Special needs youngsters compete in second Rotary Cricket Tournament

Special needs youngsters compete in second Rotary Cricket Tournament

Sporting youngsters with special needs in Warwickshire were among those who competed in a cricket competition organised by Erdington Rotary Club.

More than 120 children from 11 schools in the area were bowled over to be invited to the Special Needs Six-A-Side Softball Indoor Cricket Tournament, in Stockland Green.

Taking part from Warwickshire were Corley Academy in Warwick; Welcombe High School in Stratford; Oakwood School in Nuneaton and Woodlands School in Coleshill.

The event, held at Action Indoor Sports on May 13th and 14th, saw teams of six players competing in friendly matches across the two days with medals and certificates for all those taking part.

Erdington Rotary Club Past President and District Governor Tim Bushell, said: “Feedback from the schools was really positive last year and so the District were pleased to be able announce the launch of the second Special Needs six-a-side softball indoor cricket tournament.

“This is an exciting opportunity for young people to take part in a sport they would not normally get a chance to participate in.”

The event follows the success of Rotary’s Special Needs Football tournaments which have now been running for 26 years.

Other schools competed from Birmingham, Solihull and Bromsgrove.

Tim added: “I would like to thank Courtney from Donate1 Create1 who run the venue – Action Indoor Sports, Marsh Hill Erdington for their help and support and especially Mike Farmer England Under 17’s indoor cricket coach for all the work he did behind the scenes prior to and over the two days of the event organising and umpiring the teams. Without his expertise we would have struggled.

“Also a big thank you to the Rotary Clubs across the District who sponsored teams enabling the event to go ahead.”

Leamington distillery packs a punch thanks to new sporting ambassador

Leamington distillery packs a punch thanks to new sporting ambassador

Warwickshire Gin Company, The Pugilist rum, Johnny Nelson

Former professional boxer and well-known boxing pundit Johnny Nelson MBE is putting his weight behind a Leamington distillery brand which is inspired by boxing.

Johnny announced his collaboration with Warwickshire Gin Company during a recent visit to the county where he met local amateur boxers at Cleary’s Boxing Gym.

Nelson, now a boxing pundit & motivational speaker, remains the longest reigning cruiserweight world champion of all time. Since his retirement, he has spent time working with charities, including the prison service where he helps inmates with life management skills. Last year he was appointed an MBE in King Charles’ first New Year’s Honours for services to boxing and young people in his local area of South Yorkshire.

Warwickshire Gin Company, The Pugilist Rum, Leamington, Johnny NELSON, BOXER
Edwin Cleary, Jack Turpin, Jason Collins, Johnny Nelson, Jack Turpin Jnr at the opening of Turpin gym in Leamington in 1999.

He is partnering with Warwickshire Gin Company’s award-winning Pugilist rum range, which has been named in honour of Leamington’s own boxing great, Randolph Turpin. Turpin, who is recognised with a statue in Warwick’s Market Square, went down in British boxing history for his sensational World Title win against the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson and earning himself the nickname ‘The Leamington Licker.’

Johnny Nelson MBE said of the new partnership: “I love boxing, and I love rum, so Pugilist Blended Rum and its history with Randolph Turpin is the perfect collaboration for me. Rum has been my tipple of choice since I retired.  I didn’t drink as a professional, and if I’m honest didn’t really like the taste of alcohol, but you’ll often find me drinking it neat, or enjoying it at home mixed with ginger ale.

Warwickshire Gin Company, The Pugilist Rum, Leamington, Johnny NELSON, BOXER

“The quality of Pugilist Blended Rum speaks for itself and hopefully through this new partnership, more people will get to know about it and hear the story behind the brand. The connection to Randolph Turpin couldn’t be more of an honour.


“Hopefully I can help The Pugilist bring to life the connection to boxing through appearances at gyms in the Warwickshire community, through to promotional campaigns. I’m proud to be an ambassador for the brand.”

