Who wouldn't spend all day playing with Lego bricks?
"Show me someone who doesn’t like Lego, and I’ll show you someone I don’t like."
By those standards, as Head of Play at Bricks McGee, Richard Carter might be my favourite person in Leicester. In 2012, Richard was working in web design, when a museum in Newcastle approached him about running activities with LEGO bricks.
A Lego enthusiast since the age of four, Richard isn’t certain how he became known as "the Lego guy", but he quickly turned a side project into a career.
"My interest had waned while I was at university, mainly due to lack of space," said Richard. "But when I was approached by the museum, I was excited to get involved.
"From there, I was asked to volunteer on a project for Durham Cathedral that a company called Bright Bricks were doing. Visitors could pay £1 to add a brick to the model, and it took three years to complete with around 300,000 bricks in total."
Build it, and they will come
Having started out in web design as a hobby, turning a passion into a career wasn’t an alien concept to Richard.
He began running pub sessions for adults. While this wasn’t a profitable exercise, it allowed him to refine many of the workshop formats that he now uses for his corporate sessions today. This early investment in honing a product has become the foundation of the business.
"Without these sessions, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to keep pushing it. They were instrumental in building the products we offer now."
Bricks McGee was born. The company – now based at Leicester’s LCB Depot – offers corporate workshops and entertainment, as well as taking model-building commissions. However, they do pick and choose their building projects due to their limited amount of workshop space.
"We’re currently working on a meter-long skip lorry that was commissioned by a company in Bracknell to celebrate their anniversary. We’re also building a model of St Edith’s Church in Monks Kirby, Warwickshire – they’ve received heritage lottery funding for conservation of their stonework, and this is part of their engagement activities.
"While we can’t take everything on, we’re always willing to listen to new project proposals. I’m a museum nerd, so I love working with them."
It’s the corporate workshops that account for the majority of Richard’s time. As team building sessions, they offer many advantages.
"Obviously they’re a very different option. They’re very creative and tactile; you’re not just sat listening to a lecture – you’re involved. Even when we do virtual sessions, we send each participant a kit so they can take part at their desk. Ultimately, it’s light-hearted and fun!"
They can be used as training sessions, entertainment for corporate clients, or – in one instance – as a post-covid introduction for team members who’d never met in person.
"It’s about using Lego to build a story people can engage with. It can be a really great way to breakdown complex information, and have the participants – literally – put it together themselves."
While it may appear to be a business unlike any other, at its core, Bricks McGee is in the design and manufacturing industry. As such, Richard has encountered similar industry pressures as any other company.
"Brexit is making it harder to get parts! We order in bulk from Europe, but we’re now restricted in how much we can get in one go."
Despite these difficulties, Bricks McGee is thriving. Richard travels around the country to deliver workshops, and it’s impossible not to admire someone who’s taken a passion, and built it – brick by brick – into a successful business.