Review: Blood Brothers

Review: Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, review
Photos by Jack Merriman

Set in post-war Liverpool in the 1960s,Willy Russell’s timeless tale yells the captivating, yet ultimately tragic tale of twin brothers separated at birth and growing up in contrasting worlds.

When Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, is deserted by her husband and left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children she takes a job as a housekeeper in order to make ends meet. It is not long before her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant yet again – this time with twins! In a moment of weakness and desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer which leads inexorably to the show’s shattering climax.

Blood Brothers, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, review

The touching tale tinged with trauma throughout, is narrated chillingly by Richard  Munday. Munday offered the perfect bridge from the light to dark shifts in mood. Lit by a stark white light, he roamed the stage menacingly, personifying the bad omen he warned of.

Written by the much-lauded playwright Willy Russell, few musicals have been received with such acclaim as the multi-award-winning Blood Brothers. Considered ‘one of the best musicals ever written’ (Sunday Times), Bill Kenwright’s production surpassed 10,000 performances in London’s West End, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone.

Blood Brothers, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, review

The show has since triumphed across the globe, completing sell out seasons in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, and scooping up four awards for Best Musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway. And it was what appeared to be a packed house welcoming its return to the UK on opening night at The Belgrade.

The superb score includes A Bright New Day,  Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True. It’s this strong script and score combination that keeps die-hard fans – like myself – returning time and time again. Many fans of the show will recognise some of the returning faces too, among them Niki Colwell Evans and Sean Jones effortlessly reprising their iconic roles as Mrs Johnstone and Mickey – owning the roles and the stage.

Blood Brothers, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, review

Strong performances were turned in by all however in a production which charts this tragic story so beautifully, tentatively and yet, often comically. In my view this continues to be an evergreen for musical theatre fans.

In the final scene the tension is palpable even for those of us who know what’s coming. (For those who still don’t, no spoilers here!) But yet another standing ovation eases the tension with well-deserved audience appreciation. The show deserves its reputation as the timeless and powerful production it is.

Blood Brothers plays at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre until Saturday and tickets are available from the box office here

Children’s charity gears up for 180-mile ride

Children’s charity gears up for 180-mile ride

Molly Ollys,, cycle ride

Following the success of last year’s charity cycle ride from York to Shrewley which raised more than £73K, Warwick-based Molly Ollys is gearing up for another similar challenge on the 7/8/9th July.

This year’s route will be around 180 miles, going through the beautiful countryside from Exeter to Shrewley over three days. Cyclists interested in taking part are being encouraged to get in touch now to secure their place on what is guaranteed to be an extremely rewarding and invigorating experience.

Forty-seven cyclists took to the hills and terrain of York to Shrewley last year and despite steep inclines and challenging heat, every person completed the three-day ride and many made friends for life – whilst fundraising to help children with life-threatening illnesses across the UK.

Molly Ollys,, cycle ride
Karen Robbins arrives in Shrewley in last year’s cycle ride

Karen Robbins, one of the riders last year, lost her daughter Leanne to cancer. Molly Ollys granted Leanne a wish to see a West End show. Karen, from Long Itchington, said of the experience: “I would just like to say how humbling and special the weekend was, I still can’t believe we did it. It was a tough weekend on the hills, but we remember the tough, painful times the kids go through without complaining at the end of there very short lives.”

Jeremy Nesbitt was one of the support crew last summer; “We should all take a moment to reflect and commit to doing it all again. Life deals us many rubbish cards, but whilst we can, we need to spread the message and help support more families to cope with the dark days – the collective power of a dedicated team can achieve so much!”

This year’s route is another special one for Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw ,who co-founded the charity 11 years ago in their daughter Molly’s memory. She died at eight-years-old from a rare kidney cancer, after five years of treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The family used to go on holiday to nearby Sidmouth and it holds treasured memories.

Molly Ollys,, cycle ride

Rachel said; “At Molly Ollys, we exist to improve the lives of children just like Molly who have been dealt very unfair cards. If we can bring them comfort, make them smile or give them something to look forward to, that is what we will do. But we cannot do it without the kind and generous donations of funds and time. Last year’s ride was the 10th Anniversary of the Charity and it far exceeded our expectations on so many levels. It was very emotional for Tim and I seeing all the cyclists in their Molly Olly pink tops ride in together to the finishing point to huge applause. We would love to hear from any cyclists who are interested in being involved this year.”

For more information about the Exeter to Shrewley three-day ride, please email Rachel at:

For more information on the charity visit here

Fashion for fundraising in Warwick

Fashion for fundraising in Warwick

From left to right: Sharon Daniels (Founder of NVHer), Sharon Luca-Chatha (Founder of The Luca Foundation), Holly Nixon (Athena Warwickshire Regional Manager), Jessica Weeks (Founder of Hannah’s House)

Ladies networking group The Athena Network will be hosting a charity fashion show and shopping evening in the heart of Warwick on the evening of 20th April.

With the help of two independent local businesses, the event aims to raise much-needed funds for two local charities run by Athena members, Hannah’s House, and The Luca Foundation, both providing essential support to families after the loss of a baby.

