Blog Posts

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The sunny side of Shropshire

If you ask most folk in Shropshire about their home county they will admit that it is something of a ‘hidden gem’.
They will boast that it has stunning countryside, pretty villages, striking towns, unique architecture and some very proud residentssunny-side-art-products-oct16-0038lr-crop2. However, to many in the UK and abroad the county remains unknown – and there is a school of thought that this should remain the case!
But a range of stylish artwork products, which is now expanding and evolving rapidly, is not only being appreciated by local customers but is being bought by and for people throughout the world.
Linda Edwards is the artist behind Sunny Side Art, a highly successful illustrator whose designs and drawings are featured in best-selling books and cards. She works together with her partner Nigel Elliott from a beautiful studio overlooking Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park.
She admits that this county is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets but is happy to be spreading the Shropshire word further afield.
Like many great ideas, the creation had simple origins. A few years ago she made a drawing weaving together Shrewsbury’s odd, interesting buildings and even quirkier street names and this was the start.
Today the collection includes prints, mugs, tea towels, a large range of cards, notebooks and other homeware and stationery, as well as a 15-metre long mural on the wall of a café.
Shrewsbury has been joined in the collection by a Shropshire range which picks out many of the county’s wonderful hills, buildings, bridges and castles. And then there are products focusing on Oswestry, Church Stretton and Wem. Ludlow is about to have its own Sunny Side range and Linda has been asked to develop products featuring Whitchurch and Bridgnorth.sunny-side-art-mugs-oct-16-lr-crop3
“This is my 25th anniversary of arriving in Shrewsbury. I felt welcome from day one and am so happy to be still living here,” Linda says.
“I have always adored the town and been passionate about the county and when I launched Sunny Side Art in 2013 I could not have dreamt how well it would have been received.
“People in Shropshire seem to really appreciate the fact that we are celebrating their county and showcasing all the interesting and beautiful places which they know and love.
“I think this is the key to my success with the range and the fact that we also like to support local businesses and use small British manufacturers such as a traditional china works in the Potteries.“
Another factor in its success could be simply that it makes you smile. As you carefully study the intricate drawings you begin to see familiar characters and evocative words and phrases which trace around the illustrations.
For example, Shrewsbury’s own favourite juggler, Justin, who practices in The Quarry, can be spotted on the town’s products.
The gifts, sold at retailers throughout the county, are also being snapped up as presents for people with a local connection who are now living abroad.lindanigel-photo-richard-hammerton
“We know they have been sent as far afield as Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. It’s great to know that a little piece of Shropshire is sitting in all these countries and we are thinking of getting a map with pins in it showing how far our products have travelled.”
Plans for the future include developing ranges for other cities and towns, including London, and the creation of a ‘Shropshire villages’ illustration which will be used on various merchandise.
“There are some fantastic names for villages in the county, such as Wigwig, Crumpsbrook and Willey, and if anyone can suggest other distinctive names I would be happy to consider including them!” Linda concludes.
Sunny Side Art products can be found in your favourite shops in Shropshire and at www.sunnysideart.co.uk

