Egg-straordinary effort to spread cheer this Easter

Egg-straordinary effort to spread cheer this Easter

A WARWICK charity is helping to bring some seasonal cheer to poorly children over the Easter period.

Molly Olly’s Wishes has been busy delivering more than 300 chocolate eggs and teddies to community nurses and volunteers at South Warwickshire Foundation Trust Community Children’s Nursing Team for distribution to children across the area.

The eggs haul comes courtesy of Warwickshire Freemasons and staff at international automotive manufacturing company Grupo Antolin, which has local sites in Warwick and Coventry.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw, Warwickshire Freemasons, Easter eggs
Peter Hall and Rachel Ollerenshaw with Olly The Brave and eggs.

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.

The charity 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.

Mascot of the charity 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 very grateful to both Grupo Antolin and Peter Manning and the members of the Warwickshire Freemasons for all the eggs and teddies that they have very kindly donated. It gives us all a lot of pleasure to see the big smiles when the eggs are delivered.

“Simple gifts can lift children’s spirits when they are facing very challenging circumstances and it lets them know that people are thinking about them. This is an initiative that the charity have done for many years and both the nurses and families are very grateful to receive them.”

The Warwickshire Freemasons, which have presented a total of £150,000 to local charities throughout the pandemic, have now also donated more than 3,500 eggs to, among others, Acorns Hospice, Warwick Refuge, Shipston Food Bank, The Salvation Army and Coventry Haven.

Peter Manning, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, said: “Molly Olly’s a super local charity that does a tremendous amount of good and because they run it themselves and have very few overheads, you know that all the money goes where you want it to go.

“We would like to say a big thank you to Morrison’s Store at the Alvis Retail Park in Coventry who provided the eggs at a very special discounted rate and who are therefore helping to make a huge difference to these children.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at:

Belgrade Theatre to reopen its doors on May 17th

Belgrade Theatre to reopen its doors on May 17th

The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – the UK City of Culture for 2021 – is to reopen its doors to the public on 17th May – the first day that the government’s roadmap allows – with socially distanced audiences able to enjoy Joe Pasquale and Sarah Earnshaw in John Godber’s April in Paris, which kicks off its UK tour at the Belgrade.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Those first audience members through the doors will also be able to enjoy the brand-new upstairs Café Bar Nineteen58 and newly refurbished downstairs Belgrade Café which has been created in the building as part of the £5.5m 2020 Redevelopment Project for the theatre; as well as the enhanced food and beverage offering, this has provided new spaces for audiences, visitors and additional capacity for workshops and community groups.

Prior to this, from 12th April, The Belgrade Café will be offering a full range of locally sourced food and drink for patrons to takeaway and enjoy on tables outside the theatre on Belgrade Square. The refurbishment was inspired by and named after the theatre’s founding year and is decorated with vintage show posters and artwork from across the decades.

Above and right: The new-look cafe (Artist’s impression by Corstorphine + Wright Architects)

Coventry, Belgrade Theatre, cafeThe Belgrade is Coventry’s largest professional theatre, producing and presenting a diverse range of shows, events and ground-breaking community and education initiatives. In its landmark building, across the region, the UK and online, it uses theatre to entertain, inspire, share the city’s stories, uncover hidden histories, and unleash the creativity of diverse communities.

Joanna Reid, Executive Director of the Belgrade, said, “The whole team can’t wait to reopen on 17 May and to welcome shows and audiences back into our two auditoria as soon as possible.  We are delighted that we are launching a tour of APRIL IN PARIS on Monday 17 May and are continuing to work to secure more shows during May to August. We’re excited that we’ve been able to complete our 2020 Redevelopment in time for City of Culture despite the challenges posed by both the pandemic and Brexit.  We hope to see you back at the Belgrade soon!

Following April in Paris, the Belgrade continues to book in performances at short notice and audiences will be able to enjoy an eclectic mix of music, theatre and comedy  over the summer months The theatre’s digital offerings also continue: Jabala and the Jinn, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Private Peaceful and the MT Festival UK will stream at various times between the end of March and the beginning of June.

