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foreword Welcome to the April edition of Northern Insight. At 132 pages this months issue is brimming with content. We have the usual heady cocktail of Business, Property, Media, Technology, Motors, Arts and Leisure together with some great social pages from events around the region. In addition we have a fantastic Enterprise and Education Special, headed up by Ammar Mirza CBE, which illustrates how the PIE Project is helping the North East attract national attention for all the right reasons. Thank you all for your continued support. Enjoy.

Michael Grahamslaw, Publisher


contents april ‘16 Business News - 8-9 Cover Story - 15-22 Enterprise & Education Special

Recent Appointments - 27 Entrepreneurs Interview - 36-37 Richard Kirk

Fashion - 38-39 Media News - 71 Technology News - 80 Arts News - 100-101 Travel - 108-109 Leisure News - 110-111 Wine - 118


credits Managing Director - Michael Grahamslaw Design & Web - Louise O’Rourke, Ruairi McGuinness Lead Photography - Crest Photography Additional Photography - Gordon Taylor Editorial Contributors - Ken Spearen, Deborah Johnson, Jack Grahamslaw, Holly Grahamslaw, Alastair Stewart, Alex Nelson, Gordon Taylor



All photos are copyright MJG Publishing Ltd and are taken solely for use in Northern Insight. If you wish to purchase a photograph please contact Michael Grahamslaw on Photo charges £50 for a single image, £295 for full buy out of a photo shoot Advertising charges: There is a £25 charge for every set of amendments, following the first initial set of amendments, which are free of charge, for adverts designed by Northern Insight (MJG Publishing Ltd) Cancellations: If an advert is cancelled by the booker within a 7 day period prior to our print deadline, the advert will be charged in full, plus VAT. Editorial Editorial Contributions should include a stamped addressed envelope. No responsibility is accepted for drawings, photographs or literary contributions during transmission, or while in the Managing Directors or Printers hands. Editorial must be received by the 15th of the month or no responsibility is accepted for errors.

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CM Yuill relaunches with football sponsorship One of the most famous names in North East Construction history, has been revived after Edward Yuill, the grandson of Cecil M Yuill, purchased the company name and relaunched it as a Land Management company to bring land forward for development.

based Cecil M Yuill Ltd, commented: “Yuill Homes was founded by my Grandfather, Cecil M Yuill, in 1927 and has been responsible for a sizeable proportion of the region’s housing stock in the intervening years, building up to 1,000 homes every year.”

To celebrate the re-launch, the company has generously sponsored the Hambleton and Richmondshire Junior Football League, an FA recognised Charter Standard League which organises football for Under 10’s to Under 16’s from Swaledale in the north to Thirsk in the south of North Yorkshire.

“In 2006, however, we sold the entire company to Irish house builder, Taggart Holdings, and were obviously disappointed when they ceased trading in 2014, although this had nothing to do with our family business of estate management and land development. We jumped at the opportunity to purchase the name back from the receivers and are currently re-launching it as a land management company.”

Edward Yuill, Managing Director of Hartlepool-

“North Yorkshire is a very important area for us and we’re delighted to be able to help the local communities here by sponsoring the junior football leagues.” David Williams, Chairman of the Hambleton and Richmondshire Junior Football League, added: “We started life as the Wensleydale Friendly League comprising villages in Wensleydale and Swaledale. About 15 years ago it officially affiliated with North Riding County FA and expanded its geographical coverage, while still preserving its “friendly” origins. We are extremely grateful to Edward and the Yuill family for their support which will help us to expand the League with better facilities.”

Sintons supports QuantuMDx expansion The expansion of one of the UK’s most dynamic life science businesses and opening of the first commercial laboratories in central Newcastle for many years has been supported by law firm Sintons. QuantuMDx has created nine ISO accredited laboratories in their new city headquarters to help them develop their globally-recognised work in molecular diagnostics. The fast-growing business has moved from the world-leading Centre for Life into their new facilities in the Lugano Building and has also expanded into a dedicated engineering facility at the nearby Generator Studios. Their Q-POC invention, a handheld device which

can quickly and cheaply diagnose disease and drug resistance, has been hailed as having “worldchanging” potential, which could help address many humanitarian challenges around the world. The move into the new laboratories, which were recently opened by the UK Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP, will allow development of Q-POC to be upscaled, as well as allowing further research and development in other fields. Newcastle law firm Sintons has been the longterm Legal Advisor to QuantuMDx, handling both commercial and property matters for the business. Partner Laura Peace, who aided the recent move,

said: “It is an incredible achievement that the work being done here in Newcastle by QuantuMDx has the potential to touch millions of lives around the world. Their move to this fantastic facility and investment in research and development is helping to retain talent in the North East.”



Be seen in all the right places... THE MEDIA PLANNING & BUYING SPECIALISTS



Shield Therapeutics plan for future

PSI Global unveils ambitious new targets thanks to Let’s Grow Funding

Gateshead-based, speciality pharmaceutical company Shield Therapeutics has recently announced its admission to trading on AIM. This follows a successful fundraising of £32.5 million through the placing and subscription of 21,666,662 new Ordinary Shares. Shield is a speciality pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialisation of secondary care pharmaceuticals and unmet medical needs. In addition to the AIM listing, Shield has also announced that it has approved marketing authorisation from the European Commission for its lead drug, Feraccru. Working alongside Shield’s incumbent London based lawyers, Newcastle based commercial firm, Square One Law, was appointed to support Shield’s management in preparing the company for a number of commercial agreements to support its ongoing operations.

Filtration and separation specialist PSI Global has unveiled ambitious plans to increase its turnover by 60% and create 30 new jobs in the next three years. The company, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2016, has moved from Bowburn to a purpose-built manufacturing plant at Wynyard Park after the company secured Let’s Grow North East funding to facilitate its growth. Let’s Grow North East is a £60m Regional Growth Fund programme operated by BE Group in partnership with UNW LLP, The Journal and Evening Gazette. PSI Global is a market leader in the field of filtration and separation technology. The new factory at Wynyard will allow PSI to increase production and develop new products.

Ryanair launches Newcastle winter 2016 schedule

KAI Cleaners link up with construction trades for new venture

Ryanair, Europe’s No.1 airline, launched its Newcastle winter 2016 schedule on 2 March, with 2 new routes to Lanzarote and Tenerife, a new winter service to Malaga and more flights to Alicante and Dublin. Further growth is also planned, which will deliver 330,000 customers and 250 jobs per annum at Newcastle Airport. Customers can also look forward to further improvements under Ryanair’s ‘Always Getting Better’ programme, which includes more routes, a new app, new cabin interiors and new crew uniforms.


KAI Cleaners, based in Brunswick Village in Newcastle, is providing teams of professionals to clear up homes and businesses after builders have finished their work. Karen Innes, who started KAI Cleaners in 1998, said: “By providing this service, businesses can get on with their jobs while we return the building area back to the standards that customers expect.” Kai Cleaners has started its new venture by teaming up with a number of tradespeople, including Paul McDonough, who runs Whitley Bay-based Ultimate Home Improvements.

Charity in need of Daffodil volunteers Marie Curie is appealing for people across the North East to donate their time to collect for the charity’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal this April. The charity needs volunteers to encourage people in the local community to give a donation and wear a daffodil pin. The money raised from this will help Marie Curie nurses care for people with a terminal illness in their own home so they can spend more time with the people they love. Jackie Gallagher from Stanley said: “I collected for the Great Daffodil Appeal for the first time last year and I really felt like I was making a difference.” To volunteer to collect for Marie Curie and support the Great Daffodil Appeal call 0191 219 1241 or visit

NCC report threatens high performing middle school A Northumberland County Council Cabinet Report, issued on the 7th of March, threatens the future of one of the region’s top performing schools. Ponteland Middle School is threatened with closure in 2019. The existing six primary schools and the other middle school in of the existing Ponteland Partnership want to become Primary Schools. Ponteland Middle School Head Teacher, Dr Caroline Pryer, said: “The parents, teachers, governors, and pupils of Ponteland Middle School are absolutely amazed and devastated by this news.”

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Recruiting for IT success SearchBI’s Chris Boyle urges business leaders to think strategically about their IT recruitment requirements

As hundreds of thousands of businesses ramp up their recruitment in the face of continuing economic growth, Chris Boyle, senior consultant at Newcastle-based SearchBI, offers his tips for successful IT recruitment in the tricky world of technology talent.

It’s critical from a leadership perspective - as firms gear-up their investments in technology to drive growth - that you to start to think strategically about recruitment to secure your future skills needs. After all, recruiting for IT can be a minefield for the unwary and unprepared, so it requires careful thought and a clear vision to steer a successful course. Relevant job description Start by losing the generic job specification and ensure that the new one is relevant to your business needs and specific to the role in question. Ensure the targets that need to be achieved by employing this new person are promoted through the specification, and be realistic about what is essential and what is desirable - emphasise the ‘musts’ and be clear about the ‘wants’. You’re unlikely to find an IT candidate who ticks every single box, so remember which skills are a prerequisite from the start and those that can be developed over time.

Pose the question What are the base IT skills you require? Does the applicant possess written and verbal communication skills? Are they a team player? Is it about the business or them? They need to be both motivated and driven; do they really want

your job or just any job? Do not change your mind about what you’re looking for in a candidate during the interview but do take time to review your processes to ensure you do not make any rash decisions.

Fair and consistent You should use the same interview process for each applicant. This might include telephone screening, psychometric test, first interview, second interview, and include a related test for that role - a technology presentation on how BI can deliver benefits, for instance. An informal first interview should start the process and filter the applicants down before a second, more formal interview to see how the applicant reacts under pressure.

person; will they fit in with the team and can they fulfil the role in the long term? What are their interests outside the world of work?

Don’t delay, act today Do not be put off making decisions to see what else is on the market, or wait for budget sign off before making an offer. With demand high and a dearth of quality people, if you feel someone fits the bill then you will have to move quickly to secure the right skills. The mantra is to be prepared: moving quickly can be defined as shorter/fewer interview processes (but still thorough and efficient), having budgets signedoff, and appreciating the short supply of talent in the candidate pool.

Don’t forget references

The outsourcing option?

During each interview, ask plenty of competencybased questions. What has the applicant achieved in their current role? What do they consider to be their career highlights so far? Establish their weaknesses and what they have done to overcome these. Before making an appointment, secure a minimum of two written references. One must be the last and most recent employer. Ask for character references if the role involves a lot of trust. Try to gain a full understanding of that

Recruiting can be a difficult and time consuming process at the best of times but finding the right people for the right roles in the dynamic IT world requires a deft touch and deep understanding. So it may pay to work with a specialist recruitment firm and build a strong relationship with them. You will need to understand the current recruitment market and source advice from the human resource departments within businesses in your network if necessary.

For more expert advice and guidance about recruiting for IT roles visit SearchBI at



Education and local government: Calibre has IT

Karen Nelson (left) says the focus on education and local government is driving growth for Calibre Secured Networks Ltd

Quality and service drive the agenda for one of Tyneside’s leading IT firms, Calibre Secured Networks Ltd. Managing Director Karen Nelson reflects on recent success and continued growth in the key education and local authority sectors.

Calibre has come along way in recent times – and not just in terms of relocating to new state-of-the-art offices at Newcastle’s futuristic Science Central hub. The firm, pushing forward on the back of a talented (and expanding) team together with a hardearned reputation for innovation and new ideas, is achieving particular success in the challenging world of education and local authority IT provision. At the heart of the firm’s personal approach is an almost missionary-like zeal to understand the compelling driver behind an organisation’s technology needs and why they want to make investments that can add up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. By getting under the skin of a school the real issues can be unlocked, leading to smarter and wiser procurement of platforms, networks and managed services. For instance, we are seeing schools rapidly migrating to powerful enterprise grade networks to ensure that they have the capacity to run the new high performance e-Learning technologies and digital environments coming on stream for use by pupils and teachers. However, keeping

these networks safe and secure is a complex challenge, presenting new risks almost on a daily basis. Unquestionably, while Bring Your Own Device, where personally owned devices such as smartphones and tablets are allowed to connect to a school’s network, among other technologies herald untold benefits, they can also generate a plethora of security issues and incidents if not implemented properly. So schools have to think hard about these - good network security depends not only on technical measures but also on having the appropriate policies and procedures in place, along with knowledgeable staff that understand the issues at hand and possess the requisite competencies. Local government faces similar challenges as many authorities start to migrate away from the comfort and relative security of inhouse IT departments to the brave new world of the external, commercially driven provider. Confidence, experience, value-for-money and trust: just some of the watchwords now on the lips of those with responsibility for delivering smarter, more effective public sector IT services.

This is clearly apparent for companies like us, who are forging ahead in the public sector on the back of new local government work. At Horsham District Council in West Sussex, our demonstrable ability to deliver value-for-money has paved the way for the delivery of wireless technology that’s improving communications for council staff and ratepayers. In Wales, our strategic insight at Wrexham County Borough has led to recommendations for network performance improvements, PSN compliance in line with current CESG guidelines and a plan for disaster recovery and business continuity. These and other councils are benefitting from our service, and the professionalism and knowledge we bring to complex and demanding projects. Our solutions are sensible and practical, and underscored by a clear understanding for the client of the benefits of investment. We utilise the latest technology and software systems from Cisco and others as the basis for flexible solutions that offer genuine value for money for hardpressed organisations under pressure to cut costs while struggling to maintain frontline services.

The message is clear, get IT right first time, and you will enjoy the long-term benefits your investment deserves. Take a short cut, or get it wrong, and you could be looking at years of heartache and headache. Can you afford the risk? More at



5 years of durhamlane it pays to think differently In the short time of existence the highly driven team at durhamlane has supported numerous companies in technology, health and manufacturing sectors to achieve their revenue goals and it has proven its highly successful business approach by achieving double digit growth year on year. We met the co-founders Richard Lane and Lee Durham, to find out what it takes to create such successful growth:

Q: Richard and Lee, please briefly explain the purpose behind durhamlane:

Q: You are growing at a double-digit rate every year, how can you explain this success?

Richard: We help people and organisations to develop and grow their sales, profits and revenues in a sustained manner. At our core we have a passion to raise the bar of the sales profession. We want sales to be seen as the true profession we know it to be and we help others to be more confident in their approach to selling.

Lee: Our approach is unique. Our clients benefit from a blended service at any point of the sales process and development stage. So I think it is the multiple service offer that allows us to grow exponentially.

Lee: Our core business is sales training and outsourced sales, but durhamlane keeps diversifying. Our recruitment arm is rapidly growing and fits perfectly into the business’s ambitions. Clients get access to the vast network of sales talent we have built over the years, and with our blended training, fresh hires can get prepared for a new challenge. In addition we help organisations get ready and steady for growth via our business transformation and leadership programmes. Q: How did you come up with the idea to set up a business together? Lee: We both had our own one-man business at that time. Richard was an independent sales trainer and coach and I provided sales strategy and outsourced sales. We then met at one of Richard’s training sessions. When we talked to each other we realised that both of us were striving for something more meaningful, something that would last longer than us. Richard: Together we had over 40 years of commercial sales experience and we owned businesses that would complement each others.

Richard: Our model is proven to be successful. We set-up our business in the recession. Lee and I have always thought, if you can’t grow a sales business when times are hard, then you probably can’t grow at all. Now as people look to grow and expand we have the business ready to drive forwards. Over the years our processes have become more defined and it is in our nature to strive to overdeliver every time. Q: What are your greatest achievements? Richard: You can’t build a great business without excellent people and we have built an outstanding team with a broad array of strengths. A source of pride are also the positive comments we receive from people who adapt our Selling at a Higher Level methodology and understand how it works for them. Recently, an experienced sales professional said: «durhamlane’s sales training is training for the year 2016 – it is fast, agile and encourages you to think differently». Lee: It’s a proud moment when I look at our client base. We started out working with lots of local SME businesses, which is very rewarding and we continue to do that. But over the last couple of years we have picked up some very big, well-known brands, the likes as Symantec/Veritas, HP, Northumbrian Water, Sage, British Gas and many others.

Q: What is your mission for 2016? Lee: The exciting thing for this year is taking our proven, robust methodology and model of operating and expanding into other markets, such as Australia and New Zealand. While we have high growth ambitions, our core values sit at the heart of what we do, and that has never changed. Richard: We are developing a leadership team within durhamlane. We give more responsibility to our highly motivated staff members and we give them the opportunity to achieve their personal ambitions. We continue to invest in sales tools that help us to work better and faster and support our clients to be more innovative. We are making our training content more accessible, delivering it online, in person or both so that it sticks and helps sales people to think differently. Q: Please describe each other in a few sentences. Lee: Our company would not be as successful as it is today were it not for our unique partnership. Richard is reflective, honest, dedicated and driven. We are different in many ways, but that’s what makes us a very powerful team. And we continue hiring and retaining great people with complementary talents. Richard: Lee is very focused, passionate and has a fantastic attention to detail. He is always pushing for the next thing and I make sure we are delivering. Although we approach things from a slightly different angle, at core we are both driving the same way.

For more information on durhamlane visit or talk to us on 0191 481 3800.



BIC partners with EU to offer Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Round Two The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has once again partnered with the European Union to help encourage businesses to exchange knowledge and collaborate. Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme offers those in the early stages of starting a business the opportunity to spend three to four months in a business overseas. The programme also allows for established businesses in the north east to act as ‘host’ and to welcome a European entrepreneur to work with them. The programme is funded by the European Commission and both parties will benefit from broadening their network of contacts, gaining fresh ideas and ultimately to open up new opportunities. Heading up the programme in the region, business development manager, Louise Hardy commented: “I am delighted that the BIC can once again offer this programme to the region, it really is a win win for both parties. “I am on hand to help guide applicants through the process and remain the point of contact prior, during and beyond the exchange. “The programme is fundamentally about breaking down barriers, encouraging businesses to cross borders and adopt an entrepreneurial mind-set, something the BIC has endorsed for over 20 years. “Just last year we achieved the European BIC Network accreditation for the 21st year in a row and continue to forge links throughout Europe in support of the businesses we represent.”

Photo Caption 1: L-R Louise Hardy, Lilla Preston, Bob Beresford with middle east entrepreneurs Eman Nasr from Egypt and Meriem Debbagh from Morocco) Photo 2: Business development manager at the BIC Louise Hardy and Charlotte Angus who entered the programme previously and spent three months in Italy.

