All aboard for a touch of sophistication

All aboard for a touch of sophistication

ONE of the world’s most luxurious trains will be setting out from Coventry and Birmingham in August – but passengers had better look smart if they want to catch it.

For jeans and trainers are frowned upon aboard the ornately-decorated, 1930s-style Pullman carriages of the Northern Belle. – Especially as one of them, named Duart after the ancient home of the Maclean clan in Scotland, used to form part of the Queen’s Royal Train.

Northern Belle, steam train, afternoon tea

Businessmen David Pitts, who bought the train three years ago from the iconic Venice-Simplon Orient Express group, laughed: “This is a very special train. We transport passengers back to the golden days of rail travel. So we do like them to dress up for the occasion.”

Liveried stewards will welcome passengers on board over a red carpet on Saturday August 15th.

Northern Belle, steam train, afternoon tea

Then they will be served a Classic Afternoon Tea of sandwiches, cakes, pastries and scones during the five-hour journey through the countryside.

Mr Pitts said: “We like to think there is something quintessentially British about afternoon tea. And what better way of enjoying it than travelling in style on a train from a bygone era?”

Strolling musicians will entertain passengers during the trip and a table conjuror will add a touch of magic to the day.

The train will leave Birmingham at 11am and pick up passengers at Coventry at 11.30 on August 15th.

It is scheduled to arrive back in Birmingham at 4pm and Coventry at 4.30pm. The fare is £210. For further details of this and other planned excursions, COVID-pending, see www.northernbelle.co.uk or phone 01270 899681.

Community hungry to help charity neighbours

Community hungry to help charity neighbours

A HUNGRY community in lockdown has helped a Hatton Park business raise hundreds of pounds for a charity close to home.

Salt and Pepper’s presented charity neighbours Molly Olly’s Wishes with £548 – its first in a series of donations this year to local good causes.

The charity was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and grants wishes and donates therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw

Its mascot is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

But the charity has been forced to find new ways of fundraising to compensate for lost proceeds throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the cancellation of all its planned fundraising events, amounting to a forecast loss of £250,000 the charity failed to qualify for any cash grants.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Molly Olly’s Wishes want to thank Ess, Parmy and all their customers for their support. The pizzas are clearly a big hit on Hatton Park and in the wider community. The money raised is very gratefully received. These donations are vital to help Molly Olly’s continue our work supporting families. We have received so many wishes recently of things such as essentials like cots, beds, prams to electronic devices to climbing frames and swings. All of these items may not seem that important but to child who is seriously ill spending long periods in hospital or who cannot go out as they have a weakened immune system, these gifts can make a huge difference. A big thanks from Molly Olly’s.”

Parmy said: “We’ve had so much local support and help from the Hatton Park community so giving something back was always important to us and part of our business plan.

“Molly Olly’s had to be the first charity we supported, we were so touched when we found out about the amazing work they do and it’s certainly a cause we’ll support again.”

Molly Olly's Wishes, Molly Ollerenshaw
Molly Ollerenshaw, aged eight.

Further details can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk

Ess Sangha and Parmy Dhillon who run Salt and Pepper’s, have pledged to continue their support of local charities through their culinary efforts.

Salt and Pepper’s provide hand-made pizza, friend chicken, sides, drinks and desserts with free delivery service throughout Warwick on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Visit: www.pizzawarwick.co.uk

String of new enterprises inspired by the worst loss of all

String of new enterprises inspired by the worst loss of all

Sharon Luca-Chatha will boast to anyone who asks that she is a proud mum of two.

But there’s an unmistakable heartbreak behind her smile. Her first son Luca, whom she refers to as her ‘angel baby’, was stillborn at almost full term.

Sharon Luca-Chatha, The Luca Foundation, LK Eco Style, Angel Warriors, stillbirth
Sharon Luca-Chatha in her new clothing range

In a life plagued by trauma, including domestic violence in a previous arranged marriage and crippling illness which has left her unable to walk unaided, grieving for Luca is described by Sharon as her ‘darkest and most devastating time.’

But none of it has got in the way of her sheer determination to keep his memory alive. As well as changing her surname to Luca-Chatha, Sharon, from Coventry, has gone on to establish a charity in his name which has already raised thousands of pounds. And if that’s not enough, the busy entrepreneur is also about to launch two books and a new eco-friendly clothing line, all inspired by her journey with stillbirth and mental illness.

It’s agonising for Sharon and her husband Jas to know they’ll never have the answers they seek as to the cause of their son’s death eight years ago. But from that day on, they vowed to help other parents suffering the same tragedy.

