Local entries invited for new-look post-pandemic awards

Local entries invited for new-look post-pandemic awards

WARWICKSHIRE businesses are being invited to enter a new-look awards dedicated to recognising growth and resilience throughout the pandemic.

The fourth Ladies First Professional Development Awards will celebrate success stories while also raising funds and awareness for two Midlands charities, St Basils and Suited For Success.

Nominations are open in 26 categories, including a host of new categories including Man of the Year, Excellence In Education and Best Family Business.

Ladies First Professional Development Awards 2022, Tracey McAtamney, St Basils, Suited For Success
Tracey McAtamney.

Established in 2016, award-winning charity Suited For Success helps unemployed men and women in Warwickshire and the West Midlands prepare for a job interview by providing free coaching, employment preparation skills and interview clothing.

Chief Executive Patricia White said: “After more than a year of not being able to fundraise due to the face-to-face nature of the work, we’re especially grateful to Ladies First for throwing us this lifeline.

“The pandemic has left a huge negative impact on people’s self-esteem and mental health and we have seen a big increase in people needing our support, from interview coaching and dressing for job interviews to helping people feel confident again, once they’ve got a job, to go back into the workplace.

“This year and next year we’ll still be seeing the after-effects so the continuous work we are doing as a charity to get people back into employment is going to be more important than ever.

“Because it’s been 18 months or more since they’ve been working, a lot of people are now classed as long term unemployed and the longer you’re out of work, the less confident you are about re-entering the workforce. There’s a feeling of hopelessness for many people at the moment who have crossed that barrier from being unemployed to feeling they’re unemployable. And the economy is still very unstable.”

Further information about Suited For Success can be found here

St Basils works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to enable them to find and keep a home, grow their confidence, develop their skills and increase opportunities.

Established in Birmingham, the charity now has 42 accommodation projects across the West Midlands, including Leamington, Coventry, Solihull, Sandwell, Walsall, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Kidderminster.

Barrie Hodge, spokesperson for St Basils said: “We are so delighted to be working with Ladies First. Homelessness is an issue that is seen by many as something that mainly impacts men, but 53% of the young people we support are women and there is an increasing amount of women in temporary accommodation with their children.

Ladies First Professional Development, Tracey McAtamney, St Basils, Suited For Success
St Basils also offer employability coaches which run a five-week programme called ‘I Can.’

“More than 120,000 young people presented as homeless in the UK last year. This support is vital to us so that we can continue to provide them with the care they need during a critical time in their lives.”

Further information about St Basils can be found here

Awards organiser and Ladies First Network Leader, Tracey McAtamney from Balsall Common, said they were fitting charities to support in light of the recent challenges.

“There are a lot of awards around and for me it’s about supporting charitable causes that are relevant. This year these charities seem a good fit because they align very well with our professional development and encouraging people back to work and there have been so many younger people negatively impacted by Covid.”

She added: “While we’re celebrating our own success we can be mindful that there are a lot of people out there who do need our help and we can do that by not just raising funds but by raising their profiles.”

Ladies First Professional Development, Tracey McAtamney, St Basils, Suited For Success
The organisers are welcoming a return to face to face awards ceremonies.

The new categories introduced this year are: Excellence in Health & Wellbeing, Digital Star, Man of the Year, Employer of the Year, Excellence in Education, Achieves in Marketing, Family Business and Service Provider of the Year.

Young people will also be in sharper focus at this year’s awards which champion Young Person in STEM, Young Entrepreneur, Rising Star in Education and Inspirational Young Achiever.

Tracey, who also runs the Surviving Bereavement charity, said: “It’s not just about women in business, it’s about recognising all inspirational people in our communities.

“Over the past 18 months, some businesses have survived but others have actually thrived and developed. Obviously there were a lot of businesses which were lost but many of those have reinvented themselves into something else which is also inspiring.

“It’s so important to be together again after hosting it online last year. This year’s awards will be real night to remember and I promise everyone will come away at the end of the night feeling like they’re a winner.”

Finalists will be selected by an independent panel at a judging event on February 7th, ahead of an awards ceremony at Coombe Abbey in Coventry on March 24th. Closing date for entries is Monday, January 3rd.

Ladies First Professional Development, Tracey McAtamney, St Basils, Suited For Success
Patricia White – Photo by hank&margotuk2

For further information about how to nominate, visit here

To enquire about sponsorship opportunities contact Tracey McAtamney at: tracey@ladiesfirstnetwork.co.uk

Celebrate the festive season at Compton Verney

Celebrate the festive season at Compton Verney

CHRISTMAS is declared at Compton Verney in the shape of its new Winter Festival.

Running throughout December, the line up of events at the 120 acres of stunning parkland and lake and award-winning art gallery, includes Santa’s woodland grotto, carol concerts, enchanting late evenings, complete with a fabulous gift market, music, entertainment, and delicious seasonal food to further put you in the festive mood!

