Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Canterbury Gymnastics rolls forward into new era

I'm sure the original headline on my press release had a gymnastic pun in it? :-)

Friday, 18 July 2014

West Berkshire’s renowned Boxford Masques event returns to Welford Park this summer in the form of “Joe Soap’s Masquerade” by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean.

West Berkshire’s renowned Boxford Masques event returns to Welford Park this summer in the form of “Joe Soap’s Masquerade” specially written by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean.

Directed by Ade Morris with music written by Flying Picket Paul Kissaun, the summertime play will be performed outside in the grounds of Welford Park from July 30 to August 3 by kind permission of the Puxley family.

The play is set towards the end of the First World War and is performed by a cast of locals aged from seven to 70 plus! Performed with live music, the action takes place in 1918 in the “Big House” and the neighbourhood is hoping for peace. The protagonist Charlotte Peake has her heart set on a circus to celebrate the end of the war – there’s even a tent in the barn, but where’s the talent going to come from to fill it?

Maybe by taking a leaf from Lord George Sanger, famed Newbury circus owner and gold-plated fibber… Enter the anarchic Joe and friends, deserters from the army, with their bitter-sweet Masquerade.

“It will be strange to see Great War uniforms walking around these grounds again,” said Deborah Puxley who, for a second time, is throwing wide the gates of her home to the Masques. “A century ago so many individual tragedies and little triumphs must have been acted out here, in this idyllic spot, while the War raged on overseas.”

Geraldine McCaughrean added: “Fittingly, Welford Park itself was used as a First World War hospital and the idyllic setting between the Queen Anne house and the River Lambourn is the most gorgeous backdrop for a play.”

From 1916 onwards Welford Park was used as a convalescent home for injured troops. Photographs from the time show men recuperating in the grand rooms and gardens, ‘wound patches’ sewn to their uniforms like ‘red badges of courage’. 600 troopers were treated there, 30 resident at any one time. In summer there were outdoor sports, in winter occupational therapy. In October 1919 it closed with a final concert given by the residents.

The Boxford Masques were established in 1908 by the real Charlotte Peake and were revived by late Boxfordian historian John Vigor, and Ade Morris with the Watermill Theatre, in 2000. This year’s production, now independent of the Watermill, is the second at Welford Park.

Originally, masques were lavish musical spectacles staged for kings, queens and courtiers but Charlotte Peake began writing her own ‘masques’ for performance by family and staff, and for the enjoyment of her arty circle of friends.

Her stage was a natural amphitheatre at the top of Hoar Hill, overlooking most of the county. In ten years they became a village tradition.

With songs specially composed by Paul KIssaun , dancing choreographed by Newbury Contempory Dance's Deborah Camp, lovely costumes, a huge cast of local men, women and children, and fully professional production values, a Boxford Masque is always a sight worth seeing.

“Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine or enjoy an onsite barbeque and a drink from the bar. Enjoy the ravishing gardens, the sun setting during Act 2, the flare path lighting your way home…
"Masques were invented to entertain royalty. The Boxford Masques are made for you,” added Geraldine.

Tickets are available from the Watermill Box Office on 01635 46044 or and cost £9 in advance (£10 on the gate for Wednesday, Thursday nights and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm).

£12 in advance/£14 on the gate for Friday and Saturday nights.

£3 off the price of all seats (elderly, 12-16 year olds, disabled and unwaged). Free for children aged 11 and under.

A bar and a barbecue are available at each performance.

Grateful thanks are due to the Watermill for box office and costume assistance as well as Greenham Common Trust for match funding the project through their scheme.

For more information about Boxford Masques please visit


Notes to editors:

Review tickets are available on request. Geraldine McCaughrean, Ade Morris, and other members of the committee are available for interviews.

You’re welcome to send a reporter, photographer and cameraman to dress rehearsals on Tuesday or Wednesday, 29/30th July,or earlier to catch final preparations at Welford.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014


A Newbury-based personal stylist and dress agency is re-launching this week with a new name, Frankie and Ruby.

The business, originally called Victoria’s Wardrobe, was set up by Victoria Lochhead to help busy people know their style “rules” and to get the most out of their clothes shopping time.

Victoria is also passionate about dressing people sustainably; sourcing her clothes from charity shops, recycling centres and vintage fairs. Earlier this year, she also set up a UK-wide campaign called “Say no to new” to encourage people to think about avoiding ‘fast fashion’ and instead persuading them to think about buying vintage and second-hand clothes.

Named after her two daughters, the new agency received its official launch with a garden party on Saturday, where an exclusive personal shopping service was also unveiled.

