CRSO Sponsors Bowden and Lowe Opticians

The CRSO’s orchestral manager, Lis Sadler, had an appointment with Bowden and Lowe Opticians in Gillingham recently. Bowden and Lowe are CRSO sponsors, and Lis took the opportunity to talk to Tim and Lis Bowden about the shop and their relationship with the CRSO.
Bowden and Lowe Shop in Gillingham
Bowden and Lowe Shop in Gillingham
Here is Lis’s report of her visit:

A Visit to Bowden and Lowe Opticians

As soon as I entered the shop, Lis Bowden, Principal Double Bassist of the CRSO, welcomed me and settled me down for my eye test. We were happily chatting about the orchestra, but the test wasn’t going so well for me; Lis put some huge letters on the wall and shutting one of my eyes, but I couldn’t see very much! I kept rubbing my eye, saying ‘sorry Lis, I think I have something in my eye…’ until she tactfully moved on to the other eye. At the end of the test, she told me that for the first time in my life I would be needing two sets of glasses; one for near vision and one for distance vision. I’m now officially old! My left eye can see perfectly into the distance, and my right eye can read very well, but my brain is getting different information from the two eyes, which is quite tiring.
Afterwards, Lis’s husband Tim helped me to choose two pairs of glasses. This is the worst part for me as I get anxious about having to find the perfect, good-value pair that suits me, but when I’m under pressure I can’t actually tell what I like. Tim was a model of patience and tried his best to reassure me. He was also happy to advise and I ended up going with what he thought suited me. I’m very happy with both of my choices! As you will read below, Tim also told me a lot about the shop and its history.

Interview with Tim Bowden

LS: Can you tell me a bit more about Bowden and Lowe?
TB: We bought the Gillingham practice in 2006, having previously owned practices since 1983 in Gravesend and Herne Bay. The Watling Street practice was originally established by Kenneth Beveridge in 1934 when this parade was first built and it has been an opticians practice ever since. We are the fourth incarnation.
LS: What makes you different from other opticians?
TB: We are now an endangered species as we are a fully independent practice with no head office to satisfy. We can deal with any manufacturer of our choice to give us the best quality and the best service. Lis and I have both been qualified for more years than we care to mention, so with that comes a vast degree of experience. My speciality is contact lenses and in 2009 I published the first and only complete history of the development of contact lenses (see here).
Tim Bowden, Optician
Tim Bowden, Optician

LS: How long have you been supporting the CRSO and why?
TB: We have been advertising in the concert programmes from around 1984 and been a sponsor for about 5 years. Lis joined the Rochester Arts Orchestra, the forerunner of the CRSO, around 1974 playing in the bass section. She has been the assistant treasurer for many years and for a short time I was the orchestra’s social secretary. Both our children, who are bass players, have played at one time or another with the orchestra and Norman Lowe, Lis’s father, still plays in the viola section.
LS: What do you like best about the orchestra?
TB: It means I have Monday nights at home on my own when Lis and her dad are out playing!
LS: What advice would you give to a musician about their eyesight?
TB: Really the same advice we would give to anyone, which is to have regular eye examinations at least every two years for adults and very six months for children. Over 80% of what we do at home, work or play is visual. If you cannot see very well this does increase the stresses and strains of modern daily life and impacts on your quality of life. Good lighting is important plus good ultra violet light protection in bright sunlight. Eating your 5 a day certainly impacts on general as well as optical health whereas smoking is the biggest detrimental effect not only on general health but it has been shown to be the biggest factor regarding the onset of macular degeneration. (Cheese is very good for vision; how many mice do you know who wear glasses…?)
LS: What do you pay attention to when a musician comes in for an eye examination?
TB: Pretty much the same as for any patient. We want to establish what they are doing with regard to occupation, sports, hobbies and pastimes and any previous medication or treatments that they may be receiving. With musicians we would want to know what instrument/s they play, whether solo or in groups or orchestras and whether they share stands and how far away the stand is. The requirements for say a solo flute would be different to a double bass player or a church organist. All have their specific requirements due to age, posture, how far the music is away and other factors. We have had players bring in their instrument, music and stand so this helps enormously. So far we have not had anyone bring in a piano or church organ; thankfully! Musicians may require different spectacles for playing as opposed to ordinary, everyday uses. The main factor is that we are all individuals and we need the right solution for that person.

A lovely visit

I honestly don’t understand how anyone could want to go to a busy High Street chain, when they can have such a relaxing and pleasant experience at Bowden and Lowe. I will definitely be back, and the location is good, too; on the A2 in Gillingham, very close to the music shop. Thank you for your time, your expertise, and your support of the CRSO Tim and Lis!

2 Comments on “CRSO Sponsors Bowden and Lowe Opticians

  1. As a church organist I can confirm how much care they take to ensure that my playing glasses are correct. We did not have to take the organ into the shop, but care was taken to establish the correct height and distance and I now have a very efficient set of spectacles for playing. My only complaint is that I no longer have failure to see the music as an excuse for the wrong notes. If you are a musician and you go to Bowden and Lowe you know that they will sort out the correct glasses for you. If you go elsewhere do make sure that they understand your specific requirements – having the right glasses makes so much difference.

  2. John and Lis, I can only tell any reader of this post that you are absolutely correct. Liz and Tim are very understanding of sight problems for musicians. My husband Bill and I got our spectacles from them in the 80s. . I have never had any cause to complain about the specs they sold me. Whereas other people have told me about all kinds of problems they have had with other opticians and the glasses they were sold. I just hope they don`t think of retiring yet!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *