Event PR Connaught@Christmas

It was a very, very cold day when I first met Connaught@Christmas organiser John Radford in Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens on my birthday last February to discuss providing event PR. Fast forward 10 months and what a roller coaster of a ride!

This was the first time the gardens were going to be illuminated this way, and I knew from the start it was going to be amazing. Quite the best location, on the clifftops above the sea. Connaught@Christmas combined a paid visit to the gardens with a free-to-visit Food & Craft Village in nearby Manor Road car park. Only on for 6 days, it promised something new, exciting and affordable for visitors of all ages.

After an initial press release to announce the event, all was quiet for many months as the branding and website were developed. With the event starting on December 7th, we decided September was the time to start the push for ticket sales. After introducing John to Hannah Hocking of Six Degrees Marketing to (very successfully) manage the Facebook advertising, I created a series of press releases announcing various aspects of the event, including:

  • Tickets on sale
  • Design team plans coming together
  • Showcasing 30+ local traders at the Food & Craft Village
  • Build begins
  • Gardens light up

I also wrote editorial for the East Devon Resident for its November and December issues, negotiated competitions to win a family ticket with Devon Life and Radio Exe and populated a list for the press launch.We received masses of coverage, interest and support from local media. I was delighted that Radio Devon came to interview John the day before we opened, and when ITV Westcountry responded to my suggestion for a weather report from the gardens. The stage was set! And then came Storm Barra.

We had all been watching the weather, which had looked pretty reasonable until this storm turned up, due on the first day of the event – also the day of the press launch. John and I spoke the day before, then the morning of the storm. I had already contacted everyone on the press list with a ‘watch this space’ message. At midday, the call was made and the first day of Connaught@Christmas was cancelled. I duly cancelled the VIPs. John decided simply to refund all the tickets rather than make people rebook. This was a top decision, as everyone appreciated it and the majority booked for another day. Westcountry were still going to come, as the storm had died down in the afternoon, but then called me to say that we’d been bumped by the resignation of the Plymouth Argyle manager! They did come the following day, all the better as the lovely Kate Haskell did the report – Kate and I both write for Devon Life so it was good to catch up with her.

As for the event, it was a huge success. The feedback was incredibly positive, with only a few visitors being disappointed that they couldn’t bring their four-legged friends. I have an idea about that for next year! Some people asked why it only ran for 6 nights and want it to run throughout December next time. I went twice, once to liaise with ITV and the second time to enjoy it just as a visitor. Both times I fell totally in love with the event, the location, the moon rising over the sea, the projections over Jacob’s Ladder beach, seeing Father Christmas chat with children, the choirs singing on the bandstand, the cactus greenhouse lit up with so many colours.

I’m proud to have been involved providing event PR for Connaught@Christmas. I was totally bowled over too, to receive a gorgeous bouquet from John thanking me for my efforts. Well John, that’s my job. I really hope to do it all again in 2022.

Examples of coverage


On sale

Plans coming together

Keeping it local

Where to see Christmas illuminations

What’s On

Build underway

Event begins – a day late!

Exeter Property Awards Success

It has been an extraordinary year for client awards successes. I have to say I’m gobsmacked, not a word I use often! The latest was the Exeter Property Awards. This was the inaugural event and I had worked with two clients, SunGift Solar and Burrington Estates to put submissions together.

Both were shortlisted in a number of categories, SunGift in the Green Initiative and Suppliers & Services categories and Burrington Estates in the Developer and Transformation categories, the latter for the amazing Winslade Manor on the Winslade Park development.

These awards took place during an afternoon event at Sandy Park. I wasn’t there in person, in fact while the awards were being announced I was walking the dogs on Hembury Fort! However, I followed the results on Twitter. I lost the connection for a while, but when Twitter updated I was thrilled to see that SunGift had collected the Suppliers & Services award, and Burrington Estates had won the Transformation award. What I didn’t know until later on in the evening when SunGift MD Gabriel texted me, was that SunGift had also jointly won the Green Initiative with Grenadier (who collected a whopping three awards in total). Well, I have to say, three out of four ain’t bad!

There are just two more to go now, with the Western Morning News Awards (SunGift again) and the Family Law Awards, where The Family Law Company is shortlisted in the Wellbeing category. Then maybe a month or two respite, before it all starts again….

Congratulations to all the winners at the Exeter Property Awards!


Ever more Outdoors!

Since starting a retained contract with the magnificent organisation The Outdoors Group in January 2021, there’s been an avalanche of PR opps.

From taking on an existing forest school site in North Devon, through launching a new course for adults outdoors with autistic children, being named as a finalist in the rural business awards, opening a new special school site, running a yoga retreat. Then there have been business stories, celebrating a bumper 10th anniversary year and, next up, moving to a new HQ.

As well as press releases, we’ve run a competition with Devon Life with full page editorial, hosted a journalist on the yoga retreat and had the TogFest featured in Exeter Living’s social pages. The Outdoors Group also won the Education category at the Exeter Living Awards. For once, I didn’t write the nomination!

After a bit of nagging from me (“I need some good images!”) a wonderful library of professional photos is growing, courtesy of photographer Pip Raud.

So much more to come, with a spectacular rebranding underway, the first SEND conference being planned for 2022 and national press coverage to chase. An inspiring client, forward-thinking with an exceptional ethos. Pause for breath… and on to the next piece of news!

Just some of the coverage to date:








On the Small Screen – TV coverage

Gaining TV coverage for clients can be tricky, and its often difficult to measure the impact. Two of my clients recently featured in mainstream programmes. London’s Diespeker & Co featured on Your Home Made Perfect, and Exeter’s The Recycled Candle Company’s Pride heart candle was highlighted on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch.

Two fantastic opportunities!

I won’t take credit for Your Home Made Perfect, as the BBC contacted Diespeker directly. The hard work was all done by Lucy at Terra Ferma Media, the agency I work with on the Diespeker account. Thanks Lucy! You never can tell how much airtime a client will get (clients have helped out with DIY SOS and rarely get a mention, although in that case it’s all for a good cause!).  But on this occasion it was really impressive – a whopping 4 minutes, including a namecheck. Presenter Angela Scanlon made her own terrazzo during the show, and was so delighted with it that she gave some additional promo on Insta.

Meanwhile, here in Devon, I received an email from the production team of Steph’s Packed Lunch requesting a rainbow striped Pride heart candle for the show – and could it be sent to arrive the next day? Richard was away in Scotland, Sargon in Bristol, so there was a momentary mad panic. Richard picked up on WhatsApp and organised for the efficient shop team to parcel up a candle and courier it to Leeds. We were thrilled when we watched the show, as TOWIE star Charlie King showed the candle to the audience, mentioning the 10% donation from each sale that goes to  campaigning charity Stonewall.

So…… the impact.

The Recycled Candle Company received a barrage of online orders immediately after the candle appeared on screen, definitely a response to Charlie and Steph’s positive comments. Meanwhile Diespeker & Co has received lots of enquiries about bespoke terrazzo although it’s harder to tell if this was a result of the coverage or just because they’re so good at what they do!

Diespeker & Co

The Recycled Candle Company PRIDE candles

Christmas already?

I think this is probably the earliest in the year that I’ve ever mentioned the ‘C’ word – yes, Christmas!

I found myself at Connaught Gardens earlier this month (in fact on my birthday!) in biting winds chatting with John Radford who has plans to bring a wonderful festive experience – Connaught@Christmas – to Sidmouth later in the year. This will include illuminations in the gardens, traditional music at the bandstand, and a craft fair and street food village across in Manor Road car park. It’s going to be amazing!

It really is the perfect location for an event like this, overlooking the sea from the clifftops. The garden lends itself so well to beautiful lighting and special themed areas. There’s a wonderful surprise in the offing, but my lips are currently firmly sealed.

John was keen to get the word out early, to let the locals and business community be aware that this event is being planned.