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Living her dream

Ehob-shifnal-39very girl has her childhood dreams but life can take unpredictable twists and turns which mean she may never fulfill them.
However one Shifnal businesswoman has ensured nothing has got in her way and her determination has led to her being the proud sole owner of a luxury boutique salon.
At House of Beauty, Jamie-Leigh Bird is fulfilling her dream of bringing luxury, specialist beauty treatments usually found in big cities to the market town.
Whilst project managing the refurbishment of her salon on Bradford Street, Jamie-Leigh from Muxton found time to tell County Woman about her journey and her life as a single mum and successful businesswoman.
She says her children Faith, nine, Riley, six and two-year-old Elliott certainly put a smile on her face when business and life gets tough!
“I know it sounds cliche but from the minute I could walk I was into hair, make-up and general girl’s things,” she says. “I’ve always looked after my own appearance but got extremely frustrated at the standard of service or the lack of availability of certain treatments here in Shropshire.
“House of Beauty was opened in 2012 and it’s gone from strength to strength. I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy – I wouldn’t want anyone reading this thinking ‘I’ll set up my own business tomorrow, it seems a doddle!’
“It has taken more blood, sweat and tears than I ever imagined and more hours away from my children than I ever wanted but that’s life and they understand why mummy does it,” the 29-year-old says.hob-shifnal-36
“Finding the right staff has been one of the biggest issues and barriers to growing the business. Young girls often want to leave home and head for the big cities because they often believe that’s where the opportunities are, but we offer the boutique salon career right here in Shropshire.
“To achieve the standard my customers deserve I now train all of my own staff as I just couldn’t recruit experienced people who could offer what I wanted.”
She adds: “I want to inspire people with my story but also make women feel so good that they are then empowered to go out there and inspire others in whatever way they wish – it might be through a business presentation, by telling others how good they feel or simply by smiling with confidence; everyone deserves to smile and feel great.
“My favourite phrase is ‘beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself’ which is so very true. We know everyone can have a bad day so looking and feeling good is everything. It is all about the experience and walking out of our door feeling amazing.”
With late night and of course weekend openings, Jamie-Leigh certainly  has to juggle life and with Christmas around the corner she is working more hours than ever as she enjoys the busiest time of year.
“I know sometimes I will drop the children off at school or at a friend’s house or my mum’s and that will be the last time I’ll see them that day as I’ll be working, but as a single mum the older two understand mummy works hard so they can enjoy nice holidays and for their future. Every parent wants the best for their children and sometimes sacrifices have to be made.
“But I don’t feel guilty or have any regrets – the children are happy and love seeing me happy.
“They know exactly where they are and where they should be from breakfast clubs to after school clubs and sports clubs. It’s me that’s constantly checking the diary!”
So with training of staff, running the business, travelling around the UK to take part in new courses and sourcing new products, whilst also looking after three children, it is surprising Jamie-Leigh has time to project manage the refurbishment of the salon at the same time.
“I wanted to start this next phase of expansion of the salon with a fresh look. My customers deserve the very best and I want to give them that.
“My success is of course down to hard work and determination – I am very stubborn at times – but that wouldn’t be possible without the amazing support of my customers who come back time and time again.
“My staff are also amazing and all share my work ethic; it wouldn’t work if they didn’t. We are a team and I am excited about the future at House of Beauty. My plan is for 2017 to be the most successful year yet and I can’t wait.”
www.houseofbeautyshifnal.com

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Wrekin and Telford to serve up a vibrant tennis community

Exciting plans supported by the Lawn Tennis Association to form a vibrant tennis community in Wrekin and Telford have been unveiled.
 
Led by Better, who operate Telford Tennis Centre – the town’s impressive tennis complex with four indoor and four floodlit outdoor courts – on behalf of Telford and Wrekin Council, a brand new community programme is to be offered to enhance current activities and provide opportunities for all its members.

The Wrekin and Telford Tennis Community programme will also incorporate outdoor parks in the area at Oakengates, Bowring and Dawley.
 
Telford Tennis Centre will merge with Wrekin Tennis Club and Telford Community Tennis Club to launch a pay and play card available at a cost of just £20 for adults and £10 for children for a year.
 
This will give access to a wide range of opportunituies to play tennis locally, including coaching sessions, social tennis, friendly competitions, league matches and children’s events such as the upcoming Christmas party.
 
Nick Williams, the tennis manager for GLL at Telford Tennis Centre, said: “The LTA recognise the journey that we are about to embark on is a first within tennis in the UK and are fully supportive of our aims.
 
“Wrekin Tennis Club and Telford Community Tennis Club have both provided excellent opportunities for players for a number of years at the various sites across Telford.
 
“These clubs along with our own have now merged to form Wrekin and Telford Tennis Community – which will operate from Telford Tennis Centre, Bowring Park, Hartshill Park and Dawley Park.
 
“There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes in getting to this stage and there will be more hard work to make sure that everything runs as we envisage.”
 
Nick added: “We have an ethos that tennis should be inclusive and available to all. We distance ourselves from expensive memberships and exclusive access. Our vision is to increase participation by attracting more beginners of all ages to learn and play tennis and ultimately play in our teams.
 
“We aim to provide excellent activities for those already playing and competing. This new community will give opportunities for all of this. Our strength in numbers will be key to our success and creating a great atmosphere.”
 