For more information on the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Programme please contact Louise on 0191 516 6170 or email


Rowlands Race Day The traditional Hexham races/Cheltenham race day was held on ‘Paddy's Day’ 17th March hosted by Alan Hynd with 7 stalwarts including Mick O’Hare, Ron Stenhouse, David Tabiner, Bill Dando, Brian Dickinson and Matt Hynd. It was a fantastic day, almost tropical, and so liquid refreshment accompanied every winner at both venues. All were better in the pocket if not rather worse for wear and looking forward to next year!


INSIGHT Enterprise and Education special


The belief that every child deserves every opportunity is what underpins the PIE Project. While the North East is all too often associated with statistics like its high levels of unemployment and NEETs (young people not engaged in education or training), it is also the region where these very problems are being tackled at the earliest stage. And through the passionate belief that children should be offered bespoke early-stage enterprise experience from primary school age, the PIE Project is helping the North East attract national attention for all the right reasons.

Through its promotion of a tailored approach to every child and ensuring they are given relevant opportunities, the PIE Project is helping the North East to lead the way nationally in developing future career and life skills for children as young as 9 - traditionally, careers advice is focused on ages 14 plus. This is also the first region in the UK to offer the opportunity for primary school pupils to achieve a vocational qualification. In the three years the PIE Project has been in operation, it has offered the opportunity to children in two schools in Walker, Newcastle, to develop themselves as well as their own businesses, enabling them to apply the skills they learn at school in a way that brings education to life. Two shops were opened which the children were tasked with running, and they also had to develop their CVs to apply for roles within the business and then be interviewed for them. As well as the children becoming the youngest in the country to achieve an industry-recognised NCFE qualification in Investigating Enterprise - such was the level of engagement, the project saw a 100% pass rate - their parents were also offered volunteering opportunities and the chance to upskill. Winning endorsement from a host of leading business figures regionally and nationally, it also attracted Royal praise, with Princess Eugenie visiting the schools to discover more about the UK-leading work in early stage enterprise education being done in the North East. A high-profile PIE Conference was also hosted by Newcastle University Business School. Now, keen to build on that success, the PIE Project has launched its first BIG PIE Friday Challenge, the largest enterprise challenge of its kind, which promoted its desire to 'engage, educate and enlighten' every child. The Challenge, held on March 18th, involved hundreds of children from primary schools from across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland competing against each other. Engaging pupils in STEM

(Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based activities, the five winning schools from each area will then go on to take part in a full day of enterprise, based on the model pioneered in Walker, where they run their own shop with £100 start-up capital. An awards ceremony is planned for June to reward achievements. The BIG PIE Friday Challenge, spearheaded by Bob Paton CBE, managing director of Accenture, was backed by many supporters - or PIE'oneers - including leading businesses, business figures, MPs, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Institute of Directors (IoD), the Armed Forces and media organisations. The strong and widespread support sent out a clear message within the region and beyond that the North East is a region truly committed to working together to invest in its future generations. Ammar Mirza CBE, founder of the PIE Project, is a passionate champion of education and skills in the region. As Chair of Governors at Tyneview School in Walker, he pioneered the unique approach to enterprise which has resulted in national recognition for that school and the wider region.

"Through the PIE Project and BIG PIE Friday Challenge, we are adopting a holistic approach to engage children, parents, schools, teachers and businesses into working together to find a means to achieve this. Our aspiration is that PIE will be the superglue to hold all of the separate components together and be a comprehensive reference point for everything to do with the world of work. It all starts from a very early stage, which is what we are doing. Skills and enterprise plays such a central economic role in our region, and is also key in the success of the Northern Powerhouse, so this is the time to drive PIE forward. "We are grateful to all of our PIE'oneers for their support, and the support we have seen for the BIG PIE Friday Challenge was really overwhelming. Going forward, we are keen to build on this even further - through parents, schools and businesses lending their support and pledging their commitment to early-stage skills development for primary school aged pupils, we will start to change these negative statistics that are so often quoted about the North East."

"While careers advice and work experience are on offer to older children, aged 14, 15 or 16, for me, that is too late. They already have their own personalities and ideas by then - primary school age is such a crucial time in the development of career and life skills for children, done in a way where it is fun and brings education to life. We can teach and develop key skills like resilience, problem solving, confidence, which are central to both personal and professional development," he said.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, who is known for his own passion for promoting and improving skills for young people, said: “The LEP is committed to improving careers education, information, advice and guidance across our area. We are leading on a number of initiatives, such as the Career Benchmarks Pilot and Enterprise Adviser Programme, and engaging with schools, colleges and businesses across the region to achieve this. This work is mainly being delivered at secondary level, and we recognise the need to offer similar support to primary schools.”

"It is essential that every child is given every opportunity, which is why the approach needs to be bespoke and relevant to their skills and interests. A 'one size fits all' approach will not achieve anything. Children need to see how they can apply what they are learning, know what opportunities exist for them, and be supported in being able to achieve them.

“We are pleased to support PIE, working closely with the PIE team and PIE'oneers to develop an offer for all primary schools, based on a primary version of the Career Benchmarks to ensure that children see the wide range of job and career opportunities that are available to them from an early age and get them excited about these opportunities.”

For further details/to register your interest email or call Ammar Mirza CBE on 0191 2424894. Twitter @PIEPROJECTUK #ILOVEPIE



Ammar Mirza CBE, Founder of the PIE Project

The Making of PIE • January 2012 - Having been a school governor and a serial entrepreneur for a number of years Ammar Mirza CBE starts developing a plan that will see industry informed and employer led enterprise activities take place within Primary Schools. • February 2013 - The Primary Inspiration through Enterprise (PIE) Project is launched at Tyneview Primary School with Stephen Gittins the Head Teacher. • March 2013 - Bill Midgley OBE – A highly successful and influential business leader – is appointed the PIE President. • June 2013 - Four Schools Walkergate, Tyneview, West Walker and Walker Central Primary come together and agree to be part of the PIE Project. • July 2013 - A shop is secured by the project in Walker. • September 2013 - Your Homes Newcastle, Leazes Homes and Asian Business Connexions all pledge their support to the PIE Project and help the schools develop their business plan. • October 2013 - The Pupils from Tyneview and Walkergate undertake significant promotion of the PIE Project through fun and engaging activities including Flash Mobs, Choirs and Marketing led by Head Teachers Stephen Gittins and Debi Bailey. The whole community is engaged and involved. • November 2013 - The PIE Shop in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne officially opens in time for

Christmas. The Pupils make seasonal goods to sell from the shop. • March to December 2014 The PIE Project is integrated into the curriculum across Tyneview and Walkergate Schools. Local and regional businesses including Northumbria Water, YHN, Leazes Homes, Dickinson Dees Solicitor’s and ABC continue to support the schools. Parents are provided with volunteering opportunities and supported by Newcastle College with formal qualifications. • January 2015 A formal NCFE Entry Level 3 qualification is introduced to the PIE Project to underpin the activities and provide the students with real currency. First time a NCFE Vocational Qualification has ever been delivered into a Primary School. • May 2015 A second PIE Shop is launched at The Beacon Newcastle providing schools access to a real working environment supported by additional local businesses. • July 2015 All of the pupils undertaking the NCFE Qualification successfully complete, achieving a 100% pass-rate. The pupils studied Sir John Hall as part of their Investigating Enterprise Qualification. As an avid supporter of the project Sir John presents the pupils with their certificates at the end of year assembly. • October 2015 The PIE Project receives Royal interest and a visit from HRH Princess Eugenie who is really encouraged by the projects inclusive


approach that engages with all of the community. • November 2015 The PIE Conference hosted by Newcastle University Business School brings together a range of organisations and individuals all sharing the same ambition – to “bring education to life”. Microsoft, Primary Engineers, Accenture, Progression Forum, Newcastle City Council, House of Objects, Asian Business Connexions are joined by the Lord Lieutenant and 100 local, regional and national individuals and organisations to show their support for the PIE Project. • March 2016 The BIG PIE Friday Challenge that sees 1016 primary aged pupils across the North East take part in the largest STEM and Enterprise competition supported by a whole host of organisations and individuals. Pupils compete in three activities including an Enterprise Quiz, Engineering and Coding Challenges. This provides the pupils with a range of experiences that help identify their strengths and recognise their weaknesses. • Onwards – The ambition of the PIE Project is to provide a holist approach to enterprise education that links businesses to primary, secondary, further and higher education. Providing a seamless and integrated approach to career advice and guidance using Gatsby Benchmarks and Enterprise Advisors that ultimately enhances life choices and improves life chances for everyone.

PIE CHALLENGE Sir John Holman launches the Career Benchmarks Pilot

North East LEP builds bridges between business and education Linking business and education is at the heart of the North East LEP’s work to support the development of the right skills for the next generation. For a long time, there has been a gap between the skills businesses want from school, college and university leavers, and the abilities that young people entering the workplace actually have. The North East LEP is aiming to bridge the gap in expectations, by working with education and industry in the Education Challenge. A major part is improving careers guidance and the North East LEP area was selected as the national pilot for eight benchmarks for good careers guidance developed by Sir John Holman with Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation. At the end of the pilot, the lessons learned will be rolled out across England and best practice case studies built up here in the North East will be shared nationwide. Helen Golightly, the North East LEP’s chief operating officer, said: “The North East Local Enterprise Partnership works to deliver more and better jobs for everyone.

as self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem solving, communication and literacy, presentation and interview skills and self-discipline in starting and completing tasks to agreed deadlines. “Being prepared for the world of work, having clear options and routes and support from parents, schools and businesses will deliver successful outcomes and destinations for our young people.” It’s something that needs to be addressed at an ever-earlier age. Research shows that attainment gaps start to emerge at age seven and that children start to make career-limiting decisions aged 10. It’s clear that work needs to be done much earlier to build careers aspirations and enterprise skills in young people, which is why initiatives such as the PIE project are so important.

“We have an ambitious Skills Programme, aimed at addressing current and future skills needs and enabling young people to access the ‘more and better jobs’ our economic growth plans will create. Key to achieving this is effective career education. 

At secondary school level, there is a need to introduce young people to business and one of the most effective methods is to bring business leaders into schools to help shape careers education. As part of the LEP’s Education Challenge, 24 schools have signed up to the Enterprise Advisor Network and each one will be matched with a local business leader as their Enterprise Advisor.

“We want our young people to understand, alongside formal academic skills, the value of life and work experiences and build abilities such

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair, said: “The LEP’s Education Challenge is committed to improving business-education links.


“Our ambition is to ensure that every young person in the North East is able to identify routes to a successful working life – with the opportunity from an early age to have exposure to the world of work and meet people along the way who can inspire and motivate them. “The Enterprise Advisors are a key part of this and we are excited to see the value that they bring. If you are a passionate, successful leader and believe you could inspire the young people of our region, you should absolutely get involved with this project. It is our opportunity as a business community to support our young people and I would encourage you to do so.” Businesses such as Caterpillar, Ford Aerospace, Unipress, Urban River Creative Agency and Accenture have all identified Enterprise Advisors to work with schools and colleges to help develop an employer engagement strategy. This strategy will meet the needs of the schools, the teachers and students and will help to address areas of development from within the Gatsby selfassessment. Gary Burton, managing director of specialist oil and gas engineering firm Arefco in Ashington, has been appointed as the North East’s first Enterprise Advisor. He is working with the senior management team at the town’s Northumberland C of E Academy, where he will be using his knowledge of industry to help shape careers provision at the school.

PIE CHALLENGE Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot

Gary said: “We have a very specific need for technical skills and the type of people we need are just not in the shop window for us to employ. “Through the partnership with the academy, we can identify the right attitude, aptitude and approach pupils will need to successfully develop and progress into sustainable employment – it’s a win-win opportunity.” The Enterprise Advisor programme is just one of the ways the North East LEP is working with schools and businesses to provide effective skills and careers education. In all, 13 colleges and three schools in the region have signed up for the National Career Benchmarks Pilot, to test the Gatsby Foundation’s eight benchmarks of: a stable careers programme learning from career and labour market information addressing the needs of each pupil linking curriculum learning to careers

School pupils Kai Thompson, 15, Daniel Hume and Declan Stoker, both 16, with Arefco’s Technical Manager for its Engineered Products Division Alan Stephenson.

the end of the two-year project, it will produce a best practice guide that can be potentially used by schools and colleges across England. Key to the success to each of the LEP’s initiatives is education and employers working together

with young people. By providing better careers support to widen young people’s aspirations and giving businesses a hands-on role in preparing the next generation of workers, the LEP is aiming to bridge the gap between reality and expectation to benefit everyone.

encounters with employers and employees experiences of work places encounters with further and higher education personal guidance The Gatsby Foundation is funding projects to test the benchmarks through a £250,000 Innovation and Activity Fund. Pilot schools and colleges can submit their ideas to develop careers education around the benchmarks, in collaboration with employers and other education providers. Among the first projects to be awarded funding was St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn, which is looking at how employer engagement programmes such as Enterprise Advisors can be integrated alongside the Gatsby benchmarks. At

Denis Heaney, school teacher Mark Fox, Gary Burton, school pupils Declan Stoker, Daniel Hume and Kai Thompson, and school principal Steve Gibson, pictured at Arefco’s factory.



Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Lieutenant Colonel Sue Haughie and pupils from St Pauls RC School in Alnwick

What they say about the big Pie Challenge

PIE has been hugely beneficial for us as a group of schools. More recently, we have widened the purpose of the shop and integrated this into our whole school attendance and rewards systems. We now employ a full time member of staff who has responsibility for working alongside staff and pupils in school developing quality products. They also open the shop three afternoons a week to ensure families can visit the shop regularly. Pupils are rewarded for good attendance or behaviour with vouchers that they can exchange for goods at the shop. Our enterprise curriculum continues to go from strength to strength. As well as an enterprise focus for every year group across school, we have now embedded an enterprise curriculum into our school curriculum. This links very closely with maths outcomes and provides real life opportunities in which to develop and apply skills. Furthermore, this links into our vison of raising aspirations for all of our pupils. Last year we trialled NCFE Level 3 Award in Employability and Enterprise and this year we will be rolling it out across both schools as a way of further developing and evidencing skills around enterprise.

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Longer term we hope to link our work in more closely with what the secondary’s are already doing to ensure that skills continue to develop around enterprise. We intend to continue to develop our shop and its role in the community and use the outlet as a real springboard for producing quality goods to sell.

Graeme Whitfield, Business Editor

We’re delighted to be involved in the BIG PIE Friday Challenge – as well as the PIE Project more widely – and we look forward to seeing pupils participate and compete in this unique competition. It’s great to be supporting such an important initiative that champions skills development and employer engagement and should significantly benefit future generations. We’d encourage as many primary school teachers, 10 and 11 year olds, parents and business owners as possible to join us in getting behind the challenge to help influence and deliver enterprise education in a collaborative and consistent way. David Grailey, NCFE Chief Executive

The Journal's Let's Work Together campaign is all about getting businesses to be proactive and work with schools and colleges to improve skills levels in the North East. "The PIE initiative is a brilliant example of this and we wish it every success.

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Debi Bailey, Head Teacher, Walkergate Primary and Stephen Gittins, Head Teacher at Tyneview Primary School

We are delighted to be working with PIE. Developing enterprise and innovation in our youngsters is so important. The Army believes this too and looks to develop these characteristics in our young people be they cadets, regulars or reserves. We are really pleased to be able to add our take on enterprise and STEM to the Big PIE challenge. Colonel M R Butterwick, Deputy Commander, 4 Infantry Bde



The North East is invariably at the wrong end of any social or economic comparisons with the English Regions so it is pleasing to note, for once that we appear as the best performing region in a recently published survey. We have the largest percentage of 16-17 year old apprenticeships in the Country. An encouraging statistic yet we need to do more, much more. The continuing cry from Business is of a skills shortage which will require an even larger percentage of our young people having to look at vocational qualifications as the route to continuing and rewarding careers. The problem is only partly solved by immigrant workers and our educational system needs to to recognise that vocational as well as academic qualifications have to seen on an equal footing... The PIE project is about encouraging young people, before the age of 11, to look at the alternatives in education and consider the best, and probably the most rewarding, way ahead. A number of Schools, to their credit, have grasped this issue and are involved in the project. Quite simply we need more, and not just the Schools but also the Education Authorities. The platform is there to be used and expanded. The future of our Children and our Region demands that commitment. Bill Midgley OBE, President, Pie Project.

