Cancer survivor has raised more than £250k for local hospitals

Cancer survivor has raised more than £250k for local hospitals

Sue presents Breast Cancer Consultant Alan Jewkes with a Hilotherapy Machine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Sue Cressman, Ladies First
Sue Cressma. Photo by Pete Blanchflower

Two-time cancer survivor Sue Cressman who was also nearly paralysed after breaking her neck, appreciates more than most the vital service her local hospitals provide.

The 63-year-old, who underwent a mastectomy ten years ago, has been continuing to give back by donating £250k worth of life-saving medical equipment to local hospitals.

At just 32 years old, Sue found a lump in her breast but, following an examination, she was reassured and sent home without any further tests, only to, months later, collapse in pain while at a public speaking event in America.

Sue’s treatment included ten months in a hospice while undergoing gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

She said: “I have no idea where all the strength came from to deal with all of this. I just thought I’m going to have to bloody well fight. I always say I had an annus horribilis exactly the same year as our late Queen! While I was watching Windsor burn I was having chemo!”

A few years after her long road back to recovery, in 1999, Sue woke one morning shocked to discover she couldn’t feel her hands or legs.

“It turned out I had broken my neck – a hairline fracture from birth I didn’t even know I’d got. I drove myself to the doctors which, they told me afterwards, could have killed me,” she recalls.

“Apparently I only had a tiny amount of spinal cord left and needed an urgent bone graft in my neck. I was left semi-paralysed for about 48 hours and had to pretty much learn to walk again.”

Some 21 years after believing she’d beaten the disease, Sue later learned her cancer had returned and, in 2013, she was forced to make the agonising decision to have her breast removed. It also resulted in 16 corrective surgeries due to complications due to her earlier radiotherapy.

“I didn’t want to have the mastectomy but once it was done and I was sitting up in ICU I was relieved thinking, at least it’s finished. I wasn’t living under the threat of breast cancer anymore,” she said.

Linda Nolan, Sue Cressman, Ladies First
Linda Nolan, Sue Cressman and Amy Harding, from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

This life’s chapter also inspired Sue, in 2018, to record her own charity single, Survive, written by her husband of 15 years Rick and their friend Guy Barnes. It was later adopted by top arranger and producer Ian Wherry who has worked with such musical greats as Elaine Paige, David Essex and David Cassidy.

“As my song says, it’s a journey and the know the road will be long but you’ve got to keep on going,” she said.

“That is my strapline. You’ve got to have hope and you’ve got to have strength. And if you allow yourself to be taken in by this terrible weight of distress then that road is going to be so much harder.”

Sue Cressman,Ladies First, breast cancer
Sue joins Gosp-Ability choir, performing live from Windsor on The One Show in 2018

Between helping Rick run their 17th-century Nailcote Hall country house and hotel in Coventry, the former Midlands Business Woman in the Year from Dorridge dedicates as much of her time as possible to fundraising. To date, she is estimated to have donated around £250k worth equipment to hospitals in and around the West Midlands, including biopsy machines, Hilotherapy machines that reduce pain after surgery, infuser kits and garden furniture for chemotherapy units.

Sue said: “My fundraising is a debt of gratitude to the wonderful doctors and nurses and I really felt I wanted to raise money for the comfort of other breast cancer patients by giving them the help and equipment they need immediately.

“I go to see a consultant in breast cancer units and ask them what they need. Small things can make all the difference – and event guests get to see exactly where the money goes.”

One of Sue’s proudest moments was, in May 2018, when, following a successful vocal audition, she was asked to join the Gosp-Ability choir, performing live from Windsor on The One Show prior to the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

New event celebrates inspirational business leaders ahead of International Women’s Day

New event celebrates inspirational business leaders ahead of International Women’s Day

Tracey McAtamney,Ladies First
Tracey McAtamney
Tracey McAtamney,Ladies First, Sandra Godley
Compere Sandra Godley

Inspirational businesswomen take the spotlight next month for a brand new special event celebrating Resilience and Diversity among female achievers across the Midlands.