Compton Verney, Christmas

Selected dates throughout December

Bring the kids to meet Father Christmas* in his magical woodland grotto by following a wondrous trail lit with firefly fairy lights. There are surprises around every corner and plenty to delight the senses, from the sound of a crackling fire to the wonderful smell of freshly baked gingerbread. When you meet Santa, make sure to tell him what you’d REALLY like for Christmas but don’t forget to post a letter in our special post box, just to remind him! Before he whizzes off to prepare for his epic journey, delivering presents around the world, we’ve asked him to bring some early gifts for our little visitors to take home, ready to open on the Big Day.

10, 11 and 17, 18 December, at 12pm, 1.30pm and 3pm

Relax in the glorious surroundings of the Adam Hall in the main house and enjoy suitably festive-themed menu of finger sandwiches, warm scones with preserves and clotted cream, festive savouries and pastries and delicious seasonal treats.

9, 10, 11 and 16, 17, 18 December, 6pm – 9pm

Swap the crush of the High Street for the delightful sights, smells and sounds of Christmas emanating from hand-selected stalls, including awar-d winning small batch rum and gin, handmade Belgian chocolates and bakery presents, succulents with cacti planted in unique and quirky planters and children’s personalised plates in solid oak. The gallery’s  Gift Shop will also be open, offering a wide range of home and fashion gifts, plus lots of lovely stocking fillers. When you’re completely shopped out, take a break and indulge yourself with a glass of mulled wine, or a piping hot cup of hot chocolate, while nibbling on warm mince pies and other tasty treats. Warm-up at one of the fire pits and enjoy an amazing, relaxed atmosphere complete with music and entertainment.

20 November, 11am – 1.30pm

Create a truly unique present by designing a ring, pendant or necklace in wax, which will then be sent to London’s famous Hatton Garden, for casting in silver. Your piece will be hand finished according to your specifications and sent back to you just two weeks later in a beautifully packaged gift box, with plenty of time to give that very special person in your life the most amazing gift.

Compton Verney, Christmas, Winter Festival

30 November and 5 December, 10am – 12.30pm

These fun and inspiring workshops are totally hands-on! You’ll learn the traditional method of making a Christmas wreath with seasonal spruce, natural materials and foliage. Finished off with a range of dried fruit, cones and berries your creation is sure to be admired by all your guests and neighbours over the festive period.

10 December, 2pm – 4pm

Christmas carols are one of the festive season’s true essentials and hearing the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, directed by Paul Spicer, perform in the splendours of Compton Verney’s ‘Capability’ Brown chapel promises to be heavenly.

12 and 19 December, 11am, 1pm and 3pm

Snuggle down with Mother Christmas to enjoy an hour of specially chosen, interactive Christmas stories.


11 & 18 December

A series of mini-concerts performed by the multi-award-winning all-female string quintet, Toscana Strings. They will be accompanied by ballerina Laura Tye, who has danced with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet, to create an original, beautiful and not to be missed combination of live classical music, performance and storytelling, based on two classic family favourites, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman.

For more about the Winter Festival, including ticket prices and availability, plus other events, exhibitions, and activities, visit www.comptonverney.org.uk

Fundraising is a piece of cake for professional baker!

Fundraising is a piece of cake for professional baker!

L-R: Debra Goodwin with Katie Steele of White Hyacinth Cake Design.

A professional cake maker raised more than £400 for charity last week after hosting a coffee morning that was certainly a cut above.

The owner of White Hyacinth Cake Design in Whatcote, collected a sweet £439 for Macmillan when locals flocked to sample some of her professionally made tasty treats on offer.

Debra Goodwin and her assistant Katie Steele also held a tombola, and raffle at the event, with prizes donated by local businesses including Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe and Monsoon Estates Coffee in Stratford.

Debra said: “We are delighted that so many people came along to the coffee morning to support such a worthy cause and are thrilled that everyone donated so generously, helping us raise a magnificent sum.

“Every 90 seconds someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. Macmillan is doing everything it can to provide vital emotional, financial or clinical support for people living with cancer who are going through a challenging time.”

For further information about White Hyacinth Cake Design, visit here

For further information about Macmillan Cancer Support visit here

Full house adds up to funds for Warwickshire charity

Full house adds up to funds for Warwickshire charity

BINGO numbers added up to a successful evening of fundraising for a Warwickshire charity thanks to local law firm Alsters Kelley.

Britanie Jeffrey, Legal secretary and event organiser.

More than £3,400 was raised for The Friendship Project, thanks to match funding by Four Acres Trust.

It was a ‘full house’ for the bingo event, at The Bulldog in Whitnash last month, which provided a much-needed boost for another charity impacted by the pandemic.

Supported by the Social Services of Warwickshire, the charity matches children who are in need, for a variety of reasons, with volunteers for friendship and fun.

Established in 1986, it has helped around 1,000 children in the Stratford, Alcester, Atherstone, Leamington Spa, Kenilworth, Nuneaton, Rugby, Shipston, Southam and Warwick areas.

Alsters Kelley, bingo, The Friendship Project
Friendship Project Den building.

