create a bespoke theatre package in celebration of the return of The Importance of Being Earnest to the West End.

cafe royal hotel smythson oscar wilde

Dubbed by Oscar Wilde as ‘a trivial comedy for serious people’ the production of his brilliant comic masterpiece takes this sentiment to heart and delivers an entirely faithful, but nonetheless unique, setting to one of the greatest theatrical comedies.

Earnest_Horizontal image

To mark the celebration Smythson have created a special edition 2015 diary, with an iconic quote from Wilde’s last play emblazoned across its lambskin binding.

‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’ The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

As well as being offered as part of the bespoke theatre package with Café Royal this special edition  Oscar Wilde Diary for 2015 is available to purchase online .

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The History of Travel: Around the world in Smythson style

July 14, 2014

Panama plane Smythson Model plane crafted from Panama product at our New Bond Street boutique

From the earliest vintage travel posters to today’s digital generation, one thing can be said for certain – the desire to travel has remained ubiquitous. One of the earliest known literary records of travel dates as far back as 1336, when poet and scholar Francesco Petrarch ascended Mount Ventoux in Southern France, reciting the extraordinary views seen from its incredible height. It seemed that without the ease of air travel there was a relentless desire to discover.

As travel advanced through the 1800s, it became something of a fashion to explore the unexplored. Once a necessity for colonialism, exploration and war, voyages slowly evolved into a luxury experience in which the journey was just as important as the destination.

Vintage travel postersVintage travel posters

 To celebrate our longstanding heritage of luxury travel, Smythson recently collaborated with artist Billie Achilleos to create a staggerwing model plane made entirely from the iconic Panama collection. An innovator of his time, Frank Smythson made history in 1908 when he created the world’s first practical, portable diary. Translated today into a selection of lightweight travel handbags and accessories, the Panama collection merges the past and present through its pioneering design and signature cross-grain leather.

A self described ‘maker of things’, we joined young British artist and designer Billie Achilleos at her studio. 

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SMYTHSON: Where did the inspiration come from for the plane?

BA: The inspiration came from bespoke Smythson stationery created for the Maharajas of India, dating back to the 1930s. I also visited Popham Airfield and saw a staggerwing plane there, which gave me the idea for the initial shape.

SMYTHSON: Did the idea of a plane materialise immediately or were there other concepts involved in the process?

BA: When I think of travel, I think of traditional shapes such as planes, boats and cars, but this is the first time I’ve actually worked with a plane. It’s also the first time I’ve worked with something motorized so it’s new and exciting.

SMYTHSON: What inspired you to work in the creative field?

BA: I’ve grown up surrounded by art; coming from a very artistic family certainly influenced me. I think growing up in a generation that had very imaginative movies and programmes like The Trapdoor and movies by Terry Gilliam made art very significant as a medium.

SMYTHSON: What other work do you enjoy creating?

BA: I’ve previously worked on creating animals, as well as working in opera and  film, creating props and sets. Puppetry is my main field of training though. I started out at Wimbledon school of art and later was trained with Blind Summit.

SMYTHSON: Why did you choose to work with a brand such as Smythson?

BA: I love working with new products, and its really nice to collaborate with a brand where you get that direct contact as you watch the project evolve.

The  New Bond Street Boutique will play home to the plane as well as a collection of travel pieces from Smythson’s archives until late August, from the iconic ‘Bon Voyage’ cards to the grooming kit from 1906 – a boon for all travellers.

 

Smythson panama notebook propellor plane Billie Achilleos The plane propellor made from Panama diaries and notebooks

Panama plane Smythson Billie AchilleosBillie builds the wing from Panama purses and pencil cases Smythson Panama collection propellor Billie AchilleosPurses and passport covers build the plane’s tail

Billie Achilleos Tools of the trade

www.smythson.com

The Great Escape

July 1, 2014

There are places all over the world that call out desperately for unrestricted attention. The most beautiful can stir the most worn out emotions of the jaded commuter, purging the loathsome eight-o-clock nightmare that pervades the tube each morning. Yet, surprisingly, they’re often undiscovered or unmarked – untainted by the footsteps of hundreds of tourists that recreate the commuting ordeal with the horrifying addition of flashing cameras. An advocate of travel since 1887, Smythson has always been at the forefront of exploration. To celebrate the season of travel, we’ve handpicked a selection of our favourite places across the globe that promise to stir the senses. Now don’t quit your jobs just yet…

hayman island beach resort one and only smythson

1. Far from a stark awakening, the ultra-luxury One&Only Hayman Island beach resort boasts unrestricted views, unspoilt landscapes and uncompromised tranquillity, all on its own private island. Nestled among lush gardens and expansive pools, this jaw-dropping resort exudes an effortless utopia, located in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

What to pack: A pen –  the first 200 guests to book a stay at  the One&Only Hayman Island resort after the opening on 1 July 2014 will receive a complimentary set of Smythson correspondence cards. Handcrafted and die-stamped, each allows you to set a signature to your style, wherever you choose to venture.