The Ladies First Networking & Personal Branding Development Day, at Nailcote Hall in Berkswell, is being hosted by local networking leader, Tracey McAtamney from Balsall Common.

Guests at the March 1st event, the first of its kind in the region, include hotelier Sue Cressman, a two-time cancer survivor and fundraiser from Dorridge.

The 63-year-old, who underwent a mastectomy ten years ago, has been continuing to give back by donating £250k worth of life-saving medical equipment to local hospitals. Charity proceeds from the day will also be used to fund another piece of equipment. (READ SUE’S STORY HERE)

On the day there will be the chance to hear from Sue and other speakers, as well as get involved in speed networking, sample local services and products and take part in a question and answer session with a panel of local business leaders, including Nicola Smyth, from Nicola Smyth Hair Salon in Warwick on ‘Why Impressions Matter,’ fashion brand consultant Raquel Garcia Garrido, from Leamington, on ‘Letting Your Clothes Speak For You,’ and Jayne McIntosh from Air Aesthetics in Henley-in-Arden, on ‘Loving The Skin You’re In.’

Elite health coach Julie Dalton, from Coventry, will also be leading a Wake Up, Stretch & Breathe session for those networkers who wish to take part.

The event is being overseen by compere, radio presenter and singer-songwriter Sandra Godley, and includes a host of VIP guests, including nurse, May Parsons, the nurse who made history when she administered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine on December 8th 2020, in Coventry. Also Suzanne Linton, the co-founder of Freestyle digital innovation agency in Ashorne and the winner of the 40th Woman of the Year (Business) Award last year.

May Parsons said: “It’s such an honour to be celebrating International Women’s Day with a group of inspirational women who continually support, champion and uplift female trailblazers in their own fields and serve as outstanding inspiration and amazing role models to little girls everywhere.”

Ladies First, Suzanne Linton

Suzanne Linton, who is also a British Masters Champion swimmer from Stratford, said: “It is important to support women to achieve their potential and to share experiences to promote each other and help lift everyone to be seen, to be their best.”

Suzanne, along with event sponsors Pertemps, is also funding a limited number of free tickets to the day. Anyone who wishes to apply is invited to contact Ladies First Director Tracey McAtamney at: Otherwise tickets, which cost £49, including a two-course lunch, prosecco and goodie bags, can be booked here

Ladies First, Carmen Watson, Pertemps
Carmen Watson, of Pertemps

Carmen Watson, Chair of Pertemps Network Group, said: “As a keen sponsor of Ladies First, it’s my pleasure to be supporting their celebration of International Women’s Day.

“With this year’s theme being on resilience and Diversity, organisations like Ladies First are so critical as we all need to support and embrace equity, so we can all forge positive change and empower everyone to have a sense of belonging.”

Tracey said: “Our ‘not to be missed’, new event brings together a wealth of experience from this amazing community. In celebration of International Women’s Day we will be covering health and wellbeing, why first impressions count and how to dress to impress, being confident in conducting a one-minute pitch and understanding that you are your brand.

“We will have our business panel taking questions and offering advice on the new financial year and we will definitely have some fun moments throughout the day.

“This is an event which will be bringing together women in business groups and networks from across the West Midlands and Warwickshire Region in celebration and collaboration with a view to showcasing the excellent women in business community we have locally!”

Review: The Tempest (RSC)

Review: The Tempest (RSC)

A fresh wind is blowing through the RSC in the form of the latest production of The Tempest.

Not only does it feature Alex Kingston as the first female Prospero in the company’s history of staging the play, it also marks the company’s first production in its Power Shifts season, focusing on the theme of a world in climate crisis.

The play’s green credentials extend to the set itself with the use of recycled materials, props and costumes from previous productions. Plastic bottles, bags and fishing nets strewn strewn across the stage, are also used as props in what many see as a triumph by set designer Tom Piper.

The Tempest, RSC

Introducing a climate change agenda to Shakespeare’s famous storm was always going to be a bold move – and from what I’ve read, opinions are divided on how well this translates. But one could argue it does succeed in keeping the Bard’s work current.