Angela Truman, from The Friendship Project said: “Lockdown has been extremely difficult for everyone; however, we received a lot of interest from people during this time to help and support as volunteers which is fantastic. But the requirement is constant and growing.

“The children we support may be caring for a sick parent or be limited to where they can go on holiday because of a disabled sibling or other family member. For some children, even playing in the park or going to the cinema are a rare treat. Having some time out from often difficult home situations really does improve the child’s self-esteem and self-worth. Our volunteers report that they too enjoy spending time with their Younger Friend knowing that they are really making a difference to a child’s life.”

Angela added: “Our focus is now very much on raising money so that we can provide the opportunities for the carers to take the children and young people away from their normal environment to have some fun. So we are very grateful to the team at Alsters Kelley for their ongoing support this year and for all the funds raised by the bingo night and raffle – it was great night and we enjoyed taking part.”

Alsters Kelley, bingo, The Friendship Project
Friendship Project craft morning.

The Friendship Project is just one of the nominated charities being supported by Alsters Kelley, which was established in the 1980s and now has offices in Coventry, Leamington, Southam, Stratford and Nuneaton.

Legal assistant and one of the firm’s charity champions Britanie Jeffery, who organised the event, said: “We had a great evening – the support we had was fantastic and there was so much laughter in the room, everyone was so generous.

“My initial fundraising target was £500 so to have tripled it and then had it matched was way beyond what we had expected.”

Further information on how to volunteer to be a Friend or donate to The Friendship Project can be found here

Portsmouth Review (Pt III)

Portsmouth Review (Pt III)

Just a few weeks after waving off my eldest to his new temporary home in Portsmouth (where he is embarking on a work placement), we followed him down for a series of long weekends.

With hugely positive reports reaching us of this previously undiscovered Hampshire island city, it was definitely the perfect excuse to experience it properly as a family for the first time.

On this visit, we decided to get a very different perspective on this historically fascinating area by taking a trip up Spinnaker Tower.

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard,

About the Tower: Visible from more than 23 miles away, the striking 170-metre tall Tower stands loud and proud in Portsmouth Harbour and will, more likely than not, be the first familiar landmark you spot on your drive – or sail – into the city.

Opened in 2005, it was built as part of the Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour Project as a public and educational facility to celebrate the new Millennium.

My Verdict: Visitors can’t help but to start their experience by appreciating the prowess of this stunning structure before then entering the Tower and watching an animated introductory film show. After a quick photo opportunity, the high-speed lift whisks you up to 100 metres above sea level (travelling at four metres per second!) where a unique 350-degree panoramic view of Portsmouth awaits. There’s also the option of learning more about what you’re seeing with the help of interactive touchscreens.

‘Highlight’ for me though (if you’ll excuse the pun) is the glass Sky Walk in the centre of the view deck floor. No better vantage point from which to gain a literal insight into the building’s construction beneath your feet.

If it’s still not high enough for you though, a few stairs will take guests up to the next viewing level at 110 metres above sea level. Standing here, as we did, on a wet and windy day, you really do feel open to the elements. Not a reason however, to not make the journey. In fact, you really get a sense of the remarkable engineering skills that went into building this unique structure.

Views were still breath taking – although a Viewing Guarantee for foggy days is offered if the three Solent Forts aren’t all visible- so no need to wait until that one day in August!

We were pleased we’d visited the Tower on our second visit to Portsmouth rather than our first as it was enjoyable picking out in the distance many of the landmarks and attractions we’d previously experienced.

For those who have an ‘appetite’ for more, there’s a delicious-looking High Tea offering available in The Clouds restaurant on the middle viewing level. The perfect vino and vista combination for a special celebration perhaps. (Yes, they’ll even host your wedding reception here!) Or, back on the ground, the Spinnaker Kitchen and Bar, is a handy sustenance stop-off before or after your visit.

More adventurous types might be tempted by the ultimate Spinnaker Tower abseil experience, available on selected dates. Undoubtedly views to rival anywhere else in the city, but not one for me – at least not until the winds die down!


Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard,

Coming Soon: The return of the Tower’s VR game (suspended throughout the pandemic), an update of the Sky Garden and facelift for the kitchen and bar area.

Whatever the time of year, a trip up Spinnaker Tower is definitely worthy of your itinerary. In fact I look forward to also returning on a drier and sunnier day to compare the view and check out the updates.

I am relishing my journey of discovery around this beautiful island city of which the landmark Spinnaker Tower is most definitely a ‘high’ point!

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard,

Fun Facts:

  • The concrete used to build the Tower would fill five and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • The 1,200 tonnes of structural steel used to form the Tower’s distinctive bows is roughly the same weight as 12 blue whales.
  • In high winds the Tower can flex approximately 150mm – that’s about the length of a standard pencil.
  • There are 587 steps from ground level up to View Deck 3.
  • The total weight of the Tower exceeds 30,000 tonnes.

For more information visit here

Read Portsmouth Reviews Part 1 here

Read Portsmouth Review Part 2 here