Appeal for support for new bereavement cafés

Appeal for support for new bereavement cafés

Tracey McAtamney, Surviving Bereavement, bereavement cafes

A woman whose own experience with grief inspired her to launch bereavement cafés, is now appealing for volunteers to help open one in Stratford and Nuneaton.

Tracey McAtamney who runs the Surviving Bereavement Foundation, needs help to keep pace with the demand for her monthly cafés which were first established in 2019.

The popular two-hour sessions currently take place in Coventry, Berkswell, Kenilworth, Leamington, Balsall Common and Solihull, but due to demand she plans to launch new cafés in Stratford as well as the first one north of the county, in Nuneaton.

Tracey, from Balsall Common, established Surviving Bereavement in 2019 in memory of her late husband Tony. She was left widowed with two sons at just 38, when Tony suddenly collapsed and died in his hotel room while on a golfing holiday in Spain.

She was no stranger to grief even at an early age, after losing her father in an accident when she was just seven – the same age as her youngest son Oliver had lost his father.

The Foundation exists to offer legal and financial advice as well as practical help, all the things, says Tracey, that were not available to her. The charity also provides bespoke Memory Boxes – hand-delivered by Tracey – which are available for grieving children and young adults, and typically contain items such as forget-me-not seeds, a personalised book and letter, journal, cuddle bears and other age-relevant items.

She said: “Our aim is to raise awareness of not just the emotional aspect of grief, but also the practical and the mental wellbeing required to survive bereavement.

“After someone dies you find yourself surrounded by paperwork. I realised quickly that people needed help.

“The café role is perfect for anyone with time to spare, is compassionate and can offer a listening ear. They would just need to set up the banner, welcome people and make introductions. People generally will then talk to each other. There will be signposting information for people to take away if required.”

Tracey McAtamney, Surviving Bereavement, bereavement cafes
Tracey pictured with late husband Tony

She added: “The Bereavement Cafés help to support anyone feeling sad or isolated following the loss of a loved one and bring a little happiness to the day. They offer a relaxed, safe environment to talk with others who are going through similar circumstances.”

Tracey, who is a qualified grief recovery specialist, published a book about her own journey, in 2019, called Hidden Strength and was last year named a Platinum Champion as part of the national Jubilee Awards to celebrate her dedication to volunteering.

The cafés and the memory boxes are funded by sponsorship and the generosity of local businesses. It is hoped the cafes will continue to grow and help navigate more people through their journey with grief which, Tracey promises, does become easier.

“You go through pain, anger and sadness but you do get through the other side and you smile again. It’s about survival more than anything else. But you do survive. That is why I wanted to do this, to show that to people.

“The pain changes and you never stop missing somebody that’s lost from your life. But memories must always be treasured and talked about. They mustn’t be the elephant in the room.

Tracey McAtamney, Surviving Bereavement, bereavement cafes

“My motto is – there is always a light at the end of a tunnel and always an answer to that impossible situation – and that’s what Surviving Bereavement is here to help with too.”

“In order to help more people, we need more volunteers. And of course, donations would be very welcome.”

For more information on Surviving Bereavement and the Cafés visit here or to find out more about how you can get involved contact

Review: The Commitments

Review: The Commitments

The Commitments, Birmingham Hippodrome
Sarah Gardiner, Ian McIntosh, Conor Litten, James Killeen, Ciara Mackey, Michael Mahony – Credit Ellie Kurttz

It is 35 years since The Commitments first burst from the pages of Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel. The world’s hardest working and most explosive soul band have made a welcome return in the form of an all-new stage production which celebrates the black heritage of soul music and its working class roots.

In 2013 The Commitments musical opened in London’s West End to universal critical acclaim and, two years later, hit the road for a major tour, invigorating audiences up and down the country throughout 2016 and 2017.

The Commitments, directed by Andrew Linnie, tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working-class music fan, who transforms an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, which becomes the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a number of wannabes before finalising the members of his new band. The Commitments is born.

The Commitments, Birmingham Hippodrome
Ryan Kelly, James Killeen with cast – Credit – Ellie Kurttz

Despite (in the most part!) their indisputable solo talents, the band members soon find themselves grappling with inter-group differences as they muddle their way through early rehearsals for the band’s first gig. Just as they begin to get a name for themselves, they self-combust. The backing singers are more interested in the middle-aged horn playing legend, the singer is clashing with everyone, the drummer has walked out mid-gig and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career!