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2. Many, upon travelling, seek the euphoric moments that change the workings of the mind. The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is ethereal at every viewpoint.  Only known to be discovered in 1991, the 2.5 billion year old cave was once a mountain permeated by a rapid river, which slowly caused its collapse leaving huge, gaping skylights. There’s no chance of a dull photograph, even on the most amateur of cameras.

What to pack: The Panama camera case

Most beautiful places in the world Kastellorizo

3. History and culture come forth in abundance on the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Once twice its size before a widespread fire in 1944, this quaint and still fairly anonymous town plays home to a wealth of antiquity. With fewer than 600 residents, stepping on to this magnificent island feels like entering an different, more quaintly-packaged world.

What to pack: The Chameleon crossbody clutch

amsterdam flower market

4. Awash with every hue of the colour spectrum, Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt stretches elegantly across the Singel canal as the world’s only floating flower market. Flooded with fragrance, flowers hang suspended above as you wander tranquilly through this floral paradise.

What to pack: The Panama large tote

Smythson orient express

5. A moment to look back on and treasure for life, the Orient Express conjures in adults the same feeling children experience at Christmas. Stepping on board this exquisite train feels like entering a time capsule, and a combination of awe-inspiring history, astonishing food and breathtaking views makes this a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What to pack: The Envelope Box Clutch

 

 

#StylishGentleman: Father’s Day Competition

May 30, 2014

“A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them” – Sir Hardy Amies

What to you makes a #stylishgentleman? The perfect shoes, a connoisseur of cocktails, understated sophistication?

In celebration of Father’s Day we’ll be selecting our favourite social media posts with the hashtag #stylishgentleman to receive a limited edition of The MR PORTER paperback: The Manual for a Stylish Life Volume 2, sent in time for Father’s Day. Bound by Smythson in soft lambskin and finished with gilded edges, each copy is one of 500 worldwide and is witty, charismatic and undeniably charming; it offers a delightful selection of memorandums.

Tag your posts on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #stylishgentleman (remember to tag us @Smythson) and share your thoughts or photos on what makes a true connoisseur. Our favourites will be selected and notified on Friday 6th June.

Mr Porter Paperback Smythson Competition Fathers Day stylishgentleman

Cannes – A Time Capsule of Glamour

May 20, 2014

An irrefutable sensation of glamour emanates from the city of Cannes. Le Croisette, the emblematic street that leads like a runway parallel against its shore, is adorned with an excess of majestic hotels, playing home to the glitterati for two weeks in May each year. Established in 1946, Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious celebrations of filmography across the globe, infused annually by a strict selection of invite-only celebrities, each on the red carpet striving to be hailed by critics as the star of both fashion and film.

   Petra Nemcova Cannes Film Festival Petra Nemcova carries the Smythson Envelope Box Clutch at Cannes

 During its preliminary years, Cannes was a bustling social occasion in which almost every movie director was assured an award upon departure. Vivid blue skies made the perfect backdrop to tall, green palms, shading the stars that grouped together like a collection of high-school’s coolest cliques. As its presence grew as an international event, legendary figures such as Pablo Picasso and Elizabeth Taylor helped shape the festival’s captivating heritage, now a fascinating time capsule awash with style.  

 Brigitte Bardot and Pablo Picasso Cannes Film Festival Smythson Pablo Picasso entertains Brigitte Bardot at his studio in Vallauris near Cannes during the 1956 film festival

Elizabeth Taylor at Cannes Film Festival Smythson Elizabeth Taylor, Cannes Festival 1957

In 1966, Michael Caine’s critically acclaimed ‘Alfie’ debuted, winning the Special Jury – the third most prestigious prize after the Palme d’Or and Grand Prix. Standing casually surrounded by a swarm of blonde bouffants, this memorable scene pictured below became a photo that epitomised sixties style in a snapshot. Another anecdote of Cannes’ history is projected by Diana Dors, a British actress who became the muse of the camera in 1956 as the lesser-known peroxide blonde of the fifties. She left a movie-like mystery behind her when she passed away one week before the 1984 festival, leaving over two million pounds behind with a code to its whereabouts. The secret still remains unsolved to this day and the money left untouched.