The UK Asian Film Festival will also be hosted at the venue, with socially distanced audiences watching five film premieres in the Belgrade’s B2 auditorium, including the world premiere of Beatles and India. These films have been selected by five Coventry locals, after training in film curation. The UK Asian Film Festival celebrates the art of storytelling extending from ancient oral traditions to tales told in today’s digital age, giving wings to South Asian roots since 1997. This year’s programming theme is Ray of Hope to mark the birth centenary of Satyajit Ray. The film choices reflect the shift in power that bring hope to the lives of the protagonists. Further details to be announced.

An autumn season of non-socially distanced work from 1 September will be announced on 1st June.

A key partner of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, the Belgrade Theatre’s 2021 programme is being delivered by three diverse artists under the role of Co-Artistic Directors alongside members of the local community.  Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen are developing a new vision and way of working for a 21st Century Theatre, bringing with them a unique perspective that celebrates the City’s diversity and drives positive change.

As well as directing the City of Culture opening event, Coventry Moves, Justine Themen has commissioned a brand-new digital version of Like There’s No Tomorrow (Weds 19 May – Sun 13 June 2021), one of the first National Theatre Connections plays to be specifically commissioned for and created by young people. Originally devised by Belgrade Youth Theatre in March 2020, in 2021 it will amplify the voices of Coventry’s young people and their views on climate change, across the country. The Belgrade will also be hosting the region’s NT Connections Festival this summer, showcasing work by local youth theatres across the West Midlands.

The new Roundabout pop-up theatre

Another cornerstone of the City of Culture programme, The Belgrade will co-present with Paines Plough, a festival of new world-class plays and community-led activities in the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre Roundabout (Monday 26 July – Sunday 8 August 2021). Balisha Karra will direct Coventry based playwright Frankie Meredith’s May Queen, and the other plays that will be played in repertory throughout the festival are Hungry by Chris Bush, Really Big and Really Loud by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, with music by Ben and Max Ringham.

Belgrade Theatre, Seaview, Coventry
A scene from Seaview

Filming has also begun on SeaView, an original digital series developed by Strictly Arts Theatre Company and Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd using theatre techniques, conceived before Covid-19 took the world of theatre online, and directed by Corey Campbell. Inspired by a true story, and lived experiences, SeaView is a supernatural drama centred on urban, working class communities in the Midlands. It follows the story of Steven, a high-flying university student who appears to have a bright future ahead of him… Release dates and further information to be announced shortly.

Whilst – as with so many theatres across the country during 2020– The Belgrade wasn’t able to present live work on stage during much of the year, the whole team worked hard to keep engaging with local audiences and communities. The theatre rapidly adapted to making its offerings digital, including taking their annual pantomime online – Jack and the Beanstalk was watched by 55,600 people in the UK and in 25 countries across the world. The team behind the theatre’s renowned participation programme Click Spring also continued to offer workshops, Summer School and Acting Classes over Zoom. They also kept engaging with audiences on social media, including Facebook pub quizzes and online play-reading groups, and created podcasts, education packs and Spotify musical theatre playlists.

Councillor David Welsh, from Coventry City Council, said, ““There has been so much work happening throughout the Covid outbreak to improve facilities at the Belgrade Theatre and I am really pleased that they can now take the first tentative steps by announcing what future productions they will be able to host. I want to thank all those involved for the hard work they have put into getting the Belgrade Theatre ready, and I wish the theatre every success.”

Restaurateur marks Covid anniversary with Local Legends campaign

Restaurateur marks Covid anniversary with Local Legends campaign

TO MARK a year since the first lockdown, a Leamington restaurateur wants to say a special thank you to local unsung heroes who have made a positive difference in their community.

Through his new Local Legends Campaign, Jose Ribeiro, of We Love Pizza, aims to reward six people who live or work in the Warwickshire, area, with a feast of pizza.