Pay and play cards are available by completing a booking form at Telford Tennis Centre and, once issued, members can make the most of a host of community sessions around the town.
 
Indoor tennis will be available at Telford Tennis Centre on Friday evenings from 6pm to 8pm for a discounted cost of £4, with social sessions outdoors on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7pm to 10pm and Sunday mornings between 11am to 1pm.
 
Tuesday sessions will be at Bowring Park, with Thursdays and Sundays at Telford Tennis Centre, at a cost of just £2.
 
Matches for the Telford Tennis Centre teams will be held outdoors at TTC for £6 per person, with new balls included in the price.
 
A Christmas competition – with complimentary mince pies- will take place on Monday, December 19 from 7.30-10pm with an entry cost of £2 while the following day a Christmas party for children will be run from 5-7pm with free admission.
 
Coaching for children at the parks sites will be delivered in blocks with online booking on Sundays at Bowring Park, with junior community members receiving a discount compared to non-members.
 
Nick added: “We are forming a steering group to plan and organise the calendar and activities. The steering group will be limited in numbers but anyone can raise any points at any time to be discussed within the group – it is an exciting time for tennis in Telford.”

Bob Kerr, the chairman of Tennis Shropshire, said: “Tennis Shropshire is very supportive of this initiative, having worked from the outset along with both clubs and GLL in order to get to this stage. We see this as a great opportunity to promote tennis within the community, therefore enabling more people to play tennis more often.”

 

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Santa Claus is coming to town

Anyone wishing to drop off a Christmas present for delivery by The Lions needs to have it at one of the two drop-off centres by 16 December. Click here to download the coupon.

The two drop-off locations are at Bridgnorth Print Services in Listley Street (High Town) and Bridgnorth Tyre Services in Cann Hall Road (Low Town).

The areas being delivered to are:

Monday 19 December:

Alveley, Quatford and Quatt

Tuesday 20 December:

Bobbington, Claverley and Worfield

Wednesday 21 December:

Broseley, Highley, Eardington, Chelmarsh and Much Wenlock

Thursday 22 December:

Bridgnorth (WV15) Low Town

Friday 23 December:

Bridgnorth (WV16) High Town

Each present should have a label attached with the name, age, address, telephone number and postcode of the recipient. Having a present delivered by the Lions will cost a £5 charity donation.

For further information visit www.bridgnorthlions.org.uk

This has been a busy year for Bridgnorth Lions and in December they will see 2016 off in style by reviving something they haven’t done for a decade: hand delivering presents to addresses across the Bridgnorth area.

The idea is that people can drop a gift-wrapped and addressed present off in the town and those presents will be hand-delivered to the lucky recipient by Santa Claus during the week beginning 19 December.

Peter Parker, the Lions President, said: “We are really looking forward to taking on the Santa Claus present delivery again, as we haven’t done it since about 2005.

“Something else we are doing at Christmas is having hamper raffles in pubs, restaurants and businesses across the Bridgnorth area. We will have over 50 hampers, each filled with treats such as alcohol, Christmas pudding and chocolates. The raffle tickets cost £1 and all funds raised will go towards the work the Lions do, which is mostly in the local community, but occasionally involves us supporting national and international projects.”

Two of the international projects supported by Bridgnorth Lions are the Haiti Appeal and also the appeal to help Italy after the earthquake. Peter said: “The Lions are an international organisation and when we raise money for appeals like those two the money is sent to Lions International, who subsequently forward it to a Lions group in the area where the incident has occurred. This ensures that all the money we raise goes in the most direct way to help those who need it.

“But we mostly support local charities or people who really need our help. For example, there was a family in Bridgnorth who couldn’t afford to buy a lift to enable their disabled daughter to get in and out of their car, so the Lions raised around £3,000 to buy that lift.”

One of the biggest events organised by Bridgnorth Lions is the annual prostate cancer test, which is held in Castle Hall in October. It drew over 900 men. Bridgnorth held their first PSA testing event in 2009 and were the first Lions club in the country to hold such a test. It involves a blood sample being taken and then sent away to a laboratory in Manchester for analysis.

