Leamington and Warwick COVID business ‘heroes’ – finalists announced

Leamington and Warwick COVID business ‘heroes’ – finalists announced

THE finalists for the COVID Resilience Awards have been announced, after judges deliberated over their ‘toughest ever selection process.’

The decisions follow scores of nominations for the preliminary phase of the new Leamington Business Awards which recognises COVID Business Resilience, Business Pivoting and Lockdown Heroes of 2020.

Established in 2014, the LBAs champion and celebrate the work of local businesses, individuals and organisations while also raising vital funds for local charities, culminating with, pandemic willing, a glittering black-tie ceremony next year.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith

The three finalists in each category are:

2020 BUSINESS RESILIENCE AWARD: This award will go to a business that has demonstrated determination and resilience throughout the pandemic and tackled challenges head-on.

CJ’s Events, Warwick (Market and event organiser)

Rhythm Time, Warwickshire (Baby, toddler and pre-school music classes)

Get Cooking (Cooking workshops)


BUSINESS PIVOT AWARD: This category is open to any business that can demonstrate how they have ‘pivoted’ their product or service during 2020, ie. adapted their offering for new or existing customers, thus allowing their business to survive – and even thrive.

Bitelli’s, Leamington (family-run stone-baked pizza business)

Heartbreak Productions, Leamington (Outdoor theatre production company)

Acorn Academy Coaching, Leamington (life and wellbeing coach)


LOCKDOWN HERO: This award recognises the Leamington business that has gone ‘above and beyond’ during 2020. The business may have provided products to vulnerable groups free of charge, offered their services pro-bono to struggling local businesses or individuals, or spread positivity during challenging times. In this category, one can either self-nominate, or nominate another business.

The Barn Kitchen, Leamington (tearoom that is now Enchanted Events)

Goode Construction and Landscaping Group, Leamington

Baabzi Takeaway, Warwick (Indian takeaway)

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards, Jonathan Smith, Talk Business UK
Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK

Jonathan Smith, of organisers Talk Business UK, said: ”We have been totally overwhelmed by the quality of the entries for these special awards to recognise the businesses, organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond in their response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“The judges have never had such a challenging time choosing the finalists and winners from the inspiring entries received. We will look to recognise all the entries over the coming weeks as they are all worthy of celebration!”

The COVID-friendly interactive event will be broadcast live online from Noisegate Media Studio in Leamington on December 11th, hosted by local DJ and professional event host, Kirsty Leahy and featuring a special message from Matt Western MP for Warwick and Leamington.

The nine finalists will each receive an Awards Night Hamper at home containing food, drinks and goodies to help make the night extra special for everyone.

The judges are Mark Ashfield, MD for chartered accountants and financial advisors Harrison Beale & Owen; Sarah Windrum, CEO Emerald Group and CWLEP Board member; Louise Richards of Motionhouse dance circus production company and Roger Scott, Area Director South Midlands for Lloyds SME.

Sponsors include HB&O, Lodders solicitors and The Box Factory but more are invited to get onboard by contacting Jonathan Smith at: leamingtonbusinessawards@gmail.com or jon@talkbusinessuk.co.uk He is also interested in hearing from businesses willing to donate items for the award hampers.

Jonathan said: ”With the challenges and restrictions that the current COVID crisis has given us we decided to postpone the main full Business Awards to early 2021 but felt it was perfect timing to recognise the inspiring effort and achievements many have made with their businesses and their communities.”

Nominations for the main Leamington Business Awards will open on January 21st 2021 when businesses have the opportunity to enter 12 categories: New Business of the Year; Business and Community Award; Customers Service Excellence Award; Young Person of the Year Award, Employer of the Year; South Warwickshire Achievement of the Year; Innovation of the Year; Outstanding Achievement of the Year; Independent Business of the Year; Property Business of the Year, Warwick District Charity of the Year and The People’s Choice Award.

A winner from all the categories will also be selected for the prestigious Judges’ Choice Award – Business of the Year.

Further details about the awards categories and how to nominate are available at: www.leamingtonbusinessawards.co.uk

Dog trainer takes the lead to help Christmas toys campaign

Dog trainer takes the lead to help Christmas toys campaign

A DOG trainer in Warwick has taken the fundraising lead to help bring some festive spirit to hospitalised children this Christmas – despite the pandemic.