Between May and October, each winner will be presented with a WLP voucher for £120 to be used throughout the following month.

It might be someone who has gone that extra mile to help their isolated neighbours, launched an initiative to help emergency workers or made a huge difference to an individual’s life by a simple – but significant – act of kindness.

Jose, whose restaurant has been closed more than open since it launched in September last year, wants to give something back to the community that has supported his business throughout those months.

He said: “We are so grateful for the kindness and support that’s been shown at such difficult times, both to everyone in general and the hospitality industry.

“We are passionate about celebrating our local legends and highlighting the kindness, courage, humanity or ingenuity they have shown during the Coronavirus pandemic. These are core values that are very close to our brand and ethos and we hope will make us better as a society for the future.”

We Love Pizza, Local Legends
Detroit Pizza is available from WLP from mid-April.

The Local Legends Campaign also marks the launch, next month, of the latest addition to We Love Pizza’s handcrafted Detroit style pizza line – as they bring Detroit to Leamington.

A recipe that’s been popular in the Motor City of America since 1946, Detroit style pizza is made from a traditional thick, light and airy Sicilian style dough.

 The key ingredient in a proper Detroit-style pizza, however, isn’t the ingredients – but rather the pan itself! The characteristics of the square pizza – soft and airy square crust, crunchy exterior and caramelised cheese – are due to the thick steel deep pans in which they are baked. These pans were originally used to transport parts on the car assembly lines – and have been specially imported to the restaurant from the States for a truly authentic Detroit pizza experience.

Jose Ribeiro hands over some of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Monique Khaira, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen.
We Love Pizza co-owner Jose Ribeiro.

Jose said: “We are always on the hunt here in Leamington, for the best pizzas in the world, and take pride in bringing innovation to the market.

 “Countless hours were spent testing and perfecting every detail here to create our take on Detroit-Style pizza. The caramelised cheese crust and the sauce on top take the taste to the next level.”

He added: “We also pride ourselves on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to customers by using only the best and most nutritious flour combinations and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough.

“While perfection is impossible, great things can happen if you pursue it with passion. It’s that constant ‘quest for perfection’ that is the essence of We Love Pizza.”

The restaurant, which hopes to reopen on May 17th, is still offering a delivery and click and collect service seven days week from 12 midday to 10pm. Orders can be made via a click and collect app, downloadable from the We Love Pizza website or for delivery (£1.50 for orders over £15.) There is also a £10 discount on all orders over £25 from first-time customers.

To nominate a We Love Pizza Local Legend, just tell us their name, email address and where they live and, in no more than 200 words, why you believe they deserve to win. Please also send a photo of them if possible, although this is not essential.

Send it to: by Friday, April 23rd. including Local Legends in the subject line.

Visit We Love Pizza at:

Terms and Conditions: The Local Legends campaign is open to anyone who lives or works in the Warwickshire area. Each winner will be entitled to one £30 voucher per week throughout their chosen month, totalling £120 for the month. The prize cannot be exchanged for its cash value and no correspondence can be entered into. Each voucher can be redeemed for eat-in or takeaway up to the value of £30 a week towards the total spend on anything from the menu but cannot be carried over. Booking is subject to availability. We Love Pizza cannot be held responsible for any future closures due to further COVID-19 restrictions in 2021.

Sleep Pods team appeal for fresh support to help the homeless

Sleep Pods team appeal for fresh support to help the homeless

ROTARY Clubs throughout Warwickshire are urging the community to continue to get behind a pioneering project which is helping rough sleepers.

The call to support the Sleep Pod Charity comes following news this month that the number of deaths on the UK’s streets increased by a third throughout the pandemic.

Heart of England Rotary clubs adopted the initiative, which has produced more than 5,300 pods despite its volunteers facing challenges during the lockdowns.