Visitors can enjoy sampling one of the many unique gin flavours that will be on offer at That Gin & Cocktail Company while they watch the fashion show, followed by an exclusive private shopping event inside NV Her and Shoe NV located a short walk away.

The mastermind behind the event is Holly Nixon, Warwickshire’s Regional Manager for The Athena Network.

Holly commented: “Athena is all about community, bringing women together and making new connections! I wanted to create an event that would support not only these charities but also the independent businesses involved too. We’ve got a great night planned, so get your tickets, bring a friend (or two), and come along to show your support.”

Founder of Hannah’s House Jessica Weeks said: “Our charity is all about offering hope and support to families following the loss of a baby. Through this event The Athena Network are helping us to reach more families across Coventry and Warwickshire during an extremely difficult time in their lives.”

Founder of The Luca Foundation, Sharon Luca-Chatha said: “Our aim is to ensure all Maternity, NICU and Paediatric wards have working cuddle cots, by funding the repairs, servicing, and maintenance of this essential equipment that the NHS have no budget for. These cots are vital to ensure all bereaved parents are given that precious extra time to say goodbye to their babies.”

The evening on Thursday 20th April begins at 6.15pm with mingling over drinks at That Gin & Cocktail Company in Warwick, followed by a fashion show and then an exclusive private shopping event in NV Her and Shoe NV located close by. Tickets are £15 including a welcome drink and must be bought in advance, with all proceeds being split between Hannah’s House and The Luca Foundation.

Buy your tickets directly from Holly by emailing or from the link in bio on the @athenawarks Instagram page.

More information. . .

The Athena Network
Athena is the largest women-only network in the UK with more than 150 regional groups in operation. The ethos of the network centres around support and collaboration alongside learning and development, offering a friendly community that’s focused on
helping all members to flourish in their chosen business or careers.
Instagram @athenawarks

Hannah’s House
Founded by Jessica Weeks following the death of her daughter Emelia shortly after her birth in 2017, Hannah’s House is there to support bereaved parents and their children after any kind of baby loss. Providing peer support, parenting groups, and unique
support to children after the death of a sibling.

The Luca Foundation
The Luca Foundation was set up by Sharon Luca-Chatha after her first child Luca was born sleeping in 2012. The charity raises money to provide resources, facilities, and training to better serve families that have suffered the loss of a baby. Funds raised go
towards providing support for bereaved parents and buying refrigerated cuddle cots that allow families more time to say goodbye to their

That Gin & Cocktail Bar
This fun new concept bar and online shop delivers a unique experience for gin lovers who can choose from more than 100 bespoke flavour combinations, concocted especially for them. The family team behind That Gin & Cocktail Bar promise to take their customers on a gin journey of discovery like no other in the UK through their online shop, mobile events bar and their bar located in the heart of Warwick.

NV Her
NV Her is an independent fashion boutique located in the heart of Warwick, opened 15 years ago by owner Sharon Daniels MBE. The shop is filled with a huge range of unique brands and styles and aims to offer a more personal shopping experience for all their

Foodbank appeals to public to give that bit egg-stra this Easter

Foodbank appeals to public to give that bit egg-stra this Easter

Coventry Foodbank, Feed The Hungry, Easter

Coventry Foodbank is appealing for urgent items as well as the usual chocolate eggs this Easter as they record the second ever busiest year for the service.

Volunteers are calling for people to donate the most-needed items as well as the eggs to keep pace with escalating demand as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Between January 2022 and January 2023, the charity has been called on to feed nearly 30,000 people across the city, an increase from approximately 500 per week to 700 per week.

In February this year alone there were six tonnes more food given out than was received by the Foodbank.

Director of Feed The Hungry, Gavin Kibble MBE said: “Over the years we have built up stock levels at the warehouse and normally hold around 80 to 100 tons of food in our racking. However, they tend to be large stocks of Pasta, Baked Beans and Cereal. There is always a tension between items that we have large stocks of and regular shortages such as UHT milk, cooking sauces, tomatoes, coffee and Jam, which we have to purchase.

“Unfortunately demand for our standard food parcels is still increasing and at the moment we are not getting enough coming in to be able to supply the growing needs of so many people across the city.”

He added: “Every year at Easter kind-hearted people send us chocolate eggs to include in our food parcels. While these are greatly appreciated, this year we’re seeing a greater need for the basics due to a continuing poverty fatigue being felt across the country.

“So we would ask please that, as well as considering giving us chocolate eggs this Easter, please at the same time donate items for our standard food parcels or donate cash to Coventry Foodbank.”

Coventry Foodbank, Feed The Hungry, Easter

The most urgently needed items are fruit juice, UHT milk, jam, cooking sauce, tinned tomatoes and tinned vegetables.

Coventry Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust network of foodbanks, was established in January 2011 and is one of the largest of more than 420 foodbanks in the UK.

They partner with a wide range of care professionals who identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher.

Food donations can be made at the Coventry warehouse in Progress Way, Binley, Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4pm.