The test drew sponsorship from Craven Dunhill, Bridgnorth Aluminium, Keith Alderson Butchers, Stitches of Bridgnorth, Hickman Stanmore, Grainger and Worrall, Corum Showers, Arch Motors and David Dexters. No charge is made to anyone taking the test, with each costing around £15, though donations are encouraged from those who can afford them.

Richard Stilwell, the Lions’ public relations officer, said: “We had an astonishing night and tested 200 men more than last year. This is by far and away a record number for our annual test night in Bridgnorth and can only be classed as a resounding success.

“We introduced a new system this year which meant that people were asked to stagger their arrival times depending on the first letter of their surname and this greatly helped the smooth flow through the night.”

Peter Parker explained: “Putting the test to one side, the desire of the Bridgnorth Lions, our ethos if you like, is to help those less fortunate than ourselves and we continually raise money to help us do that. All Lions members are volunteers and work for nothing, so all the money we collect and raise goes towards our charitable work and towards funding such things as the prostate cancer test.”

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Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom supports local charity to raise funds with a World Adoption Day promotion

Telford’s favourite family attraction Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom (www.hoofarm.com / 01952 677917) has announced a 22-day fundraiser in support of World Adoption Day (9th November).  One of the key aims of this internationally recognised day is to raise funds to support families in their adoption journey. Will Dorrell, son of the founders of Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom Carolyn and Edward; has pledged the Dorrell family’s support of this day by introducing a promotion of its animal sponsorship programme to raise donations. £20 from each sponsorship will be donated to local registered charity; Telford & Wrekin Foster Care Association.

This is the first year the visitor attraction has ran the promotion and fundraiser. Will Dorrell said “ next year we have chosen Telford & Wrekin Foster Care Association as one of our chosen charities to support and we thought we would kick start our fundraising with this promotion as it is such a significant day for fostering and adoption charities and organisations worldwide.” He went on to say “ as a local business we fully support local initiatives, fundraisers and are always keen to engage with the Telford community”.

The 22-day promotion will run between 9th – 30th November, 2016. The cost of the Hoo Farm World Adoption Day Sponsorship Promotion is £80.

All sponsorship packages for this limited promotion include:

·   adoption of chosen species for one year
·   sign on the animal enclosure
·   certificate bearing the name of the sponsor
·   soft toy
·   animal fact sheet
·   photograph of your adopted species
·   invitation to new special events and special offers
·   invitation to Adopters Day (plus one)
·   unlimited card
·   £20 donation to the Telford & Wrekin Foster Care Association
33 animal species are included in the sponsorship programme; Servals, Caracal, Lemurs, Fishing Cats, Porcupines, Meerkats, Otters, Skunk, Coati, Owls, Genet, Goats, Palm Civet, Spectacled Caiman, Turtles, Sheep, Burmese Python, Giant Tortoise, Wallabies, Ostrich, Foxes, Parrots, Water Buffalo, Cows, Donkeys, Horses, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Ferrets, Bats, Chickens, Ducks and Pigs.

Maureen Horton, Chari of the Foster Care Association for Telford and Wrekin Council said “we we are very pleased that Hoo Farm have kindly pledged to support the charity for the coming year and this is a great idea to help raise awareness and funds.” She explained further “As a charity we aim  to provide support for foster carers and the children that live with them.  Our wish for all children is that they have a settled home with a supportive family.  For some children this can mean a fresh start and a new life with an adoptive family for others it’s a return home to their families. We are always grateful to receive offers of support both as donations  of money  and services and resources for free for our families. It allows us to provide our foster children with a  variety of life experiences that other children take for granted. By arranging events and activities for the whole foster family we offer  support to the foster carers and their children who have to share both their homes and their family.”

The remaining funds from the sponsorship packages contributes to the expert care from keepers who oversee the daily lives of the animal residents at Hoo Farm as well as looking after some of the special needs and to encourage animals to exhibit the same behaviours they would in the wild.