It feels really early to talk about Christmas but in all honesty, after last year’s muted celebrations I have no doubt everyone will be up for wonderful experiences just like this one in just 10 months’ time.

Early days and much more to come but, some initial coverage:

East Devon News

Exeter Daily

In Your Area

Next, I’m sure discussions about Otter Garden Centres Christmas Grotto will be happening very soon!

Ho Ho Hospiscare

Just before Christmas I was pleased to help out with PR support for Ho Ho Hospiscare, a lovely initiative by Rusty Pig and Mazzard Farm Cottages in Ottery St Mary with help from volunteer fundraiser, the irrepressible Toni Hiscocks.

Hospiscare, like many charities, has struggled during the pandemic with so many fundraising events being cancelled. There’s a lot of love for the charity locally, and Robin from Rusty Pig in particular because of the help given to his family when his dad was at the end of his life. It always strikes a chord with me too, as the local hospice in Southampton was amazing when my own dad was terminally ill back in 1986.

The event was an online draw – donate a tenner and be in with the chance of winning the top prize of a break at Mazzard Farm’s superb holiday cottages, plus a feast at Rusty Pig and a hamper supplied by Knights Farmshop. Local businesses donated vouchers for runners up prizes. I took a pic at Mazzard and sent out the press release pronto to the usual suspects. The initial target was £500 and we all watched as this was easily reached and the total started rising steadily…. So Rusty Pig and Mazzard Farm offered a second top prize if the fundraising reached £2,000, this time with the addition of an afternoon tea at Coldharbour Farmshop.

Just before the draw, the total had topped an amazing £2,300. Added to this was a donation of £250 from PASC, an organisation providing support for self-catering businesses. So the final total was £2,550, a 400% increase in the original target. The draw was made on Facebook Live at Rusty Pig, but I’m not sure anyone minded who won – everyone was so thrilled with the amount raised! I snuck out a follow up press release just to tell the world how amazing the folk of Ottery are. Another show of community spirit, just in time for Christmas.



43 Elves on the loose

Tis the season to be generous – and that’s what went through my mind as I watched 43 elves arrive at work at Otter Garden Centres on a grey December morning.

The elves were all garden centre staff, festively dressed to walk, jog or cycle to work to fundraiser for Brain Tumour Support, in memory of their colleague Rob who died this year. Rob was well-liked and known by many as the driver of the Santa Express, the landtrain taking visitors to the annual grotto for a short journey to see Santa. Sadly the grotto was cancelled this year due to Covid-19, but this meant there were lots of elf costumes available to borrow!

The event was inspired by an approach from Helen Patterson, who is a brain tumour survivor and who usually takes part in the grotto as an elf. Helen wanted to fundraise by cycling from Exeter to the garden centre in Ottery dressed as an elf to raise money for Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s Society. She asked to borrow an outfit but she got more than she bargained for, as the Otter team thought this was a great idea, and suggested joining in. I came on board to generate media interest in the event and take some snaps on the day.

We had some lovely coverage in online and print news, although not from local TV on this occasion – which was a real shame as the sight of all those elves descending on the garden centre was something I won’t forget! Branch Manager Karl hired a Co-bike for his trip, which was a nice touch. Even Santa made an appearance to welcome them.







Helen arrived a little later having made the trip from Exeter. On her own, she raised £500 to split between Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s.





Thanks to everyone who gave the fundraising event a little plug, they raised over £3,500 on the day. A fantastic result from 43 Elves!


Post event

Reach for the Sky!

Yet another fascinating news story for Chilcotts Auctioneers, who asked me to promote the sale of medals and memorabilia of Joan Hughes, a female WW2 pilot.

Joan was awarded a Civil MBE in 1946 in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to the war effort flying new planes to RAF bases around the country.

Amongst the memorabilia was a scrapbook created by a fan. It contained some interesting and entertaining nuggets of information, which I incorporated into the press release.

Joan was 15 when she took her first solo flight and jsut 17 when she received her pilot’s licence to become the youngest flyer in England. During WW2 she was invited to join the women’s section of the Air Transport Auxiliary, which was responsible for delivering new or repaired planes to RAF bases, freeing up fighter pilots to concentrate on training.  Joan who was the youngest of the group.