This is a fantastic project and it’s great to see so many schools on board. These young people are the North East’s future and it is so important that we engage and inspire them early so they have useful skills for when they enter the world of work. Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

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Kielder Observatory are delighted to be partnering with the BIG PIE Schools Challenge. Through working together we hope to inspire, enthuse and encourage more young people into stem subjects, producing the much needed skill sets for future generations to support the growth of UK Plc. Jacqui Miller-Charlton MBE

Global Radio are delighted to support this important and exciting campaign. We are largest commercial radio group in the UK and North East, broadcasting Capital FM and Heart from our flagship studios in Newcastle City Centre to 718,000 listeners every single week right across the NE. This campaign effects every one of's about building a better and brighter future for our region and everyone in the region. Inspiring young children... and giving them higher aspirations about what they can achieve here in the NE is such an important message. Working together across business and education is key to ensuring we match those inspirations and aspirations to the career opportunities here in the NE. We wish every pupil taking part in today’s exciting BIG PIE Challenge every success and look forward to meeting some of the winners here in our studios. Kim Miljus Global Radio MD North East

PIE is exactly the sort of initiative our young people in the North East need. This is all about giving our young people the skills they need to get the jobs that exist. If we are to address the appallingly high numbers of our young people who are not in employment, education or training, then we need to give them far more exposure to the world of work – so that they can understand the jobs that exist… and what it takes to get them. It’s an inspirational private sector led initiative that can form one of the cornerstones for raising the aspirations of young people in the North East. Jeremy Middleton CBE - North East Mayor Candidate and Enterpreneur

Linking education to enterprise is a key driver of success. This project is a good example of how business can engage with schools in a collaborative and cohesive way. I would encourage schools, businesses and the whole community to get involved and hope it can help to deliver on the Northern Powerhouse by driving long term economic growth in the region. James Wharton MP Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership are committed to improving careers education, information, advice and guidance across our area. We are leading on a number of initiatives, such as the Career Benchmarks Pilot and Enterprise Adviser Programme, and engaging with schools, colleges and businesses across the region, to achieve this. This work is mainly being delivered at secondary level, and we recognise the need to offer similar support to primary schools. We are pleased to support PIE, working closely with the PIE team and PIE-oneers to develop an offer for all primary schools, based on a primary version of the Career Benchmarks to ensure that children see the wide range of job and career opportunities that are available to them from an early age and get them excited about these opportunities. Andrew Hodgson, North east LEP Chair


The prosperity of our economy, the future skills of the workforce and the career prospects of young people are dependent on adequate and appropriate development opportunities being available to ensure individuals have the right skills and attributes to successfully enter the ‘world of work’. There is much evidence to suggest that we are not doing enough in this respect. To have the desired impact we must all take responsibility for making the positive change that is required. Working with the Progression Forum, ‘Work ready Newcastle’ and the North East LEP the PIE Project is a call to action for all schools, colleges, other learning providers and most importantly employers to collaborate in facilitating the activity that young people need to become work ready. It is also about encouraging young people, parents/carers and families to be involved and take responsibility for ensuring that young people take part in and benefit from experiences that will make them successful in work. Building on local good practice more relevant and good quality interaction needs to occur between business and local learning provision that will: Provide context for learning • Develop transferable skills • Raise awareness of the ‘world of work’ • Help inform young people’s future careers choices Activity should begin ideally in primary phase and should continue through secondary schools and beyond. Primary Inspiration through Enterprise helps to provide a holistic approach to enterprise education. Engaging with parents, pupils and practitioners underpinned by a formal qualification. The PIE Project provides the perfect platform for a school to demonstrate Ofsted’ requirements on community and business involvement within the curriculum. The ultimate aim of the PIE Project is to help students understand key skills such as budgeting, social interaction, career planning, and personal development. Promoting strengths and addressing weaknesses, the project will help establish a practical platform for students to understand opportunities and realise future aspirations. By working with local businesses the PIE Project helps promote community cohesion, tackling inequalities and addressing real industry issues, all through Primary Inspiration through Enterprise. The BIG PIE Friday Challenge seen Schools from all across the North East including from Northumberland St Pauls RC Middle School Alnwick, Eastlea Primary School Cramlington, Richard Coates Middle School Ponteland; from Newcastle – Archibald Gosforth, Hilton Blakelaw, Rainbird Scotswood, St Johns Benwell, Bridgewater Benwell, St Pauls Eslwick, Broadwood Denton Burn, Wingrove Fenham, Walkergate Primary Walkergate, Tyneview Walker, Walker Central; and from North Tyneside – Wallsend Jubilee, Stephenson Memomorial Howden, Armberley and East Bailey Killingworth and Redesdale Wallsend, participating with 1016 pupils taking part in the Engineering, Coding and Enterprise Challenge. Each of the Schools was allocated a PIE’Oneer – someone from industry - to help them through the challenge and independently validate the competition. The level of support and interest from all across the public, private and third sector for the Challenge has just been overwhelming. There was small and big businesses coming together to support a common purpose focused on improving life chances and enhancing life choices within young people regardless of their background. Organisations supporting the pupils on the day included Newcastle College, Newcastle University, Accenture, AMPM247, FirstClass Supply, North East LEP, NCFE, Global Radio, Trinity Mirror Group, Noor Couture, Kielder Observatory, AMPM247, AmmarM (UK), Your Homes Newcastle, Leazes Homes and Excelsior Academy. A particular note of gratitude must go to our Armed Forces who had dispatched PIE’Oneers to support schools in Alnwick, Cramlington and Wallsend. To demonstrate the fun aspect of the challenge Global Radio produced a video that was played on the day to encourage all of the 1000+ pupils. However had their take on the BIG PIE and seen the presenters being pied with a foam pie in traditional comedy style. The challenges linked enterprise with engineering and coding. Providing the pupils with a rounded and holistic experience rather than simply focusing on one particular subject. 55 individuals from 32 organisations helped out on the day across all of the schools with a commitment of more for the next stages. We will be rolling out the Challenge to the rest of the region including Sunderland, South Shields and Gateshead. So make sure you get in touch if you want your school to participate. The BIG PIE Friday Challenge is only the start and if you are interested in supporting any of the activities or simply want to have fun helping young people realise and raise their ambitions please get in touch. email

twitter @pieprojectuk


The Rise of Alternative Finance Peter Cromarty

The recession that swept the global economy between 2007 - 2009 was driven by the Credit Crunch where Banks would not only restrict lending to their customers but they wouldn’t lend to each other either. Nearly everyone, business owners, private and public sector workers, and everyday consumers have been affected in some way or another by the chaos that came out of the economic downturn. We’ve all used the words ‘financial crisis’ and followed it with some derogatory remarks aimed at the banks and/or bankers that were perceived to have created the mess.

Not everything that grew out of the economic downturn was bad. It cannot be denied that the financial crisis ushered in a largely unforgiving era in which many SMEs struggled to gain access to the finance and funding that they needed to grow – especially from traditional lenders (i.e. banks). But, where there is demand, there is innovation to satisfy this, such is the resourcefulness of the financial sector in the UK, and this has lead to the rise of the alternative finance sector as we see it today.

‘Alternative Finance’ banner. The phenomenon of the ‘peer to peer lender’ (P2P) or crowd funder has been around for more than 10 years in reality but this growth has accelerated in the last 5 years.

Once upon a time the term ‘Alternative Finance’ would mean invoice finance, asset based lending or trade finance. Anything, that provided SMEs with working capital in the absence of a bank overdraft. These facilities have largely been adopted as mainstream now, and continue to provide valuable flexible secured facilities which businesses can rely on to provide working capital and cash flow.

2010 saw the arrival of Funding Circle, the first P2P lender to manage business funding in the UK. Savers use the platform to lend money directly to SMEs, again, bypassing the banks entirely. To date, Funding Circle has lent over £706 million to businesses, and now operates in both the UK and US markets.

Now, a new suite of lenders has adopted the

The world’s first company to offer P2P lending was Zopa, which was founded in 2005 2 years before the financial crisis. Having lent £934 million to over 110,000 people since 2005, as the pioneer of the model, Zopa remains Europe’s largest peer-to-peer lender, using the internet to cut out the banks entirely, matching savers with individuals who are looking to borrow.

With RateSetter – the first P2P lending platform to use a provision fund, which safeguards lenders against borrower defaults, and MarketInvoice

launched 2011, becoming the very first P2P lender to lend specifically against invoices, there are a lot of options available. The first flotation of an alternative finance provider could take place this year – a further fillip for the sector in being taken more seriously. LendInvest has said publicly that it is moving towards an IPO, albeit with no clear timeline in place, while Funding Circle isn’t far away either. Zopa is another possibility. According to recent reports there are now more than 100 alternative finance providers in the UK and lending is in excess of £4.4 billion to UK businesses. For SME businesses, that are often short on time and resource, to sift through all of the options will be daunting. Ensure you seek the right professional guidance, as this will get the right fit for your business, which is critical to maximizing the impact of the funding raised. One thing is for sure the ‘Alternative Finance’ sector is here to stay and it will continue to develop over the forthcoming years.

Peter Cromarty, Director, Corporate and Commercial Funding Solutions Ltd. M: 07715 409386 E:



Driving Sunderland forward Brian Logan

A new group that links up professionals in Sunderland and shares expertise has really taken off. Brian Logan of Rowlands, the North East’s largest independent firm of accountants, is the man behind the Sunderland City Professionals Network. He tells us all about it.

You head up Rowlands’ office in Sunderland. How long has it been there and what type of services do you offer? I’ve been here as an individual since 1990 and Rowlands merged with what was the Ainleys practice in 2012, so I have been here a long time. We offer the full range of accountancy services – accounts preparation, taxation, business plans, start ups, VAT, payroll, etc - and now Peter Gray has joined the office, we also offer insolvency advice. Peter is the only insolvency practitioner in Sunderland. You’ve been instrumental in establishing the Sunderland City Professionals Network. Tell us what this is. The Sunderland City Professionals Network is in its third generation now. It existed in a different format in the past and we have resurrected it having identified support within the local business community. In a nutshell, we bring together professionals in the city by inviting people along to a talk and networking event. We meet at the Stadium of Light quarterly and the next one is on May 11, where we’ll be looking at IT fraud. Lloyd’s Bank is sponsoring the event. While we do have a skeleton plan for the year ahead, we are looking for other sponsors and ideas, so I’m always asking people to get in touch

if they think they can help. We want to expand the network and to showcase what we have on the doorstep. It’s about buying local and using the talent that’s within Sunderland, rather than looking outside of the area. What type of events do you run and what has the response been so far? We’ve had two events so far, with 50 people at the first one and 70 at the second. At the first one, Andrea Winders from Sunderland City Council spoke about the new bridge that’s being built and other changes planned for the City. At the second, Paul Callaghan from the Leighton Management Group talked about Sunderland’s 2021 City of Culture bid. They were both very inspiring. We try to make each topic Sunderland-related – whether that be the new bridge, or about the docks, the beach or the roads. We have the Tall Ships coming to Sunderland in 2017 and we’re getting someone in to talk about that. There is so much happening and so many opportunities linked to each development; we just need to get the word out. What are your longer-term aspirations for the Network? While I’m happy to front it and be the voice and do the administration, the aspiration long-term is for the all the professionals to get involved and for

it to be much more collaborative. So I’m looking for ideas, feedback and greater engagement from professionals within the city. I thought it would be a slow-burner but as I have said earlier we’ve gone from 50 to 70 people in two meetings, and we’ve had really positive feedback. Both our speakers so far have been excellent and everyone wants to know where we are going to go from here. We are continually striving to be bigger and better. What we need to know is what our audience would most benefit from and then we can make that happen. Rowlands is obviously a big believer in collaboration. How else are you hoping to work with local businesses going forward? We strongly believe in partnership and we will continue to push ahead with the Network, but Rowlands also supports other businesses and we try to get around to the various events that we’re asked to. We go to Morton’s Solicitors’ monthly breakfast networking event, we’re sponsoring a play at the Royalty Theatre and we’ll have a table at the Mayor’s charity dinner in April. We try to get out there and support things that are going on in the city and hope that in return they will support us too. It’s the same ethos we apply to the Network and it’s already proving beneficial to all involved, which is great.

For more information, visit, email or call 0191 5651870.


Over 100 years of accounting experience at your side. At Rowlands, our years of experience mean we’re committed to accounting excellence. But our expertise doesn’t stop there. We’re also big on personal service, that’s why you can count on us to be at your side. With six offices in our region, you can rely on us to provide up-to-the-minute knowledge and advice. So if you’d like to see what we can do for your business, get in touch. Hexham 01434 602 230 | Ponteland 01661 871 919 Sunderland 0191 565 1870 | Yarm 01642 790 790

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In Conversation With...

Paul O’Leary Director Consulting, KPMG Newcastle What were your career ambitions growing up? My ambition was to be a touring car driver when I was young, and then more realistically a PE Teacher until I realised how much time was spent outside teaching in the winter!

Can you briefly outline your career path for the readers? I completed my Business and Management degree at Sunderland University while working part time at Barclays Bank in their Small Business Banking team - this was a great opportunity to understand how businesses really work and the challenges they face! I then joined an accounting firm based in Leeds and spent 5 years working in their Technology Advisory team where I had the opportunity to travel to countries such as the US, Switzerland, Holland and South Africa. I joined KPMG in 2009 and work with local clients to help them change their business models, exploit emerging technologies and support them on their transformation journeys. This ranges from developing digital strategy and new operating models, delivering and assuring large scale business change programmes, and assessing cyber threats, through to using predictive data analytics to help clients solve their most complex strategic problems.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of Paul O'Leary? I live in Bishop Auckland with my wife, 6 month old little girl, and our boisterous golden retriever, therefore I normally leave the house quite early

to miss the A1 traffic jams and the first baby feed! The pace of technology change is rapid and I learn something new each day from both my colleagues and clients. For example, I recently met with colleagues at our alliance partner McLaren Applied Technologies (the company behind the technology used in the Formula One cars!) to view a solution we developed for a large supermarket client that has transformed their advanced ordering of stock using more sophisticated forecasting techniques. I also have an important role in the team to work alongside our new graduates to develop their skills and capabilities. We have a super enthusiastic and committed team, and always seem to have a little fun along the way!

How have changing markets affected the business?

What is your greatest business achievement to date? I was particularly proud of my teams contribution at a recent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) event where we used our skills and experience to facilitate a session for a local charity to develop their new digital strategy - putting our skills to good use in the community!

How about your toughest challenge? The pace of technology change makes it very difficult indeed to keep up. The disparity between day to day tech that exists in our homes and in our workplace is a prime example of this! We address this challenge through a relentless focus on finding and retaining exceptional talent, and support this with strategic partnerships and alliances such as McLaren.

I think every organisation I work with is now a technology organisation. So say many of my clients: irrespective of the industry they operate in, how you exploit technology is a key differentiator. Therefore we have focused on helping clients manage disruption as this has become incredibly important for them. If you do not anticipate change, and you do not embed agility into your business model, you will be at a competitive disadvantage.

The team and I are currently working on a range of projects, including helping a client to move their IT infrastructure to the cloud, advising a client on their response to a recent cyber-attack, and working with a rapidly growing construction company to transform their business.

It’s very interesting that it is only when a threat gets close that people jump from being unconcerned to very concerned. If you asked local taxi drivers three years ago, they would have said ‘digital technology won’t change our business’. I guess they think differently now.

I was invited by a client to join them on NE1’s pop-up beach on the ‘Quayside Seaside’ for an ice cream. There are not many meetings where you can you relax on a deckchair in the sun and feel the sand between your toes!

What are you currently working on?

Do you have a favourite hotspot for a business meeting?

KPMG LLP (UK) Quayside House, 110 Quayside Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3DX. Tel:+ 44 (0) 191 401 3843




Career success for North East solicitor A talented solicitor has taken his next step up on the career ladder with a promotion at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP, GBLF.

RMT Accountants boosts client services team RMT Accountants & Business Advisors has added to its client services team with the recruitment of experienced finance professional Michael McGee. Michael has joined the Gosforth-based firm’s team of client services managers and is responsible for helping business owners within and outside the North East to identify the commercial strategies that they need to implement. He has moved after more than 12 years with regional accountancy practice Harlands. Michael said: “I’d come across RMT many times during my career and had presumed they would operate to the standard model that most accountancy firms adopt. However, when I came in to talk to them, I found their vision, working environment and prospects a great deal more ambitious than I had anticipated.” RMT provides a full range of financial and business advisory services through its accountancy, specialist tax, medical & healthcare, corporate finance and recovery & insolvency teams.

Craig Foot, 29, from Sunderland, who is based at the firm’s Chester le Street office, secured his new role following completion of the legal practice course and professional skills course with the University of Law. Having joined the business in 2014 as a Legal Executive, Craig’s new role as a solicitor involves the conduct of residential conveyancing matters including sales, purchases, remortgages and transfers of equity. Craig said: “I’ve always wanted to have a career in law and I never thought I’d get to where I am today. Since joining GBLF I’ve been encouraged to continue my studies to allow me to gain my solicitor qualification. I’m really pleased with how far I’ve come.”

Gateshead College strengthens business links Gateshead College is further strengthening its links with the North East business community with a key appointment to its management team. Ivan Jepson brings almost 25 years of industry and private sector experience to his new role as Business Development Director at the college. He joins the team from Northumbrian Water where he spent most of his working career in various roles from laboratory scientist to customer service. Gateshead College was the only college in the last 12 months to be rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. One of the key reasons for this was the strong partnerships championed by the college principal with regional employers and business organisations. Ivan explained: “It was a difficult decision to leave but Gateshead College offered a real challenge and opportunity to make a difference to regional employers, young people and those working or looking for work in our region.”

Lumley Castle appoints new Director of Sales A former Barclays business leader has been appointed director of sales at a top North East hotel. Tina Lowes, from Sunderland, who worked at director level for the bank, has joined the team at Lumley Castle Hotel, Chester-le-Street. In her new role, Tina will be tasked with introducing the historic, four star venue, to a wider corporate and leisure audience. As well as consolidating the hotel’s reputation as one of the region’s favourite wedding and event venues, she will aim to raise its profile within the business community both regionally and nationally. Tina said: “Lumley Castle Hotel is fast becoming a key venue for meetings, conferences, private lunches and large scale events and I shall hope to build on that.” Christine Gott, General Manager at Lumley Castle Hotel, said: “Tina has a strong business background along with great energy and enthusiasm and we are delighted to welcome her to our team.”



Google’s tax not Google tax The public interest in the taxation of multinationals shows no sign of abating. Google and HMRC appearing together before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in February was a significant event in itself, although there is doubt over whether the public really gained anything meaningful from the grilling. Recent research by HMRC indicates that most people think that avoidance is much more widespread than the actual data shows.

In advance of the PAC hearing, HMRC issued a statement setting out its approach to large corporates, which is clearly written and largely uncontentious for those who are familiar with how HMRC deals with the UK’s largest tax payers. So why do the public remain unconvinced about the tax system? Is it really still riddled with loopholes?

The truth is that the UK’s largest companies are often under HMRC enquiry. From the Government’s risk perspective, this must be a sensible approach towards protecting the public purse. Large companies are complex by their very nature. The real debate should be about whether the international tax system is fit for purpose not just that in the UK.

Well ever let the truth stand in the way of a good story. It was widely reported, and even stated in Parliament, that Google’s £130m additional tax payment to close a long-running enquiry represented an effective tax rate of only 3 per cent. This rate has been derived on an invalid legal basis, or to use HMRC’s own words, ‘This calculation does not reflect how tax law works’. Both Google and HMRC say that the outstanding issues were resolved and taxed at the normal statutory rate, that is they paid tax at the full corporation tax rate prevailing at the time. Nonetheless, the infamous 3 per cent will undoubtedly be etched on most people’s memory for some time and reinforces the prevailing view.

It is certainly true that we are not where we want to be and as such it is easy to understand why the public view is that the major multinationals do nothing but avoid tax. The G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project that completed last year is only just starting to be implemented. The UK is a BEPS supporter and as such an early adopter, but to really make the international tax system work, tax jurisdictions and authorities will need to cooperate like never before. There is the challenge. It is fair to say that we have moved on and that the Google issue is simply dealing with the past. Most of the so-called sweetheart deals

recently reported actually date back some years. The structures put in place a decade ago used features in tax systems that are not present now. There have been a series of law changes over this period, and in 2015 the UK introduced diverted profits tax (DPT) aimed at contrived behavior by multinationals, at a penal rate of 25 per cent. DPT is designed to encourage companies to restructure so more corporation tax is paid, rather than risk paying the higher rate of DPT. Although nicknamed Google tax, the DPT has not been paid by Google. If it works as intended, it may not be paid by many other companies either, although given the public’s misconceptions about the prevalence of avoidance, HMRC may be tempted to make an example of some. As business became truly global the tax system failed to keep pace. The BEPS project is the start of the catch up process and, provided all countries embrace the changes, we just might end up in the right place with public confidence restored in our tax system.

