Witchcraft and Wizardry comes to the heart of Stratford with new spellbinding attraction

Witchcraft and Wizardry comes to the heart of Stratford with new spellbinding attraction

Magic Alley, Witchcraft & Wizardry, Stratford, Bell Court

Magic comes in many forms.

From February 18th, visitors to Magic Alley are being invited to take a journey inspired by magic, when the doors open on a spellbinding new attraction in Bell Court, Stratford.

Visitors can expect to encounter magical creatures such as unicorns and fairies, alchemy, fortune telling, astrology, witches and wizards and maybe even a dragon as the attraction’s new Witchcraft and Wizardry immersive experience is unveiled.

Sam Jenkins, Head of Events, said: “When choosing a theme for the start of a brand new year it only seemed right to revert to our magical roots.

Magic Alley, Witchcraft & Wizardry, Stratford, Bell Court

“In these difficult times we thoroughly believe that everyone can benefit from a little extra magic in their lives. We have also offered family discounts to take into account how much the cost of living crisis has affected families and the ability to afford days out in school holidays”

Sam explained that “During the February half term and on Saturdays there is likely to be a performer in the attraction to add a little extra magic. The event is recommended for children over six and is suitable for older children and adults with an interest in all things magical.

Owner Derek Ives said: “We are so pleased to be able to welcome everyone back to the attraction after Christmas and we truly hope we have created something people will find magical in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon”.

Magic Alley, Witchcraft & Wizardry, Stratford, Bell Court

The event is recommended for children over six years old but younger siblings over 4 are welcome. Everyone who successfully completes the quest will receive a prize and a certificate. Tickets can be booked in advance here and pre-booking is advised for weekends and school holidays.

Magic Alley is made up of two parts comprising a large retail emporium and a magical attraction. The emporium sells everything from magic spells and steampunk figurines, to incense, candles, puzzles, quirky books, board games and curious gifts.  There are fairies and fairy houses, unicorns and dragons; vintage toys and games and Harry Potter wands.

The teaser video for Witchcraft and Wizardry can be viewed here


Moving up the gears of business success after crash brings  end to motocross career

Moving up the gears of business success after crash brings end to motocross career

Steve Boyle, Bunji Printing, entrepreneur
Steve now and age 18, when he was a promising motocross racer

A Warwick entrepreneur has extra reason to celebrate the third anniversary of his business after securing a major new contract with former Olympians Beth Tweddle and Rebecca Adlington OBE.

Printing company Bunji, based at Heathcote Industrial Estate, is enjoying huge success despite launching one month before lockdown – and with plans for further growth in the pipeline.

The latest commission sees the company working with Sporting House, an Olympian-founded organisation that delivers sports academies and coaching across the UK, including Beth Tweddle Gymnastics and Becky Adlington’s Swim Stars.

Bunji, which also lists among its sporting partners, England Netball and Volleyball and British Fencing, will provide thousands of membership packs and branded items, from badges, awards and certificates through to clothing, goggles and drinks bottles, used at swim and gymnastics academies across the UK.

Steve Boyle, Bunji Printing, entrepreneur
Steve is now working with the likes of Olympians Beth Tweddle, above and Rebecca Adlington.

But it’s a bitter-sweet milestone for Australian-born owner Steve Boyle who is reminded of how his own dreams of sporting greatness were cruelly thwarted as a teenager.

Steve was well on track to becoming a professional motocross rider in his hometown of Brisbane, when, aged just 18, he was involved in a serious car accident with a drunk driver which left him with career-ending injuries.

Forced to find a new direction, he returned to the enterprising instincts he showed as a youngster and learned the printing trade while building a new life for himself and his new English wife in the UK.

The 57-year-old dad-of-two, said: “I dreamed of being a professional motocross rider and at the age of just seven owned by first dirt bike which I funded by selling stuff at flea markets. My poor mum. If it wasn’t bolted down at home I sold it. I stripped the house bare!”

A few years in to joining his local club, Steve was starting to get noticed by sponsors and, aged 16, fulfilled his dream of turning professional – racing against the likes of Jeff Leisk who went on to become a World Motocross champion.

But it was a dream that was to turn into his worst nightmare after just three months, when Steve was involved in a high-speed head-on collision, the physical and emotional scars of which he still bears today.