The prestigious promoter joins ringside as the distillery and the three rums – Spice Blended Rum; The Pugilist – Sting Like a Bee – Honey Rum and Pugilist Ghost Edition White Rum, are already punching above their weight in the awards arena – the signature Spice Blended Rum taking Bronze at from the 2022 International Spirits Awards.

Warwickshire Gin Company is, this year, also celebrating becoming the ‘Number One Thing to Do in Leamington Spa’ on Trip Advisor.

The distillery’s tasting experiences have shot to the envied top spot thanks to over 100 five-star reviews from visitors. Internationally it’s also made its mark, achieving the “Travellers Choice Award” which puts the Warwickshire distillery in the top 10% of businesses listed in the world based on reviews.

Dave Blick, who established Warwickshire Gin Company at Victoria Business Centre, in 2018, adds: “It’s great to have such a prestigious member of the boxing community as an ambassador for Warwickshire Gin Company, endorsing our rum products. It will also help us in our plans to grow the brand in getting it into sporting and boxing venues and to carry on sharing the wider story of Warwickshire’s Randolph Turpin, extending his legacy beyond the county borders.”

Warwickshire Gin Company, The Pugilist Rum, Leamington, Johnny NELSON, BOXER
Johnny and Dave admire Jack Turpin’s boxing gloves.

The partnership followed the distillery’s sponsorship of Cleary’s Boxing Gym, which opened the doors to its new £100k premises in Whitnash last year.

Edwin Cleary now welcomes up to 400 members into his gym, from as young as six, some of whom were excited to meet Johnny Nelson MBE during his recent drop-in.

Edwin finishes: “Johnny opened Cleary’s amateur club with Jack Turpin, and I’ve since introduced him to a lot of my boxers. He’s an inspiration to any striving young boxer who comes through the gym. He teaches them the philosophy he himself lived by – if you don’t succeed try and try again.”

Visit: https://warwickshiregincompany.co.uk/


New weekend festival announced for Warwickshire pub

New weekend festival announced for Warwickshire pub

Fleur De Lys, Lowsonford, Fleur Fest

Families are being invited to a new two-day festival to help the licensees celebrate a decade in charge of their popular village pub.

Nick and Emma Woodhouse say the event, on June 29th and 30th, is their way of saying thank you to the community which has supported them since arriving at the Fleur de Lys, in Lowsonford, 10 years ago this month.

‘Fleur Fest’ promises a host of entertainment and activities throughout the weekend, from live musicians and performers – including stilt walkers and bubbleology – to craft and circus skills workshops, market and charity stalls and a dog show with prizes!

Fleur De Lys, Lowsonford, Fleur Fest

The event is also supporting Warwick charity Molly Ollys, and its founder Rachel Ollerenshaw will be on hand to raise awareness and sell raffle tickets across the two days.

Emma said: “Fleur Fest is our way of saying thanks to friends and fans of the Fleur. Our anniversary is very much something that we wish to celebrate because so few small businesses make it to their 10-year anniversary. So many hospitality businesses, particularly after the last few years, are struggling.

“It’s also a great excuse to have a bit of a party because it’s been such a such a miserable few years for a variety of reasons. It’s a celebration of all the things that this lovely pub offers. And Rachel from Molly Ollys is a beloved friends of so many of our locals so I wanted to support them too.”

Fleur De Lys, Lowsonford, Fleur Fest

The couple, who moved to Warwickshire from Bristol for their new project, are passionate about hospitality and have combined 30 years of experience in the industry. They work hard to protect the legacy and integrity of the inn, which they recognise as a valued part of local history.

The Fleur de Lys – which translates as Flower of Life – started out as a row of three 15th-century cottages which became canal workers’ accommodation and were later knocked together. Subsequent uses included a blacksmith’s forge and even a mortuary, from where the bodies were taken to Rowington Church in the absence of a village church at the time.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century when it first opened as a tavern, later going on to introduce the ‘pioneering’ idea of serving food and giving rise to the now famous Fleur de Lys pies.