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Local organisation in Ludlow needs your support to secure vital funding

debbie-smilingLoudwater Studio, which provides creative activities for all abilities in Ludlow, is calling for the support of the local community to help win funding as part of the Aviva Community Fund 2016. Loudwater Studio is relying on votes to increase their chances of winning funding of up to £25,000 which they hope will help them to provide even more creative activities for people of all abilities across Shropshire. Only projects with the most votes will become finalists, so additional support is vital.
Loudwater Studio is part of the charity Vision Homes Association who support people with visual impairments and other disabilities to lead full and independent lives.  The Studio supports adults with learning disabilities to get creative in many different ways, but the Studio is also open for the whole community to use and they regularly welcome people who are looking for a creative space or wanting to learn new skills through creative workshops.

Nikki Hook, Manager of the Studio says: “we’re really excited to have been accepted as a project by Aviva for their Community Fund 2016.  This funding could be fantastic for the Studio, we are a charity and funding can sometimes be tight which restricts the opportunities that we are able to offer. More funding would mean we could offer lower priced workshops to those on personal incomes and benefits; and further activities for groups and individuals on more days of the week, with the potential for activities during the evening and on weekend; making the space available for even more sectors of the community. Everyone can be creative, no matter what their ability. It’s not about being perfect but relaxing, having a go and enjoying the fun. There is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity.
To get behind Loudwater Studio and help make a difference in your local community, visit https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/voting/project/view/16-895 and submit your vote before 18 November 2016. For more information on Loudwater Studio, visit www.loudwaterstudio.org.uk; www.facebook.com/TheLoudwaterStudio; www.twitter.com/LoudwaterLudlow.

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Local entrepreneurs join forces for exclusive festive project launch

Two business women and ex-NHS colleagues are working together again as their local businesses join forces this festive period, offering exclusively-designed greetings cards to shoppers who are looking for something that little bit different.

Trish Donovan of Vinterior, which is based on the top of Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury, commissioned Emma Lawrence Designs to come up with a range of unique greetings cards that could be sold in her shop this Christmas and beyond, perfect to accompany any gift purchases.

The result is four captivating new greetings cards, two of which feature woodland scenes and two that feature the Vinterior-designed ‘Shrewsbury – the original one off’ wooden box design. All of the greeting cards feature Emma Lawrence’s delicate and colourful signature illustrations of seasonal blooms or woodland animals – dressed in cravats, hats and scarves.

“I really wanted something bespoke for my customers,” commented Trish Donovan. “Something which would complement any gift purchases and something that reflects the style of Vinterior which is vintage-inspired, unique and quirky. Emma has captured this perfectly and done an amazing job. She is so talented.”file-05-11-2016-07-30-10

Two cards are specifically for the Christmas period, whilst the other two cards can be used all-year-round for any occasion.

“It’s so good working with Trish again,” comments Emma Lawrence. “We have always made a good team, but this time it’s been developing something completely different, I am really proud to put my name to these cards and I am sure Vinterior’s customers will really love their unique style; definitely something a bit different.

“I often like to put some humour into my designs and give animals clothes or accessories. Well, I wouldn’t want them to get cold this winter!”

Emma Lawrence’s unique greetings cards are on sale now in Vinterior at the top of Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury.