While the storyline may have lacked in a little depth at times – and where it may (apparently) fall short for some fans of the film, this show’s biggest strength is its musical casting with so much talent on display.

In fact whether or not you’ve seen the film, familiarity will come in the form of the show’s stellar score with more than 20 soul classics performed live on stage, including Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can’t Turn You Loose and many more!

The Commitments, Birmingham Hippodrome
Eve Kitchingman, Michael Mahony, Ciara Mackey, James Killeen, Sarah Gardiner, Conor Litten, Guy Freeman, Ian McIntosh – Credit Ellie Kurttz

And the rousing first-night finale had the audience singing along to some of those favourites with gusto – and, I suspect, all the way home.

This is most definitely one for fans of soul – or anyone seeking an uplifting, energising night at the theatre. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Commitments plays at The Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday (29th April.) Tickets can be purchased here.

Review: The CUBE Live, Manchester

Review: The CUBE Live, Manchester

The CUBE, Manchester

We’ve all seen it on TV and now it’s our chance to take on The CUBE!

I was excited to learn how the award-winning show had left the studio and landed at its first venue in Manchester. I was even more excited to be invited, along with my family, to be put through our paces.

For the uninitiated, this high-octane gameshow invites contestants to step into the confines of a Perspex box to take on a series of mental and physical tasks.

The CUBE, Manchester

At The CUBE Live teams of one or two people compete in seven of the favourite games from the original series as randomly selected by the computer, each progressively more challenging than the last but with an increasing number of points at stake.

And just like the series, there is one Simplify and a Swap available to each team. For example,  when hubby took on a speed game involving loading balls into a plastic cube in a 20-second time frame, the Simplify bought him a precious five extra seconds – and winners’ points!

I cashed in my Swap wisely when, after two failed attempts at launching a ball along a looped track and into a plastic box (nowhere near as simple as it sounds!) hubby took over – and completed the task successfully on the one remaining attempt.

The CUBE, Manchester

As the door closes after stepping inside each cube the tension is far more palpable than you expect. One can only imagine how intense it feels trying to beat The CUBE in front of a live studio audience and TV camera crew while presenter Philip Schofield also critiques your efforts!

When you enter the venue (in the city’s Arndale shopping Centre) it does feel very authentic to the show, even down to the lights and sounds in the games.

You’re navigated around the cubes thanks to a combination of computer and human guidance, swiping for instruction videos and cumulative points tally along the way. From communication and concentration to patience and finesse, these games will test a whole range of skills. Part of the key to beating The CUBE is identifying those skill sets in yourself and others and apportioning the games accordingly. And, for those games requiring two people, it’s all about the teamwork.

The CUBE, Manchester

This experiential day out is the flagship attraction of Urban Playground, which also houses further competitive fun in the form of Putters – three state-of-the-art tech-infused nine-hole crazy golf courses – and the first UK outlet of the award-winning food franchise The Butcher.

The bar has you covered courtesy of its freshly cooked – and delicious – burger and drinks menus. Indeed, The Butcher stands out in its own right for a perfectly satisfying lunch or dinner pitstop choice.

As a family with young adult children, The CUBE Live represented a very welcome new experience – and one we all enjoyed. (Something that’s increasingly difficult with such varying ages and interests among us.)

It is also perfect for friendship groups, especially celebrations, and the staff are proficient and friendly across the venue. Their job must be, at times, challenging when met with some of the inevitable frustration that accompanies playing the games. (I did throw a mini tantrum after failing abysmally in one of the boxes!) Maybe The CUBE should have a public health warning above the door – enter at your own risk of family fallouts! It can be a long drive home when you don’t have the bragging rights!

The CUBE, Manchester

Tickets to play The CUBE Live range from £35-£47.50pp which represents decent value for up to two hours of entertainment, compared to some other activities aimed at a similar audience. Going by how busy it was the day we were there though, I would advise to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

This attraction is every bit as much fun as you would imagine – and more. Grab some friends or family members and seize your chance to take on The CUBE. I hope you have better luck than I.

And look out for more news of the next location too!

In the meantime, visit here for more information and to book.

The CUBE, Manchester, The Urban Playground

Review: Titanic The Musical

Review: Titanic The Musical

Titanic The Musical, Birmingham Hippodrome
Pamela Raith Photography

In the final hours of 14th April 1912, the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, collided with an iceberg and ‘the unsinkable ship’ slowly sank. It was one of the most tragic disasters of the 20th Century. 1,517 men, women and children lost their lives.