Andy O’Brien, who runs The K9 Club, has joined forces with Molly Olly’s Wishes – even pledging to dye his hair pink – the colour of the charity – if they hit the £2,000 target.

Molly Olly's Wishes, K9 Club, Any O'Brien, Rachel Ollerenshaw, Molly Ollerenshaw, toys
Andy O’Brien of The K9 Club

Andy said: “We want to give children the best Christmas ever after this crazy year. We are trying to raise as much as we can to buy toys and wrap them up for the children stuck in hospitals over Christmas.

“We know times are hard at the moment and any amount will help to make a child’s Christmas that little bit better. Our Hatton Park neighbours, Molly Olly’s Wishes, do an amazing job and we are so happy to be teaming up with them.”

The charity was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Molly Olly’s mascot is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Part of more than £2.5m raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Molly Olly’s are so lucky to be surrounded by a great community and Andy and his team are very much a part of that.

“Molly Olly’s were approached by our local community nursing team to see if we could help organise gifts for seriously ill children as the normal Christmas party run by the nurses is unable to go ahead this year. The charity is putting together gift boxes which Andy heard about and wanted to help by contributing toys.

“A variety of items will be put together to make a special gift box and delivered to families in December. Big thanks to Andy and all those that have supported him to help us bring some smiles in these challenging times.”

Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw
Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw with the familiar Molly Olly’s pink van.

She added: “Thanks to the following companies for their support – Kilby Packaging, West Mercia, Bayliss and Harding, SCC, K9, New Horizon Logistics and to all the Molly Olly Volunteers for helping to wrap and deliver all the gifts.”

The gifts will be delivered to families by community nurses mid-December. To donate to the crowdfunding page visit: Crowdfunding to to buy Christmas presents for children with Molly Olly’s Wishes on JustGiving

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk

Molly Olly’s Wishes need the support of companies and individuals to enable us to help more children. We welcome the opportunity to provide more information about our work. Please help us to make those dark days brighter. For details contact Rachel on 07747 854914.

Fundraisers have high hopes that Virtual Balloon Race takes off for local charities

Fundraisers have high hopes that Virtual Balloon Race takes off for local charities

TWO Midlands rotary clubs are hoping to give fundraising a lift after lockdown when their joint initiative takes off for local charities.

Members of Knowle & Dorridge and Redditch Kingfisher Clubs are inviting people to compete in a Virtual Balloon Race in which a host of prizes are up for grabs, including £500 for the winner.

For £3 per ticket, competitors can design their own balloon to get it race-ready for 12pm on Christmas Day before then tracking it on its seven-day journey from Santa’s Village in Lapland.

The proceeds will be divided equally between Molly Olly’s Wishes in Warwick and the Public Access Defibrillator Project, working with the Community Heartbeat Trust to fund more community defibrillators and CPR training in Redditch.

Colin Winstone

Colin Winstone, President of Rotary Club in Knowle and Dorridge added: “It’s vital we continue to raise money for our charities – and the virtual balloon race means that we can reach out far and wide to help us raise money. It’s all online, but it’s lots of fun, it’s totally environmentally friendly and it appeals to adults and kids alike – we’re really hoping people will enter into the Christmas spirit and help us raise money for such worthwhile causes. It’s our first go at this, but we hope it will be real success.”

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

Molly Olly’s Wishes, based in Warwick, works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Part of more than £2.5m raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Molly Olly’s, like so many other charities have found the period since March very tough as many of our key events have been cancelled and we have seen a reduction in donations as a result. This is at a time when we have also seen an increase in demand for our services.

“In October we had a 30% increase in requests for wishes and we distributed over 800 Olly’s and books to hospitals and individuals. “The virtual balloon race is a really simple and fun, low cost idea that anyone can take part in . Maybe people could give instead of Christmas cards or perhaps it could be a stocking filler, or just fun for the family on Christmas Day to take part in.

“We are extremely grateful to Knowle & Dorridge and Redditch Kingfisher Rotary Clubs for their support in organising.”

Redditch Kingfisher Rotary have got behind the cause to expand the number of Public Access Defibrillators in Redditch to ensure that life-saving equipment gets into as many local community spaces as possible. There are 3,400 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year in the West Midlands, from which only 1 in 8 people survive.