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From the Tardis to a prison

Cimage-2atherine Trimby knows all about what makes a good drama after working on some of the BBC’s iconic TV dramas of the 60s, including the very first Dr Who series and the original TV adaptation of the Forsyte Saga.
Now, after a career as one of Shropshire’s longest-serving magistrates, the former stage and TV floor manager has published an action-packed novel set inside a women’s prison.
Catherine served as a magistrate for 34 years, including four years as chairman of the Shrewsbury Bench. She retired from the role just over four years ago, aged 70, but not being the type to sit still for very long, she threw herself into voluntary work for the Independent Monitoring Board which involves monitoring standards in prisons and the welfare of inmates. It’s a role that has brought her into close regular contact with prisoners.
“I found myself working in a women’s prison and I was interested in how a woman gets to be in prison, knowing from my own court experience that few women are sent to jail,” she says.
“Just under 4,000 of the current 85,000 prison population are women. That’s not many, but 50% of these women have suffered some form of abuse or trauma or been the victims of predatory controlling men. A third have got some form of mental health issue.
“I don’t try to make any political points in the book but I do wonder whether prison really is the right place for many of the women who find themselves there.”
Catherine’s lead character Josie, whose name is also the title of the book, lands up inside because of a fatal road traffic accident.
“I thought it would make an interesting story to follow a woman from a so-called ‘good’ background who ends up in prison, not because she’s committed a heinous crime but because of one of those ‘there by the grace of God’ incidents that could happen to anyone, a road traffic accident,” says Catherine. “What would she face when she walks though those gates? How would she cope in this very raw, angry place?”
Catherine, who grew up in Shrewsbury and lives in Pontesbury with her husband Robin, a former headmaster of Shrewsbury’s Prestfelde School, began her career as a stage manager working with many stars of the screen and theatre.
She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School followed by a few exciting years in repertory, where she worked with the likes of a young Sir Ian McKellen and Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter. In 1963 she joined the BBC in London. Within five months she was asked to join a small team working on a brand new sci-fi drama, Dr Who, starring William Hartnell.
“We filmed the pilot in a freezing cold scrapyard in London on an absolutely tiny budget and the rehearsals were done in an old drill hall in Hammersmith, somewhere like that,” she says.
“It was extremely hard work but very exciting. We knew we were doing something new and groundbreaking, but not for a second did we realise what a big hit it would become.”
Catherine worked on eight episodes of the show, propelling Dr Who back in time to the Stone Age and the court of Kublai Khan.
The filming schedule was tight, taking just one week to rehearse and shoot an episode and the actors were expected to learn their lines by day three. It was hard work and Hartnell was probably already suffering arteriosclerosis, a condition that affected his ability to learn lines and which would ultimately end his stint as Dr Who three years later.
Part of Catherine’s job was to prompt actors when they forgot their lines and she often bore the brunt of Hartnell’s frustration.
“Bill would waffle on and then, because he got frustrated with himself, he’d get ratty with me for prompting him. But I knew I was good at my job. You’re trained not to react in such situations,” she says.
After Dr Who Catherine worked on the first TV adaptation of the Forsyte Saga, even filling in as a body double for lead actress Susan Hampshire on a couple of occasions when the star had been allowed home too early.  Afterwards Catherine went into vision mixing, cutting her teeth on Jackanory and Play School, before moving on to Blue Peter.
By this time she’d married film editor Jeremy Sykes and in 1968 they moved to New Zealand where he’d got a job making promotional films for the New Zealand government. But tragedy struck the following year when Jeremy was killed in a helicopter crash whilst filming in Antarctica, leaving Catherine seven months pregnant and with a 20-month-old child.
She returned to the UK to rebuild her life and in 1971 married Robin, a former boyfriend who’d got back in touch. He landed a housemaster’s job at Shrewsbury School and the couple moved from Hampshire to Shropshire where they had originally met.
Catherine joined the Magistrates’ Bench in 1978, when her children were aged 10, eight and six, at the suggestion of her aunt, also a magistrate, who thought she’d be “rather good at it”.
“There were some extraordinary good people on the bench – interesting people, thoughtful people, talented people. People from all walks of life,” she says.
Josie, published through YOUCaxton, is available from Pengwern Books in Shrewsbury, or online through Amazon as a paperback or e-book.

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Bookfest remembers

In partnership with the Imperial War Museum and the Shropshire First World War Community Consortium SHREWSBURY BOOKFEST is presenting a series of events each November from 2014 to 2018.

These events will be especially for children, young people and families to commemorate and remember all those who fought in the First World War. In keeping with Bookfest’s ethos of enthusing children and young people with a love of reading, all the events in the programme will have a strong literary connection.

Delivering a sensitively curated blend of literature and music, this year’s Bookfest Remembers programme celebrates those men whose wartime experiences helped shape their creativity.

Imparting such a subject with the ability to hold its audience is something that the team at Bookfest are committed to delivering, and its reputation overwhelmingly reflects this. Noted speaker and lecturer, Richard Field, pays tribute to ‘its army of volunteers which works tirelessly to help the young discover the joys of reading and the breadth of topics available,’ while former Shrewsbury School headmaster, Ted Maidment, is effusive in the praise he gives to Bookfest for their work when, ‘in this digital age, reading could so easily take a back seat.’

