Comedian awaiting heart transplant headlines at local comedy gig

Comedian awaiting heart transplant headlines at local comedy gig

An award-winning comedian who is still active on the comedy circuit despite waiting for a heart transplant, heads a line up of laughter makers at a charity stand-up gig in Warwick next month.

Mel Moon, from Burnley, will oversee the laughs, which are being delivered by four comedians from across the country – Damon Conlan from Walsall; Samantha Day, from Watford; Sam Rhodes from London and Matt Trimble, from Worcester.

The gig takes place at Warwickspace in Coten End on July 31st, marking the long-awaited return of charity stand-up events organised by the Comedy at Work creatives Anne Docherty from Kenilworth and Mark Hinds from Warwick.

Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Damon Conlan

It was just as her promising comedy career was taking off in 2017, that Mel suffered chronic heart failure – only days after the birth of her youngest child.

Her relationship broke down and she found herself now a single mum of three and suffering from Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfyunction and Cardiomyopathy, conditions she describes as a ‘death sentence’ hanging over her.

Matt Trimble, Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Matt Trimble

She is kept alive by a defibrillator device fitted to her heart but, due to a deterioration in her condition throughout the pandemic, has now been put forward for an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) – an external mechanical pump which relieves the pressure on the heart until a transplant date comes around.

Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Mel Moon with her third son Sonny in 2017

“There was a health event that occurred in each of my pregnancies which increased in severity. My body was telling me to stop having kids and I ignored it.

“Polyglandular Failure was diagnosed several months after Riley, my second son, was born.

“Most pregnant women felt better once they’d delivered but I felt a million times worse and I couldn’t understand why that was. It was a very scary chain of events involving me nearly dying and having an adrenal crisis. But even at that point they didn’t link it to pregnancy.

“Then I recall one day a consultant from London told me that ‘some women just aren’t meant to have children.’ They’re not built for it,’ he said. Looking back, they had all been red flags but until the heart failure, nobody connected them. As soon as they were connected I was immediately sterilised and that was that.”

She added: “We are effectively running out of time. I had shown a marked deterioration in my health over the Covid period. The idea behind the LVAD is to get you strong enough to withstand the heart transplant which is very taxing on the body, and to get your arteries in good condition.

“But I am all too aware that I could die at any second and I don’t know when. How do you even begin to prepare for that? I can’t put it into words. All I can do is take it a day at a time.”

Hard to imagine then that Mel has much to laugh about. Yet it’s her dark sense of humour that she credits with getting her through every adversity life’s thrown at her to date.

Samantha Day, Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping HandsA professional comedian for more than 10 years, she was tipped for success and has won plaudits for her one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival called Sick Girl – of which a TV pilot still lurks in the wings – and she has appeared live alongside such greats as Jack Whitehall, Sarah Millican, Jason Manford and Russell Brand.

But one of her personal highlights is her appearance at the same venue as her comedy inspiration, the late great Victoria Wood.

It was in this spirit that she kept millions of people entertained in lockdowns with her hit satirical series, Personalised Pop – parody sketches and songs lambasting everything from Donald Trump and Boris Johnson to social distancing and Brexit.

She said: “I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have humour to get me through. My own adversities have unquestionably made my comedy better. Nearly dying was the biggest one. It made me less cynical even though it was at a time when I should have felt most angry with the world and made me appreciate the beauty of humanity which I’d never really seen before. It then let me get closer to humanity and spot the hilarious things that people say and do. I love satire.

“I do a gig and then I’m in bed for three days. But it’s about remembering who I am and thinking, one day I’ll be her again – or even a better version.”

Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Comedy at Work founders Anne Docherty and Mark Hinds. Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

As well as bringing stand-up to venues across the country in support of local charities, Comedy at Work hosts a series of workshops for all ages, all with comedy and wellbeing at their heart – from school leavers and graduates support through to team building, corporate training and even wedding speech coaching.

During lockdown they successfully transitioned their workshops online but have already seen a huge demand for tickets for the first of their returning face to face comedy nights in venues across the region.

Mark Hinds said: “We are so excited to get back to live events. With great crowds and excellent comedians. The extending of lockdown rules threw a small spanner in the works but, we are working hard within the rules to still put on great events and raise much-needed funds for all the charities that we work with.

“To be working with such a fantastic charity as Helping Hands is a real privilege for Anne and myself. We’ve secured a great line up and we know that the laughs are guaranteed.”

Visit: https://www.comedyatwork.com/ for further information or to book.

Sam Rhodes, Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands

Some of the proceeds from the night will benefit Leamington charity Helping Hands which supports the vulnerable through a host of local community initiatives in areas including homelessness, addiction, mental health, unemployment, housing, rehabilitation, food banks and domestic violence.