On paper, retelling this story was going to be a huge challenge. Not the obvious choice for a stage musical adaptation, I wasn’t sure what to expect but my curiosity got the better of me – and I’m pleased it did.

Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, Titanic The Musical is, in essence, a collection of love stories. Indeed, we’re very quickly invested in these characters, rooting for them even though we know their fates.

Titanic The Musical, Birmingham Hippodrome
Pamela Raith Photography

Despite this, the show is a celebration of hope and human strength befitting the ‘ship of dreams’ not to mention a poignant – and sensitive – tribute to the souls who tragically perished on that ill-fated voyage.

The original Broadway production of Titanic The Musical won five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. This stunning production celebrates the 10th anniversary of its London premiere where it won sweeping critical acclaim across the board.

The static set and a stellar cast combine to bring the audience emotionally on board with this story that takes on a light opera feel. My only note would be that sometimes it’s a struggle to keep up with the script, parts of which are drowned out by the music. (No pun intended!)

Titanic The Musical, Birmingham Hippodrome
Pamela Raith Photography

If you’re anticipating David Cameron’s movie rehashed for stage, Maury Yeston’s production – first performed on Broadway in 1997 – bears little resemblance. This is a stunning and stirring production focusing on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the passengers.

But it’s not an easy ride so prepare for plenty of light and shade and restock on tissues. It’s going to be bumpy!

Much like the ship, this is a bold and beautiful creation. May it continue to make waves in theatre circles for some time to come. All aboard for an adventure of Titanic proportions at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, April 22nd before continuing its UK tour until August. Tickets can be purchased here

Titanic The Musical, Birmingham Hippodrome
Pamela Raith Photography
Fifty fundraisers scale new heights for local children’s charity

Fifty fundraisers scale new heights for local children’s charity

Ben Nevis, Molly Ollys
A previous Snowdon group climb.

Three Warwickshire friends are among more than 50 intrepid fundraisers set to conquer Ben Nevis en masse this month in aid of local children’s charity Molly Ollys.

Organiser Alex Myers, from Stratford will lead the group, which includes Rob Horsfall from Welford and James Lennon from Leamington, as they tackle the 4,400ft climb on April 22nd.

It marks a return to the UK’s highest peak for Alex who works as a personal trainer and runs The Better Man project which offers emotional and physical support for men seeking to make improvements to their life.

The 38-year-old said: “I’ve done a series of challenges from charity boxing matches, to climbing all Three Peaks in 24 hours but I’ve never got people from all over the UK to climb Ben Nevis. The challenge for me this time is to get 50 people up and down the mountain safely. I wanted other people to achieve something on a personal level that will also benefit others.”

“This is a huge deal for a lot of people, the vast majority for whom this will be the first time doing something like this.”

Molly Ollys, Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis in January last year

He added: “When it comes to gratitude and purpose, there is nothing more impactful you can do than embrace the struggle and sacrifice your own comfort for the benefit of those less fortunate than you. The world needs stronger people because those people do good – and that way we have a chance of taking care of the people who really need our strength.”

Despite growing up in Scotland, the 8.5-mile challenge of scaling Ben Nevis will be a first for experienced climber Rob Horsfall, 45.

Rob, who has already conquered the Yorkshire Three Peaks, said: “I know only too well how bad the weather can be in Scotland. We need to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind because there will be a range of abilities, including people who haven’t done anything like this before. It’s about looking out for each other – especially as the weather is an unknown – and making sure everyone gets over the line.”

James Lennon on Snowdon.

Ben Nevis is a first for experienced climber James Lennon, who has been stepping up his gym training to be the ‘peak’ of fitness.

He said: “The biggest challenge for this is going to be keeping everyone together but also maintaining a good pace. If you go too fast too quickly you end up stopping but that is the worst thing you can do. You just have to keep on moving.

“When you go up the mountains with people you share those memories for a long time. It’s a great way to spend your weekend doing something positive that’s also for a good cause.”

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

Ben Nevis, Molly Ollys
Alex Myers and Rob Horsfall

Since Molly Ollys started more than £3 million has been raised to emotionally support children across the UK. Anyone wishing to donate can do so here

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “This climb is very much about team work and supporting each other in a challenging situation. It is very much how Molly Olly works, as a team with other organisations and health professionals to support children with life- threatening illnesses and their families.

“Alex took time to really understand our work and we are very grateful to him and everyone who has signed up to help make a difference. Our work would not be possible without the kindness and generosity of our donors. We wish them all good luck.”

To sponsor visit here

You can register to take part in the climb here