Set the date for your countdown to Christmas in Stratford

Set the date for your countdown to Christmas in Stratford

The festive countdown officially gets under way in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday 19th November with the Christmas Lights Switch-On and free activities and entertainment from 10am to 7pm.

The switch will be flicked at 5.15pm on Barclays Island, but there will also be plenty to do throughout the day, including a Festive Trail and Christmas shopping!

Christmas lights, Stratford-upon-Avon,

Families can soak up the festive joy of local choirs and other acts as they perform outside Lloyds Bank at the top of Bridge Street, there will be Christmas-themed street entertainment and rides, plus a selection of artisan stalls selling some spectacular Christmas goodies.

Diane Mansell, Stratford Upon Avon Business Improvement District (SUA BID) Manager said: “This year, Stratford Upon Avon BID has joined forces with Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council, Magic Alley, Christmas Light Committee, Bell Court, Royal Shakespeare Company and LSD Promotions to organise the event, and together have moved the Christmas Lights Switch-On to a Saturday for the first time in the Town’s history! We have arranged activities for the event’s 39th year to allow all of our visitors the opportunity to start the festive season in style.”

Cheer on Father Christmas as he rides around the Town Centre in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage, or maybe even be among the lucky ones to accompany him! In the lead up to the event, enter the free competition over at: Christmas Upon Avon for the chance for one child and one accompanying adult to join Magic Alley’s Father Christmas on his horse-drawn carriage ride at the Christmas Lights Switch-On 2022. The winning family will also win a meal at Miller & Carter in Bell Court on 19th November.

Stratford-upon-Avon, Christmas lights switch-on

Take part in the free Festive Trail, organised by the Royal Shakespeare Company around the Town Centre; follow the Trail of wreaths, around the shops, restaurants and cafés, and maybe pick up some wonderful unique Christmas gifts or enjoy some festive refreshments along the way. The Trail will run from 19th November until 1st January.

The 2022 Christmas lights will see over three quarters of the Town’s display replaced with new decorations made from Blachere’s bioprint technology that emits ten times less CO2 in its production than standard aluminium decorations. The scheme uses the latest LED technology with traditional designs that complement the Town’s streets and architecture.

Matthew Coombes, Chairman of Stratford-upon-Avon Christmas Lights Committee, said: “This marks a new chapter for the Christmas Lights; it was Blachere’s passion for Stratford-upon-Avon and the environment that won them the contract. I can’t wait to see the lights illuminating our beautiful town this Christmas.”

For more information about the Christmas Lights Switch-On event, the Royal Shakespeare Company Trail and the free competition to win the horse-drawn carriage ride with Magic Alley’s Father Christmas, visit the SUA BID website here

Plenty of fun to get your teeth into in Walliams play

Plenty of fun to get your teeth into in Walliams play

Demon Dentist, David Walliams, Belgrade Theatre

Why not make an urgent appointment to see The Demon Dentist at The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry this half-term?

Based on the spine-tingling book by comedian turned best-selling author David Walliams, this is an unforgettable tale for children of all ages.

It tells the story of 12-year-old Alfie who is suspicious of the strange new dentist who comes to town and thinks something might be wrong. With his new friend Gabz he investigates why the dentist, Miss Root, is giving out free sweets and acidic toothpaste which can burn holes through stone! He realises he is in big trouble when she straps him into the dentist’s chair and starts pulling out all of his teeth!

Demon Dentist, David Walliams, Belgrade Theatre

In this live stage adaptation Sam Varley and Georgia Grant-Anderson make the perfect team as Alfie and Gabz, who find themselves on the hunt for the sinister spectre responsible for leaving gory gifts under the pillows of children all over town.

James Mitchell brings tear-jerking emotion to his role as Alfie’s Dad while Zain Abrahams raises the roof as Raj the newsagent – a mainstay of all Walliams’ books.

But it’s the devilishly dark and wonderfully wicked Emily Harrigan who steals the show as Root, the dentist who is really is rotten to the core.

Quick changes and special effects added to the fast-paced fun in this colourful family favourite.