Fundraising Officer Leila Gough said: “The past 15 months have been difficult and challenging for us all and for those most vulnerable the impact has been devastating. Having lost the ability to host our fundraising events has been difficult, not only for the vital funds that are raised, but also for the human interactions that are so essential to us all for our mental wellbeing.

“We are delighted to be hosting our first public fundraising event in conjunction with Comedy at Work as we feel that a social event where laughter and enjoyment of being out with loved ones is definitely needed.”

More information about the charity can be found at: https://www.helpinghandshomecare.co.uk/

Friends adopt ‘pedalo power’ for canal fundraiser

Friends adopt ‘pedalo power’ for canal fundraiser

PEDAL power will be driving two south Warwickshire fundraisers who are putting their weight behind an unusual challenge for a local children’s charity.

Friends Alex Pearson from Stratford and Emma Brayne from Warwick will be joined by two canine companions as they travel almost 12km of The Grand Union Canal – in a pedalo!

Pedalo Challenge, Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw
Alex, Emma, Archie and Chester in training.

The pair have been in training to prepare for the eight-hour challenge, which will see them set off from Radford Semele and finish at Hatton Locks, on July 13th in aid of Warwick charity Molly Olly’s Wishes.

As community champion of Morrisons, in Leamington, Alex, 33, is no stranger to fundraising, recent efforts including sponsored walks for both Safeline and Clic Sargent.

She said: “We did some really good work with other charities and I was told about the work Molly Olly’s do. I was so keen to support and help raise money for this great charity.

She added: “We’ve been doing lots of pedalling on a machine whilst working at our desks with our feet going like mad underneath. We know this is going to be hard and we are having lots of practises on the pedalo beforehand to get ourselves ready.”

“I like to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising. All my family and friends say I am mad but they know what I decide to do is for the greater good. I like to do the toughest challenge and push myself as much as possible.”

Along with Emma, Alex will be joined been joined, as on most of her challenges, with her dogs Archie and Chester.

“These two are my world and I love the fact they can join me in doing these fundraisers. Also people like to donate money because of them,” Alex added.

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 Warwick-based 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.

Molly Olly's Wishes
Rachel Ollerenshaw

“Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “We always love new and creative ways to fundraise and Alex’s pedalo challenge is certainly that. Alex and the team at Morrisons Leamington have been very supportive. They do so much for our local community. Molly Olly’s are very grateful for the help and would ask people to support where they can. The latest delays in the rules have meant that more fundraising events have had to be cancelled so any fundraising is very welcome as we have many families who need our support.”

The girls, who have had the support of Leamington Boats and The Canal River Trust, are also adding collection tins in the store and hope to reach their fundraising target of £500. To donate visit HERE

Emma, 39, added: “I felt I wanted to play my part to help Alex. When I heard which charity it was in aid of and learned all about what they do, it only made me want to help even more. Molly Olly’s do so much for families going through the unimaginable turmoil experienced by a poorly child, so me suffering a few sore limbs is nothing.”

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

Glynn Purnell among judges for Foodie Awards ‘cook-off’

Glynn Purnell among judges for Foodie Awards ‘cook-off’

A Masterchef-style cook-off judged by celebrity chef Glynn Purnell, is to decide the winner of the Chef/Cook of the Year in the inaugural Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards.

Competition will be hotting up in the cookery school kitchen at The Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon, on July 13th, when the finalists are each invited to showcase a favourite signature dish, ahead of the final ceremony nine days later.

Foodie Awards 2021, Glynn Purnell, Andreas Antona, Jonatahan Smith, Trish Willetts
‘Yummy Brummie’ chef Glynn Purnell

The four finalists are: Tobias Reutt from Earlsdon Supper Club; George Cambridge from Warwick Street Kitchen, in Leamington; Baabzi Miah from Baabzi’s in Warwick and Jay Alam of Tumeric Gold in Coventry. And the category is sponsored by award-winning butcher’s Aubrey Allen.

The Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Visit Coventry and Warwickshire County Council, was established to recognise an array of food and drink businesses from producers to chefs, street food traders, restaurants and bars.

Baabzi Miah, of Baabzi’s Indian Takeaway in Warwick is among the finalists.

‘Yummy Brummie’ Glynn Purnell will be tasting the dishes alongside his former employer Andreas Antona, owner of The Cross in Kenilworth.

The popular chef, who regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen, said: “I’m very excited to be judging the finalists in the Best Chef/ Cook category of the Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards alongside my old boss Andreas Antona. Between us, we have the very tough task of finding out who is the best chef in this exciting upcoming culinary region, and I can’t wait to taste the selection of dishes in the final.”