He recalls: “I was beyond devastated. When your entire focus for your whole life is one thing and it’s ripped away from you, it’s incredibly hard to come back from that. I will never ever forget the words the surgeon said to me after the operation on my knee: ’I’ve done the best job I possibly can to repair the damage, but when it goes, it goes.’”

“I was off work for months but eventually decided to finish the printing apprenticeship I’d started and see how it goes, but I was determined not to completely give up on my dream and started looking into other areas of racing, such as endurance. But that was too painful and I couldn’t continue so I then tried road racing and I was nowhere near a good enough level to compete.

“I knew if I couldn’t be competitive on the track I wanted to be competitive with something else and I’ve always been entrepreneurial.”

Steve Boyle, Bunji Printing, entrepreneur
The Bunji team Leah Weston, Steve Boyle, Diane Harris and Darren McCrorie

After a series of senior sales and marketing roles and going his own way following a 10-year business partnership, Steve quickly established his first solo enterprise in February 2020. In a nod to his roots, he named the business Bunji, which means ‘Good Friend’ in aboriginal.

Steve is now looking to further build on the success of his business, which also boasts a handful of international clients, and grow his team and premises as part of a plan which will next year see him turnover more than a million pounds.

He said: “We do not want to rest on our laurels. We are investing in new software which we are looking to use to attract more clients in the sports and business arena this year, hopefully doubling our staff in the process.”

With thousands of products available on his website, Steve suspects there’s probably nothing Bunji can’t brand. . .

“Probably the most unusual requests we’ve had are eggs – for a Sporting House Easter Egg Hunt and a pair of curtains for a product launch in London,” he recalls.

But he’s prepared to be put to the test…

 Visit Bunji here

Pub hosts special events to support Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Pub hosts special events to support Birmingham Children’s Hospital

The Granville Arms in Barford is to host a series of special events in February to support Birmingham Children’s Hospital. 

Alex Norman, Granville Arms, Barford
Alex Norman
Ella Grant, Granville Arms, Barford
Ella Grant

A Coffee Morning will take place on Friday, 3rd February from 10am – 12pm. Visitors can enjoy tea, coffee, and home-made cake for just £5 with £3 being donated to the Hospital.

On Saturday, 4th February there will be live music at 6pm from Alex Norman, an award-winning cover artist, singer & songwriter. Ella Gant, a singing and dancing Drag Queen will provide entertainment featuring modern pop, Latin songs, and older classics from 8:30pm. The evening will also include a raffle (donations would be much appreciated).

A Charity Quiz Night will take place on Thursday, 9th February from 7:30pm. The cost is just £10 per person to include entry and a buffet, with £3 being donated to the Hospital.

To help raise further funds for the Hospital, The Granville Arms will be adding £1 from each table that dines with them throughout February.

Tim Sidwell, Director at The Granville Arms said “We’re delighted to be hosting several special events to raise funds for such a worthwhile charity. I’m sure the events will be incredibly popular, providing entertainment as well as helping the Hospital which offers expert care to more than 90,000 children from across the country every year.

The Granville Arms is a friendly, comfortable, and stylish village pub, committed to serving freshly home cooked dishes of excellent quality with the emphasis on relaxed dining, great service, and value for money. For more information, please visit the website at www.ghostinns.co.uk

Read my review of The Granville Arms here

Former social media guru now says it’s time to put down our phones

Former social media guru now says it’s time to put down our phones

A former social media marketeer from Stratford has launched a new networking campaign to help combat what he brands as the ‘negative impact’ of the digital platforms he used to endorse!

Formerly the owner of a social media and marketing agency, Michael Thomas has now established DARWIN.vip academy in a bid to help businesses grow.

Amidst the challenges of post-pandemic and cost of living crisis, Michael takes a swipe at the likes of Facebook and Instagram, claiming it’s more vital than ever to small business success to get people face to face again.

And in his latest Valentine’s campaign, launched on February 15th, he promises to show business owners how fall in love with networking, helping them to not only survive, but thrive.

He said: “I think those all-important soft skills are being lost by everyone. We sit behind a computer and are on our phones, we don’t stand up and talk to people face to face as much as we used to which is a real shame, so my mission is all about helping people fall in love with networking again.

“Covid has also made us appreciate face to face communication even more. It made that urge for meeting people and getting out there crucial as a lot of businesses were hit pretty hard.