Demon Dentist, David Walliams, Belgrade Theatre

A visit to see The Demon Dentist really is recommended, but you must be quick as you can only making bookings until Saturday (October 29th.)

For tickets visit

Review by Clare Brennan.

Spooky recipes to try with St Maur

Spooky recipes to try with St Maur

To mark Halloween week, the Warwickshire producers of St Maur elderflower liqueur have created these fun cocktails to try at home. Perfect for those spooky party plans for the weekend. . .

St Maur elderflower liqueur, Halloween

The Vampire Cocktail Recipe

The Vampire Cocktail from St Maur is a new classic to enjoy as the sun set.

Our fun inspiration for this is the Count who lives in the Carpathian mountains.

It is basically a gin sour sweetened with maraschino liqueur but we have replaced the maraschino with St Maur and given the presentation an update.

To make a Vampire first make the drink, a St Maur gin sour: one measure of St Maur, two measures of gin, and the freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon, shaken with ice.

Then place the white of one egg in a cocktail shaker and add ½ a measure of crème de violette, and give the mixture a vigorous dry shake until it stiffens.

Gently float the stiffened, perfumed egg white on the cocktail.

Garnish with a vampire’s kiss – a few drops of a blood red mixture made by mixing crème de cassis and sirop de grenadine.

Serve and enjoy while the kids are trick or treating!

St Maur elderflower liqueur, Halloween

St Maur’s elder and garlic Daylight Martini

The Daylight Martini is a cocktail we have created uniquely with St Maur, to enjoy at Hallowe’en, and as a counterpoint to our very own Vampire cocktail.   The Daylight Martini is a drink to be shared on any occasion, perhaps, when you feel the need to summon the protections of folklore against witches, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and ghosts.

This drink brings the generous elderflower of St Maur, to invoke the protection of the Elder Mother spirit, along with garlic to ward off the evil eye.  You can make this cocktail with a dry gin, but we’ve chosen a Genever from Amsterdam to go with the St Maur, as a tribute to Abraham Van Helsing, who had a stake in Bram Stoker’s story, and who was Dutch and, well, from Amsterdam.  It all tastes rather good too…

Place two measures of St Maur, with one measure of Oude Genever (or a dry gin if you prefer) in a Parisien cocktail shaker.

Cut half a clove of garlic, peel, remove the tongue, and chop finely.

Muddle the garlic in the St Maur and Genever.

Add ice and shake gently to mix and cool the ingredients.  Fine strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a green olive stuffed with garlic, with a wooden spike driven through its heart!

Serve on a mirrored tray, just in case!

Background to St Maur

St Maur is a hand-crafted premium elderflower liqueur from the Heart of England, made from responsibly sourced ingredients and flavours gathered in ancient family-owned woodlands.  A versatile, award-winning drink, St Maur is perfect for sipping or mixing.  A beautiful aperitif on its own and sublime in brunch and pre-dinner cocktails, any time of the year.

St Maur is the creation of William and Kelsey Seymour, Earl and Countess of Yarmouth, and created uniquely by its producers for their wedding day guests to offer “a little drop of England’s heart” to share and enjoy wherever you are in the world.

On the bottle you’ll see Percy, the brand’s partridge mascot, a bird successfully introduced to England in the 19th century by an ancestor Francis Seymour, the 5th Marquess, and now the brand’s mascot.

The co-ordinates on the bottles will take you to Ladies Wood in the bucolic Warwickshire countryside, and to an elder grove where the elderflowers are picked early summer by the family.

Further St Maur cocktail recipes to try can be found here

Quick thinking raises thousands for Warwick children’s charity

Quick thinking raises thousands for Warwick children’s charity

Kind-hearted quizzers raised more than £7,700 for a Warwick children’s charity when they donned their thinking caps at an event in Birmingham.

Following the success of their inaugural event, in aid of Molly Ollys, Property and Construction Consultancy, Ridge Birmingham have now pledged to make the charity quiz night an annual fundraiser.

Twenty-two teams gathered at the city’s Old Library in Digbeth on October 12th, to compete for a coveted engraved glass award, which was eventually won by Tilbury Douglas Engineering.