Categories for the awards also include best artisan food and drink producers, best farm shop, best independent food and drink retailer, best newcomer and best street food trader, as well as best food/drink experience.

Three special awards will also recognise businesses and individuals who went above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic – including a COVID-19 Resilience Award backed by Visit Coventry and The Godiva Award, sponsored by Coventry BID.

Andreas Antona, chef owner of The Cross at Kenilworth and Simpsons in Edgbaston – both of which hold Michelin stars, said: “We have many passionate and talented producers, chefs and restaurants in Warwickshire and it’s great to celebrate this with the Foodies Awards. I hope we can build on what has been achieved during such challenging times to make them bigger and better next year.”

Antona, who worked as a chef with some of the biggest names in the chef world before leaving the kitchen to focus on life as a restaurateur, is a passionate supporter of training and education and founded the Bocuse d’Or UK Academy, an organisation dedicated to supporting British chefs as they prepare for the Bocuse d’Or – the world’s largest and most prestigious cooking contest. This year he launched Antona at Home, a nationwide meal and food delivery service with a passion for produce at its heart.

Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Glynn Purnell
George Cambridge of Warwick Street Kitchen in Leamington.

All the winners will be announced at a ceremony at The Box at FarGo Village in Coventry, on July 22nd where money will also be raised for The Trussell Trust network of eight food banks in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Co-organiser of The Foodies, Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ‘’When we launched the Foodie Awards one of the key criteria was to have those highly respected in the culinary world engaging with the awards to be the critical friends and assessing their peers in the industry, whether from established businesses or just starting out. It is fantastic having Glynn, Antona and Russell so generously giving their time in this way.”

Charlie Wells, spokesperson for The Farm in Snitterfield, said: “We are super excited to be hosting the cook-off for the Foodie Awards 2021 finalists, along with Glynn Purnell and Andreas Antona. Thank you Foodie Awards for joining us at The Farm! Our Cookery School is about to welcome some of the best chefs in the area and we cannot wait! Best of luck to the finalists!”

For more information on how to enter or to support the awards, visit https://foodieawards.co.uk

New categories unveiled for seventh Leamington Business Awards

New categories unveiled for seventh Leamington Business Awards

NOMINATIONS are being invited for the seventh Leamington Business Awards which, this year, sees the introduction of three new categories.

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 a glittering black-tie ceremony, on November 18th.

Leamington Business Awards from a previous year.

The awards have been opened out across all categories, giving people the opportunity to nominate for:
New Business of the Year – sponsored by Lodders Solicitors
Business and The Community Award
Customer Service Excellence Award – sponsored by The Box Factory
Young Person of the Year Award
Employer of the Year
– sponsored by Leap People Solutions
Innovation of the Year
Outstanding Achievement of the Year
Independent Business of the Year, sponsored by Harrison Beale & Owen.
Warwick District Charity of the Year
The People’s Choice Award – sponsored by The Leamington and Warwick Courier and Kenilworth Weekly News Series. (Voted for by the readers of the Courier and online via the Leamington Business Awards website, as a business that simply stands out for great personal service and customer satisfaction.)

This year also unveils two new categories – South Warwickshire Freelancer of the Year, sponsored by Beyond The Book and Creative Business of the Year, sponsored by Fresh Seed.

Emma Brewster, Managing Director for Fresh Seed, said: “We are proud to be sponsoring the Creative Award for the Leamington Business Awards. Through our work as the go to HR and training agency to the Creative sector, we feel passionately about the wonderful work the sector produces in this region and are delighted to see it get the recognition it deserves at this event.”

Emma Head, of Beyond The Book, said: “We have been supporting businesses with creative, digital and marketing freelance resource for 13 years, and we know how incredibly important it is to have a diverse, talented and professional resource in the region. This award will raise awareness of a much-needed market, and the great talent that exists for businesses to tap in to.”

A winner from all the categories, as well as those directly entering for this award will be selected for the prestigious Judges’ Choice Award – Business of the Year, sponsored by ActionCOACH Warwick.

Kevin Riley, Business Growth Specialist, said: “ActionCOACH Warwick are delighted to sponsor the Business of the Year Award and shine a spotlight on businesses who are continually innovating to support future growth. We look forward to celebrating your successes and highlighting your achievements over the past 12 months!”

Award winners have already been announced from three Covid-19 categories launched last autumn, recognising Business Resilience, Business Pivoting and Lockdown Hero.

The preliminary COVID-friendly interactive event was broadcast live online from Noisegate Media Studio in Leamington in December, and featured a special message from Matt Western MP for Warwick and Leamington.