 

michael caine cannes film festival alfie smythsonMichael Caine in Cannes for the debut of Alfie, 1966

Diana Dors Cannes Film Festival Hollywood Style Smythson Actress Diana Dors in Cannes, 1956

Nowadays, Cannes continues to act as a beacon between artists and the glitz of Hollywood – the bridge to the distributor coveted by filmmakers in an unrelenting hope of translating their work into an international masterpiece, fed to the visually-hungry. And between it all? The red carpet – that bold, bright, undeniable metaphor of glamour and success.

 

Channel the Cannes style with Smythson:

Smythson clutches 1

Travel Through The Ages

April 17, 2014

There’s something to be said about travelling. Unlike in the past, in less than a few hours airborne it’s possible to discover new destinations, experience and absorb unique cultures and be re-inspired by an infusion of antiquity. In the words of the late British writer Aldous Huxley, “travelling is a besetting vice,” allowing us to escape the norm in hope of exploring pastures new, irrevocably shaping our outlook on what it means to ‘discover’.

Woman with suitcases smythson travel

When air travel emerged post World War II, a surplus of aeronautical technology and ex-military pilots allowed holiday-goers to discover new locations in record time. Rail travel was revolutionised, and it became easier for people to discover and explore – cue the enticing era that catalysed The Golden Age. During this time Frank Smythson opened his second shop on Bond Street, and as the business increased, larger premises were needed as travellers flocked to Smythson to purchase their luxury travel accessories. A purveyor of leather travel goods since the 1900s, the 1950s onwards saw Smythson receive increasing interest and custom from abroad as travel became more popular.

Smythson at No.54 Bond Street, 1932-1988 Smythson at No.54 Bond Street, 1932-1988

What once was imagined was now a reality for many explorers, and travel rapidly became fashionable. On numerous flights from London to Europe during this epoch, postcards were distributed on board with photos of the aircraft displayed on the front. With no in-flight entertainment, during their flight passengers would write on these cards to loved ones back home, describing the plane journey towards their destination. Postcards in iconic cities also became increasingly popular, and many collected a selection to take back on their return.

Vintage postcards from Paris and Venice Vintage postcards from Paris and Venice

Smythson 'Bon Voyage' cards, 1908, 1898
Smythson ‘Bon Voyage’ cards, 1908, 1898

As travel became more prevalent, the demand for luxury accessories grew rapidly. Embracing the expanding market, Smythson continued to produce goods for the luxe traveller. Still adhering to the meticulous attention to detail that Frank Smythson himself practised, Smythson’s dedication to creating luxury travel goods remains the same today, with an endless list of leather accessories, diaries and stationery for the travelling connoisseur. Why fix something that isn’t broken? And as Oscar Wilde once wrote; “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

 

Smythson spring summer travel collections
Smythson spring summer travel collections

The Panama Legacy Continues: Smythson X Quentin Jones

March 7, 2014

The Panama Legacy continues as we announce the second chapter of our collaboration with young British artist Quentin Jones.

Inspired by the past, made for the future, Frank Smythson’s original Panama diary design from 1908 stirred an entire collection, focusing on the remarkable pliability of its iconic cross-grain leather which allows each item to be rolled, shaped and folded without becoming misshapen.

L-R: Original Panama diary from 1908, 2014 Panama stationery

Six months later, in a covetable selection of leather handbags and accessories, an additional Panama capsule collection is born, wearing Quentin’s illustrations in graphic style and embodying her surrealist, artistic flair. Launching as a worldwide exclusive at Colette Paris on Monday 10th March, the collection and a selection of Quentin’s portraits of Panama advocates from past and present will travel across the globe, bringing the legacy to life in this bold collaboration.

Smythson X Quentin Jones capsule collection

Behind the scenes in her New York studio, Quentin opened her doors to let us delve into the design process. Awash with graphic sketches and illustrations, each wall is overwhelmingly bold, seizing attention with a feast of black and white animated sketches and a symphony of shapes and icons.

Quentin’s illustrations

The ‘Camden cat’ print is arguably eye-catching; its quirkily winking face reminiscent of the playful, surreal drawings Quentin is known so well for. Amid detailed prints and depictions, each picture comes to life against its blank canvas, creating a powerful juxtaposition of light and depth.

