We returned to Glastonbury’s Dilliway & Dilliway recently and fell in love with this gorgeous shop all over again. We got the feeling that this was a business with a story so we asked owners, Terry and Janey Dilliway to tell us a bit more about how they got started and what it’s like running a business in Somerset’s most colourful High Street.
Your Glastonbury shop is beautiful – how long have you been there and do you know much about the history of the building?
We bought the building 14/15 years ago. At that time, only the ground floor was used for retail with the upper floors given over to storage for another shop on the High Street. The two rooms on the middle floor were stuffed full of sheepskin coats and the top floor was racked out with Wellington boots. Previously it had been a surf shop, an estate agents, a piano shop and offices to all sorts. We know from the deeds that at one time the top floor was a natural light photographer’s studio called Tully's.
What first interested you in the idea of importing textiles and furniture from India?
Originally Terry opened a shop selling housewares and jewellery from all over – Africa, Bali, Thailand, South America, as well as India – and over time the other countries fell away as our interest waned and our absolute passion for India grew. We wanted to create a destination for all things Indian – old and new – from a bar of sandalwood soap to a pair of original hand-carved doors.
We understand that you travel to India regularly to buy personally from the makers. Can you tell us about the suppliers you deal with and conjure up a picture for us of what awaits when you arrive?
We travel to India twice a year – three weeks at a time. They are small, family operations, very much, and we still deal with people we met 20 years ago, who know what we're looking for. The scene that greets us is often a little excitable – lots of namastes to everyone, then the air con or ceiling fan gets switched on – thank God! We always exchange updates on business, then the children and grandchildren. Somebody is sent out to buy chai which often comes back in a knotted plastic bag. The corner is snipped and the chai is poured into tiny plastic cups. It can be quite a wait and no proper business is done before chai. Five hours later, we're knee deep in textiles and samples and bits of paper and wobbly piles of ‘yesses’ and then we go back the next day and do it all again! One of our suppliers likes us to take him boiled sweets – Murray Mints, Foxes Glacier Fruits – and he also likes a knife! French-made camping knives. Terry receives several texted reminders before we embark on a trip, and when we leave the house to drive to Heathrow, the ritual panic goes... passports, tickets, Pappu’s knife?
When we are in Delhi, we use the Metro. It means we can happily stay outside the city centre and avoid the crazy Delhi traffic. It’s spotlessly clean, air-conditioned, super-efficient and costs around £1 a day. There is a whole etiquette regarding seating on the trains – one I cannot fathom but when it's really busy I (Janey) am sometimes offered the seat for the elderly!
Terry, being a professional photographer when you first acquired the Glastonbury shop, we understand that you originally had other ideas for the top floor. Can you tell us about that?
I was a professional photographer working from a studio near the British Museum in London. I was working on large format 10 × 8" and 5 × 4" colour transparencies. I was freelance and thought I could save a fortune on rent doing it from Glastonbury in the natural light studio I'd just acquired! Then digital photography took over – suddenly everyone's a photographer and the type of work I did fell away. It was the boot up the bum that I needed to properly focus on the shop. We had no problem filling the space as I had perhaps feared. Just a little bit further to carry the stock!
Glastonbury is a town like no other. What is it like being part of such a unique community?
We're very fierce in our love of Glastonbury. It has been our community for over 30 years. We are proud of our town and the fact that so many independent businesses occupy premises on the High Street. All of them have contributed to turning Glastonbury – along with the famous landscape and myths and legends – into a real destination. It’s not uncommon for Merlyn or someone in full Sedgemoor battle re-enactment regalia to pop in for a packet of incense. We have faerie balls and May Day parades, zombie walks and an annual, world-renowned Goddess Conference. You can attend lectures and workshops on every aspect of the esoteric and spiritual practices that you can imagine (and also, probably those you cannot). Or you can ignore all that and head to some of Glastonbury's great live music venues. There are so many activities going on, in and around Glastonbury every weekend and they are so well supported. It's incredible! Check out the Oracle, a free magazine. That's an education for the first-time visitor! We frequently have new customers ask us if Glastonbury is “always like this.” When we ask what they mean, they say, “So friendly.” Everyone is so nice. Our youngest daughter once said, "I love Glastonbury on a Saturday – it's like being on holiday." Job done I'd say!
Here at SOME SUCH magazine, we like to ask the following question as the answer usually speaks volumes: For the benefit of those who are yet to visit your shop, let’s imagine you are making a TV commercial; how would the voice-over describe Dilliway & Dilliway?
Stepping inside D & D is an instant multi-sensory experience. The incense probably gets you first and then the riot of colours and textures is hard to ignore. Add to that Terry's albums of the day and that's.... us. Hello! And most welcome you are to browse the embroidered textiles, marble, brass and stone deities, kantha stitched cottons and silks on the ground floor. Follow the winding stairs to two more rooms of handmade furniture – cupboards and low tables, salvaged windows and doors, carved stone sconces, old framed pictures and dazzling wall-hangings. Up the stairs again to more furniture, rag rugs, tribal and contemporary cushions and indigo dyed quilts. Glance upwards and hanging from the entire ceiling are bejewelled, hand painted glass light shades in all colours, shapes and sizes. Our shop is a display of Indian skills and craftsmanship, and our passion and appreciation for the work of our friends. We are more than happy to invite one and all to enjoy it with us.
Dilliway & Dilliway
19 High Street
Somerset BA6 8SY
Dilliway & Dilliway is a SOME SUCH magazine stockist (from March 2017).