Awliscombe War Memorial

Armistice 100

Armistice 100 – a local story

I’ve heard many times recently that we’re in danger of forgetting about WW1 and the sacrifices made by so many.

A recent project I undertook for Chilcotts Auctioneers meant that one local family’s sacrifice is being remembered again – just in time for Armistice 100.

Earlier in the year, medals belonging to two brothers from Awliscombe arrived at Chilcotts to be auctioned. Chilcotts discovered that although both were killed during the First World War, only one brother was commemorated on the War Memorial in the village.

George Hine

Private George Hine of the 8th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, was killed during the early days of the Battle of the Somme. His name appears on the Awliscombe War Memorial as well as the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

James Hine

James served in India with the Volunteer unit 2/4th Battalion, also of the Devonshire Regiment. He survived active service and was discharged but died in August 1916. James was given a Commonwealth War Grave in Awliscombe churchyard. This indicated that the War Commonwealth Graves Commission (CWGC) believed he died from an illness contracted whilst on active service. His name wasn’t included on the memorial, however, because he wasn’t actually on active service when he died.

Righting a wrong

Chilcotts felt this was an injustice, because although James didn’t die in action his death was a direct result his service during the war. So I wrote a press release, suggesting that James should be added to the War Memorial. The story was seen by Cynthia Underdown, great niece of the brothers. She bought the medals when they were auctioned and determined to right the wrong.

Awliscombe Parish Clerk Sally Maynard helped the process along with the Parish Council and the War Memorials Trust. No objections were raised to the addition of James’s name and Cynthia contacted AG Real & Son Monumental Stonemasons to carry out the work. They insisted on carrying out the work or free, as a special tribute to local people who had fought in the war.

I put together a second press release with the update, with photos I’d taken of everyone at the war memorial.

However, the story seemed so poignant and relevant that I contacted the ITV newsroom. They loved it and have filmed a piece for their Armistice coverage. What a wonderful outcome!

James and George HineBob Cruwys filming Duncan Chilcott and Cynthia Underdown

Summer party welly game

Here Comes Summer

We Brits know how to party when the sun comes out, and businesses are no exception.

Everyone expects a staff meal at Christmas, but summer is the time to make the most of good weather and put on an outdoor event. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Getting staff together in the sunshine always lifts morale.

Long-term client Otter Garden Centres holds a summer party for all employees at its Ottery St Mary branch each year. But it isn’t a question of sipping a drink, oh no. Instead, there are  school games. Games involving eggs, wellies and sacks. You get the picture. The weather held and everyone threw themselves into the games – quite literally in the case of the tug-of-war. No cheating went on at all… The management team were great, acting as Head of PE, Head of Maths and Headmistress. There was even a Miss Bossy Boots. I was there, snapping away and getting some great shots of people letting their hair Summer event at TFLC Plymouthdown (and falling over), ready to send to Devon Life Socials.

In Plymouth in June, The Family Law Company hosted a summer celebration, inviting local practitioners, barristers and clerks to thank t hem for referrals. I love that Carrie, who put the event together, mentioned that it was nice to meet up with people who they are often in opposition with at court. Down pistols for the sake of Pimms! (Press release)

This weekend it’s the turn of Coverstructures, celebrating the completion of its stunning new offices on the Finnimore Estate. Owner Stuart Phillips is holding a family day replete with bouncy castle and mobile catering provided by another client, Rusty Pig. I won’t be attending as I’m off to Greece for a summer break, but I’ve booked a photographer so watch this space. but I’ll be back in time to help out with a small celebratory event for Tickety-Boo, another of Stuart’s businesses, which will be celebrating

I’ll be back in time to help out with a small celebratory event for Tickety-Boo, another of Stuart’s businesses, which will be celebrating it’s first birthday mid-August. Hopefully there will be cake.

All too soon it will be autumn, and then time for Christmas parties!

Summer tug of warThe summer school teamSummer and everyone's falling over

Dining at Rusty Pig

Copywriting Rusty Pig’s oinking new website

Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary is a long-term client. I first met owner Robin Rea when I wrote an article about him for Devon Life and we’ve been working together ever since.

I’m sure Robin won’t mind me saying that his website wasn’t really showing off the business as well as it could. So, it was with some relief that he told me he’d commissioned Rob Archer of Archer Studios to create his new website. Even more exciting, he was working with one of my favourite photographers, Matt Austin for images. Now, I have nagged Robin about images for years! Although I’m handy with my DSLR, the difference between my efforts and those of a professional have been documented before.