On an island full of noises, a mother and daughter strike a truce with nature to survive. Then one day, their long-lost enemies sail into view on the horizon. Against the power of a furious sea, the reunited foes are forced to confront their pasts and themselves.

It marks a welcome return for Kingston, who made her name at the RSC 30 years ago and who is simply spellbinding in the lead role of the wizard Duke. The role is cleverly reframed for a woman – although, who confusingly, still retains her Duke of Milan title.

The Tempest, RSC

She is more than ably supported by a stellar cast including Jessica Rhodes as innocent Miranda, Heledd Gwynn (Hedda) as the fairy spirit Ariel; Joseph Payne as Antigone and Tommy Sim’aan whose Caliban displays perhaps more light and shade than we’re used to. Simon Startin and Cath Whitefield provide most of the jocular moments as the drunken Stephano and Trinculo.

From the lighting to the sound and staging (it is spectacularly framed by a collapsed proscenium arch), the production is artistically on point and thoroughly engaging.

The Tempest, RSC

The Tempest asks us to examine the delicate balance in our personal relationships as well as with the fragile ecosystems around us. What damage do we do to each other – and to the natural world? In the end, young love brings hope for a better life: perhaps healing ourselves and mending the planet are one and the same thing.

Director Elizabeth Freestone’s pertinent and modern production continues to offer plenty for the Shakespeare purist – but its Kingston’s Prospero which truly puts the wind in its sails.

The Tempest plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford until March 4th. Call 01789-331111) or visit here to book tickets.

Review: Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves The World

Review: Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves The World

Photos by Mark Senior

It was just around the corner from where the world premiere of Spitting Image Live took place at The Repertory Theatre last week, that the original TV series was born.

The BAFTA and Emmy award-winning satirical Spitting Image television series originally ran for 18 series between 1984 and 1996 and was watched by over 15 million viewers.

Now, adapted for the stage, Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves The World brings together the most unique collection of celebrities ever in one space. Let me set the scene – Tom Cruise is tasked by King Charles with saving Great Britain. Greta Thunberg duets with Stormzy and Tyson Fury finds love with Ru Paul, while Putin and Xi watch on from their premium seats in the stalls. This is a show which you could say is simultaneously inspired, and appalled, by real events.

Spitting Image, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

What results is a satirical cross between Mission Impossible and Marvel’s Avengers in which a tiny Tom Cruise recruits his army of ‘heroes’ including Idris Elba, Angela Rayner and Meghan Markle to take on the enemy – in the guise of blustering Boris Johnson, public schoolboy Richi Sunak, a hilariously demonic Suella Braverman and Elon Musk as a transformer mechanically unfolding from a Tesla car. Yes, that’s right!

Written by Al Murray, Matt Forde and the Rep’s artistic director Sean Foley (who also directs), the creative team also features original Spitting Image writer Roger Law. Keeping pace with the rapidly changing line-up of political players is a challenge they more than rise to, constantly re-writing the show since its inception – even this week adding one-liners from ‘Nicola Sturgeon’ referencing her resignation.

Spitting Image, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Highlights of the show are most definitely the latex caricatures and the talented puppeteers and impersonators who bring them to life. And, while some of the comedy just falls slightly short of the mark, where it does land, it hits the funny bone hard, such as the ingenious Cossack dancing Putin On The Blitz parody, which gives us all some feelgood belly laughs at the Russian leader’s expense; Circle of Jerks, which takes a sinister swipe at the Tory cabinet or Carrie Johnson’s song and dance routine about penises.

There are also plenty of stand-out recurring comedy themes, my favourites among them being King Charles’ rendition of Queen songs and Suella Braverman’s rubber-faced alter-ego – as the possessed child from The Exorcist!

Spitting Image, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

The show has been criticised for its flimsy storyline, but surely this is not the point of what has traditionally been a successful sketch show format. That said, it does lend itself better to the half-hourly TV show format.