Behind the scenes in Quentin’s studio

Once Quentin’s artworks are finalised, each illustration is sent to print on the curated selection of classic Panama handbags and accessories. Unique in design, the Panama’s cross-grain leather surface absorbs and reacts to dyes in unpredictable ways, and securing the right technique is both scrupulous and painstaking. The technique used is highly innovative; digitally printed with use of specialised machinery, allowing a duplicate match to the original artwork across all materials of the bags and accessories. The result is a wearable piece of art; an investment both covetable and collectable. Vividly bold, each piece exudes our history with a contemporary twist – a combination of Smythson’s enduring, timeless designs with Quentin’s distinguishable modern muse.


Art Of The 1887: Architecture of a Handbag

February 14, 2014

The beauty that lies behind the craft of architecture is its scrupulous process. From initial sketches born from illogical ideas to the painstaking development; each step is completed in search of the dramatic, flawless finish. Selecting the precise materials, creating the exceptional framework and understanding each meticulous detail requires a balance near impossible to achieve, but somehow, eventually, a heart-stopping moment is attained as each element falls beautifully into place.

The 1887 retains the same nature; an incessant pursuit of perfection. Its sculpted body takes over 365 days to perfect, is composed of 97 pieces and takes an astonishing 96 hours to create – a painstaking process shared by the designer and artisan.

Bold Silhouettes: 1887 in Black

PERFECTING THE CURVE

The art of the curve is notoriously difficult to achieve. Beautifully twisted and sculpted, this iconic sculpture in Barcelona was created by Frank Gehry in 1992. Famous for his apposition of lines and curves, Gehry’s ‘Peix d’Or’ consists of intertwining stainless steel strips, twisted to precise angles.

Work: Frank Gehry

A scrupulous game of curved shapes and lines, the creation of the 1887’s winged skeleton and its seaming are both milestones in its creation. Soft and sensuous to the touch, a selection of lamb and calf nappa are shaped, sealed and picketed on a distinctive mould, creating a sculpted structure that remains tactile and resistant – the base to its softer disguise.

Striking Contours: The 1887‘s Winged Construction

LIGHT AND DEPTH

In 2011 The Louvre commissioned Cour Visconti; The Department of Islamic Arts designed by Italian architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti. The stunning structure appears to float elegantly in its surreal, ethereal form; a sheet of liquid gold that captures the intensity of sunlight against its historic backdrop. Thousands of materials contributed to its sculpted body, with a selection of franc teel space frames and an intricate roofing structure consisting of a lattice of steel tubes and glass.

Work: Mario Bellini & Rudy Ricciotti

Each piece of the 1887’s highly complex construction must be skived, reduced, glued and trimmed with close attention to the correct thickness to guarantee proper assembly. A symphony of shapes falls upon one another to create a beautiful convex effect, strikingly unique against its linear structure. This beautiful juxtaposition is seen in Cour Visconti – feminine curves created by strong lines; a bold apposition of light and depth.

Light Meets Shadow: The 1887 in Cobalt

Enigmatic in structure and elegantly tailored , the 1887 explores a sculpted world of unequivocal beauty in its design, and, much like an architectural journey, its precision is captured in its painstaking process; from research and development to the final, anticipated showcase.

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Head Over Heels With The Dorchester

February 10, 2014

Valentine’s has been synonymous with Smythson from the outset; an enduring craft dedicated to the creation of beautiful handmade leather gifts and accessories to travel the distance, wherever you choose to venture.

Smythson has always been at the forefront of travel goods since the opening of its doors in 1887; the first of its products such as the historic writing attaché allowing adventures and memories to be collected on route all over the world. Owing to its surprising versatility, each moment could be easily captured and sent to loved ones back home, or simply treasured to nostalgically uncover in the future. The ultimate purveyor of luxury travel stationery, Smythson still adheres to this philosophy, ensuring no detail worthy of note is ever left behind.

L-R: Grosvenor Folding Jotter, Original Catalogue featuring Writing Attache, Panama Tote

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Smythson partners with luxury hotels The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane and Coworth Park to endure our love of travel. We delved deep into our archives to create an iconic keepsake inspired by the past, made for the present; perfectly pocket-sized to slip away in light of a spontaneous adventure, capturing anything you discover you’re head over heels for.

Head Over Heels Flip Book and Original Chauffeur Character

Beautifully bound in red, cross-grain leather, the “Head Over Heels” Panama flip book takes inspiration from deep within Smythson’s archives, depicting the ‘Chauffeur’ – an iconic silver pepper pot featured in Smythson’s catalogues from 1906. Beautifully brought to life as you flick through the pages, the Chauffeur topples head over heels, leaving a trail of red love hearts in his wake. The limited edition flip book is the perfect place to keep your most loved notes; be it captivating views, outstanding food, favoured quotes, stirring literature or memorable travel moments. So take the long route, collect moments; it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.

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