For more information on international taxes or other taxation issues, please contact Stuart McKinnon on 0191 255 7000 or email or your usual RSM contact.



Dividend Insurance Peter Rutherford, Commercial Director, Three Counties Group

To be read in the style of the late, great Sir Terry Wogan and with apologies for the fall in literary standards!

John, Jack and George each own a third of a shoe manufacturing limited company. They are married to Janet, Jill and Mildred respectively. The guys have been working together for several years and they have a strong business with good profits and, having taken accountancy advice, pay themselves small salaries and substantial dividends. At a board meeting Jack said “I’m bored.” John yawned and covered his mouth with his lace hanky. “I wonder where George is with the monthly figures. He should have been here by now,” he lisped. Suddenly there was a loud banging at the door and an ashen faced employee burst upon them. “Come in,” said John but Mr. Pimple, the foreman, was already at the window mopping his brow. “It’s Mr. George, your highnesses. He’s just gone and had a massive heart attack, your honours, and was dead by the time he hit the floor.” “Leave us” shouted Jack and both John and Pimple made a move for the door. “Not you, you idiot” insisted Jack and they both hesitated. Jack sighed. “John, sit down. We need to discuss the consequences of this news.” John looked relieved to be able to sit again and

Pimple disappeared. Jack said “You do realise what this means?” “Yess” said John. “There is no one to organise the Secret Santa this year.” “No, you fool. Under our articles of association his wife, Mildred, will inherit his shares and I refuse to work with George’s old dragon.” “Well” said John, “at least she will still get her dividend but she does not have to be a director.” Jack stared at John. “Too right, she is not going to be a director AND we are going to stop paying dividends.” “But that means we will pay more tax!” said John. “I know but why should she get anything when she does nothing for it,” responded Jack. “It’s a price worth paying.” “Well I suppose she will get something when we sell the company in five years as planned,” said John. “Droppings!” shouted Jack. “I hadn’t thought of that. She will be entitled to a third of all our hard work. We should have taken notice of The Man from Three Counties* that said we needed a Dividend Insurance Policy because it would cover business sale too.” The door flew open and in breezed Mildred, a

rather curvy lady and a little past her ‘best before date.’ “Hello, boys,” she purred. “Now George has gone I have come to put my seat on the Board.” “I will miss him you know. All he wanted to do was bang, bang and bang away in the garage with new shoe designs on his cobbler’s last. It was quite comforting to know he was there.” “So, boys, can I have my seat?” “I don’t mind” stammered John as Mildred leant towards him exposing ample bosom. “NO!” shouted Jack. “You have no skills to bring to this table.” “I might surprise you there,” purred Mildred. John returned home to Janet who was rolling pastry. Janet asked “Have you had a good day, John?” “Yess thank you. Mildred came in and wanted to put her seat on the Board table but Jack wasn’t interested. I did say I would give her one. I feel sorry for her as she will miss her banging now George is dead.” “He might not be the only one that is dead” growled Janet. See John be carried away on a stretcher. See Jack wish he had taken more notice of The Man from Three Counties.*

Peter Rutherford is Commercial Director at Three Counties Group. Telephone 0191 230 3034. Email Three Counties Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. *The Woman from Three Counties is also available for consultation.


BUSINESS INSIGHT Mike Pott Managing Director RMT, and Michael McGee Client Services Manager

RMT Accountants boosts client services team with McGee appointment RMT Accountants & Business Advisors has added to its client services team with the recruitment of experienced finance professional Michael McGee.

accountancy firms adopt, but when I came in to talk to them, I found their vision, working environment and prospects a great deal more ambitious than I had anticipated.

Michael has joined the Gosforth-based firm’s team of client services managers, and is responsible for helping business owners, with whom RMT works, both within and outside the North East, identify the commercial strategies they need to implement to meet their business and personal objectives.

“Building personal relationships with clients and helping them identify ways in which they can get their businesses working for them, rather than the other way around, is the best part of what I do, and fits perfectly with the skillset I’ve developed over the last 17 years.

He has moved after more than 12 years with regional accountancy practice Harlands, and was attracted to RMT by the opportunities it offered and the ability to utilise his skills through developing direct, face-to-face relationships with clients. Michael says: “I’d come across RMT many times during my career, and had presumed they would operate to the standard model that most

“There’s an increasing demand on advisory firms to ensure they’re helping growing client businesses take advantage of every opportunity, and having access to a comprehensive range of advice and services under the RMT banner makes it far easier for us to take this joined-up approach. “RMT provides a dynamic environment in which there are a lot of opportunities to help clients and further develop my own range of skills and knowledge, and it’s exciting for me to see all

the prospects that now lie ahead.” RMT provides the full range of financial and business advisory services through its accountancy, specialist tax, medical and healthcare, corporate finance and recovery & insolvency teams, and works with firms of all sizes both within and outside the North East. Mike Pott, managing director at RMT, adds: “Michael has an impressive track record and reputation within the industry, and we’re very pleased to be able to strengthen our client services team through his appointment. “Business owners want to be confident that their advisors are always being proactive when it comes to assessing what the next step should be, and RMT has been structured to ensure this sort of information, advice and guidance on every business and finance topic is easily available to them.”

For further information on RMT Accountants & Business Advisors, please visit



I’m certain things are uncertain... Vinay Bedi

When I commenced what has turned into a “career” many years ago (it hadn’t been the intention I hasten to add…I just wanted to earn a few quid until I could think of what I really wanted to do) I quickly began to learn that the markets, whether they be financial or selling fruit etc. really don’t like uncertainty. Nothing has changed apart from the apparent realisation that almost everybody now knows this. It’s an easy thing to say“Mr Financial Expert, why are markets down today?” “Oh, too much uncertainty, we’re not sure what’s going to happen to interest rates/sterling/ inflation/QE/the EU referendum/Presidential election/the orange crop etc. etc.” (Delete as applicable). After almost 30 years I now know that there is almost always uncertainty in markets. Let’s face it little is ever certain, especially when it comes to economics, or indeed the harvest. So rather than worrying about what we don’t know shouldn’t we try to focus on what we do? For example, we are currently in a great quandary about the EU Referendum. But we can be 100% certain that one of two outcomes will prevail. So, let’s accept H1 of 2016 is going to be more volatile

than usual, but who invests for only six months or less? The UBS Chief Investment Office now forecasts 2% growth for the UK economy this year, 2.3% next. If they’re right that’s good news. Lower sterling will help our exporters. Brexit or no Brexit we will still be selling into an expanding European market for some time yet. The UBS base case is that the UK decides to remain in the EU. That means growth will continue into next year.

The labour market will continue to be strong, oil prices should have stabilised, if not rising. Inflation could be rearing its head again and the Bank of England could make that move to raise interest rates for the first time in over seven years. If these assessments are correct we could see base rates at 1.5% by the end of 2017. Ahh, but you pick up on the Brexit view, what if that’s wrong? Well markets anticipate, and some impact will already be priced in. Obviously, there could be volatility. Expectations of lower economic growth could be bad for domestically exposed companies (predominantly FTSE 250 stocks) whilst internationally exposed companies (predominantly the FTSE 100 Index) could actually benefit from the weaker pound. BREXIT is a concern, but not enough of one to completely sell out of stocks. We prefer to remain invested in UK stocks, but to hedge against a potentially negative outcome; plenty of US exposure may not be a bad idea. It sounds simple, yet it isn’t. But, don’t hide behind uncertainty more than you have to. Look ahead, focus on what we know. And think global. Extract taken from Investing in the UK: ‘UK Outlook: Economy to sail through Brexit gale’, dated 8th March 2016, Chief Investment office (CIO), UBS WM.

Vinay Bedi, Executive Director, UBS Wealth Management. Tel: 0191-211-1015. Email:

Taxing Matters - Dividend tax scheme changes Hi all, Andrew Potts from KP Simpson certified public accountant here to talk to you about the important financial stories.

incorporation” – or people paying a lower salary and almost using dividends as a main income in order to pay less tax.

As the start of a new tax year approaches, a major change that was announced back in July 2015 is set to kick in.

The new system will remove the current dividend tax credit and will see a new tax-free allowance of £5,000 a year on dividends for all taxpayers.

And although it was almost a year since the announcement of the changes to the dividend tax scheme, it is not too late to get a hold on the new rules set to be unveiled in April which will see tax hikes for the majority of limited company owners.

The £5,000 allowance however would sit within the relevant tax band. So let’s take a look at a taxpayer on £8,060 a year and let’s say they have £80,000 of dividends.

The Chancellor revealed the new dividend tax scheme, designed to raise an estimated £2.54 billion for the treasury last summer. But what exactly are these changes and what do they mean for you?

The salary and dividends which take them up to the personal allowance (£2,940) are tax free. The next £5,000 of dividends are also tax free, however the rest of the dividend is taxed as such: £27,000 at 7.5% basic rate (£2,025), £45,060 taxed at higher rate (32.5%) equating to £14,644.50 giving total taxed amount of £16,669.50.

At current, (March 2016) basic rate tax payers pay zero tax on dividend income. Those in the higher rate pay 25% with additional rate tax payers paying 30.56%. No matter the tax band someone may find themselves in, because dividends are already affected by corporation tax, they will pay less than that of an earned income.

Overall that means a tax rise of £4,392.62 for our taxpaying friend over the current system. When you put it in figures you can see why many see it as a double taxation.

This new system came about to eliminate what George Osborne termed “tax motivated

As always, if you need any advice on taxes, savings or anything financial give us at KP Simpson a call on 0191 420 0550 or visit us online at


Leathers LLP – ‘Not’ a Budget Drinks Reception Leathers LLP welcomed guests to the 467 Club at Bonbar in Newcastle on Thursday 17th March as they hosted an informal drinks evening for local clients and contacts. Coming a day after George Osborne’s latest Budget speech, and as an alternative to the usual formal seminar updates, guests were instead encouraged to relax and enjoy the cocktails and canapés. The event was a huge success and Leathers LLP already have plans to host further evenings and seminars in the coming months.


UNW advises Rook Matthews Sayer on Connells Group deal North East estate agency becomes part of nationwide property group North East estate agency Rook Matthews Sayer (RMS) has been acquired by the Connells Group, in a deal led by business advisors UNW. Newcastle-based RMS, which has 16 branches, more than 130 staff and sells more homes in the city and Northumberland than any other estate agency, became part of the Skipton Building Society-owned Connells Group on February 29. RMS shareholders Clive Rook, Rod Matthews and Richard Sayer, who founded the business in 1990, appointed Newcastle-based UNW to advise them on the deal. Lawyers Bond Dickinson handled the legal aspects of the deal on behalf of RMS. Connells Group is one of the UK’s largest and most successful estate agency and property services groups, with over 560 branches around the country. The company, which was founded with its first branch opening in 1936, has been part of the Yorkshire-based Skipton Building Society since 1996. Under the terms of the deal, which was agreed for an undisclosed sum, RMS will continue to provide its residential and commercial sales and lettings and property management services under

the Rook Matthew Sayer brand. UNW corporate finance senior manager, Katy Lamb, said: “Recently there has been a significant level of consolidation activity across the UK lettings and estate agency sector which we expect to continue. RMS is an excellent North Eastern acquisition for the Connells Group and we are very pleased to have advised its shareholders on this successful transaction.”

RMS co-founder Clive Rook said: “UNW provided excellent advice and negotiating expertise when we decided it was the right time to sell our business. “Connells is a large and growing business, and we are confident that the Rook Matthews Sayer name will continue to go from strength to strength as part of the Connells Group.”

For more information please visit

FISCHER WOLFF INTERNATIONAL - A Dublin man, in Newcastle, with a plan to conquer the German eCommerce recruitment market to add dynamic young graduates, or experienced Recruiter’s to his team. Anyone who has fluent German and wanting to join a company which clearly is going places should really get in touch with him. Peter wants to add 10 new members to his team by the end of 2017.

Fischer Wolff International was founded in May 2014 by Peter Byrne, a Dubliner, who has been living in Newcastle for 10 years. Peter’s goal? “It is quite simple really; I want the business to become a leading player in the German IT Recruitment Market for eCommerce Professionals over the next five years.”

Peter also has a clear message for would be hires: “I want to create something special, a hardworking, but fun and rewarding place for people to come to work every day. I believe in empowering people, and above all to be treated equally and respectfully. The first people to join the team will have the real possibility to be integral to the growth of the business and become Director’s themselves over the course of the next 5-10 years. It’s an exciting time for me, and I know this business will thrive. I am offering very good basic salaries, but also the best commission structure in Newcastle Upon Tyne”.

Fischer Wolff International’s early success is down to one main thing; they specialise in IT Recruitment for the German eCommerce market. That is their niche, and they are successful with it. Fischer Wolff International is nearly two years old, and now has relationships with over 400 firms in Germany, ranging from small consulting firms (eCommerce Partner firms) to German multinational firms who need to hire whole teams of technical eCommerce specialists. In the first year, the business achieved turnover of 220,000 Euro from a cold start. Peter says: “Being a single dad taking my 10 year old son to school every day and collecting him, I had real worries that I wouldn’t be able to build the business, but I’ve worked hard and

persevered, and thankfully, I am in the position where I can now push on and grow the business”. Based near Central station in Newcastle city centre, Peter is now looking to build his company,

The future is certainly looking good for this business with customers contacting Fischer Wolff every day with urgent recruitment requirements. If you speak German and want a fantastic career, get in touch with Peter!




The North East’s entrepreneurial digital sector is thriving One of the stand-out areas of the North East economy is our thriving digital sector, which is second only to London in terms of growth. When the last Gross Value Added (GVA) figures were released, the sector was the region’s good news story; it showed rapid growth while others were growing steadily and manufacturing was barely growing at all.

In a region with heavy industry in its blood, such growth from the virtual world of internet-based technologies may make people in some quarters feel uncomfortable, but embracing the latest global communication trend is nothing new for the North East. The great communication revolutions of the 19th century had their roots in the locomotive sheds of George and Robert Stephenson and the shipyards the Tyne, the Wear and the Tees. The industries that first made the North East great now make up a small part of our economy, but the digital sector shows no sign of slowing down. It employs more than 25,000 people in the region and adds in excess of three quarters of a billion pounds to the economy. When people think of digital success stories from the region, the first company that springs to mind is Sage Plc. Founded in Newcastle in 1981, it turns over £1.3 billion a year, employing thousands of people worldwide. While they may have been the first major digital triumph, they certainly aren’t the only one. The innovative Sunderland based Leighton Group has a long and successful history in the software and new media communication industries and is currently home to five high growth businesses: Leighton Ltd, Workcast, SaleCycle, My World and

Courage Creative. The region has a number of national players in the e-commerce sector, such as, multi-award winning Stockton-based agency Visualsoft; founded in 1998, it now also has offices in London, Manchester and Newcastle. Follingsby-based Spark eCommerce Group sits on the confluence of e-commerce and logistics, online sales, customer service, and order fulfilment. It now has an eight figure turnover, employs 200 people, and works with a number of major household names. Entertainment has long been a facet of the North East’s digital sector; Gateshead-based game developer Eutechnyx has been on the scene since 1987. It is now the world’s leading independent developer of racing games and works with global brands like BWM, NASCAR and Warhammer. Alongside Sunderland based Tombola, Newcastle’s Bede Gaming is one of the region’s biggest names in online gaming, supplying software to online gambling operators in regulated markets around the globe. Their platform handles more than £125 million worth of bets per month. When it comes to addressing the skills shortages that many technology companies face, SGP Technology Group has a novel approach. It owns Code Academy, which puts computer science graduates though an intense, 12-month industry

led programme, working on live projects to create a sustainable solution to the skills gap. This innovative business complements a number of programmes across the North East supporting the digital sector. Sunderland Software City was founded to give support and advice to existing and aspiring software businesses. Among its services are business support, advice on relocating to the North East, and business accommodation. Middlesbrough Digital City offers a similar set of services in Tees Valley, and provides interim directors, who handle the administrative functions of the start-ups they support, allowing them to focus on their core, value-adding activities. Perhaps the jewel in the crown on the North East’s tech start-up scene is Campus North in Newcastle. It offers hot-desking, co-working and office space to 150 cutting edge tech start-up businesses, like Weekend Box, who provide parents with activities for their children from a purely online platform. The space is supported by a raft of high profile partners including Tech North and Sage Plc. From titans of the international software market employing thousands, to brand new start-ups run by graduate entrepreneurs working on the next big idea, the North East’s digital sector is booming.

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum supports North East business owners in all sectors, helping them to develop, share experience, create new opportunities and grow their business. For more information, call 0191 500 7780 or visit



An entrepreneur interview with:

Richard Kirk

Founder of PolyPhotonix

Not what you’d expect from someone in business, Richard Kirk started his career as an artist, which he supposes is what gives him a slightly different perspective to a lot of people in industry today. After college, Richard travelled to Australia then Paris, where he lived for seven years while he enjoyed a fairly successful career, with exhibitions around the world.

Tell me a little more about your background? Being an artist was a great lifestyle, but eventually I needed to do something else. When I first started out with the confidence of youth I thought I would make a difference, maybe even advance the cause of modernism. Experience and maturity changes you and the need to sell your work, as well as create, means it’s difficult to be genuinely creative, especially when you know that the work in your last show sold. I felt that I had painted myself into a cul-de-sac. About 15 years ago a chance meeting in a pub led to a complete change of direction. One afternoon I was having a drink in Soho, as artists do, and ended up in a conversation with a man who had a small piece of plastic film coated in electroluminescent material, he connected a battery to it and it lit up. I immediately saw the potential, I made a number of phone calls, did some due diligence, quickly raised some funding and a partner, and in a few weeks I’d founded my first company. I think my relative inexperience in business at this point gave me confidence. I knew that in order to take on the big players working in this area I had to improve the technology, so I promptly hired some ink chemists who were able to improve the manufacturing process almost immediately. I also took a different view to the established companies, while they focussed on the science, research and development, I focussed on the application and the customer. We were able to leapfrog the bigger players and landed customers like JC Decaux and Clear Channel, the multinational outdoor advertisers, and within a few years we were trading in 22 countries.

What about PolyPhotonix and its first business premises? PolyPhotonix’s first premises were in the building of our partners, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), on the NETPark site at Sedgefield. I live in London but over the last few years I have gone native and I now spend the majority of my time in the North East. I base myself in North Yorkshire, which I love; I’m into climbing so there’s nowhere better. I started the business at the start of the financial crisis, which meant it needed a partner, that’s where CPI came in, they were setting up a national centre for printed electronics and it looked like a perfect fit. Being based in their building meant we could use their R&D equipment. We’ve since outgrown the space we had there and moved next door into our own building.