Nevertheless, I walked away at the end of the night feeling thoroughly entertained and impressed. Nervous about how well Spitting Image would translate to the stage, I needn’t have worried. It was a spectacle in every sense – and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending you buy a ticket.

Comedian Al Murray, who is a co-writer and voiceover artist on the show, sums it up well. . .

“It’s a who’s who of the not so good, the bad and the ugly. I know Marvel like to say it, but our show is the greatest cross-over event of all time. Where else could you get Michael Gove, Taylor Swift, Tom Cruise, Sir Ian McKellen, Alison Hammond, Idris Elba, Daniel Craig, Harry Styles, Meghan Markle and Paddington Bear on a single stage?”

Spitting Image, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Fellow writer Matt Forde added: “We are living through an insane, abnormal, infuriating period, so the timing of this show couldn’t be better. It’s vital that we see our leaders lampooned with cutting satire and yes, whacked over the head with a big stick.”

I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves the World runs at Birmingham Rep until Saturday, 11th March. To book tickets visit here or call 0121 236 4455.

MP for Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips had a brief cameo in the show – well her puppet did! Hear what she had to say after curtain down here

Jess Phillips MP, Spitting Image

Local pub group takes over popular Leamington cocktail bar

Local pub group takes over popular Leamington cocktail bar

Freespirit Pubs, Leamington, cocktail bar

Freespirit Pubs, Leamington, cocktail bar

Local pub group Freespirit has continued its growth after taking over a cocktail bar in Leamington – with the promise of a packed new menu of live entertainment.

The House, which has reopened its doors on The Parade, following a brief period of closure, will be hosting regular music, comedy and events nights.

The large venue also boasts a loft space which can be hired for private events and activities, including weekly pilates classes, planned to commence from April.

The House is the sixth and latest business to join the Freespirit Pub portfolio which is under the ownership of Leamington’s Mark Higgs. After taking over his first pub, The Castle at Edgehill in 2013, he went on to acquire The Bell at Ladbroke; The Sun Inn, Hook Norton; The Seven Stars, Marsh Baldon and The Red Lion at Hellidon.

Mark said: “Leamington has been on a radar for several years, and when we saw this venue was available last summer, the team and I did everything we could to get the opportunity to make this the next Freespirit Pub.

“We have five sites around Oxfordshire and Warwickshire all village, community, destination pubs. All are unique to their areas, but we feel we could bring the skills and lessons we’ve learned to a much wider audience. The House has the potential to be a venue for all. Offering a unique space every day and all- ay to the people of Leamington.

“The newest member of the Freespirit family is a cool, funky and energetic little sibling to our traditional pubs. We believe we can really bring something very special to Leamington with great people, amazing drinks, and food – with an awesome vibe.”

Freespirit Pubs, Leamington, cocktail bar

The team is headed up by Pub Director Dariusz Remisz, General Manager Lofti Saidi and Kamil Sitek who takes on his first Head Chef role within the company. Kamil is serving up an array of popular dishes, from sharing boards, small plates and sandwiches through to hearty home comforts, burgers and Sunday Lunch.

Mark added: “We are very lucky to have an amazing group of people around us and are looking forward to building a new team under the guidance of Dariusz and Lotfi, who bring amazing experience and a wealth of knowledge of Leamington to our team.”

Freespirit Pubs, Leamington, cocktail bar

Alongside the food offering in the dining room and front room, bar manager Cameron Gilbert is serving up a huge range of cocktails, mocktails and craft drinks.

The venue’s Music Room will play host to regular live events including musicians every Friday and Saturday, Open Mic nights on Thursdays (from March 2nd) and a changing comedy line-up on the first Tuesday of every month.

The House reopened its doors on January 27th following a short closure, and trades under Everards Brewery which runs more than 130 pubs and venues in the Leicestershire and Warwickshire areas.

Freespirit Pubs, Leamington, cocktail bar

It is open Wednesdays and Thursdays 11am-11pm; Fridays and Saturdays 11am-1am and Sundays 11am-9pm.

Visit here for further information.