Fleur De Lys, Lowsonford, Fleur Fest

The inn was mainly frequented by farmers who’d come in for a pie and a pint after they’d finished harvesting. The licensee at the time bought Emscote Mill in Warwick, from where they distributed nationwide but eventually the original pie recipe was sold, becoming what are now Pukka Pies. But, under Emma and Nick’s auspices, in 2018 Lowsonford Pies was born.

“People would come from all over to have a pie served to them through the kitchen hatch, directly from the chef’s hand, which is something you obviously couldn’t get away with today,” says Emma.

“We’ve had people come in who would say they used to come here for a pie before they even had a car!”

Fleur De Lys, Lowsonford, Fleur Fest
The welcome card Emma and Nick received from the locals 10 years ago.

The couple, who now also juggle running the business with parenting two young children, never forget the responsibility they inherited as this pub’s latest custodians. For Emma, who hails from Birmingham, it has also meant a return ‘home.’

“We’d decided to take on our first pub together when the Fleur came up for sale. I remembered it because my family used to bring us here when we were kids. I recall swinging on the willow trees over the canal.

“We knew immediately this place could be an absolute treasure chest. It’s the perfect location and exactly what you think an Old English country pub should be like. It’s so cozy with the log fires going in the winter and a beautiful canal-side garden to enjoy in the summer months.

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved in our time here so far, making the pub much more family-focused, but it’s always a work in progress.”

“Despite certain changes over the last 10 years, we have tried hard to keep honouring the character of the building. The biggest compliment for us is when people say, ‘oh, I used to come here in the 50s for a pie through the kitchen hatch, and it’s just the same as it was then, but a bit nicer!’

“If you think, how many people must have been in and out of this building over the years. – If these walls could talk!”

Fleur De Lys, Lowsonford, Fleur Fest

The hardworking husband and wife team hope the anniversary will be a good opportunity to meet newcomers to The Fleur while also ensuring locals and regulars are a big part of their celebrations.

“The village was so supportive of us and that first night that we were here, they all came out in force to greet us and they bought us a card which I still treasure to this day. We know that we are simply custodians of this beautiful old boozer and never take that for granted.”

Fleur Fest has been curated by Leamington-based events company Dare Productions  and runs between 12-8pm. Tickets are £15 for adults (plus booking fee) and £7 for children (plus booking fee) Children under three go free. Free face painting is also included within the children’s price. Available here.

Review: Sister Act, Birmingham Hippodrome

Review: Sister Act, Birmingham Hippodrome

Sister Act, Birmingham Hippodrome
Photos by Mark Senior.

Sisters are doing it for themselves – and never more so than in Birmingham this week where you can enjoy a heavenly dose of  Sister Act: A Divine Comedy Musical.

This high-energy production really hits the spot, lifting the spirits against the current chaotic backdrop of life.

Sister Act, Birmingham Hippodrome

Set in Philadelphia in the late 1970s, disco diva Deloris’ life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Placed under protective custody after witnessing her mobster boyfriend commit a murder, she is hidden in the one place she shouldn’t be found – a convent! Encouraged to help the struggling choir, she helps her fellow sisters find their true voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.

Landi Oshinowo’s performance seems as much at home in the platform boots of sassy Deloris Van Cartier as it does in the habit of her warm-hearted alter-ego of Sister Clarence, forging new friendships from the most unlikely of sources – the convent in which she seeks sanctuary.

Deloris’ charisma is equalled by Oshinowo’s powerhouse vocals which certainly reached the ‘Gods!’

Sister Act, Birmingham Hippodrome

Featuring original music by Tony® and eight-time Oscar® award-winner Alan Menken (Disney’s Aladdin, Enchanted) and songs inspired by Motown, soul and disco, this is toe-tapping romp is joyous and uplifting.