There are also collection points at: Tesco Cannon Park; Tesco Clifford Bridge Road, Tesco Crosspoint and Tesco Arena; Asda Walsgrave and Asda Abbey Park; Morrisons Binley and Morrisons Holyhead Road; Sainsbury Courthouse Green; Sainsbury’s Trinity Street and Sainsbury’s Canley; Lidl Binley Road, Lidl Foleshill Road and Lidl Brandon Road; Aldi Radford Road and Aldi Gallagher Park; CO-OP Earlsdon and CO-OP Fairfax Street; Warwick University Rootes Grocery Store.

To find further information or make cash donations visit here

More about the Foodbank

  • There is normally a foodbank centre open somewhere in the City of Coventry 6 days a week as Coventry Foodbank distributes food through 13 partner churches.
  • Coventry Foodbank partners with a wide range of care professionals who identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher.
  • Foodbank clients bring their voucher to a foodbank centre where it can be redeemed for three days’ emergency food. Volunteers meet clients over a warm drink and can signpost people to other organisations to help resolve the longer-term problems that might cause someone to need to use a foodbank.
  • One in five of the UK population live below the poverty line.
Best friend brewers open new café bar in Leamington

Best friend brewers open new café bar in Leamington

44 Cafe Bar and Bistro, Leamington Spa, Windmill Hill Brewery

Two best friends with a shared passion for craft ale, have taken on their first bar in Leamington, building on the success of their micro-brewery business.

Gavin Leach and Rob Singleton who own Windmill Hill Brewing Company, have  opened the doors to 44 Café Bar and Bistro as part of the latest chapter of the brand’s growth.

The pair, who met as students at Coventry University, have come a long way since launching the business in Gavin’s garage six years ago. They now hope to reach even more consumers through the Clarendon Street venue, formerly Casa Valle, with their extensive combined knowledge of craft beer.

It’s a particularly emotional milestone for entrepreneur Rob, a former personal trainer who is now confined to a wheelchair following a horror car crash 12 years ago which severed his spine.

Leamington Spa, Wiundmill Hill Brewery, 44 Cafe Bar and Bistro

“I spent nine months hospitalised and going through rehabilitation and suddenly a couple of years had gone by and I just didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was a fit guy before the accident and had had aspirations to be a physiotherapist,” he said.

“I didn’t know how limited the job market would prove to be with me being disabled. I can’t sit at a desk for eight hours because I have a lot of pain in my shoulders. So I decided to take my future into my own hands and asked Gavin if he wanted to start a business with me. Gavin was a huge support. He had a good job and took a big risk stepping away from that to set up with me.”

Indeed, Gavin wasted little time in forging the new partnership, turning his back on his career in pharmaceuticals to establish Windmill Hill Brewery with Rob in 2017. Since then the brewery, which operates out of Victoria Business Centre in Neilston Street, has gone on to create award-winning seasonal and limited-edition beers, found on sale in an increasing number of independent shops and bars across south Warwickshire.

Leamington Spa, Wiundmill Hill Brewery, 44 Cafe Bar and Bistro

Their thirst for success also led them to their next venture when, in 2021, they opened The Barge and Quarterdeck, a popular 60-foot floating bar and pizza kitchen in Stratford’s canal basin.

But they hope the latest – and biggest – project to date will help even further establish their brand in the local community, with plans for a host of special events also already in the mix.

Rob said: “When we make beers we make them with food in mind. Beers taste different with different foods, just like wine, and we wanted a place where we could showcase that. Food and drink is a really interesting world to be in.

“Our food is inspired by the way we like to eat and drink. Tapas – small plates of food simply done but done well, with big flavour and that lend themselves to be enjoyed with certain drinks.

“Tapas is mainly enjoyed with lager and wine so we wanted to introduce some English craft ale as well and show people that the complex profiles of ale also complement the profiles of the food we have.”

He added: “We want 44 to complement the wider Leamington food and drink offering as a vibrant café in the daytime, Tapas bistro into the early evening and high quality drinks spot for the evening crowd.”

Leamington Spa, Wiundmill Hill Brewery, 44 Cafe Bar and Bistro

The venue also offers a set-price Sunday lunch, breakfast and a daily Specials board, overseen by Head Chef Lee Mallen, from Birmingham and formerly front of house manager at Revive in Warwick.

While the bar, which serves all of Windmill Hill’s beers, continues to be under the expert care of Luke Hampson, who stayed on as front of house manager and mixologist after several years in role.

Gavin, from Leamington, who juggles his businesses around being a dad of three, said: “We take every aspect of this business seriously. We’re a big cocktail place, we’re a big craft beer place, and we take our wines very seriously too, so it’s the whole package.

“Rob says I made a sacrifice for him, but the way I see it, he had the confidence in us and the belief we could achieve what we set out to. I gave up a role that would have seen me sit behind a desk all day generating paperwork, whereas now I get the chance to work with my passion and follow something from grain to glass.

“To produce something from start to finish and see it enjoyed within a mile of where it was produced is amazing. It’s a great feeling when you see someone drink a pint of one of your beers and you think to yourself, I made that!”



44 is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 9.30am-11pm and Sundays from 12-6pm. Visit here