Michael Thomas,DARWIN.vip, networking

“The idea of the campaign is very much to help people overcome the fear, get out from behind their screens and go out and meet people, back to the old way of doing things. They’ll soon realise that it’s not as nerve-wracking as it seems to be.

“It’s not just teaching networking, it’s teaching people skills, skills we all used to innately know because we didn’t have mobile phones, social media etc. We even knew our neighbours. We had conversations and built fabulous in-depth relationships. Unfortunately it means that because people don’t mix as much, they aren’t as socially adept. Their confidence is negatively affected in business  settings.

“Networking is a vital tool for any small business owner who wastes a ton of money on Google and social media advertising etc. which rarely leads to serious business.”

Through DARWIN.vip fast-track and eight-week group, DIY and corporate courses are available, with ongoing support from Michael throughout.

He said: “This cost of living crisis presents an opportunity for them to look at something they may have overlooked before – the power of networking. For most small businesses, once they know exactly how to promote themselves, with the time plus the cost investment, the ROI for networking is much higher than any of those other tools they’re drawn to or told they must use. Most small business owners will tell me, they do social media because they’re supposed to, but haven’t had any real business from it.”

Miachael Thomas, DARWIN.vip, networking

Born to English and Welsh parents, Michael, now 36, relocated to Stratford from Illinois as a teenager when his father took on the role of Dean of Warwick Business School.

Today he regularly reflects on his own journey to entrepreneurial success, after overcoming a series of health challenges along the way.

Two debilitating conditions – ulcerative colitis and spastic paraplegia – have left Michael navigating a life of operations, treatments, drugs and hospital stays, but it’s only made him even more determined to succeed.

“If I’d let my physical decision decide my destiny I certainly wouldn’t be running a business today. I wouldn’t be doing what I always wanted to do,” said Michael.

Michael, aged 10, with the telephone headband he ‘invented’ as one of his first forays into entrepreneurship.

Despite some early years spent in marketing and recruitment sectors, DARWIN.vip clearly plays to Michael’s strengths.

“I always knew deep down that I was going to be an entrepreneur run and control my own destiny, right from the days of running my own lemonade stall for three months at the age of eight, dressed in a full suit in 100-degree C temperatures – and invented a telephone headband which I was hoping would be the next big thing!”

A far cry from his ambitions today. Over the next 18 months he plans to turn his academy into a community of up to 1,000 small businesses.

He said: “I want everyone to enjoy the same success that I have from networking. We’re all business owners, we’re all in the same boat and we can learn a lot from each other.

“It is very rewarding, especially when people have confidence issues or come in with a particular view on networking because it does have a bad rap. But I get so much satisfaction from seeing people gain that confidence and go on to grow their business. I am all about making networking less stressful and more successful. That is the mission.”

Visit DARWIN.vip at: https://darwin.vip/

Finalists announced for fifth inspirational women awards

Finalists announced for fifth inspirational women awards


INSPIRATIONAL achievers from Coventry and Warwickshire have been named among the finalists in the fifth Ladies First Network Business and Inspirational Women Awards.

Entrants have been selected from nearly 300 nominations by a panel of judges from across the UK.

The finalists will now be invited to an independent judging day at Metropolis in Coventry next month before the glittering awards ceremony hosted by radio and TV presenter Sandra Godley at Coombe Abbey Hotel, on March 23rd.

Creatives are among those being celebrated in new categories this year, including Outstanding Woman In Sport, Outstanding Woman In Creative Arts and The Sandra Godley Music Award.

Tracey McAtamney, who forms the Ladies First leadership team with Sandra, said: “This is our 5th Awards and it always amazes me the incredible amount of talented, inspirational women out there. At Ladies First we take pride in celebrating all women, whether working from home or CEO of a major company.

“We also honour those who have been through terrible situations and respond by setting up charities or community interest companies to help others. We thank our sponsors, Janine Edwards Wealth Management Ltd, Alsters Kelley Solicitors, Pertemps and many others who continue to support us.”

Sandra Godley said: “Thank you for every single nomination. There is so much to celebrate about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in our communities, both here locally and abroad.”

Four of the six finalists for the Businesswoman of the Year Award are from Warwickshire – Emily Biddle, of Emily Jayne Hair & Beauty, Southam; Karen Wood, of Kidvelo Bikes, Leamington, Jo Williams of Joco Interiors, Nuneaton and Nikki Reid of Nikki Homes, in Welford-on-Avon, Stratford.