Molly Ollys, Ridge Birmingham

A spokesperson for the team said: “Tilbury Douglas Engineering – AKA Quizzy Rascal – are extremely proud to have been part of the Ridge and Partners Birmingham Big Quiz in support of such a great charity. The whole evening was just fantastic, topped off by helping to raise over £7,700 which was just superb! We look forward to defending our title next year!”

Sporting memorabilia – including a Tyson Fury boxing glove – a golf day for four, HDV TV and wine hamper were among the lots being bid on in a charity auction on the night.

Emily Bird, of Ridge Birmingham, said: “Molly Ollys is a fantastic charity which helps make a difference to children and their families facing unimaginable health challenges. Nick Keaney, a partner from Ridge, became associated with the charity in 2016 and now, Ridge often attends their fundraising golf events and annual balls.”

She added: “We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended, everyone who made a donation, even if they were unable to attend, and to everyone who donated auction prizes. Donations, attendance, and simply being able to raise awareness of Molly Ollys really helps a local charity with the incredible work that they do.”

Molly Ollys, Ridge Birmingham

Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marks its tenth anniversary this year.

The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It helps with emotional support and donates wishes, therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “This was a great night, well organised and good fun. The team at Ridge Birmingham have completely taken onboard the importance of the help Molly Ollys provides to families and have worked hard to support and raise much-needed funds. Thank you so much to everyone involved.”

To find out all the ways you can donate to Molly Olly’s Wishes, visit here

Local woman talks about life-changing Clipper Round The World Yacht Race

Local woman talks about life-changing Clipper Round The World Yacht Race

Marie O'Riley, Round the World Yacht Race, Leamington

Mum, Marie O’Riley, 57 from Leamington Spa has just returned from a life changing journey sailing on “Dare to Lead” one of 11 boats circumnavigating the globe in the 2019-20 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Warwick Rotarians had heard from her in March 2020 before she was due to set off and welcomed her back.

The Race was established by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1996, Marie who had never sailed before booked a place having seen the boats in Liverpool dock in 2017. This twelfth edition of the race started in London on 1st September 2019 and participants had to self-fund costing her around £15,000.

The Clipper Race is one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and an endurance test like no other. Crewed by amateurs (many like Marie have never sailed before) the eleven teams each have a professional Skipper and First Mate. A quarter of the 20-crew sail the full 40,000 miles around the world while the rest join for one or two legs. Marie joined Dare To Lead for the Atlantic Homecoming Leg.

Marie had to train hard for two years in all aspects of sailing a 70-foot racing yacht – including the catering, helm, rigging, navigation, and had to conquer her fears to climb the mast! All participants must be able to undertake any of the tasks on board, with crew split into two watches, racing around the clock, day and night.

With the race already in progress, the fleet was in the Philippines in March 2020 when Covid struck and everything stopped for two years. Eventually Marie was able to travel down to Bermuda in June this year to join the boat and had to remember everything she’d learned before setting off for New York.

Marie told about her crew who ranged from 73 years old to 22 and hair-raising seas as they approached Ireland. The relentless sequence of watches, 6 hours during the day then 4 hourly during the night, sleeping through whatever the weather with exhaustion, preparing meals in the galley, the inability to shower, lack of privacy, using the bunk bed in shifts, and magic of coming on deck in a starlit night. Torn sails had to be patched on the go, until reaching Derry in Northern Ireland where a sports centre had the space to repair their huge spinnaker.

The boats arrived into London on the 30th July this year and Marie had covered 4,870 nautical miles, experiencing 50-knot winds which took the boat up to a speed of 28 knots. The Yachts were each raising money for “UNICEF – For every child in danger” the Charity partner. By the end of the race Dare to Lead had the 2nd highest total of £39,000 and Marie’s personal contribution is now £4,040.

Thanking Marie for her presentation Rotarian Alan Bailey said his audience was in awe her achievement and presented Marie with another cheque for Unicef.

Asked what she had learned – Marie said that “I can do anything now!”