Heart of England Rotary Club, Sleep Pods, Justin Devereux

They are the brainchild of former Rotarian Justin Devereux and friends Ian Ashby and Pete Kenyon, pictured above, whose time working at a refugee camp in Dunkirk in 2015, inspired them to launch the Sleep Pod charity three years later. After a prolonged design and testing process, they began manufacturing the ground-breaking shelters and distributed them for emergency use on the streets via local charities.

The lightweight, rain and wind-resistant pods are made from double-skin aluminium foil bubble sheeting similar to that used in cavity wall insulation and work by insulating the body’s own heat and have been successfully tested to temperatures as low as -16 degrees.

Justin Devereux is among those who can vouch for these results after personally testing the pods, including spending an entire day in an industrial-sized freezer!

Heart of England Rotary Club, Sleep Pods, Justin Devereux

Justin, who has also trialled them on his local streets of Birmingham, said: “It was a really scary experience. I was actually moved on by a security officer at one point.

“We find it incredibly empowering where we can take volunteers with no experience whatsoever and, in just an hour, show them how to build something that quite literally can provide a major improvement on someone’s living conditions,” said Justin.

“This is something that has been incredibly well received but is so simple as a concept. I don’t think I will ever find anything else that will allow me to have so much of an impact on other people’s lives. Nobody deserves to sleep on the streets.”

More than 2,500 volunteers, including Rotarians, have supported the charity through fundraising as well as becoming Sleep Pod corporate partners and taking part in Build Workshops. But it was when these workshops were forced to adapt during lockdowns, that the highly successful Build At Home Project was born. Around half of the total pods manufactured were produced in this way where volunteers would collect a pack of materials, follow a set of instructions to build them at home and then drop them back at the same location.

Here, Justin and his team would wrap them, add instructions and bag them up before being collected by one of the charity partners or outreach teams, which then distribute them to rough sleepers.

Justin said: “One of the reasons Build At Home has been successful is because people have been able to be productive in the safety of their own home while not going out. It has empowered people to continue to be able to make a difference.

He added: “A sleep pod is not a long-term solution. It is an emergency shelter only. The charity will write their contact details of someone on a sticker which is added to the pod because it’s very important that, as part of the process, Sleep Pod users know there is a charity local to them that can, and will, provide them with accommodation on a more permanent basis.

Heart of England Rotary Club, Sleep Pods, Justin Devereux

“Our vision is that these Pods get built all year round. There is constantly a need somewhere. What we want to be able to achieve is to have enough sleep pods for the people that need them whenever and wherever they are.”

And, as the freezing temperatures abate, local Rotarians are keen to emphasise the need for the workshops to continue in readiness for another busy winter for the Sleep Pod team this year.

Justin said: “We are very much aware we cannot do anything without our volunteers and supporters. We are constantly amazed by how much support we get. And the support from the Rotary is incredibly important,” said Justin.

Heart of England Rotary Club, Sleep Pods, Justin Devereux
The Sleep Pod organisers and volunteers

“We’re very proud of how much work we’ve done but our vision is for, one day, there not to be a need for the sleep pod charity at all. People do not need to die of exposure on the streets – it doesn’t have to be this way. But, for now, a simple, effective solution is available in the Sleep Pod.”

Spokesperson for the Sleep Pod Project for Warwickshire area Rotary Clubs, Terri Morgan, said: “Whether it be fundraising or volunteering their time to help build the pods, Rotarians are committed to helping the homeless within our communities. Please get in touch if you can help in any way.”

For more information on the charity or how to get involved visit their website at:, email them directly at: or call them on 07704713157.

First anniversary marks professional – and personal – milestone

First anniversary marks professional – and personal – milestone

It is with both pride and relief that husband and wife team Richard and Claudia Bramble celebrate the first anniversary of their new business – at the culmination of a year that has brought closure for many others.

The entrepreneurial Leamington couple had to quickly adapt after launching their new private chef and catering service just weeks before the first Covid lockdown.

Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

It’s a particularly personal milestone for fine dining chef Richard, who, after 18 years, vowed to leave restaurant kitchens behind to establish Bramble Dining so he could spend more time with his family. It’s also the result of a childhood promise he made to himself following a sad chapter that he now looks back on as life-defining.