The Luca Foundation, which counts among its ambassadors Poldark actor Christian Brassington, raises funds for the purchase and repair of refrigerated cuddle cots which allow grieving parents precious extra time with their ‘angel babies’ – time the couple desperately wish they themselves had had.

Sharon, 44, said: “A parent’s worst nightmare is to lose their child. We were beyond devastated, our world had fallen apart. From the moment he died on the Monday inside my womb, to the Thursday when I gave birth to him, everything was in a daze.

“We were not ready for the next blow – the limited time we had with him, knowing we would then never see him again. After holding onto Luca as long as we could – just a few hours – we had to hand him over to be taken to the mortuary. This caused us such trauma. We just cried uncontrollably.

“As I look back I realise that was the defining moment when I decided I wanted every parent to have access to a cuddle cot.

“The cot acts like a refrigerator so it keeps the body cold which allows the parents then to have up to a week with their baby and, if they wish to, even take them home with that equipment.”

Sharon added: “ ‘Growth restriction’ was eventually given as cause of death. When we got the post mortem results, I was hoping it was going to say they’d found some sort of defect that would have shortened his life and that he would have suffered – something to give me some sense of closure.

“We had exactly the same danger alert for our second son Ky who came up small on the growth chart at 24 weeks exactly as Luca had and that did scare us. But from then on I was monitored weekly and, on my persistence, he was induced early. I couldn’t bear the thought of him going past 36 weeks in the pregnancy because that’s when we lost Luca. He was delivered exactly a week before Luca’s birthday and the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, so if he had gone any longer he would have suffocated in my womb and we’d have lost a second child.

“I just know if they had done the same for Luca he would be here with us now.”

Sharon Luca-Chatha, The Luca Foundation, LK Eco Style, Angel Warriors, stillbirth
Sharon and Jas Luca-Chatha with their second son Ky.

Sharon fell pregnant with Ky, now seven, just a few months after their loss but she has made sure his big brother is still a feature of their lives.

“We toyed with the idea for ages. I just felt so empty,” said Sharon. My arms felt so empty, I felt like I had no purpose in life anymore. I was a mother but nobody saw me as a mother. I wanted a child here that I could nurse. We wanted to be parents to a living child as well.

“My dream was always to have two children which I do have, but one is not with me. It left me heartbroken really that Ky doesn’t have a sibling here. When I do see children with their siblings it tugs at my heart that we weren’t able to do that for him.”

While fundraising for the Foundation was halted by the pandemic, Sharon has been far from idle in lockdown, putting the finishing touches to both of her new books.

Angel Warriors, released on Amazon in October, is a touching and personal account of the past eight years, with plans to release an audio version of the book, spoken in her own words, by the end of the year, while Why Did Grandad Die? is an illustrated children’s book geared at helping three to nine-year-olds understand bereavement – and is inspired by Ky will eventually find its way into all schools.

One hundred per cent of the proceeds will go to the Foundation.

Sharon said: “We’ve always had photos of Luca in the house so even as a baby he would point at his picture and ask about him. I knew that day would come. We talk about him a lot and he’s a big part of our lives and he receives a present from his big brother every birthday and Christmas.”

She said: “I would like this to very much be a part of mental health awareness for children, especially with a lot of children having now lost loved ones through COVID-19. It would be a good form of illustration to say ‘there’s nothing to be scared of.’

“The title for Angel Warriors came to me while I was grieving for Luca. The definition of warrior is to keep fighting on and find your inner strength. My son up there in the sky is the angel and I’m the warrior down here having to live my life without him.

Sharon Luca-Chatha, The Luca Foundation, LK Eco Style, Angel Warriors, stillbirth

“We need such strength to get through the rest of our lives because we’ve gone through the most horrific kind of loss.

“This book took me about a year to write – I struggled to get through the first couple of chapters because they made me emotional.”

The couple’s hopes for a third child were dealt a cruel blow when Sharon was diagnosed with neurosensory disorder fibromyalgia following a car accident.

Despite battling with chronic symptoms including pain and fatigue, she is determined it won’t impede on her ambitious plans to continue to grow the charity – and business.

She said: “I was very active. I did boxercise, spinning classes, yoga and then the accident happened and everything stopped and changed our lives forever.

“It was really hard on Ky because he can’t understand why, all of a sudden mummy can’t pick him up and have cuddles or bathe him anymore.”