The winner of The Business Resilience Award was CJ’s Events in Warwick; the winner of The Business Pivot Award was Heartbreak Productions in Leamington; and the winner of The Local Lockdown Hero Award was Baabzi Miah of Baabzi’s Takeaway in Warwick.

Foodie Awards 2021, Jonathan Smith, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Trish Willetts, Eat With EllenOrganiser Jonathan Smith, pictured right, of Talk Business UK, said: “It is a real pleasure to have a positive outlook for the year ahead and through the Leamington Business Awards we can recognise and applaud the fantastic achievements local businesses have made.

“We are especially delighted to introduce the new award categories to highlight the contribution the creative and freelance sector make to the local community and economy. Once again, the 3D Design students at WCG have designed and produced an innovative award trophy unique to these awards!’’

Proceeds from fundraising on the night will be divided between the finalists in the Charity of the Year category.

Businesses interested in sponsorship are invited to contact Jonathan Smith at: leamingtonbusinessawards@gmail.com or jon@talkbusinessuk.co.uk

Further details about the awards and how to nominate are available at: www.leamingtonbusinessawards.co.uk Nominations close on Friday, September 30th and finalists will be contacted by email and via the website and social media.

Read about the Covid resilience winners here.

Take a look inside Warwick’s new independent café and bar

Take a look inside Warwick’s new independent café and bar

AFTER months of social restrictions, Warwick residents are being treated to a brand new venue on Smith Street.

Revive Cafe Bar, Smith Street, Warwick
Manager Lee Mallen and his team. Photo by Loz Moore Photography.

The Furniture Shop’s famous lamps have moved to the next corner, making way for Revive Café and Bar, which opened its doors on June 5th. But this is far from ‘just another café bar’. . .

The front half of Revive is a spacious dining area where you can stop in for coffee, brunch, lunch or alcoholic drinks. Highlights from the menu include: crépes, Belgian waffles and American-style pancakes, burgers, charcuterie boards and ice cream. The chef prepares all food fresh on-site, using locally sourced ingredients and there are many vegetarian and vegan options.

Children and remote workers alike are more than welcome, with changing tables and charging sockets provided. Revive can seat up to 56 diners, though the most coveted tables are sure to be the booths, offering a fantastic view of Eastgate.

Revive Cafe Bar, Smith Street, Warwick
Some of the team at one of the retro gaming tables. Photo by Loz Moore Photography.

Fancy a little competition with your coffee?

Hidden at the back is Revive’s pièce de résistance – the games room. Here you’ll find darts, ping pong, table football, pool and a shipping container, of course, as the toilets. You can book any of these games tables in half-hour slots through the website or in person.

This room will double-up as a live entertainment space for stand-up comedy. Sandwiched between the seating area and games room is a cosy sofa nook complete with a mini library and retro arcade-game tables.

Covid safety precautions have been put in place, including staff regularly wiping down game-playing surfaces and equipment. Revive also boasts a top-of-the-range air recycling system to keep the building fully ventilated.

Revive Cafe Bar, Smith Street, Warwick
Table football is one of the activities on offer.

The local team behind Revive

This marks the second project – and a new direction – for owner James Byrne, who grew up in Warwick. Last year James was nominated for Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the success of his software company, AccountancyManager. It won’t be hard for James to work between the two businesses – AccountancyManager has been in the offices above Revive for the last two years.

When the space became available, James leapt at the opportunity. “I think there’s such a need in Warwick for somewhere that caters for any age, whether it’s a playdate with toddlers, a milkshake after school, a working lunch, Friday night drinks or a date with a difference. Especially with that added entertainment that we’re all desperate for after the last year.”

“We’re aiming to make Revive the ultimate go-to venue in Warwick, with a line-up of events throughout the year too – like quiz nights and, from August, stand-up comedy in conjunction with Comedy at Work.”

Revive Cafe Bar, Smith Street, Warwick
Books sourced from local charity shops make up a small library area.

James has assembled a seven-strong team, headed up by experienced hospitality manager Lee Mallen, from Birmingham. Lee is a self-proclaimed coffee aficionado and has selected local coffee roasters Monsoon Estates to provide Revive’s coffee. Head chef, Jonathan Weardon from Leamington, comes to Revive with more than 40 years’ experience, running the kitchens at, among others, Coombe Abbey, Wroxall Abbey, Nailcote Hall and Warwick Castle.

Revive Café and Bar is open 8am-6pm Sunday to Thursday and 8am-11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Visit www.revivewarwick.co.uk to check out the menu or to book a games table. Group bookings can be made by calling 01926 403 333.