“When I was eight years old I was put into foster care with my nine-year-old brother. My mum had suddenly left the family home,” explains Richard, 35.

“We were supposed to go into foster care for two weeks to give my dad a bit of a break and get work sorted out so he could be at home more because he worked long hours in the busy restaurant industry. But we ended up staying there for nine years.

“I have a lot to thank my foster parents for. They welcomed me and my brother into the family and taught us a lot of values.

“It’s pushed me to want to succeed in life. In that environment I’ve seen a lot of children who have really struggled and ended up going down the wrong route. But I have always had that drive to work and have a family and prove to myself that things can be done the right way.”

The self-taught chef’s love affair with food began aged just 16 when he took on a part-time job as a kitchen porter. He went on to learn new skills while working with chefs at independent Leamington restaurants where he also perfected his favourite English modern and classical French styles.

Bramble Dining, fine dining, catering, COVID-19, lockdown
Bramble Dining works with local holiday accommodation businesses, including, as pictured here, Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe. Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

But, more recently, with the prospect ahead of increasingly long hours and missed time with his sons, now aged four and two, Richard knew it was time to make a change – unaware of the pandemic in waiting.

He said: “I know the strains that working in a professional kitchen can put on a family and the time you end up spending away from them. I really wanted to do something where I could be a success and also have time at home.

“COVID came as a big shock to us just as were getting up and running. We knew we weren’t going to be able to offer private dining. We also had to effectively freeze all the business plans we had, including a search for premises.”

In between lockdowns, the couple collaborated with four holiday accommodation businesses to offer private chef services to guests, including at Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe.

“Guests can enjoy a great restaurant experience by staying where they are and no one has to drive. It’s been incredibly popular,” he said.

Bramble Dining, fine dining, catering, COVID-19, lockdown
Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

Since the Prime Minister’s recent roadmap announcement for easing restrictions, the couple are now looking forward to finally being able to showcase their full range of services to customers, including a full private chef and waiter service. There are three menu options catering for meat and fish lovers, vegans and vegetarians as well as younger diners.

“We’re really passionate about everything we do and believe in the food and service we offer. Hours and hours of work goes into the end products. We understand our clientele and their needs. If a customer comes to us with a request for something obscure we try and make sure we can deliver it.

“We have experience of working in the restaurant trade and know how to successfully bring that across, in both kitchen and front of house.”

He added: “Anyone can follow a recipe but what separates chefs from cooks at home is realising what happens in the cooking processes and the chemistry involved. Not every chef has that eye.

“I’ve got dishes I’ve been cooking for six years that I still tweak all the time. Every dish is a work in progress. So much passion and time and effort goes into every one of them.”

Longer term, there is a shared vision for the Bramble Dining brand becoming established nationwide. At the same the couple’s pursuit for perfection means they are keen not to rush their journey.

Claudia, 34, said: “The last year has been a worry and there have been a lot of sleepless nights but we’ve taken it step by step. Knowing there is now light at the end of the tunnel and we can start serving people again from next month, is fantastic.”

And, for the proud chef especially, it’s a challenge to be relished.

He said: “I haven’t come from a privileged background with investment behind me. I’ve had to work extremely hard for everything I’ve achieved and my main drive is my own children. I look at them and am proud that things are better for them and they have more of a head start than I did.

“I look at the circles I mix in now and the clientele and it’s a big personal step, particularly because a lot of people don’t realise how much I’ve had to go through to get here.”

Visit Bramble Dining at:

Favourite dishes?

Richard’s favourite: Beef fillet medallions pan-fried and served with rocket, grated parmesan and truffle oil.

Customers’ favourite: Pan-fried scallops with butternut squash puree and crispy pancetta, popped broad beans and chilli and chorizo oil.

Bramble Dining is offering outdoor private chef dining experience from April 12th and indoor private chef dining experience from May 17th, assuming the lockdown roadmap is confirmed.