Copywriting

There was some discussion about how the copy was going to be written, and I was delighted when Robin agreed to me taking it on. I worked closely with Rob Archer to agree a word count for each section and played about with tone of voice until I got it ‘just so’. This type of website is not copy-heavy, and I really enjoy the discipline of cutting back the words whilst managing to keep the personality of the business. I also had to work fast – fortunately tight deadlines have never fazed me.

Launched

The website has now launched, and is a million trillion times better than the previous version. Take a peek at Rusty Pig and while you’re at it, why not book a table using the new booking facility!

Matt Austin’s images have been worth their weight in gold. Not only for the new website, but to illustrate a feature article I recently wrote for Devon Life, all about hedgerow cocktails at Rusty Pig. So nice to have wonderful photos to hand. And I’m proud of my headline ‘A sting in the cocktail’.

Rusty Pig feature

DEBI Awards Launch attendees

DEBI Awards Launch

2017 is the 25th anniversary of Devon Environmental Business Initiative (DEBI), and consequently the 25th anniversary of the organisation’s environmental awards. As a DEBI Director I am a keen supporter of these awards, which recognise this county’s commitment to environmental best practice.

As a charity, DEBI was founded to support businesses and organisations pursuing environmentally sound policies. The awards celebrate those in Devon that are going the extra mile for green issues.

DEBI Awards launch in the rain The awards launch this year took place at West Town Farm, in Ide, courtesy of the winner of the 2016 Enjoyed in Devon category, organicARTS. We were treated to a tour of the farm which we thoroughly enjoyed, despite the deluge (I was smug, in wellies and with a large umbrella to hand).

For my part, I was also on duty as ‘press photographer’ in prep for the launch press release, sent to the usual suspects including Western Morning News, Devon Life, Exeter Living and regional papers.

2016 winners

Many of last year’s winners came to the launch and talked about their experiences. Peter Grainger, Chair of Trustees at organicARTS spoke about their association with West Town Farm and the provision of an educational facility specialising in farm-based learning.

DEBI Awards Launch Mukti MitchellMukti Mitchell, Environmental Champion 2016, talked about his company, Cosy Homes, which provides energy saving secondary glazing and insulation for period homes and listed properties. He also spoke about each person can make a difference to climate change by reducing our personal carbon footprint – even the smallest effort can help.

Other 2016 winners, Melanie Shaw from Exeter Pound, Shevek Pring from South West Outdoors and Ryan Stojic from Mike Wye & Associates talked about how winning a DEBI award has benefitted their organisations.

About the awards

Entering the awards is totally free as is attending the awards event itself. This is held at the Met Office and offers a chance to network and meet like-minded people. The date this year is Thursday, 23 November.

The awards are really worthwhile entering. Judges (and I may be one this year) visit each shortlisted entry before the final decision is made.

More information on categories and how to enter is available here: DEBI AWARDS 2017

DEBI Awards logo

The Family Law Company at the Exeter Living Awards

Exeter Living Awards 2017

Awards are part of business life – in Exeter we have a wonderful array of awards to enter clients for; WMN, Express & Echo, Devon Life Food & Drink, Love the Flavour, Taste of the West – the list goes on!

I was lucky enough to attend the Exeter Living Awards recently. This is the second year for the awards, which celebrate the ‘best of Exeter’ (and beyond). The event was held at Exeter Uni’s Great Hall which was packed; more tables than last year and a very lively crowd indeed. The Great Hall looked, well, great! Tony Hawkes (not the skateboarder) was the compere, and entertained us with his dry humour.

My partner on the night was Sharon Goble of If…Media, and we had the best table in the house, with Jim, Lucy and Nathalie from Exeter Cookery School, Bethan and colleagues from YMCA Exeter and two of my clients, Kirsten and Rachel from The Family Law Company. Everyone, apart from Sharon and me, was a finalist. (Next year, Sharon?).

Awards Winners

Exeter Cookery SchoWinners Family Law Donna, Kirsten and Rachel at Exeter Living Awardsol and YMCA were pipped at the post on this occasion, such a shame but the competition was red hot. However, as the awards on the presentation table dwindled, we came to the Legal & Financial category. The Family Law Company has won some great awards in the past nine months, and a fifth gong seemed too much to hope for.