How has the business grown since you first started it? We currently employ 22 people and expect to take

on another 10 this year. Over the last six years we have also supported and funded 36 university research projects. This has vastly increased our knowledge base. We are entering revenue now, and are gearing up for export sales later this year; profitability will come in a couple of years.

Tell me a little more about the market you’re operating in. We’re developing a treatment for a particular type of blindness. It’s a game changing treatment; the market will change because of us. We’ve had to fund many years of clinical trials, which has been a challenge from an investment view. We’ve raised over £14 million in research grants, including a substantial amounts from the NHS. The Government are actually using PolyPhotonix as a case study as a successful example of turning research into a real business with applications. In the UK much of the funding available for early stage companies isn’t geared towards funding the innovation cycle. Typically Venture Capitalists fund on a three to five year cycle, where the innovation cycle is usually 10 to 15 years. Working in the Med Tech field market entry for products like ours is really difficult in the UK. There is almost no private sales market because of the presence of the NHS and the NHS takes on average nine years to adopt new med tech innovations after its efficacy is proven. This is challenging particularly as some of our foreign customers only take a few months to go through the same approval process. This is one of the reasons why the UK fails to create big companies. History tells us that companies will develop and fund markets where they generate revenue and this pushes us overseas. One thing the NHS does really well is statistics and reports, and they’ve estimated that the Noctura 400 treatment could save a billion pounds a year on adoption.

So what is your USP? We have developed a treatment for diabetic retinopathy, meaning sufferers won’t go blind. This is an improvement on other treatments which delay the onset of blindness. To put this in perspective, there are more than 280,000 new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year, and diabetic retinopathy affects two thirds of people with Type 2 diabetes and nine out of ten with Type 1. Currently the diseases is treated with laser photocoagulation, which in turn permanently damages vision and can only be used a limited number of times, or a series of painful and expensive injections. The injections cost the NHS £6,500 per eye per year, our Noctura 400 sleep mask, which can be used at home, costs roughly one twentieth of this.


How do you keep everyone at PolyPhotonix motivated? We have an option pool, which is something we started soon after the company was formed. Some of our staff have accrued options which will have significant value if all goes well. We have a very flat organisational structure, and empower people to do their jobs their way, both of which keep people motivated. Two thirds of our employees have doctorates in science, so working on cutting edge research with the university researchers we fund is a big positive for them. They get patents and publish papers, so they get the best of both business and academic life. We all get a huge buzz from customer feedback too. We have over 350,000 hours of patient use and often receive letters from all over the world thanking us. It’s nice to know you’re making a difference.

How does your motivation now compare with that when you started the firm? I used to worry about where my next £10,000 would come from, now it’s more likely that I’m looking for the next £250,000. I’m still excited about what we’re doing and that the company is lean and mean. It’s a huge thing to see your product go from an academic paper to seeing it in use, perhaps even a bigger buzz than I got working as an artist.

Your business structure, how did it come about? As I said, we’re lean and mean. The university research projects we sponsor give us access to knowledge and capacity beyond our size, we use project managers to look after all of these. We have a small but powerful board, with knowledge and connections in all the business areas we need. This structure is a result of two things, my experience in my first company and the fact that whilst we were setting up we couldn’t afford to have a large number of highly paid executives.

Care to tell me a little about your future plans? Our revenue is building month on month and we’re in the process of raising further investment. We need this capital to start scaling up the company to meet demand. The World Health Organisation estimate there is half a billion people in the world with diabetes and 104 million with diabetic retinopathy. Closer to home, we’re excited to see our masks being made available through Lloyds Pharmacies this year.

Richard Kirk is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, a unique group of like-minded people who come together through peer-to-peer mentoring and a series of inspirational events to share best practice, create valuable connections and grow their business. For more information, visit


Topshop £60

Marks & Spencer £95 Topshop £38

When it comes to injecting colour into your workwear, intu Metrocentre’s stylist Michaela Dale is your go-to girl. With a firm grip of the season’s trends and an eye for detail, she’s the fashion-forward fairy godmother you always wanted… It can be quite daunting at first seeing rails of vibrant orange, cerise and pillar box red when you’re used to a black trouser suit. So start by layering colours, mix them with safer options or pop on a bright necklace. Change up your black courts for a pair of orange heels or swap that old brown leather bag for a red satchel to really make your outfit pop. Once you’re ready and you've seen the results of your colour confident dressing - go the whole way by pairing a block coloured dress with a coordinated jacket. It will certainly turn heads and make you look confident to work colleagues and new business contacts. Shopping with a lot of clients who tell me they don't suit certain colours, they are often very surprised when after not wearing red for 10 years; we find a red dress that looks amazing. It is usually about tone. Everybody suits every colour but it may be you suit a cherry red rather than a London bus red. You may light up in a cerise pink but feel drained in a nude pink. Have fun trying different shades and seeing what suits you best. Be bold and bring on the colour…

We are firm believers that clothes can change your mood and on a Monday, we’ll take all the help we can get. With vibrant colours hitting the intu Metrocentre shops, now’s the time to give your wardrobe a spring clean and slip a bit of colour between those greyscale rails. The 2016 spring/summer catwalks were filled with explosions of colour, which is filtering through to our favourite high street stores. Rails are awash with eye-pleasing brights and my favourites this season include the reds, oranges and pinks. Wearing a colourful outfit amid a sea of black, grey and navy clad work colleagues will really help lift your mood and brighten up the workplace. Adding an orange shirt to black, a shocking pink one to grey or a postbox red one to navy gives a fresh angle to any tailored work suit. If adding colour to your workwear wardrobe makes you feel uneasy - start small. Take the time to try lots of different styles on with some of your current clothes that you feel comfortable in.


House of Fraser £99

River Island £35 Topshop £42

New Look £19.99

Debenhams Ben de Lisi £35

Wallis £29

River Island £60

River Island £32



How Go Smarter changed the way we travel to work Launching in 2011 with Schools Go Smarter and adding the business-focussed Go Smarter to Work initiative the following year, Go Smarter ( – the Department for Transport-funded sustainable transport programme for Tyne and Wear and Northumberland – has supported hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees to adopt sustainable and active travel.

From installing bike sheds in offices to delivering sustainable travel roadshows, Go Smarter to Work has helped transform how people travel to and from work across the region. One of Go Smarter to Work’s major successes has been its personalised approach to travel planning; working with individual staff members to create tailor made journey plans using sustainable travel. Not only has this benefitted employees, it has also had a positive impact on businesses. Andrew Davison, partner at Muckle LLP said: “As a company we’re committed to minimising the adverse impact of our business and our people on the environment, so participating in initiatives which raise awareness of alternative and more sustainable methods of travelling fits perfectly with this.”

The popular Go Smarter to Work events programme has taken sustainable travel direct to businesses so staff can experience the positive effects of active travel. From cycle training and bike maintenance to electric bike trials and Nordic walking, Go Smarter to Work has helped educate and inform why sustainable transport is so important for our health, environment and the local economy. Rebecca Allen, Sustainability Officer at Newcastle University, said: “Our Go Smarter to Work Breakfast Mornings were a fantastic way to introduce people to the activity available on campus. By working with Go Smarter we have been able to increase staff engagement with greener travel.” The Go Smarter to Work matched funding scheme has allowed business already enrolled in the programme to apply for up to £5,000 to

introduce a sustainable transport or flexible working scheme for its employees. North East based Trinity Chambers, a leading barristers’ set, used its funding to renew the shower facilities in The Custom House, encouraging its team to walk or cycle to work. Simon Stewart, Practice Director, Trinity Chambers, said: “Three people have recently bought bicycles and are using them now that they can have a shower on arrival at work. This has appeared to have created a healthy, competitive mentality between the cyclists which is a good motivator for the workplace.” Go Smarter is launching a Go Smarter Business Network in April 2016 - a new way for businesses to work together to address local transport issues. Providing a legacy for the Go Smarter programme, membership fees are fully funded for the first year.

For more information and to join the Business Network please email



Are you taking care of your company’s future? Bryony Gibson

Bryony Gibson, managing director of Bryony Gibson Consulting, discusses the importance of identifying, developing and recruiting talent with the potential to fill key positions in the long-term.

Succession planning used to be strictly in the board room, helping company director’s to prepare for worst case scenarios. Focus was all too often placed on the most senior leaders, with rarely any consideration for those lower down the pecking order that are critical to business continuity. An ageing workforce and scarcity of talent in many sectors has more recently elevated its importance and, while it still plays a pivotal role in ensuring the right skills are in position at the top, the weight of emphasis has changed significantly to include the most accomplished employees regardless of title. People are realising that a lack of foresight across the breadth of a business can result in major problems for ongoing prosperity; meaning if you don’t already focus on long-term recruitment strategies and development of the right people, your future growth will suffer. If you’re in the process of developing a succession plan, the first thing to recognise is that it is a gradual process, rather than an event. Succession should be considered way ahead of time, but ideally with the flexibility to allow it to be implemented at a moment’s notice if required. To begin, start by identifying the foundations of your business success. Once mapped, try asking yourself a few questions like: What is the

level of staff turnover in key areas? Who are the most critical employees? What is their average age? When will they retire? How likely are they to leave the business? Coupled with the long-term direction of the company, this should begin to give you a clear understanding of where the talent and skills gaps are, along with the areas that require continuity plans to be put in place and the individuals that need support and bespoke programmes of personal development in order to be ready to step up when the time comes. As a leader, one of your most important roles is to clear a path that enables your team to focus on the things they do best, the things you recruited them to do. With the most transient workforce in history, this simple exercise will provide you with a starting point from which you can build a dynamic and ever changing plan of action that will add genuine value to your business when you need it most. Not only will it reduce the level of disruption caused should a key member of staff decide to move on, but it will help to develop a regular flow of well-trained people across your organisation who are constantly learning, being challenged and stimulated; all of which makes them less likely to want to leave themselves. Once you’ve completed your review and

Contact Bryony for help finding the right tax & accountancy role or recruits on (0191) 375 9983. Alternatively, visit, connect on LinkedIn or follow @bryonygibson.

identified the employees who are your potential ‘successors’, your succession plan will begin to form your recruitment strategy. Armed with the knowledge of where potential vulnerabilities exist in your business, you can easily see where you should be focussing your external efforts and bolstering the capacity within your team. In my experience, such a clear, long-term approach is rare in recruitment and will help enormously if you decide to work with a dedicated recruitment partner. Being able to advise a specialist agency, who knows the market well, on the type of people that fit with your plans, will make it significantly easier for them to engage only the right talent on your behalf. Given the current skills shortages, it will also allow them to support you proactively on an ongoing basis, identifying ambitious people who are looking to be trained up in the areas that will neutralise your weaknesses. As the relationship grows, even when the initial recruitment has been completed, such a high level of understanding will allow your partner to remain on a constant look-out for people who fit with your succession and recruitment needs; which is when you’ll really start to get ahead of the game.


Don’t Exclude - Include...

A 2010 survey by Scope revealed disabled people feel socially excluded – with the charity’s Chief Executive Richard Hawkins saying at the time, that people with disabilities are “invisible in day-to-day life.” While the 2012 Paralympics went a long way to changing people’s perceptions, there is still a feeling that more could be done. Enter PRS Inclusion Services. Established in 2006, as Cheshire Hope, PRS Inclusion Services aims to support people with disabilities in making confident life decisions, pursue their own learning and development and more importantly help develop skills and independence as well as a strong feeling of selfworth. PRS Inclusions Services based in the north east provides learning and day opportunities for people with disabilities in South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead. PRS uses its local knowledge of resources and businesses to provide a sustainable investment in not just the local communities, but the people who make those communities what they are. The company was launched in 2006 by Managing Director Pamela-Rickman-Seers having over 30 years experience in the health, education and social care sector.

Now, 10 years after its founding, PRS continues to offer the same high level of training for people with disabilities and have a proven track record in delivering their promises. Their personal development programmes focus on boosting confidence, communication and life skills and look to build a more employable person beyond simple teachings. With social integration also high on the list of targets, it should come as no surprise that PRS run numerous social and leisure programmes which include valuable life skill lessons such as gardening, I.T, cookery, exercise and health classes. All activities and learning opportunities are delivered by experienced, fully qualified experts-in-their-field to ensure the best possible experience, with everyone getting the most out of each session. Drawing on each individual’s natural ability and desire to learn, every course is accredited by Open College Network [OCN Credit4learning]. This combines professional expertise with regional resources to deliver real learning and achievement that will impact learner’s lives forever. All of the adult learning courses and activities are geared towards education for the real world and gives the opportunity to strive for formal qualifications, benefiting all students in the employability area.

It’s not just experts who play a part in the delivery of PRS’s courses and individual approach to inclusion. They work closely and respectfully with all involved in the lives of disabled people eg Speech & language therapists, Physiotherapists, OTs etc. This allows PRS to tailor the individual opportunities, activities and support, on a person by person basis. Currently made up of 13 highly trained, highly qualified staff, PRS practice what they preach and include fellow professional organisations, agencies and local groups to enhance the already impressive services offered. Matching activities to the individual rather than adopting a blanket approach is at the heart of PRS’s objective. Working in six week timescales, no detail is too small in making sure each and every learner gets the very best experience not only now, but going forward in their lives. PRS is not just about the here and now. They are all about helping people with disabilities and their inclusion skills out in the working world beyond courses and education – hence the company name. Those who have been part of PRS’s unique approach have praised them, with testimonials pointing out the control given to them, the dignified and adult way of treating learners and the real feeling of independence afforded.

If you would like to find out more about PRS Inclusion Services or their work with disable people, call them on 0191 454 1010 or visit their website at



let me do the talking to give your business a boost ... claire barber pr & media limited :


Willi’s Café Jesmond

Under new ownership and recently refurbished

Under new ownership and recently refurbished

All day breakfast • Daily meal menu • Paleo and low gluten options available All day menu breakfast menu breakfastcakes menu Direct trade artisan loose leaf teas All andday homemade Paleo and low gluten optionscoffee, available Direct trade artisan coffee, loose leaf teas and homemade cakes Daily meal menu

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Willis 23-25 Clayton Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 1JP Tel : 0191 2818123

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Willis 23-25 Clayton Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 1JP Tel : 0191 2818123

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WWW.BATTLEZONELASER.CO.UK The North East’s original corporate finance boutique is back. For all of your deal needs call Chris Appleby, David Bell or Abu Ali on 0191 269 9898

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Bridging the Gap - How to beat the skills gap and get the right staff are people; emotion and character can play a big part in what makes a person a good worker so bear that in mind.

Hello again, Joanne Howe of Howe Consultancy, here this month to talk to you about the issues you can face when it comes to recruitment.

Selecting anything will come with a bias and there’s no shame in that. Some people may value one set of skills more than another. By doing this though, you may miss the best possible candidate.

People are the backbone of any business; those you employ understandably are just as important as any CEO may be. However, how do you go about getting the right recruit and fill the ever widening skills gap which several reports point out?

By getting a wide range of people from various sectors and skill sets involved in the recruitment process, you will not only eliminate your own biases, but they may see something in a candidate that you may have missed.

For example, a ‘totaljobs’ survey released March 9th shows that 55% of UK businesses are suffering a skills shortage- the same survey says almost half (49%) of businesses quizzed anticipate some recruitment difficulties in the next few years while 65% of job hunters say it is harder to find a job than ever before.

Following on from the previous point, while having a vacancy in the workforce may seem unfair to existing staff, it would be a bigger mistake into rushing into a decision and hiring the wrong person.

With that in mind then, businesses have to be certain that they get the right person, first time round, but how do they go about this? After all, while 33% success may be success in baseball, anything less than 100% in business is going to lead to disaster. First off, it’s important to remember that

Therefore, once a mutual decision (without bias) has been made, take time to double check and reconsider the choice made.

although there is a skills gap to be plugged, staff

Though far from an exhaustive list of advice hopefully, by following these tips you’ll be in more of a position to avoid one of the most nationally recognised problems for HR.

If you need more help or information with your HR or recruitment, I am fully equipped to deal with this having interviewed over 10,000 people in my HR career, so call us at Howe Consultancy on 07921 256 981 or visit our website at

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Breakfast Event Impending tax changes were discussed at a seminar held by law firm Sintons and chartered accountants Leathers LLP. The breakfast seminar, held at The Beacon on Westgate Road in Newcastle, was full to capacity with an audience of leading business figures hearing more about upcoming tax changes, including new property taxation changes, and their likely impact. Ryan Harrison, a tax specialist from Leathers LLP, and Sintons’ Associate Julie Garbutt, gave the presentation at the event. Topics covered included the three per cent increase in Stamp Duty Land Tax from April this year, the abolition of the ‘wear and tear’ allowance, and other changes affecting private landlords and property investors in the buy-to-let market.


New Associate Solicitor Appointment at Newcastle Law Firm Mincoffs Solicitors has promoted family lawyer Emily Cannell to the role of Associate Solicitor, recognising her commitment to her clients, her department and the firm.

(North East) Committee and is also the Young Resolution representative on the main Resolution Committee and is noted for her ‘in-depth research’ by the Legal 500.

Emily joined Jesmond based Mincoffs Solicitors in 2012 to work alongside esteemed Family lawyer, Lyn Rutherford. After graduating with a First Class Honours from Northumbria Law School, Emily returned to her hometown, where she undertook a training contract with a prominent commercial law firm. However, her desire to return to the North East led her to relocate in 2011 when she met Lyn Rutherford and has worked closely with him ever since.

Speaking about her promotion, Emily said ‘‘I am delighted to have been promoted to an Associate Solicitor and I am excited about the future here at Mincoffs’.

Emily manages a full and challenging case load, dealing with all matters arising from relationship breakdown including Divorce, financial matters, private law children matters and cohabitation disputes. Having worked closely with Lyn Rutherford on high calibre and high net worth cases for a number of years she has essentially been ‘fast-tracked’ and is ahead of her peers of a similar PQE as a result. She is the Treasurer of the Young Resolution

Lyn Rutherford said ‘Personally I am delighted that the firm has recognised Emily’s outstanding talents and the contribution she has made and continues to make towards the development of the Family department and the firm as a whole’. Chief Executive Andy Woodhouse added ‘This is a richly deserved reward for the contribution Emily has made to the firm’. The Family team at Mincoffs is consistently praised for going the extra mile for all clients and offers a wide range of services for family law clients with a reputation for consistently achieving optimum results. Department Head, Lyn Rutherford, continues to be recognised as a leading individual for family law and is the ‘go to’ lawyer for high profile

Contact Emily Cannell on or call 0191 2816151.


individuals in the North East. He previously headed the Dickinson Dees Family department which evolved into Silk, a top tier firm. Mincoffs’ repertoire of clients includes entrepreneurs, land owners, Chief Executives, Directors of PLC’s, fellow solicitors, actors, sports personalities etc. The team is able to offer a wide range of expertise arising from the breakdown of relationships concerning financial matters and also in relation to matters concerning the welfare of children. All of Mincoffs’ family law clients receive a top quality service and the largest proportion of new work comes from recommendations and past clients which is testament to the service and results achieved by the Family Department. The Family team are able to call on the expertise of other recognised experts such as in the Corporate and Commercial departments in order to offer a complete and rounded service to all clients to achieve the best possible outcome in all cases and to enable clients to receive pragmatic and commercial advice right from the very outset of a case.