Karen Wood, of Kidvelo Bikes, Leamington is shortlisted for two awards, including Business Woman of the Year

Nikki shares the spotlight with her sister Rachel Reid Knight, of Rachel Reid Interiors, Stratford, who is a finalist in the Woman of Achievement category.

Karen Wood is also a finalist in the New Business category, along with Lisa Cressy from Mind Warrior Coaching in Kenilworth; Wendy Martin, who runs Counter Culture Store in Leamington, Andrea Lennard of Pure Pegasus in Rugby and Zoe Whittaker’s Warrior’s World fitness centre in Rowley Drive.

Also up for two awards is Amanda Chalmers of Chalmers News PR, in Warwick, in the Excellence In Marketing and Career From Home categories.

Inspirational Woman finalists include Anne Marie Goodwin, of specialist independent running store Coventry Runner; Jo Powell, of MV Visual Media and Arty Splatz, in Warwick and Libby Wilson who established The Old Rectory Nursery in Rugby eight years ago after overcoming a series of setbacks including dyslexia and ADHD.

Libby, who is also up for an Achieves In Education award, said: “I changed schools seven times and didn’t pass any exams. After my GCSE results I was asked to leave school as it was felt I wouldn’t be able to cope with A level learning. Goodness, 16 years old and nothing on the horizon! Thankfully Montessori training and learning was the perfect fit for me.

“The most important thing for me is winning this award would be an opportunity for others struggling to be inspired and show that with hard work and dedication you really can achieve anything you set your mind too and also for others to understand the difficulties of dyslexia.”

Ladies First Awards, Tracey McAtamney, awards
Naomi Issit with her late son Jamie

Representing the county in the Woman of Courage category are: Kate Wilson, from Kenilworth, who has now resigned from her role as a paramedic to run Medics to Medics which packs and sends vital medical supplies to Ukraine – and Naomi Issit.

Naomi is also among those flying the flag for Warwickshire in the Achieves For Charity category, along with and Ceri Amphlett, both from Rugby and Amy Jackson of The Lily Mae Foundation, from Coventry.

Naomi launched the Our Jay Foundation in memory of her 18-year-old son Jamie who died suddenly following a cardiac arrest on New Year’s Day last year. Since then she has raised more than £50k and installed 37 life-saving defibrillators.

The charity also offers CPR training events and guidance and has, just this month, launched an information app available for download.

Naomi said: “It was the most painful shock that any of us could ever feel. He was my right arm. The only way I can even try and get through the days is to work for him and keep on making sure that his face is seen and his name is said and that things change, because he deserved so much better. I know he would be proud of that.”

Reacting to the awards news, she added: “I was overwhelmed to learn I had been named as a finalist. It’s not really me that’s courageous though, it’s Jamie. It’s because of his bravery and what he was like as a boy and I’m really just his voice now.”


Ceri Amphlett established Remember Rufus with her husband after the stillbirth of their son in 2020.

The charity helps parents of children who are born sleeping or who die soon after birth by providing cuddle cots to NHS trusts, nursing teams and palliative care departments across England and Wales. It is also currently raising funds to improve bereavement care in the maternity department of UHCW through the provision of a specific bereavement suite in the maternity department.


Libby Wilson

The rest of the Warwickshire finalists are:

Achieves in Business (Employee)

Leanne Horne – Air Aesthetics, Henley-in-Arden; Sarah Darby – Alsters Kelly Solicitors, Rugby; Kate Gould – Sheldon Bosley Knight, Leamington.


Bianca Perry – Bia’s Kitchen, Leamington; Paula Heaton – Belle Peau Beauty and training school, Rugby; Emily Biddle – Emily Jayne’s Hair & Beauty, Southam.

Unique Business

Sarah Day – One Day Film Productions, Henley-in-Arden; Emma O’Brien, of Funky Monsters and Sarah Jones, of Fairy Ellen in Coventry.

New Business

Andrea Lennard – Pure Pegasus, Rugby; Lisa Cressy – Mind Warrior Coaching, Kenilworth; Wendy Martin – Counter Culture Store, Leamington; Karen Wood – Kidvelo Bikes, Leamington.

Service Provider of the Year

Charlotte Pitts – HR Consultancy, from Stratford; Lauren Coombes – Pitch & Party, Kenilworth.