Further information is available by visiting: www.communityheartbeat.org.uk

Honor Keatley

Martin Fagan, National Secretary of The Community Heartbeat Trust, said: “It’s been great to work with Redditch Kingfisher on their ambition to get a Public Access Defibrillator into all parts of Redditch. We bring expertise on installations and ongoing management of defibrillators, and they bring vital fundraising and community engagement and awareness. It’s a partnership that we look forward to developing further to benefit the Redditch community.”

Honor Keatley, President of Redditch Kingfisher Rotary said: “This year has been incredibly difficult for everyone, and Rotary Clubs have found that our usual ways of getting out in to the community, volunteering, and running fundraising activities have simply had to stop because of the pandemic.

“The problems and the causes are still there though, so now we are thinking about how we can do things differently.”

To take part in the Virtual Balloon Race visit: www.tinyurl.com/ChristmasBalloon

Debut novel takes readers to Rugby the day after Coventry Blitz

Debut novel takes readers to Rugby the day after Coventry Blitz

Rugby author Steve Gay is celebrating the timely launch of his evocative debut novel in the month of the 80th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.

Inspired by long-told tales from his own family history, The Birds That Do Not Sing is set on the day after the World War II city bombings campaign, through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy from a pacifist family in neighbouring Rugby.

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

And the new historical fiction has already attracted positive reviews following its release last week.

Steve said: “I wanted to give readers a vivid and authentic sense of time and place, from my father’s memory of watching the German bombers overhead, Coventry burning on the horizon, and all the everyday details that framed a wartime childhood.”

He added: “There is still a rich oral history living around us, but the generation with first-hand memories of the war is slipping away from us. I hope this story will cause readers to explore their own family history, to unearth the stories and cherish them before they are gone forever.”

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

The launch, timed around the anniversary of the bombings on Saturday, marks a proud moment for the recently retired financial services director who reconnected with his love of writing whilst on his daily commute to London.

But it was while graduating from Warwick University’s highly regarded Warwick Writer’s Programme two years ago that his current novel began to take shape.

Moved by his father’s accounts from one of the darkest times in history, the book has been hailed as a brilliant and emotive literary arrival for the former Dunsmore Boys School student who is one of four generations of a Rugby family that stretches back to before the first world war.

Steve, 59, explained: “The central character, Jimmy, is trying to make sense of an adults’ war. He’s struggling to comprehend the mixed messages, the shifting opinions, the competing loyalties, the opposing expectations, trying to work out what it all means, particularly given that he lives in a controversial family of militant socialists, pacifists, atheists and conscientious objectors.

“It’s a book about the traumas we all suffer. It’s about the guilt that we carry, the secrets we keep, the redemption that we crave – those human adversities, qualities and frailties and how they follow us through life.”

He added: “What I described in the book are some of the real pressures my father experienced but you have to paint the truth and mould it into something more fictional as well if you’re going to create the pace that a novel requires.”

One real – and familiar – local feature of the story however, is another of Steve’s central – and personified – characters, the concrete elephant.

Built by his engineer grandfather before the start of the war, the ornamental water feature could be found for four decades on the A5, where it had been placed by the Asquith family who purchased it in 1938.

But, after many years of wondering what became of the oft-mentioned elephant, it was recently tracked down by Steve – a mere mile from his home!

He said: “In the book I have turned the elephant into a character – a confidante for the protagonist to help him try and make sense of what is happening.

“I was telling a friend about it recently who said they had spotted it in the front garden of a house just around the corner. I knocked on the door in March, much as the character does in the book, and spoke to the homeowner about it. I’m hoping when COVID is over my father will be able to go round and reacquaint himself with the elephant that he remembers as a child!“

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

Buoyed by the early reviews of The Birds That Don’t Sing, Steve is already looking ahead to the next chapter in his new literary career, the first in a science fiction trilogy, planned for release next summer.

For now though he is hoping that his debut novel will help set him on the path to writing success, but, most of all, that it resonates with his new army of readers.

“I never started with the ambition of publishing anything, I simply knew I wanted to write a story. But as you get into these things you start to set your sights a bit higher and become more ambitious,” he said.

“It is lovely to hear that other people are reading it and getting some enjoyment out of it already. That’s all you can ask as a writer. And if readers are talking between themselves about issues within the book that provoke discussion, then that’s important as well.

“The story isn’t really yours. Once it’s published it’s for the reader to decide what it is about and what it means to them.”