So, when they were announced as winners, I emitted a rather loud and embarrassing ‘woop woop’. Kirsten, Rachel and Donna (who was there with another winner, Citizen’s Advice Bureau which she’s a Trustee of) went onstage to collect the award. They looked absolutely great, three talented, strong women in an all too often male-dominated sector.

I always say to clients that it is almost as good to be a finalist as it is to win. But then, when they do win, it feels amazing!

Next up

In May, Devondale Electrical Wholesalers will find out if they have won their category in the national Electrical Wholesaler Awards, which they’ve just been shortlisted for. Fingers crossed for a win, Devondale is a truly independent South West company with a great ethos.

Writing awards submissions is sometimes time-consuming, but they really do help the writer (in this case, me) to understand a company better.

Of course, awards wins are only part of a PR service, but they are great for kudos, confidence and chutzpah. And not just for clients, for me too.

Exeter Magazines – Extra Fun

I’ve been writing for Devon Life from time to time for a couple of years now. Always good fun, I enjoy having the chance to write about a variety of different subjects, from gliding and riding to auctioneers and lady stonemasons.

Recently, however, I’ve had the opportunity to write for two Exeter magazines: Exeter Life and Exeter Living. Exeter Life asked me to write up a visit to Circa 1924 with four different food editors. I’m not a foodie writer so I panicked a little about using the right terminology – there are clearly ways of describing ambiance and food dishes that are not within my usual descriptive vocabulary.

Oh well, at the end of the day it was fine, well illustrated by a photo I took of Devon Life Ed Andy Cooper with a serviette stuffed in his shirt collar.

Exeter Living then approached me to write a feature about Honiton. That was more of a breeze, as I know my local town well, and most of the places to visit, shop, dine and stay. The only problem was the word count was so low that I had a job to cram them all in! Trusty camera to the rescue once again as I ran up and down (and across) the High Street taking photos to illustrate the piece.

Enjoyable stuff. More please!

Awards Season 2015

This year some of my clients are entered in awards that are new to me, as well as one that I know well, having written the submission for the very first Small Business of the Year winner, Nu-Heat, in 2011.

In the annual Express & Echo Business Awards for Exeter and beyond, I’m delighted that Robin Rea and his Ottery St Mary restaurant, Rusty Pig are finalists in two categories; Entrepreneur of the Year and Creative Business. Robin has already won at the Live Love Eat Awards this year – Platinum Award and Regional Champion.

Then there are the Tile Association Awards, which I discovered when trawling for potential awards for my South London client Diespeker & Co. Diespeker has also been shortlisted in two categories; Manufacturer of the Year and Best Use of Tile in Hospitality or Leisure.

I was also asked to enter a legal exec in for the CILEx (Chartered institute of Legal Executives) President’s Award. More of that soon.

It is always exciting to learn that a client is a finalist in an awards event and I wish them all the best of luck. I’ll be at the Express & Echo Awards myself – with some trepidation having learnt that Katie Hopkins is the guest speaker!

Shortlisted…

I recently mentioned that I was nominated in the Devon Venus Awards – and now I learn I have been shortlisted. Now that was a surprise!

VenusThis is the first time that I’ve been on the other side of the fence, as I usually encourage my clients to enter awards rather than enter myself. The Venus Awards celebrate women in business and entrepreneurs, and I decided to enter for the experience of the process, not expecting to get anywhere.

The category is Home Based Business. This is the way I’ve worked for many years and I’m quite proud of the fact that I work from home. I work very hard, but I don’t have to cope with rush hour (unlike my days in Reading!), I am usually on hand when the children are sick, and I can nip out for a walk with the dogs if all gets too much – there are many benefits. And I’m very well disciplined, which some people might marvel about!

(There was also a category for Business Mum, I might have entered if there was a one for Bad Mum – ask my children who I’m about to desert for a holiday in Crete – evil laugh).

Being shortlisted is quite an odd feeling and somewhat unnerving. I am always very calm when my clients are shortlisted, although at awards events my heart hammers when the winners are announced. Now it’s me I’ll probably be shaking with nerves. I’m not expecting to win but it’s an excuse to don a sparkly frock.

The final is in November. My friend, Sharon Goble of If…Media has also been shortlisted in the same category and I feel a few drinks are required in celebration. The fabulous Deer Park Hotel is calling! Prosecco on ice please….

Watch this space!