This week the entrepreneur turns her focus to the launch of LK Eco Style – her innovative new ethical clothing brand designed to complement the Angel Warrior book.

The Fair Trade range, for men, women and children, is UK-manufactured and supplied and made from recycled organic cotton and polyester with no toxins, chemicals or animal products – combining all of Sharon’s passions.

She said: “The original idea was to create a T-shirt to complement the book so I designed a slogan which then started snowballing across a range of other charities, all based around mental health. It’s about getting children to understand that it’s cool to be kind and men to talk together in a sense of brotherhood.

“There’s a very strong market for eco-friendly clothing but it’s not readily available so I thought why not do all those things that are important, not only for our environment, but for people’s wellbeing, mental health and charities. I would love for LK to become a household name one day.”

Partner charities, including Samaritans, NSPCC and The Word Land Trust, will receive a 10% donation from the sale of clothing bearing their slogans.

Sharon has come a long way since her darkest days in the weeks following Luca’s death, which nearly led her to take her own life.

She tearfully recalls: “I planned it all out but what suddenly stopped me was the fact that Jas would find my body. I just broke down in tears and realised I couldn’t do that to him.

“I was so upset when he came home that day and he wanted to know why, so I was honest with him. He cried a lot and asked me to promise him I’d never do that.

She added: “I do often think I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Ky. I don’t think I’d live this life of pain and hurt and heartbreak if it wasn’t for my little son who looks up to me and sees me as a strong mother. I’ve got to be that strong mother so he’ll realise when he’s older, my mum’s gone through all of this but has carried on going. I hope when he has those ups and downs in life he’ll know to keep going so he can get through it, like I have.

“I want him to learn that it’s not the end of the world, that you can carry on but you have to find your inner strength.”

A cuddle cot

The Luca Foundation: https://thelucafoundation.org.uk

LK Eco Style: https://www.lkecostyle.com

Why Did Grandad Die? will be available from Amazon at the end of August and Angel Warriors in October, both £9.99.

UNVEILING: Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards. . .

UNVEILING: Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards. . .

A CELEBRATION of the best of Coventry and Warwickshire’s food and drink scene is at the heart of a new awards program designed to support businesses as they re-emerge from lockdown.

The first Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Visit Coventry, will culminate in a ceremony in May following a finalists’ night on January 25th at the city’s new Telegraph Hotel – opening its doors for the first time later this year.

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle

Judges and public votes will decide on winners in several categories that focus on quality, service and innovation with an emphasis on farm to fork, including best artisan food and drink producers, farm shop, independent food and drink retailer, newcomer, street food trader and chef or cook of the year.

Three further special awards will also recognise the extraordinary efforts of businesses and individuals throughout the coronavirus pandemic – Food Champion, sponsored by The Leamington Courier Series and Rugby Advertiser; the COVID-19 Resilience Award sponsored by Visit Coventry and The Godiva Award, sponsored by Coventry BID.

The project brings together the creative minds behind Talk Business UK, Coventry BID and Visit Coventry, to champion the hospitality industry across the region.

Foodie Awards 2021, Jonathan Smith, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen
Jonathan Smith

Foodie Awards Founder Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”This will give a much-needed positive focus for the people in the Food and Drink sector across the region, delivering from farm to fork.

“With so many businesses hit by the direct and knock on effects of lockdown these awards will champion and celebrate the talent, passion, ingenuity and entrepreneurship of all those working so hard to grow, make, bake, brew, cook, host and serve their local communities. This awards program is for all of us to say thank you!”

Entries will open for nominations in a few weeks but sponsors are invited to get in touch via: hello@foodieawards.co.uk

Sponsorship packages, which come with a whole host of benefits, are available from just £600 but the organisers would also like to hear from businesses that can offer partnership services.

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle
Councillor Jim O’Boyle

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration said: “The last few months have been tough but as restaurants and bars begin to open their doors again, it’s a good time to celebrate the great range of food and drink on offer in Coventry and I am delighted that Visit Coventry is able to be a partner in these awards.

“We have seen a wide range of independent and well-known chains open in the city in recent years and these awards will give this sector a real boost.”

 

Trish Willetts

Trish Willetts, BID Director, said: “We are incredibly excited to be working with the team bringing the Coventry and Warwickshire Food & Drink Awards to the region. Coventry itself has a thriving foodie scene, with some great independent restaurants and bars in the city, and more to come later in the year.