Beginning on November 3rd at 2pm, Ted Maidment, former headmaster of Shrewsbury School starts with a tribute to George Butterworth. A member of the ‘pastoral school’ who took their creative inspiration from England’s rich rural landscapes, Butterworth was one of the first to set A E Housman’s words to music and his much-loved song-cycle ‘A Shropshire Lad’ is testament to the potential that was so prematurely shot down when Butterworth died fighting in the Battle of the Somme, aged just 31

Friday 4th November sees Richard Field take to the stage to consider how the dark and angry mood of the First World War proved a provocative turning point for the use of poetry. No longer was it used by professionals to espouse the agendas of the day – this time, poetry became personal and forced those who wrote it to find a whole new language to describe the conflict.

 Ted Maidment takes to the stage on Thursday 10th November to talk passionately about Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of the country’s most cherished composers. Although he survived the war, the loss of his friends, including Butterworth, hit him hard and he chose never to talk about his experiences, instead channelling his pain into his glorious music.

On Sunday 13th November, the children’s story ‘Flo of the Somme,’ will lead the younger generation through a gentle introduction to the ‘Great War’ with its tale of Mercy Dog Flo, who represents the thousands of animals who perished in their war-time tasks. Written with great poignancy, its traditional rhyming verse makes it perfect for young children to understand and engage with. Beautifully illustrated by Martin Impey, this hugely successful book is authored by Hilary Robinson who acts as our guide for this animated journey.

Richard Field steps forward on Thursday 17th November to highlight the work of Rupert Brooke, who best embodied those soldiers who brought with them a literary turn of mind combined with a public school education. Inspired by classical heroes or gentlemen sportsmen, their nobility and grace has left us with a great body of work to cherish in their absence.

The idiosyncratic Ivor Gurney is brought into the spotlight on Thursday 24th November, as Ted Maidment guides us through the life and legacy of this troubled artist. Beset by bouts of mental illness before he went to war, Gurney cut a unique character on the battlefield, composing his songs and writing his poetry in the trenches. Arriving home, his challenges inevitably solidified into far deeper problems and he died aged of 47. leaving behind a significant body of largely unexplored work.

The job of compassionately concluding the event on Friday 25th November falls to Richard Field, who explores the themes of redemption, reality and loss underpinned by the warning of Wilfred Owen who was killed just a week before the First World War ended – ‘all a poet can do today is warn,’ words which still echo true today.

Venue information and how to buy tickets can be found at www.shrewsburybookfest.co.uk

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Shropshire designer on track with St Pancras project

A Shropshire graphic designer has been selected to produce the logo for the 150th anniversary of one of London’s most iconic destinations.

Isobel Bushell, of Much Wenlock, has created the branding for this important milestone of St Pancras Station.

The commission is one of the most significant in the career of Isobel, who, with husband John has run the Aardvark Design & Illustration agency for over 25 years and has been a graphic designer since graduating from Wolverhampton School of Art over 30 years ago.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be working on this amazing project, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the station in 2018,” said Isobel, who is also a well-know illustrator and was chosen for the work due to links with her London agent.

“St Pancras Station, one of the wonders of Victorian engineering, is a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture and one of the most elegant stations in the world.

“Today it is a Grade I listed building and acts as a gateway to Europe as well as having other attractions which bring in 48 million visitors a year.”

Isobel said that she had always loved the Victorians and admired their ‘can-do attitude’ so this was a dream commission for her.

The building opened in 1868 with what was then the largest single-span roof in the world.

“To me the logo had to reflect the magnificent roof designed by William Barlow and I think that it was my enthusiasm for this feature, and passion for that era, which won me the work.

“I came up with a boldly-coloured arched-shaped logo which is distinctive and timeless but also incorporates the existing St Pancras logo. I am glad to say that it has been so well received that it will even be used before and after the anniversary.

“I spent a long time researching this work and visiting the station and I have to say it has been a labour of love,” she commented.

Originally from Wolverhampton, Isobel said that she felt an affinity with the project as much of the finance and materials for the original station was raised in and supplied by the Midlands.

Her design, officially launched at the station recently, will be featured on a range of branded products in the period leading up to the 150th milestone and it will also be used by the station after the anniversary.