There for the journey... When life takes an unexpected turn, our family law experts can help.

Our specialist Family team offer advice in all areas of family law, ranging from pre or post-nuptial agreements through to relationship breakdown. To find out more, visit: T: 0191 281 6151 E:


The latest from Collingwood Legal Paul Johnstone

The Government have published draft regulations governing the compulsory reporting of gender pay gaps by employers with more than 250 ‘relevant’ employees. ‘Relevant’ meaning those who ordinarily work for an employer in Great Britain and who contracts are governed by UK legislation. A Government Consultation was put out in July 2015 following which there has been much speculation regarding the type and form of reporting to be required.

However, the regulations do not stipulate that for group companies all employees in the group must be added together for a total aggregate headcount. This means that each legal entity within the group can count only those employees employed by each specific employing business. This would not be the same for a single large employer which has groups of employees working within different divisions of the same legal entity. The draft regulations are detailed and cover a range of matters which will need to be published by employers in the prescribed manner every year. Although the draft regulations are not intended to come into force until 1st October 2016, employers will be required to take a preliminary snapshot of their gender pay in April 2017, followed by publication of a full report no later than April 2018.

How will the data be calculated? Employers will be required to publish an overall gender pay gap figure, this will be calculated using both median and mean figures. The median is said to be the best representation of the ‘typical’ difference as it is unaffected by the small number of very high earners. The mean will take

into account the full earnings distribution and will be useful because women are often overrepresented at the low earning extreme and men over-represented at the high earning extreme. ‘Pay’ is proposed to include basic pay, paid leave, maternity pay, sick pay, area allowances, shift premium pay, bonus pay and certain allowances. It will not include overtime pay, expenses, benefits in kind, redundancy pay or arrears of pay. Furthermore, employers will be required to analyse all bonus payments made in a 12-month period and publish the difference between women and men, as well as the proportion of male and female employees who received bonus pay during the 12 months preceding the date. Finally, they will also be required to report on the number of men and women working across salary quartiles. These quartiles will be calculated by employers themselves based on their overall pay range. Narrative reporting to provide context to and explain an employer’s gender pay gap and set out actions, will be voluntary but strongly encouraged.

Manner and form of publication The information will need be published on the

employer’s website in the UK for at least three years. It must also be uploaded to a governmentsponsored website and include the signature of a director confirming its accuracy.

Penalties for non-compliance The draft does not provide any form of civil or criminal penalties for failure to comply, instead the Government is relying on an expectation that employers will comply, backed up by the potential for it to publicise the identity of employers who have not complied. The regulations will also, in addition be reviewed within five years of commencement.

Advice to employers Given this will be a significant obligation, employers should familiarise themselves with the report and the methods of calculation.  onsider drafting a plan of implementation in C preparation for the reporting.  eview how the information is to be reported R and published to both employees and the general public. E nsure managers and HR staff are up to date and trained on the potential changes.

If you require any further advice or assistance on how this change in law impacts your business, please contact me on 0191 282 2870 or at


Coutts and Muckle: The Lakes Distillery Dinner Muckle LLP and Coutts & Co recently hosted a supper at No. 19, Close House Golf Club for clients and friends of both businesses. Guests enjoyed a fascinating talk by Nigel Mills from The Lakes Distillery about its establishment and development and also had the opportunity to taste its exceptional gin, vodka and whisky products.

Thank goodness

not every north-east commercial law firm is going the same way. In an age where everyone seems to be getting bought up, swallowed up and ending up completely changed, we are more than happy to be different. We remain incredibly proud of our enduring independence. We are free to make decisions that are true to our values and, above all, that are of most benefit to our clients. You could call it a sign of our individuality.

Muckle LLP. We think you’ll like the difference.



Cohabitation on the rise Sarah Crilly, Associate in the Family Law team at Ward Hadaway, looks at the current state of the law surrounding cohabitation.

According to the office of National Statistics, there are just under 3.2 million cohabiting couples in the UK in 2015. More and more couples are choosing to cohabit rather than get married. Many people are still under the misconception that so-called “common law marriage� exists. This misconception is causing huge problems for people who believe they have the same legal rights as married couples. Currently the law does not recognise cohabitation as it does marriage. If parties separate, even after residing together for long periods of time, they are not automatically entitled to any financial remedy. Instead, they are restricted to claims limited only to property and only in those cases where a party has contributed to the value of the property. Such property disputes are complex and expensive and have to proceed by way of civil litigation under a piece of legislation known as the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

Where parties have children then it is possible to claim maintenance for children via the Child Maintenance Service in the same way married couples can, but if there is any particular need such as housing that the children may be about to lose out on as a result of the breakdown of a relationship, then the parties can resort to Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for provision. However, these cases tend to involve parties who have substantial assets. It does not help the middle income and low asset cases. It is not possible for the financially poorer party to claim maintenance for themselves and if they have not contributed anything to the value of the property where that property is held in the sole name of the other party, then they are not entitled to any type of financial remedy. The Cohabitation Rights Bill was introduced to try and alleviate the problems. It has had its first reading in the House of Lords but the second reading is yet to be scheduled. The proposals are that where cohabitants have lived together as a couple for a continuous period

of at least three years, even if they do not have children together, they will be afforded some legal protection. Provided they meet specific eligibility criteria, they can apply to the Court for some form of financial settlement Order. The Bill proposes that legislation should be introduced so that the Court can make various Orders including lump sum payments, transfers/ sales of property and pension sharing Orders. The Bill also suggests that cohabitants have certain rights following the death of the other cohabitant and can enable a surviving cohabitant to make claims upon the death of the other. If this bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the landscape for cohabiting couples will be changed substantially. Parties embarking on living together arrangements will have to consider equivalent protection to couples embarking on marriage. Instead of pre-nuptial agreements, cohabiting couples will be able to enter into opt-out agreements but like pre-nuptial agreements they will in certain circumstances be able to be varied by the courts.

For more information on the issues raised by this article please contact or call 0191 204 4463.



Attack on buy-to-let landlords Mark Walton

The “continuing attack” on buy-to-let landlords is set to result in investors withdrawing from the sector, an increase in repossessions and a drop in the levels of rental properties on offer, North East experts have warned. The buy-to-let sector has been hit by a series of changes in the recent past, including the new Stamp Duty Land Tax provisions and abolition of the wear and tear allowance, but the Spring Budget contained yet more bad news with buyto-let landlords being excluded from a reduction in Capital Gains Tax on investments.  In what has in recent years been a thriving sector in the North East - with investors from across the world investing in buy-to-let properties, especially in student properties - experts now fear the market will contract, with repossessions increasing and rental income stagnating.  Mark Walton, Managing Director of regional buy-to-let specialist Walton Robinson, said: “Buy-to-let investors are rightly feeling there is a continuing attack on this sector, which has previously been thriving. In the North East over the past few years, residential property investment has been a big growth area and a huge positive for the economy, but now the outlook gives us cause for great concern.  “We believe the levels of rental properties will drop, as the market now gives competitive advantage to first-time buyers through the Stamp Duty changes, and landlords will be taxed more on the rental income they receive, which for

some will result in them lose money. We have no doubt repossessions will increase. “Landlords able to retain or buying additional investment properties will see competition reduce and rents rise which will help to ease the pain of higher taxation but the pain will happen before the gain.   “Our advice would be that landlords looking to leave the market should do so before all the tax changes take full effect, and anyone looking to enter the market needs to fully understand the tax implications and should take expert advice if in any doubt whatsoever. The results of not fully appreciating what you are taking on could be very costly.” Paul Docherty, Director at Newcastle chartered accountants Stephenson Coates, added: “The changes to the buy-to-let sector will definitely impact the sector. The latest - which is the cut in the rate at which Capital Gains Tax is levied for those who sell investments such as shares, but not for buy-to-let landlords - is seen as another attack on buy-to-let landlords and second home owners.  “It had been hoped that the Chancellor may abandon his plans to increase Stamp Duty as it may lead to some landlords quitting the sector. The tax rise may also reduce the supply of rental properties and push up rents. In addition, the higher transaction costs may deter foreign investors and this appears to be a short-sighted policy within the property market.”



T 0191 243 1000 E


Business support comes in different guises Andrew Cawkwell

When Chancellor George Osborne announced the Northern Powerhouse initiative in 2014 to hand down more powers to local people to local services, it was clear one size does not fit all. Despite a devolution deal being announced to help unlock billions of pounds for the North to drive economic growth, cuts to local council budgets have continued. With spending in areas from transport to culture cut, this has impacted on many of our services, from Bede’s World to the Durham Light Infantry Museum. We live in an area where workers depend for their families’ livelihoods on a range of heavy industries and the closure of Redcar’s Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) left a huge gap in the economy on Teesside. With around 2,000 people out of work, there has been a knock-on effect on local businesses in the supply chain with companies finding it difficult to know where to go for support. An example of this is the £80m emergency funding pot, made available after the SSI fallout, which is experiencing low take-up due to a lack of understanding of the support available.

The fund is there to help support companies in the supply chain from going into insolvency as it will enable the deficits created by SSI to be underwritten by the Government. At Muckle LLP, we can help businesses access this funding. There are a number of parameters available to unlock these funds, including in conjunction with a restructuring exercise. If you are struggling financially, proactive action is important. These issues need to be addressed and financial restructuring may provide much needed solutions. We can help inform, advise and introduce businesses to valuable networks and support services across the North East for any number of situations. The first step to turning things around is to come and talk to us. Andrew Cawkwell Partner and Certified Turnaround Professional Banking and Restructuring Team Muckle LLP e: @CompanyRescue

A real mix of old and new! Houghton-le-Spring development offering both traditional and contemporary homes For househunters in the North East who are unsure whether to opt for a contemporary or traditional home, they need look no further than Elba Park in Houghton-le-Spring. Local housebuilder, David Wilson Homes North East, now has a wide range of two, three, four and five bedroom homes in a variety of styles, available to homebuyers visiting its stylish Elba Park development on Chester Road. The development, which will consist of 359 sustainable homes once complete, sits in a newly created 52-hectare park, and is surrounded by country walks and trails. Properties are available in both traditional and contemporary designs, with something to suit every taste. Buyers can view the modern Hackworth house type, a beautifully presented four bedroom, three-storey family home, which benefits from a spacious open-plan living and dining area, with French doors leading to the garden, whilst the spacious kitchen boasts high quality, contemporary units. Upstairs there are two double bedrooms and two single bedrooms, whilst the master bedroom also benefits from an en-suite bathroom, with prices starting from £206,500.

All homes at Elba Park can be purchased using the David Wilson Homes Part Exchange scheme; where people can sell their existing property to the housebuilder, making the move into their new home seamless. Paul Race, Sales Manager at David Wilson Homes North East, commented: “Elba Park has been a fantastic success and extremely popular with families and professional alike. The development is surrounded by country walks and trails and sits in a beautiful park, which is a great thing to have on your doorstep. Also with

the opportunity to use our Part Exchange scheme, people can make the move to Elba Park as quickly and as stress free as possible.” Elba Park is situated on the site of the former Lambton coke works, which has been regenerated into a 52-hectare country park. With 77,000 new trees and 3,700 metres of new paths and cycle tracks, this fantastic feature is a stunning benefit to the new community. Close to the A1, commuting and socialising in the vibrant local area could not be easier.

To find out more about David Wilson Homes in the North East please visit:


Mincoffs Solicitors hosted the 5th ‘Fizz in the City’ Ladies Networking Event on Friday 4th March at Mr Lynch in Jesmond. Claire Fenwick, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Mincoffs Solicitors said ‘These events have been a phenomenal success and have already become a firm fixture on the North East networking calendar and the word is now starting to spread out of the region too which is fantastic. Each event attracts a diverse and different group of business women, offering a great networking opportunity with a relaxed atmosphere’. The next event will take place on Friday 20th May.

Exclusive Da Vinci Evening Art work by one of the world’s most enduring painters was showcased to guests who also enjoyed the artistic food offerings from the chefs at The Laing Art Gallery. Sodexo Prestige, which runs the catering at all of the Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums venues, invited key clients to an exclusive evening to see the Leonardo da Vinci drawings from the Royal collection at the gallery.


Call that a contract?

In the first of a series of articles in Northern Insight introducing you to various aspects of contract law, construction specialist Kevin Anderson of Sintons introduces how and when a contract can be formed. To come into being, a contract requires both parties to intend to create a legal relationship. This is a relatively simple first step to overcome when two people in business are talking about one providing a service or goods and the other paying for it.

Offer and Acceptance There will then be an offer by one party that has been accepted by the other. Some form of consideration must pass between the parties (i.e. the service or goods for the money) and there must be a degree of certainty as to the terms of their arrangement. The test for certainty that is applied by the courts is that “unless all material terms of a contract are agreed, there is no binding obligation” (as said in a 1934 case called Foley - v- Classique Coaches). So negotiations must be concluded first. Critically, this doesn’t mean that you need a written and signed contract. It is perfectly

acceptable to have a contract that is merely evidenced in writing (for example by an exchange of emails) or even a contract that is entirely verbal. The law will also assist the parties to gain the required degree of certainty. Terms are often implied into a contract if the need arises. For example, unless a time for the work is specified, a “reasonable” time is implied. In the construction industry, for example, the first step is normally for the employer to request a quote. This “invitation to tender” is not an offer as it can’t be accepted on its own, since the price doesn’t exist. Several contractors may then submit their respective tenders. These are normally all offers made to the employer, as the tender almost certainly says “I will do the work that you have requested in the time that you have requested and on the terms that you have requested, for this price”. The employer logically accepts only one of those offers and a contract comes into existence.

The “Battle of the Forms” One of the most infuriating issues for employers occurs when they invite tenders, having specified

the terms of the contract. The contractor comes back with an “offer”, but expressed to be on its own standard terms. If the employer accepts, the contract is thus on the contractor’s terms (as this was the form of the offer). Instead let us say that the employer “accepts” the quote, but in doing so he re-asserts his own terms. This is no acceptance, as it is offering a new deal (i.e. your price but on my terms). The contract is only formed when one party makes an offer and the other accepts. This is often about who fired the last shot and it is about when the work started, since if I offer for you to work for your price but on my terms and you start work, that is almost certainly your acceptance. Where employers fall foul is if they accept the quote (stated to be on the contractor’s terms) and then send out a contract bundle with their own terms included. The acceptance event came before the contract bundle, it failed to assert the employer’s terms and so the contract was formed on the contractor’s terms. In other words, always check carefully what offer is being made and whether what you receive is an acceptance or a counter-offer.

Kevin Anderson is a construction specialist at Newcastle law firm Sintons. Contact him on 0191 226 3648 or


PROPERTY INSIGHT Matt Hoy, Rosie Spours and Richard Rafique

North East estate agent celebrates further regional growth North East estate agent and chartered surveyor Bradley Hall is celebrating further company expansion with the opening of its fifth office. Bradley Hall announced the opening of its new Morpeth operation in response to growing demand for its property services across the North East. The company’s newest office, based on Newgate Street, will be run by the Bradley Hall Northumberland team. Led by director and qualified chartered surveyor Richard Rafique, the team includes newly appointed property executive Rosie Spours and Northumberland area manager Matt Hoy, who will all be on hand across Bradley Hall offices in Morpeth and Alnwick. The new Morpeth office specialises in a wide range of residential and commercial properties, meeting all budgets and requirements. The operation has already built a strong portfolio, and is set to add dozens of exciting new-build developments, including luxury apartments and modern family homes. Richard Rafique, who is a registered valuer by the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors, said: “The expansion to Morpeth is another fantastic achievement for Bradley Hall. The outstanding success of the Alnwick office opening proved that there is a high demand for our property services in Northumberland.

“Northumberland is widely renowned as a fantastic area to live thanks to its close proximity to the stunning coastline and countryside, as well as its transport links and access to the regional capital and other market towns. “We’re currently offering a range of impressive properties in the area. We are looking forward to taking on new instructions to provide our clients with the best range of properties to choose from. We want to help people find their dream home or ideal business space.” Rosie Spours will oversee negotiations across both Morpeth and Alnwick, advising on sales and acquisitions for clients in Northumberland. Following a successful career at London estate agent Foxtons, managing negotiations on luxury properties across the capital, Rosie returned to Alnwick to continue an already established career in the property industry at Bradley Hall. Rosie said: “This is a fantastic time to be joining Bradley Hall during its expansion and to be back in the North East at such an exciting time for the regional property industry. “I am looking forward to overseeing negotiations on some of the impressive newbuild properties in the area which will be coming to market soon, as well as some of the more traditional properties which Northumberland is famous for. “I am passionate about the property industry

and I really enjoy helping people buy their first or new home, after all it is one of the biggest and most important investments you can make.” Following the recent launch of BH Financial Services, specialist advisers are able to offer finance support to both residential and commercial clients from Bradley Hall’s network of offices. Heading this is finance specialist James Hill, supported by mortgage broker Lewis Chambers. Services range from advice and support on mortgages and the application process, commercial mortgages and commercial loans, to business finance, and motor finance for business and private use alongside both vehicle sourcing and disposal. Bradley Hall currently employs 30 staff over operations in its main commercial base on Grey Street in Newcastle city centre, with residential offices in Gosforth, Durham, Alnwick and Morpeth. The firm recently celebrated its 25th year as an estate agent and almost 30 as a chartered surveying firm, with an annual turnover of £1.5m. In addition, the firm is managing almost 600 residential and commercial properties for clients along with a rising rent roll of almost £5m per annum. Bradley Hall offers a full range of property services including valuation, commercial and residential agency, property management, business sales and disposals, acquisitions, rating appeals and town planning.

For more information on Bradley Hall’s commercial and residential services, please visit


Exterior Designs As we race into Spring and the lighter nights invite us out in to the garden and patio areas, there are a number of styles and designs that will show luxury and comfort can be combined to create the perfect outdoor space. Making the most of your home, and enjoying the seasonal outside space we all miss in the winter months can bring our homes back alive...and even make us decide not to move. Whether you are simply enjoying your garden or entertaining a few close friends here are a few of our favourite exterior designs.