Following an approach from a company in the UK also called Victoria’s Wardrobe, Victoria was told that the brand name had recently been trademarked. Instead of closing shop, she took the opportunity to rebrand and diversify her offering. She has now taken on a colleague Jo Marshall and the pair offer colour analysis, styling consultations, wardrobe decluttering, personal shopping and styling.

They also advise on “the rules” to help people know their shapes, colours and even suitable fabrics so customers need never buy anything unflattering again.

Victoria said: “Two months ago, I had to change my business name as someone else had been clever enough to trademark it. Given the time, effort and energy I’d put into the brand, I thought it was devastating. However, at the same time, I was approached by Jo who wanted me to train her to be a personal stylist and run a dress agency.

“I realised that the name change had actually come at a perfect time - she couldn't have easily run a business called Victoria’s Wardrobe but she could run a Frankie and Ruby!

“Having to change my name has led me to have a good look at my business - I love training, I love working with others - and opened up the possibility of having more branches of Frankie and Ruby.
What I thought would be a failure has turned into a great success.”

Victoria set up her consultancy after returning to work in the hospitality sector after the birth of her second daughter. Feeling she had nothing to wear and under confident in her new shape, she visited an image consultant whose help proved to be life-changing; Victoria was immediately enthused to ensure other women are equally empowered.

Victoria received advice on the re-brand from Newbury-based European trademark attorney Dale Campbell from Trademark Tribe.

Dale said: “I had every sympathy for Victoria as building up a brand and gaining a reputation takes time, energy and expense.

“To have another firm with deeper pockets come along and take your good idea is a nightmare for a small business. No matter how small you think your business is, I recommend registering your trademark so that the brand is not available for anyone else to use.
“Businesses who have been in existence for many years think that this is not a problem as they have not had an issue using their name. Victoria’s experience is a good reminder that it only takes someone else to register your brand as a trademark for you to potentially lose the name. Now she has protected the name with a trademark, she can grow her business with confidence knowing she owns the rights to the brand. We wish her every success with the latest chapter in the firm’s history.
“The best case scenario is for you to own the trademark and when a search is undertaken it will be clear to the bigger companies that the name is already in existence and their marketing gurus can then come up with a new brand name.”

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


A Basingstoke marketing specialist has launched a digital analytics firm to help companies understand exactly how potential sales leads arrive at their websites so they can develop informed and targeted strategic marketing plans.

Chartered Marketer Debbie Bouffler launched Think Forensics this month to help businesses improve their lead generation. With a passion for marketing and a knowledge of the latest technologies, she is uniquely placed to help companies move their leads through the buying process.

Previously Debbie worked in the marketing department at automotive software giant ADP and has 15 years of experience in marketing. She is an active member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and has been a committee member of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch for more than three years and has even been acknowledged by the CIM for her ‘outstanding contribution.’

She said: “I created Think Forensics to help businesses identify their sources of lead generation and to ensure they understood how to improve them. According to a recent survey, direct traffic, search engines and web referrals were the three most popular online channels for lead generation, together accounting for 93% of leads.

“With a better understanding and further insight into your business, making informed decisions become easier. I have the capability to present all these figures in a clear and simple way, consistently reporting on campaign results, the impact of communications and even website performance.

“Every penny spent on marketing should produce a return - why keep spending if you can’t see any more leads! I believe you need to make the most of your existing assets first, websites and collateral already have costs associated to them, data takes time to enrich and even longer to maintain. All these assets are vital to promote your business - so make them work harder, push them to the limit, if they break - then you can replace them.

“Businesses strive to generate ‘quality’ leads, and I can help them maximise these, leaving you to convert them into sales for your company. Think Forensics was created to assist businesses with their marketing activities, in a different, yet effective way. Think Forensics obtains useful and meaningful data gathered from websites. With regular analysis and within a short amount of time, a story is slowly revealed.”

By exposing the real facts and figures, marketing activities are identified, monitored and measured. Debbie explains, “It’s all just really about uncovering the truth behind the metrics. By gaining an all-embracing view of marketing activities, there is the ability to take advantage of what is working well and immediately change what is not.”

Debbie was given help in launching her business by Newbury-based motivational coaching firm Bigger Brighter Bolder. Bigger Brighter Bolder runs Success Groups that give budding entrepreneurs a chance to meet, uncover their potential, find their purpose and launch their business from a solid foundation. Thirty-eight members meet twice a month to benefit from personal development tools and learn techniques to develop the ‘Mindset for Success.’

Debbie added: “George Swift and Tracey Miller from BBB helped me develop the right mindset for running my own business. While I knew I had the passion and drive to run a successful marketing firm, without them, it would have taken me longer to have built enough confidence in myself to launch Think Forensics.”

Tracey Miller from Bigger Brighter Bolder added: “Debbie has the knowledge and expertise to develop a successful business proposition. We are very proud to be a part of her journey to success.”