Service Provider – Retail

Sharon Daniels – NV Her, Warwick; Jayne Scandrett & Jane Medd – Justina & Dice of Shipston, Wellesbourne & Shipston; Nina Norman – Henley Boutique, Henley-in-Arden; Eva and Craig Percy – Antigo Boutique, Kenilworth; Helen Hibbert – Pertemps, Coventry and Michelle Gavin – Band Hatton Button solicitors, Coventry.

Charlotte Pitts of HR Consultancy

Excellence In Marketing

Hayley Alexander – Shakespeare Media, Welford; Katie Wilber – Cotswold Connected, Stratford; Sasha Westbrooke – Freelance Designer, Leamington; Tejal Prajapati – TP Creative, Coventry; Amanda Chalmers – ChalmersNewsPR, Warwick and Tejal Prajapati – TP Creative, Coventry.

Excellence In Networking

Lauren Kelly – Mosaic Pub & Dining, in Warwick & Birmingham; Sue Ford – ActionCOACH, Warwick.

Career from Home

Toni Ballard – Celebrant & Artist, Hampton-in-Arden; Allison Phillips – Kindred CSR, Kenilworth; Kath Cleary – K Clear HR, Leamington; Amanda Chalmers – ChalmersNewPR, Warwick.

Ladies First Awards
Craig and Eva Percy at Antigo in Kenilworth

Achieves in Education

Jo Powell – Arty Splats, Warwick; Katie Harcourt – Spellbound Academy, across Warwickshire; Catherine Cossey – The Piano School.

Woman of Achievement

Lisa Devine – Therapy & Fitness Centre, Leamington; Sarah Addis – The Scottish Fine Soaps Company, Long Marston.

Empowering Women

Karla Byrne – Domestic Abuse Support Hub, Rugby; Raquel Garcia Garrido – Raxanie Ltd, Leamington.

Achieves for the Community

Julie McGarrigle & Alsters Kelley Solicitors, Leamington; Hannah Secher – Rugby Artistic Swimming Club; Kavita Bachada – PELS, Bedworth and Joanne Brooks for Coventry Hour.

Achieves For Charity

Amy Jackson of The Lily Mae Foundation, Coventry.

Family Business

Kate Hunter – Bear Cleaning, Kenilworth and Melissa Austin, of Sutton Estates, Coventry.

Health and Wellbeing

Nadine Hummert – Life Equilibrium, Kenilworth; Lauren Gregory – Run Like A Girl, Leamington/Warwick; Seema Barba – Bowen Therapy, Southam; Lisa Devine – Therapy & Fitness Centre, Leamington; Christine Frey – Glowing Older, Coventry; Lily Samuels – Lily Samuels Nutrition, Coventry and Natalie Silverwood – One Fit Mama, Coventry.

Outstanding Woman In The Creative ArtsMelissa Smith, Penny Ann Interiors, Alex Johnson and Larna Andrews, all from Coventry.

Ladies First Awards,
Ruth Kelly
Michael Mogan and his daughters

Woman In Music
Abz Winter, Ruth Kelly, Caitlin McCarthy and Lorna Dea, all from Coventry.

Women In Sport
Chelsie Giles, Melissa Mullins and Jay Bradford, from Coventry.

Man of the Year

Billy & Ryan – Glitsy Bits/Community work, Coleshill; Adam Evans and John Coote for their work with Coventry Comfort Carers outreach project; pharmacist Bolande Onilari, Coventry; Sanjay Jagatia, CEO of Ekta-Unity voluntary organisation, Coventry; and Michael Mogan who, along with his twin daughters, led a campaign to save Coventry United Ladies Football Club from liquidation.

The event will also raise money for two West Midlands charities, The Memory Box Foundation and Coventry Foodbank.

The new Memory Box Foundation, being launched in March, provides free Memory Boxes for children and young adults coping with bereavement and supports pop-up Bereavement Cafes in Coventry, Kenilworth, Warwick, Balsall Common, Leamington Spa, Solihull and Stratford-upon-Avon.


Coventry Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust network of foodbanks. It was established in January 2011 and is one of the largest foodbanks in the UK, feeding thousands of individuals and families each year. https://coventry.foodbank.org.uk/

For the full list of finalists visit: https://ladiesfirstnetwork.co.uk/

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