Plaudits too for Sue Cleaver (formerly of Coronation Street) who is pristinely pious in the role of Mother Superior, and whose acting prowess more than makes up for lack of vocal finesse. (But it’s not really a singing role.)

Biggest laughs of the night though came from the unlikely direction of the villains of the piece – Ian Gareth-Jones, who plays Deloris’s lover, Curtis Jackson, and his his trio of hapless henchmen Joey, Pablo and TJ, played by Callum Martin, Michalis Antoniou and Elliot Gooch.

Sister Act, Birmingham Hippodrome

A special mention is deserved too for Alfie Parker as the luckless dreamer Eddie Southern whose velvety smooth soulful vocals were enough to melt the heart of our heroine – as well as a packed Hippodrome audience. What a voice!

A divine couple of hours of entertainment that you won’t regret.

It plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, May 18th. Tickets available here

Little corner of Leamington takes on exciting new identity with launch of Tavola!

Little corner of Leamington takes on exciting new identity with launch of Tavola!

Tavola, Leamington Spa
Photos by Harrison Charles Design

Locals will be able to get their first glimpse of Leamington’s newest restaurant on Friday when the doors finally open to Tavola.

It marks an exciting new chapter in the history of the well-known 200-year-old venue, in Clarendon Street, following a period of closure and transformation.

Tavola, Leamington Spa

The former 44 Café reopens in its new guise on May 10th sporting a theme and décor inspired by Italian surrealist painters of the 1920’s – he vision of Birmingham-based design company Faber.

Proprietor Rob Singleton said: “Tavola is a homage to the bars and trattoria of northern Italy and Rome where the best Italian ingredients are prepared with love, care, and skill and where hospitality is done right.

Tavola, Leamington Spa

“We feel we have created somewhere our neighbourhood can be proud of, somewhere our guests will always find a warm, open-armed welcome.

“Team members who have grown up in Leamington as well as Italy make up our front of house. We all have the same values around hospitality and every member of the team is here because they love people and love nothing more than being part of the most enjoyable parts of people’s lives, eating and drinking and being together.

“The rebranding is a natural extension of the refurbishment and history that we are proud of.”

Tavola, Leamington Spa

Heading up the team is a familiar face to regulars, Luke Hampson, who stayed on as front of house manager and mixologist after several years in the business’s more recent history.

Central to the restaurant’s new culinary identity though is Tuscan executive chef, Martin Serafino. Martin looks forward to showcasing his passion for authentic Italian cooking through his new menu, the secret to which is, he says, a combination of ‘tradition and innovation.’

Tavola, Leamington Spa

“I’m very excited for this new menu. I want to encourage people to try something they never tried before,” he said.

“I love to express myself through food so there will be some experimenting. But my main goal is to share the beauty of my own country as well as celebrating how every country has different traditions and different ways to cook.”

As well as seasonal and specials menus, Martin is also serving up his signature Schiacciata sandwich range – using a special Tuscan pressed focaccia made fresh on the premises.

Tavola, Leamington Spa

Visitors to Tavola – which translates from Italian as ‘a table you would dine at’ – can choose from a new Bottomless Brunch Menu, available every day of the week between 11am-4pm.

Northern Italy inspires the drinks menu too where the art of aperitivo means after work drinks are accompanied by antipasti sharing plates of calamari, olives, and crostini.

Rob said: “We needed to create a space where our guests can both grab a sandwich and a coffee in the day, then come back in the evening to spend a few leisurely hours eating and drinking while enjoying good company.

Tavola, Leamington Spa

“Being a wheelchair user myself, I realise the importance of accessibility and inclusivity and understand the positive impact those adaptations would have. We have completed the first phase of refurbishment, while in the planning stage for the next phase involving ramped access and an accessible toilet and we will announce plans in due course.”

“We look forward to welcoming our first guests and unveiling the vibrant and fresh new look. It’s a look which befits this quirky building and complements the imaginative new menu as we start this new chapter.”

To see the menus or to book, from May 10th onwards, visit here.