It’s a milestone too for Charles, now 90, who has given his son’s efforts the seal of approval.

Steve said: “The biggest compliment I’ve been paid – or ever will be paid – about this book, is from my father who said it’s caused him to understand his childhood in a way that he previously hadn’t.”

The Birds That Do Not Sing is available to order from book shops as well as online. It is also available as an e-book on Amazon.

For more information, visit the official website: https://rookabbeypress.com

Restaurateur vows new business will survive and thrive despite second pandemic lockdown

Restaurateur vows new business will survive and thrive despite second pandemic lockdown

THE OWNER of a new Warwickshire restaurant which suffered huge delays to its opening, has vowed it’s here to stay despite hanging up the closed sign for the start of a second national lockdown this week.

We Love Pizza finally launched in September despite taking over the lease of the Leamington unit in February – and although, due to the pandemic, the restaurant is closed again to diners from today, entrepreneur Jose Ribeiro says he’ll fight hard to protect his business in the weeks ahead.

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality
Jose Ribeiro at his restaurant in Regent Street, Leamington

But it’s a battle he claims the industry should not be having to face again.

Jose, 50, said: “When this latest lockdown was announced on Saturday my first thought was ‘here we go again.’ Eight months down the line and we still have the same sorry state of affairs. How can we still be going through the same stages and using the same measures? Nothing has changed and this is something that I struggle to accept.

“We have followed all the scientific evidence but where are the lessons learned? There has not been enough evolution or changes put into place to allow us to effectively tackle this situation. The Government is just resorting to closing the industry again. The businesses that suffer the most from the first lockdown are going to be the ones who suffer the most again.”

He added: “I feel it is frustrating to say the least that we’re not further down the line with the process. We can’t control how the virus spreads but what we could have done is to put procedures in place that would have allowed us to this time take less prohibitive actions, being more targeted and more focused, rather than just shutting down the whole sector again.

“I can’t accept the argument that hospitality businesses are COVID super spreaders because the stats show different. Public Health figures state just 2% of the cases have come from the hospitality sector.

“A lot of businesses have gone to a great deal of effort to minimise their risk, while there are some businesses out there who are disregarding the measures because the owners are irresponsible – only these should be the ones we’re targeting for closure. There are lots of businesses operating very safely and are very conscious of the welfare of their customers and staff but we’re all being penalised.”

Jose is certainly no stranger to the hospitality and entertainment industries, having worked as a consultant for the last 26 years, his projects atking him around the world, including New Zealand, Australia and the USA. But it while working as general manager at Leamington’s Bedford Street live music venue for the last three years, that he aspired to open his first restaurant.

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality

He said: “My partner Geanina and I always wanted to open our own concept, something that we could establish as a brand and could scale. We believe that pizza is a simple product but when it’s done with care and love and the right ingredients and with the right processes in place, it can be delicious, but healthy as well.

“Geanina and I are big pizza fans and so the name of the restaurant was an obvious choice, We Love Pizza.”

The ambitious entrepreneur prides himself on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to his customers by using only the best and most nutritious flour combinations and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough. Fresh ingredients, sourced directly from Italy as well as locally, are prepared by a team of five chefs from four corners of the globe.

But as Jose contemplates the uncertainty of the weeks ahead, he pledges to work even harder to get his product to people’s tables with a new army of delivery drivers, click and collect system and two brand new offers for lockdown – Rule of Six Package (six pizzas delivered for £36) and Pizza and Prosecco (starter, two pizzas, Nutella and Strawberry Pizza dessert and bottle of Prosecco delivered for £35).

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality
Jose Ribeiro, Geanina Lacraru and team

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality

And neither has the ongoing pandemic diminished his long-term vision for the We Love Pizza brand, with ambitious plans to open five more restaurants in the Midlands over the next three years.

Jose said: “We want to grow organically and eventually also hope to take our concept and brand to other towns such as Rugby, Stratford, Coventry, Solihull and Oxford.”

In the meantime, it’s business – almost – as usual for team, who are keen to establish a valuable role for their restaurant in the local community.


He said: “I want to create a social enterprise so there will be a charitable element to what we do as well. We want to use our food to impact positively on society and people’s lives so are looking to work with charities which can benefit from our surplus food at the end of each day.

“As well as hospitality operators we are human beings and my partner and I want to become positive members of the local community. We have that obligation to help people out that need us, especially right now.”