She was such a good pilot that she was trained to fly many different types of aeroplane including Hornet Moths and Leopard Moths. She also flew Stirling and Lancaster bombers, although she had to sit on a high cushion, and needed an engineer on board to help her reach the levers and controls. By the end of the war she had flown nearly a hundred different kinds of aeroplane.

The story took an interesting turn when, after the war Joan began a glamorous career as a stunt pilot. She flew Kenneth More’s Spitfire in “Reach for the Sky”; she piloted a replica of the diminutive 1909 Demoiselle in “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines! For me, the best was her turn as Lady Penelope’s stunt pilot in the original Thunderbirds series (which I watched as a child), famously flying under a motorway bridge on the M40 when it was being built. When she retired from flying she moved to live on a farm not that far from where I live, in Dulverton, Somerset.

The story was not just interesting to research, it also left me in awe of this daring woman who seemed to have no fear. I listened to a recording of an interview with her, and she was incredibly down to earth about it all.

Coverage secured includes:

Antiques Trade Gazette

Midweek Herald

Devon 24/7

Also Express & Echo & Medal News

PR – the slow burn

I’ve been working on an interesting and quite different piece of medical PR since way back in August for Communitas Clinics in London.

It’s a lovely story, about how a sixth form student at Dulwich College took a pencil sketch from an ENT consultant and from it designed a practical screen to make nasendoscopy procedures safe for patients and consultants alike. Nasendoscopy is where a camera is put up the nose – unsurprisingly it often makes a patient sneeze. So with Covid-19 it’s become pretty unsafe with the danger of passing on the virus.After writing a detailed press release, I decided to work with the Press Agency to aim for wider coverage. The release went out just as I snuck off to Crete on holiday. I took a call from Channel 5 while I was lost looking for a remote village! Unfortunately,  every time the story was going to be used, it was bumped by another news story – yes you’ve guessed it, always Covid-19 related.

Eventually the story was picked up locally by London news sites. And in fact, it may not have run its course as it is still relevant, particularly with the latest lockdown after the increase in Covid cases.

The medical sector is always interesting to be a part of. Years ago I worked closely with Swedish companies Viggo Spectramed / Ohmeda Medical Devices, which was all to do with catheters. Again, not glamorous work (especially when they used my arm to demonstrate how not to insert a catheter) but fascinating all the same….

Southwark News

Wimbledon Times

Mixing it up with Mix

It’s a real pleasure to announce a new addition to my client portfolio. Meet Mix Clean Green!

Mix Clean Green (Mix for short) makes a range of concentrated eco-friendly cleaning products for the home. There are so many plus points: water free, paraben free, non toxic, vegan, low carbon footprint, single use plastic-free – and much more.

I was recommended to Mix founder Kate Deacon by Sarah Martin of Nourish Zero Waste, who I’ve worked with for a couple of years now (thanks Sarah!). Earlier this year Kate gave up her job as an Occupational Therapist with the NHS to concentrate full time on this inspirational business. A leap of faith especially in the current climate.

After meeting with Kate, enjoying GF cake and lots of tea, we agreed a three-month PR starter package. Over the past few weeks I’ve been busy learning about the products, creating a press kit and working on the first press release. Kate has provided me with assets including a very useful photo gallery.

There’s masses to do for Mix, it’s such a fantastic idea and Kate is truly passionate about what she’s doing. There are ideas in the pipeline giving me more than enough content to work with. She’s a very reactive client, too, answering my queries and giving me feedback in a flash. Impressive!

I recommend a visit to the Mix website to take a look and browse the products – be part of the sparkly clean revolution!

I’m loving working with this particular green ‘suite’ of clients, adding Mix into the mix with Nourish and The Recycled Candle Company.

NB My starter package for young companies and start-ups is designed to provide a PR boost at the early stage of their business journey. It works really well and often as not we carry on working together either on a retained or ad hoc basis.