“Whilst the last few months have been incredibly tough on the industry as a whole, things are slowly starting to get back to normal and a new chapter is beginning. The awards will be a fantastic way to celebrate this and give businesses the recognition they very much deserve.”

The finalists’ night in January and awards ceremony – at a venue to be announced – in May, will both be presided over by MC Kirsty Leahy of Kirsty Leahy Productions.

The Foodie Awards, which will be raising money for The Trussell Trust network of eight foodbanks in Coventry and Warwickshire, are also being produced in partnership with journalist Amanda Chalmers of ChalmersNewsPR, based in Warwick and food blogger Ellen Manning, from Rugby.

For a full list of categories and all the information, visit https://foodieawards.co.uk

New business helps lift pandemic cloud

New business helps lift pandemic cloud

TWO Leamington friends are hoping their new enterprise will help boost local business efforts to re-emerge from the challenges of lockdown.

Carl Barlow, from Cubbington, established Fog surface sanitisation company this month after adapting his private jet and helicopter valeting business which was suddenly grounded by COVID-19.

Fog, COVID-19, lockdown, Carl Barlow, Barry Sant, Rise&Shine
L-R Carl Barlow and Barry Sant

Headed up by ex-RAF engineer Barry Sant, the pair, forecast Fog will help lift a cloud in the aftermath of the pandemic, also pledging to employ other financial ‘victims’ of lockdown in the process.

Carl, who launched Rise&Shine for the aviation sector 20 years ago, said: “Due to the virus, aviation has been very badly hit so my business needed to look to other fields to generate more income. As we were already providing a fogging sanitisation service to aircraft – and as we were starting to receive requests to fog jet centres and non-aviation vehicles, we realised there is a need for this outside the aviation industry as well.”

He added: “We are truly focused on employing within the local area, to people who lost their jobs due to the virus.

“And everything from vehicle graphics to clothing merchandise to print has been locally sourced to assist as many businesses as possible.”

The Fog machines are designed to thoroughly sanitise all surfaces in any space, by dispensing non-toxic and eco-friendly disinfectant in a super fine mist of protective particles.

And customers are warned not to be alarmed by the appearance of the ‘foggers.’

“We turn up looking like Ghostbusters! We only wear the full personal protective equipment because we’re working with it all the time and are following the product manufacturers’ recommendations. The product is completely safe due its non-toxic and eco-friendly properties,” said Barry Sant, who was recently reunited with his childhood friend after seeing an appeal on social media.”

The ex-RAF and civil aviation engineer is able to call upon his 24 years working in the aircraft maintenance when heading up the new operation.

Barry Sant, Carl Barlow, Fog, COVID-19, lockdown

Depending on which cleaning agent is used, it can provide protection against pathogens and viruses for up to eight, 10 or 30 days after each procedure.

He said: “A motor creates a high- pressure air output to produce a very fine fog to enable the efficient application of various disinfectant solutions to a variety of hard and soft surfaces that are active within five minutes.

“It can be used anywhere that you have customers, staff or the general public – pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, public transport, vehicles, gyms, shops etc. and is already used in hospitals and other healthcare settings as one of the products is certified as a class 2A medical device. All products are food safe and one is even Halal certified, in accordance with Islamic law.”

He added: “People have their own care and maintenance and cleaning regimes to complement the initial disinfection, such as further sanitisation of the common touch points like door handles and light switches.

“There’s no reason why people can’t do the fogging themselves, with the correct equipment and PPE and disinfectant, but most people want to leave it to someone who has got knowledge and experience in carrying out the procedure and not have to worry about the initial outlay of buying all the expensive equipment.

“Also, every time there’s a procedure carried out they receive the official certification which businesses need to produce.”

Barry Sant, Carl Barlow, Fog, COVID-19, lockdown

As demand in Fog’s services grows, the entrepreneurs predict a new shift towards the long term importance of surface hygiene post COVID.

Barry said: “I’d like to see the business grow and eventually become national because the issue with the COVID virus isn’t going away in the short or medium term. We’re all in for a long ride with this.

“The elephant in the room is obviously COVID-19 but when you go to shops on the bus, for instance, you’re also being exposed to many other micro-organisms/viruses etc. – they’re just not in the news all the time. You’ve got the potential to pick them up at any point at any time from anywhere so a regime that can initially have been put in place due to the coronavirus, could have a longevity because of the nature of what it actually does.

He added: “This is all very much a steep learning curve and educational process, not only for the businesses carrying out this nature of the work, but also for business owners and members of the public. We can help them find a way through.”

Visit www.foggingnow.com for further details.