The Perfect Patio Wanting an intimate outside area combined with the feeling of luxury…You can achieve this by adding some contemporary chic-coloured patio furniture. Finding the perfect dining set in black or white steel or natural wood, adding luxury cushions and surrounding it with feature accents and planting - bringing your luxury interiors alive in the garden. Oversized planters can add a scale of grandeur, and for that real statement hang a singular light fitting to draw the eye to your intimate and truly elegant dining set. Bringing the great indoors outside and enjoying a space that is both functional and WOW is a must and can be created by furnishing different parts of the garden by indentifying different spaces for lounging or dining. Accommodate your ever growing party with a large dining set and a comfortable lounging set to simply relax. Go all out with your dining set; large, oak, glass topped or metal, or even natural stone. Accent elegance within the space by adding feature lighting and large central-pieces with candle lanterns, and for the end of the day offer comfort in the lounging area with pillows and cushions in abundance for your large party to simply chill.


The Centre Stage Create the perfect focus for your patio with an ever important centre piece. Be it a fire pit or feature-pool you can build your design around it. Surround the area with deep seating; sleek yet comfortable chairs and always provide table space to hold the important refreshments. Compliment the style with elegant planters and eye-catching accents.

Comfortable & Chic Luxury and comfort in one. In reality we need outdoor living areas to protect us from the notso-good weather, and areas that allows us to create special places to enjoy the garden all year. Garden rooms with wicker furni ture can be a wonderful way to achieve this. Bring luxury to your patio by filling it with matching lounge chairs, arm chairs, a small dining set and the ever important side tables. Create a calm ambience to the space with the use of soothing colours and patterns, and a real exuberance with the use of design accents; over-sized cushions galore, and tasteful crockery. All will compliment your comfortable and chic patio design.Â

The al-fresco Lounge It’s all about relaxing before and after the food has been served. Your patio is your haven and place to enjoy the company of others. Modern patio furniture is the key to creating this with style; a large coffee table, simple colour schemes such as black based furniture with white cushions and the addition of generous sized throws to add that splash of colour. Less is more with this style so keep the accessories simple and be creative with lighting to help set the mood for night- time, relaxing and luxury.

Whether you are entertaining the family and friends, or an intimate space for a special few, luxury patio design can help create the outdoor space for you. The URBAN BASE design team can assist you identify your needs and there are some great new furniture styles for 2016 that can bring your exterior design alive. To be inspired, call Jo Emms of UbDesign on 0845 6431186.



Lindisfarne Road Jesmond

A highly individual and luxurious home in the heart of Jesmond, representing one of Newcastle’s finest town mansions. This elegant, four storey detached family house is set in approximately one acre of south facing landscaped gardens and accommodates a bespoke open plan Poggenpohl kitchen, six double en-suite bedrooms, four stunning reception rooms and a leisure suite with pool.

Price Guide: £3.995 Million


Elmfield Park, Gosforth Suncourt, set back from Elmfield Park, provides a magnificent setting for a truly fabulous, detached house of luxurious quality. The 1930s property has been extensively refurbished including the addition of a second floor, and has superb style with six double bedrooms, drawing room with media wall, a stunning Herrington Gate kitchen, and an entertaining room with cocktail bar. EPC: C

Price Guide: Offers over £3 Million



Smallburn House

Smallburn, Ponteland This beautiful stone built family house, on the edge of Ponteland Village, was built originally in 1904 and has been extensively refurbished to provide a fabulous, five bedroom home in a semi-rural setting. The grounds of Smallburn House extend to 5.3 acres and include formal gardens, grazing paddocks, open pasture land, a timber stable with two loose boxes and a tack room. EPC: D

Price Guide: £1.25 Million

Langley House

Kiln Place, Corbridge Langley House, one of only four individually designed, newly built, executive homes, is located in a quiet courtyard setting in the heart of the village. It offers superb five bedroom accommodation over three floors, finished to a high specification with ‘Alexander Carrick of Corbridge’ kitchen, parquet and oak flooring, a stone fireplace and timber double glazed windows. EPC: B

Price Guide: £999,000



Westfield, Gosforth

Price on application This completely unique and very special property represents one of the most impressive detached houses within central Gosforth. The property was purchased by the current owners in 2008 and has been extensively remodelled to the highest of standards. It offers six bedroomed accommodation on three floors with a beautiful family kitchen/breakfasting/living room with state of the art appliances, a family room with a built in cinema screen TV and a formal drawing room with stunning fireplace. Luxury features include magnificent porcelain tiled floors, bespoke furniture, handmade walnut staircase, integrated Bose quadraphonic sound system, electrically controlled curtains and blinds, sophisticated mood lighting, underfloor heating and stunning interior design. Externally there are beautiful, landscaped gardens, electrically operated entry with CCTV, a private courtyard and garage.

Contact rare! From Sanderson Young on 0191 2233500




Bowing out on a high Vivien Herrera-Lee, Properties Unique

Well, Vivien, stepping down as Managing Director certainly signals the end of an era for both yourself and Properties Unique. What prompted your decision to retire?

both our owners and guests are catered for. Additionally I have always worked with integrity and complete honesty and treated people with respect.

Having reached 66 this year I think I’m passed my ‘sell by date’. On a more serious note, I decided it was time to hand the reigns over to my son Ishmael, who has been instrumental from the start of the business and especially working with me since his dad Ramon passed away 7 years ago.

However I must reiterate what I have said previously, success would not have been possible without a good team, all of whom are dedicated to ensuring Properties Unique operates effectively with nothing being too much trouble for them.

Properties Unique has established itself as arguably the leading serviced apartment provider in the North East. Have you achieved everything you set out to? Obviously when one establishes a new business, it’s not an easy ride, but I have worked hard and given Properties Unique my total commitment, which I’m proud to say has indeed paid off. Firstly receiving the two Outstanding Customer Service Awards, then being named as Ambassador For Tourism and ultimately achieving the Business Woman Of the Year Award, has without a doubt, given me an overwhelming sense of a ‘job well done’ You were named North East Business Woman of the Year 2014, a truly momentous achievement. How did that make you feel ? Obviously I was absolutely thrilled. However I didn’t achieve this alone I had my son Ishmael, plus a truly amazing team behind me, so it was definitely a “team” effort. To what would you attribute your success within business? I have unfailingly gone above and beyond the call of duty (whatever time of day or night) to ensure

I also want to pay tribute to my late husband Ramon and son Ishmael, who in effect, were the ones who actually persuaded me and subsequently worked hard with me to establish Properties Unique. You worked alongside your son Ishmael, who has now taken over as Managing Director, for many years. How did you find working alongside such a close family member? Ishmael and I are obviously very close, but truthfully at times it was stressful. I definitely think it’s an age thing as Ishmael is obviously very much technology orientated, whilst I was still operating the old fashioned ‘paper’ system. To quote Ishmael...many forests will now be saved!

You started out as a one woman band working from home yet then went on to manage an award- winning portfolio of luxury apartments providing accommodation for a number of the rich & famous in the process. Can you sum up the journey in one sentence? Actually it’s been an incredible journey as I have had the privilege of working with many wonderful people, plus I have established friendships with many talented Business associates along the way. What stands out as the proudest moments in your career? There is many, but one is the most prominent. In 1973 I was ‘ head hunted ‘ by a Spanish company in Northern Spain to become the PA (or secretary as we were so called in those days!) to a Director who worked mainly with English speaking European and Middle Eastern Companies. Initially I was hesitant, but eventually accepted the position and it was there I met and eventually married my husband Ramon…and the rest is history!

What do you plan to get up to during your retirement?

Can we expect to see any changes to the company under Ishmael’s leadership?

Well to recharge my batteries I have booked a cruise (choosing to travel on my own) which means I will only have myself to organise - as opposed to organising everything and everyone else around me. However I’m not going to sit back and become a complete ‘lady of leisure’. There is a charity organisation whom I have supported over the years, and subsequently have now offered my services to as a volunteer, as and when they need me on various projects.

As previously mentioned, we are both passionate, determined individuals with the same values and standards across all walks of life. Ishmael will undoubtedly bring more up to date technological advancement to the ‘ behind the scenes ‘ of the business, however our business was built on, and will always continue to develop by providing exceptional customer service to our valued clients and customers. Whilst we may disagree on some areas, this is one we are very much united on.



Groundbreaking design from Coachhouse 8 Steve Howmans

Architectural and interior design firm Coachhouse 8 worked with Eothen Homes to create its groundbreaking new dementia care facility in Wallsend. Director Steve Howmans explains why the new home is so revolutionary.

Tell us a bit about Coachhouse 8 Ltd. Coachhouse 8 Ltd was formed in 2009 and offers architectural and interior design services across a wide range and scale of projects. We specialise in the residential, education and leisure sectors and are committed to delivering our schemes efficiently. In 2012 we designed a new boxing club in Birtley. The centre was used as a training venue for the 2012 Olympics and went on to win the prestigious RICS Award for Community Benefit at both regional and national level.

How long have you been working with Eothen Homes and how did that relationship come about? My relationship with Eothen Homes spans my entire career. My former employers Browne Smith Baker designed Eothen’s homes in Whitley Bay and Gosforth in the late 1980s. During my 20 year career with them we refurbished and extended both homes on several occasions. That service has since continued with Coachhouse 8 Ltd and more recently we carried out a major refurbishment at Eothen’s original home in Sutton, Surrey. It has been a joy to work with Eothen Homes over the years. This client always shows enthusiasm

for each project and has a strong commitment towards the wellbeing of its residents.

You’ve provided architectural and interior design services to Eothen Homes’ new specialist dementia facility in Wallsend. What’s different about the development? The key elements for the new home were space, circulation and a ‘domestic’ feel. We spent months studying the various latest guides in dementia research and visited many homes to try and identify what worked and what didn’t. This really helped to clarify the brief. To achieve a domestic feel the home has been designed with smaller, more familiar sized dining rooms and lounges. The home is split into 4 households with large bedrooms all centred around an open plan kitchen/dining area and have a cosy lounge adjacent. The distance from the bedrooms to the activity areas is short and long corridors have been avoided. The central core offers additional facilities including a café, lounge with sun terrace and beauty salon. The home also benefits from large gardens which will be beautifully landscaped. Many new homes have no or very little external space. A large indoor garden atrium with trees, a pond and aviary will

offer residents the option of garden space at all times of the year. Footpath routes have been carefully designed to encourage residents to walk freely, and each one always leads back to the building or a place of interest. Many modern care homes have high quality finishes however the overall appearance is not homely. There was a strong focus and determination from Eothen to create a space that feels like home. I really believe we’ve achieved this.

The new site opens in April. Why should those looking for specialist dementia care choose Eothen? Throughout the years I have worked with Eothen, I have never failed to be impressed by the team’s attention to detail and ability to keep residents at the heart of everything they do. This new specialist dementia facility is a perfect example of that, having been carefully researched and developed over a period of time to ensure everything is absolutely right and carefully aligned to residents’ needs. It’s a pleasure to work with an organisation that cares so much about the wellbeing and safety of residents above everything else.

For more information, visit



For day to day business accommodation.....Go Week2Week Baby boomers beware, there’s a new generation in town - and they are bringing a new outlook on business accommodation. They call them the Millennials – or generation Y, and they are about to enter the prime of their lives, which means a move into business for a number of them; and jobs in business means business travel to organise and accommodation to book. And while past generations may have been happy to settle with a hotel, Millenials are much more likely to opt for a serviced apartment and the home comforts they bring. Enter Week2Week Apartments. Family run and based in the very heart of Newcastle, they bring over 15 years of experience in the serviced apartment field to the table. With an in-depth knowledge of the region it calls home, Week2Week offer fully furnished high standard apartments in some of the most desirable areas in and around the city. The free WiFi, parking and weekly cleaning

provided by Week2Week, means a generation which Goldman Sachs says highly values connectivity, can always be on the go with the comfort of a hotel and the amenities of home. Another report from citylab shows that Millennials are the most likely to move from property to property, preferring not to be bound to one place.

Week2Week comes up trumps again, offering short to long term stays, ranging from a minimum of two days right up to months and even years. It’s a cost effective solution to hotels for relocation or those working short term or fixed contracts away from base office – Week2Week’s apartments really are literally a home from home. No matter your accommodation needs, Week2Week has you covered.

So if you are a Millennial looking to book business accommodation or even if you aren’t one of the millions of people who make up the biggest generation in known history, give Week2Week Apartments a call on 0191 281 3129 or visit their website at www. to see their stunning locations and get more information.


squid design and branding through to print


Homecoming for North East Marketing Consultancy A leading North East marketing consultancy has gone back to its roots in a move that will reaffirm its commitment to UK clients, after more than 3 years of operating from abroad. Darlington-based international online marketing firm Myk Baxter Marketing, MBM, recently returned its headquarters to the UK, after moving to Thailand in 2012. Specialising in online marketing and website design and development, the firm was founded in 2009 and has worked with many international brands, such as Nicky Clarke and Norseland. MBM’s Managing Director, Myk Baxter, said: “I decided to take a break from the UK after my mother sadly passed away in 2011, so I moved myself and my business to Thailand. But after a while you start to get home sick, so last year I put plans in place to return to the UK, where I felt I could better support my key accounts and the growth I have in mind for MBM.” The company, which hires 22 staff across the UK, Thailand and India, has worked with more than 1,000 clients in its six years of business, including a large number of web design and PR agencies who use MBM’s marketing solutions for their own clients.

Newcastle MD wins top creative industry accolade Beth Hazon, Managing Director of marketing and advertising agency Drummond Central, has been honoured with a prestigious IPA Women of Tomorrow Award. Beth received the accolade in London on 8th March at a special event arranged to coincide with International Women’s Day. The awards recognise women of exceptional talent who are leading the way in a variety of disciplines including creative strategy, client services, media planning, HR, tech and innovation. Beth won her award in the Client Services category and was one of only 13 winners, chosen from over 200 entries nationwide.

Nicky Bullard, Women of Tomorrow co-chair, said: “These are the women to watch. These women are our future. They are bustling full of brains, vision, inspiration and energy with a wealth of experience, results and high recommendations under their belts. I am delighted that this competition has shone a spotlight on them and I look forward to seeing them go from strength to strength.” Beth said: “These awards are crucial in our industry to celebrate female achievements and to inspire young women to get involved. I’m thrilled to have been amongst so many strong, talented, amazing women.”

Newcastle agency named one of UK’s best places to work The Ouseburn firm was revealed as one of the top three small agencies in the UK at the London event on 24 February, thanks to its range of talent development, training and team-building activities. Managing Director at O, Kari Owers, said: “We are thrilled to be up there among the best PR agencies in the UK with this award. Our vision is to create an inspiring, challenging and fun place where people enjoy coming into work every day, so they can produce great creative work for our clients. “This starts with recruiting and training the best people. Alongside our in-house training school, The Ocademy, we run an entry-level programme to give graduates the opportunity to fast track their careers with us. “Our teamwork activities bring our creative studio, social and PR teams together every week of the year, from inspirational sessions to community and charity work, health programmes and our famous Oway day for fun and future forecasting.”

Newcastle-based O PR has been named as one of the UK’s top agencies to work for at PR Week’s Best Places to Work Awards.


MEDIA INSIGHT Christian Cerisola

Ad blocking: A new problem with old foundations The battle between who is the most vital component at any media outlet is an argument as old as print itself. That sometimes uneasy alliance between the ad department and the editorial team is not a problem we’ll be able to solve in the next five minutes, so we’ll leave them to battle that out among themselves, shall we?

We’re in an age where news is considered a ‘free’ commodity. Papers are thrust in your hand every morning without charge on the daily commute and we can go online any time we like to read and see what’s going on in the world without any direct charge. The successful commercialisation of news-based websites remains the toughest nut to crack. Who enjoys sitting through a 30 second ad for toilet paper before you get into the clip of your day’s sports news? How frustrating is that aggressive, full-screen pop-up ad for the latest Hollywood blockbuster – the one where they cleverly conceal the ‘close’ button – when all you’re trying to do is check the weather for the weekend’s camping trip with the kids? Advertising has become so invasive that it’s now considered a nuisance. And ad blockers have arrived, giving the consumer the power to make those things disappear. Marvellous! Well, maybe not so great. Clearly, they present a challenge for media

titles selling big on the number of page views their news generates. How many advertisers are going to pay big sums if they know people can now install a simple piece of software not to see the ad and get straight to the stuff they really want? It opens the field even further for communications professionals dedicated to creating quality content that media and editorially led sites will be interested in sharing with their audiences. It’s one simple route round the problem, but we must remember these media outlets still desperately need advertisers to survive. So what’s the answer? Well, advertiser can think smarter. Be less aggressive in their techniques and executions and I think more punters would be less inclined to reach for the ad blockers. Another is to think more cleverly about the platforms at your own disposal. Adidas are the latest of a growing number of many to create a fully functioning, in-house newsroom. They’re

sourcing, generating, creating and publishing meaningful and relevant films, interviews, images and content non-stop. They realised that good PR doesn’t come in the shape of one press release a week anymore. Always, there is a keen eye on making sure the content is what their following wants to see. An audience like that is smart. They know what’s going on, they know Adidas wants them on their Instagram feed or YouTube channels for as long as possible. However, the minute they get a whiff they’re being too overtly advertised to, they will be off. Oh, to be Adidas with all their resources. Few of us have their clout, but that would be missing the point if we couldn’t learn something from the big boys. They listen to their audiences keenly, have seen the way traditional methods of getting the message to the customer through advertising is under threat, and looked and new ways of delivering that message in formats that those customers find acceptable.

Christian Cerisola is Director at GluePR. @chritianceriso



Great expectations: how to manage clients and increase profitability For public relations bosses, managing profitability can be a constant headache when trying to balance client expectations and deliver against budget. We don’t help ourselves though. Often, in our eagerness to close the deal and get started on activity, we neglect an absolutely critical step in the process; getting the paperwork right.

it already. This requires business acumen and access to the management team - or at very least knowledge of the business objectives so the PR and marketing objectives can align with these.

Clearly defining project goals and agreeing deliverables is a fundamental part of the process.

Speaking the language of the Board to pitch the case for an acceptable comms budget and the ability to report appropriately in terms of PR’s contribution to commercial success is also a must.

A few months in to a contract, a lack of clarity about what is included within the agreed budget and what sits outside of this can very quickly see a previously healthy client-agency relationship fall apart.

Outcomes over outputs Good contracts shouldn’t just be tick box exercises either. There are far too many conventional arrangements in which both parties double check that each month the desired four press releases, three blogs and two interview pitches were delivered successfully. This way of working is hardly a route to organisational success. As Steve Earl comments in the public relations industry guide #FuturePRoof: “Rather than stating that an agency will “carry out public relations services” and then list either categories or deliverables, we will need to move towards contracts that state not only desired outcomes but how we will measure them and what the financial implications are of achieving those outcomes.” It’s not as easy as it seems or we’d all be doing

Dealing with over-servicing Outcome-focused contracts or not, there will always be some clients who will try to negotiate more than they’re due, or where the team doesn’t understand exactly how and where their investment is being spent. Educating these contacts about the value of public relations and the resource it requires should be seen as a priority task in these circumstances. It’s at this point reporting the financial implications of achieving PR outcomes is absolutely critical as it may be the only language they understand.

The responsibility lies with you Over-servicing or not delivering against budget however can frequently be the fault of the agency. It can be quite normal for those eager to win business to over-promise in a pitch situation, which puts the team at a disadvantage from the start. Poor use of timesheets can make it difficult to see how time is being utilised and whether hours could be better allocated. Take for instance the

client wants regular meetings at a venue a long drive away. Identifying the amount of travel time could very quickly help strip out this type of wastage, allowing the team to apply themselves to the public relations task and deliver the sought-after results. Training account handlers on the importance of timesheets and using the data to open dialogue with the client about areas in which work practices can be improved can make all the difference. Finally, how time is rationalised within the agency is an important consideration too. Planned time to grow a client account should be written off as an investment and considered nonbillable. Putting this down as client hours gives a false impression of activity versus results which does everyone a disservice.

Honesty and transparency rules ok Client relationships can be very straightforward where everyone is clear on the task in hand, how this will be delivered within the agreed framework and the desired outcomes. Being proactive with ideas and finding ways to add value outside of set account hours is always a sure fire winner. Equally, agencies have to be brave and start saying no to clients who want something for nothing or want the same level of service on the cheap. Public relations is a management discipline and should be valued as such.

MEDIA INSIGHT Nicolle Horsburgh

Working with class... Welcome to this month’s column and a big hello from everyone at JAM Marketing and from myself, Nicolle.

If you haven’t heard that name before fear not; I’m here to introduce myself and tell you a little bit more about how I recently became a Jammy Dodger. I initially studied Fashion Communication at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh where I covered graphics, PR, styling, journalism, photography, film and marketing all surrounding the fashion industry. I came out of four years hard work in June 2015 with a 1st class honours degree, a wealth of experience and the knowledge that I preferred the communications industry to fashion. In fact, my desire to work within the communication industry was enhanced from my first ever internship in the ‘Big Smoke’…. London! I moved down to London for six weeks and became a PR intern at Bright Light PR; it was here I honed my skills in the real world as it taught me a lot

of lessons I’ll take with me going forward – both about myself and the profession. My native north east was never far from my mind though as I based my final University project about my wonderful home city and my upbringing in the working-class society of Walker. I was overwhelmed to find out my portfolio would not only be shown in London at Graduate Fashion Week 2015 but I was chosen as a Great Creator UK Graduate – where my portfolio was exhibited at the official Great Creator UK Graduate Show in Beijing. Skipping forward to February 2016 where you find me in my current role with JAM, I could not be happier! I have my dream job; what more could a 22 year old girl ask for? Starting at jammy towers on the 8th February, you’ll find me running social media campaigns, creating long and short term marketing strategies,

designing artwork, liaising with clients and a whole lot more to make sure our clients get their voices heard – perfect for the communications side of my degree. Now alongside Ayesha, Jackie and Adam – my fellow Jammy Dodgers, I’m aiming to get our clients to see me, as a vital and integral part of their business – alongside the rest of the team. If you need help with anything relating to marketing and PR, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can drop me an email at or give the office a call on 0845 900 2127. And if you’re still wondering about my fashion link, here it is from the fashionista himself Karl Lagerfeld – “I’m a working-class person – working with class!”

JAM Marketing (UK) Limited Metro Radio Arena Arena Way Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7NA T: 0845 900 2127 M: 07712 467 301


Manor life for Mediaworks Employee recognition is important to Mediaworks. Last month, the agency invited twelve of their most exceptional team members and their partners to spend a sophisticated weekend at the opulent Lartington Hall. The weekend began with clay pigeon shooting and quad biking in picture-perfect Northumberland. After arriving at Lartington Hall, the group swapped their outdoor clothing for tuxedos and ball gowns ahead of a champagne reception and five-course banquet. Mediaworks’ Managing Director, Brett Jacobson, said: “We value all of our staff and their families and regularly offer incentives and rewards in recognition of their hard work. The weekend was a huge success, with all of our dedicated team members enjoying the down time they deserve.”


What a difference ten years makes Barry Pollock is one of three managing partners at The Works – a full service marketing, advertising and digital agency that has reached its milestone tenth birthday this year. Here, he tells us how the world of PR and marketing has changed since they started their journey.

2006. The year Twitter was born. The year the Kaiser Chiefs told us there was a ‘modern way’ of doing things. The year we founded The Works. Since then, the world of PR and marketing has changed dramatically. We’ve seen the evolution of the press release, the rise of social media and the decline (and resurgence) of print. Video and imagery have become increasingly popular ways of getting messages ‘out there’, and music sites, like Spotify, have launched offering us free music in return for listening to ads. As these changes have occurred and the lines between PR, marketing and advertising have blurred, we’ve developed the way we work as a full service agency, meaning the type of work we produce for our clients has been completely transformed. Ten years ago, if you wanted to let your customers know about a product launch or update them on your businesses success, you’d send out a press release to selected media contacts or host a press call and then wait for the coverage. Now, with more than 1.2 billion people using mobile devices every day to access content online, and newspaper readership in constant decline, clients have moved their focus onto how they communicate with their audiences digitally. Now, it may be that a short video showing the benefits of your new product or service is created, published online and sent to prospective users through a combination of social media posts and sponsored advertising, or samples of a product are sent to a blogger alongside a press release sent to trade magazines- either way, the goal posts have changed. Social media has undoubtedly changed the way we all go about our day-to-day lives, not just the PR and marketing landscape, and organisations have learnt how to communicate with an audience that can respond to anything they say or do within seconds, with the whole

world looking on. Brands have also learnt how to stand out in crowded marketplaces, ensuring everything an audience sees has a consistent look and feel, whilst being genuine and authenticyou’ll quickly be caught out for the whole world to see if something doesn’t add up, and the social media world can be an unforgiving one to say the least! Whereas in previous years, audiences might have seen a press ad in a paper one day, and then an advert on terrestrial TV the next, people can now see an advert on their tablet and instantly click through to your website or social media channels, meaning you need to ensure all profiles have a consistent look, feel and are up-to-date. There’s nothing worse than clicking through to somebody’s social media channels after watching their new TV ad and seeing they’ve not posted anything for months! As our clients’ needs have changed, we’ve diversified into new territories, including expanding our account management, creative and studio teams, merging with a web development company and introducing a brand specialist to the team to offer our clients a holistic marketing approach. What some people might be surprised to hear is that whilst we’ve seen some aspects of print and the number of printed press ads we do decrease over the past few years, we’ve seen a major increase in the number of direct mail pieces and content heavy magazines and newsletters we produce and print for our clients. In fact, we actually did more printed pieces last year than we did back in 2006- it’s all about what works for each individual audience. Yes, digital may be at the forefront of most campaigns now, and clients are gradually starting to think mobile first about their efforts as more and more of their customers go online, but that’s not to say we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Looking to the next ten years, clearly,

technology is going to evolve massively and will continue to have a huge influence on communications as an increasing amount of people become digitally enabled. In my opinion, with the number of opportunities brands have to communicate with their audiences increasing, there’ll be a huge need for us to support clients to see the wood for the trees, working out which channels are the most effective for them. As we’ve seen recently with the launch of Google Analytics’ 360 Suite, the importance of real-time insights and in-depth analytics, and the ability to use these analytics to make relevant changes to make sure a campaign remains as effective as possible, will only become more integral as clients place more focus on cost versus value and the importance of return on investment increases. And as much as forecasting for the next six or 12 months is important, being agile enough to adapt to something that happens here and now will become even more fundamental. We’re increasingly seeing clients briefing us on digital campaigns that will be here today, gone tomorrow and I can only see this getting bigger. Unsurprisingly, video content and imagery, and networks based around this type of content, will continue to grow, and it’s important for brands to find out how they fit into that space. It’s certainly been an exciting ten years for the industry, and we’re looking forward to what the next ten will bring- I mean, ten years ago, who would have thought that you would be able get an alert about a new coffee, order and pay for it all on your watch?! As with the last decade, we’ll continue to adapt to our clients’ needs and develop the services we offer and the types of work we produce – you never know, in 2026 you might be listening to me speak about our 20th year as a little hologram standing on your smart watch. Imagine that. People said Twitter wouldn’t take off and look at them now; they’re celebrating their tenth year just like us!

To find out more about what we do and how we can help you, visit or email




Ask Silver Bullet John Dias, Managing Director of Silver Bullet

As an established company, how do we know when it is time to rebrand?

As the Bard may have put it, if he was marketing inclined, some are born branded, some achieve branding and some have rebranding thrust upon them! Start-up companies have the luxury of a blank page but the disadvantages of a lack of track record upon which to build their brand and usually finance to invest in their branding. Other organisations HAVE to rebrand due to mergers, takeovers, change of Directors, new competition, new markets, new technology etc, but for the majority of us, a rebrand is something we gradually come to accept is needed for a wide variety of reasons. Rebranding can be a daunting task for any organisation so it shouldn’t be one that’s entered into lightly or without due consideration of the reasons, the costs and the consequences. Whilst there are any number of learned articles on the whys and wherefores of rebranding (and they almost all start with a discussion of the differences between brand and logo and are worth reading for that alone), I’d like to address more practical aspects. In doing so, two expressions immediately come to mind – “if it ain’t bust, don’t fix it” and “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” – both of which I believe are relevant

here - it may not be bust, but it also may not be running as well as it should be and whilst you want to embrace a new future, you also want to ensure you retain the best parts of your heritage. We rebranded ourselves in 2007 because we felt the new digital technology had changed the way we worked, our offer to clients, the demand for our services, the competition and the skill sets of our personnel – the old Silver Bullet brand simply didn’t reflect the new company. We changed our logo, our offer to clients, our website and many of our internal systems to reflect a new way of working with new media and new opportunities.

BUT, and it was an enormous but for us, before we changed anything we had critically reexamined everything we did with the help of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s Business Breakthrough course. It was actually quiet a traumatic experience but we came out of it a far stronger but changed organisation with new personnel and a new offering to our clients. So, our advice is to have a really close look at your own organisation and whether your brand reflects your offering – invest in some internal and external market research to find out what your own staff and your customers think. One way

of thinking about this is look at external factors often used in PESTEL analysis - has the market, the technology, the competition etc changed – and internal factors - has your personnel, services or business strategy changed? It may be that there is no mis-alignment between your brand and your offer so you have the choice of pro-actively evolving BEFORE a rebrand is required or carrying on as before. But, if you have a gut feeling that something is amiss, it probably is and you may well have to discard the comfy slippers of your old brand that has entrenched your business and rebrand. The results can be fantastic – you’ve interacted positively with your own personnel and your customers and have come out with an offering that matches their requirements if you get it right. A rebrand can reignite your employees who take pride in their new offering and act as brand ambassadors to existing and potential customers. The costs incurred may have been considerable – market research, staff time, graphic design, stationery, web site, signage, Point of Sale and all types of marketing collateral – but the costs of not doing anything may have finished the organisation – standing still these days, unfortunately, is simply not an option in a rapidly changing world.

So do you need to be a bit more creative with your marketing? Do you need to review your strategy or do you have another marketing question we can help with? Talk to us. Email your questions anonymously to us today or Tweet us (not so anonymously) @SilverBulletPR and use the hash tag #AskSB



Want your business to be in the spotlight?

Talk to the PR specialists at MHW PR... We storyboard and implement communications campaigns that build client reputations. That involves generating and distributing persuasive, engaging content - online and offline. We have years of knowledge to help make our clients more famous, putting them centre stage. We work across a range of business sectors from the corporate world to industrial, healthcare and hospitality.

Please call if you need your business putting in the spotlight.

Tel:0191 233 1300


First class win for Advantex internet telephone services

Gateshead IT company Advantex is teaching a new generation about the benefits of internet-based telephone technology (VoIP) after its latest contract win. The fast growing firm, which has seen its telephony business increase in the last 12 months by 25%, has won the 5 figure contract to install and support a new high tech system at First Class Supply in Whitley Bay. First Class Supply, who recruit teachers and teaching assistants for schools across the North East, needed additional telephone capacity to support exceptional growth as its operation expands across three sites in the region.

The Advantex system has been integrated into the CRM function enabling customer service advisors to have call logging and recording functions along with client profiles available at the touch of a button. The investment will ensure that service levels at the Whitley Road-based recruitment specialists do not suffer as it moves forward to meet strong demand for its services. This latest success comes as Advantex sees growth in VoIP services continuing. It is rampingup its plans to support more than 6,000 new hosted extensions by 2017. Lesley Robinson, who leads the 20-strong-

team at First Class supply alongside co-director Steph Boulton, said: “Advantex’s solution uses the latest VoIP technology to meet our future needs. This will not only deliver long term cost savings but will also ensure high quality communications are an integral part of maintaining and improving customer service levels as the business expands.” Head of communications, Andy Shannon, said: “Hosted telephony is a fast growing sector and companies like Advantex are at the forefront of delivering high quality, seamless solutions to customers in the region and beyond. We will continue to invest in our services and products over the coming years to ensure customers benefit from high quality, trusted solutions.”

UNW client Control F1 leads £1.7m Innovate UK i-Motors project A client of Newcastle-based business advisors UNW is set to lead a £1.7 million scheme that aims to make the roads safer. Huddersfield digital technology specialist Control F1 is the leading partner in the ground-breaking i-Motors project. Driverless cars are forecast to be a major industry by 2030 and in the next 10 years, it is predicted that there will be two million connected cars, vehicles fitted

with devices to communicate with other cars and equipment, in the UK. The project is seeking to put this technology to practical use. Control F1 are working to develop a mobile platform to share data and take on board information such as traffic, weather and events reports, which will improve road safety and ease traffic. The team has just secured £1.35 million via Innovate UK to fund the research.

New app gives magical solution to parking problems A young North East entrepreneur is launching a new app to help solve city centre parking problems. Dylan McKee, 20, from Seghill Northumberland, has developed The Parking Fairy, a free app that knows where you are as you drive into Newcastle and alerts you to the nearest parking space. The Newcastle University student won NETV Digital Catapult’s competition to come up with

Ready to reduce costs and achieve more from your IT spend? Call us now and find out how.

an idea to use open data in order to ease travel problems. The Parking Fairy launches on 16 April and will be available on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch. Dylan has many years’ expertise in app development, running his own business DJM Development to create his own apps and those commissioned by other organisations. His most successful app to date, My Altitude, has had over a million downloads across the world.

IT Professional Services Ltd. Axwell House, Waterside Drive, Metrocentre East Business Park, Gateshead NE11 9HU. E: Follow us on


0191 442 8300

High performance communications equal better business.

Every business, whether large or small is experiencing huge growth in data management. The handling, storage and accessing of your data is a key indicator of your efficiency and effectiveness. As you come to rely on your data more, the risk to your business increases. Protecting your data is our world. ITPS have unrivalled expertise in communications services, data security and storage, virtualisation and networking. We work with businesses like yours to improve your performance and efficiency and get better value for your IT spend.

Our world assures yours

Contact us today to find out more:

call 0191 or email

442 8300


A level playing field Garry Sheriff

Garry Sheriff, Managing Director of IT experts ITPS, takes a look at how cloud computing can level the playing field for SMEs.

Of all the advances in IT over the last decade, cloud computing stands out as a gamechanger for businesses, particularly at the small to medium end of the market. Cloud computing simply describes IT services delivered via the internet or private communications. Choose a tailored model that will deliver the right results for your business, and you could be looking at increased efficiency, flexibility and security, and in many cases a decrease in costs. Cloud’s big advantages are scaleability, the ability to handle large amounts of data very quickly, and the potential to give staff anytime, anywhere accessibility to the organisation’s systems and data. This allows SMEs to compete with their bigger rivals, who have traditionally enjoyed the advantages of large scale, established infrastructures and big IT budgets. With cloud, businesses can switch from a capital expenditure to an operating expenditure model, renting the computing power they need as and when they need it, with the ability to scale up and down with total flexibility. This can wipe out expensive start-up costs and allow SMEs to assume the mantle of a bigger business able to compete with the big boys from day one, even on a global stage. Small businesses

without dedicated office space can use cloud to allow staff to work from home and still present a professional image, with access to all the systems and data they would have in a traditional office set up. While it is true that cloud has transformed the SME end of the market, larger organisations need not miss out. It does not have to be an ‘all or nothing’ choice, when cloud-based systems can be easily integrated with legacy systems. Cloud can be applied only where it suits the business, for example in training, application development, testing, reporting, business continuity and disaster recovery. One of the misconceptions is that it you have to take your existing IT model and replicate it in the cloud. While you can certainly do that, it is by no means the most efficient approach. There is an array of choices and your IT partner should work with you to establish what you want to achieve in business terms and then create the best model for your current and future needs. It is easy to get caught up in debates about private versus public cloud, but as a business owner all you need to concentrate on is choosing the right model for your needs, and that could be private, public or a mix of the two within one solution. It’s not a case of one size fits all, and as a

business owner you are in charge of the decision. The most important factor in cloud’s success is having the right high speed, high capacity communications pipeline in place. We often meet businesses who tell us cloud has not lived up to its promise, and nine times out of 10 the issue can be traced back to a lack of communications capacity. It is similar to buying a high performance car, and complaining about not being able to access the performance capabilities when you get stuck in a traffic jam. Your IT partner should guide you through all the options and more importantly be able to demonstrate access to a fast, high capacity connectivity backbone that provides a big enough pipeline to deliver a quality cloud service. There are companies out there that have the expertise to help guide your decision and who should be willing and able to answer your questions on how cloud works and how it can help your business. While cloud is the biggest step change in IT services delivery in two decades, we do not pretend that it is the panacea for every business problem. It certainly has many advantages for all sizes of business, but do not be tempted to jump on the bandwagon of new technology just because that is what everyone else is doing. 

For more information visit, email: or tel: (0191) 442 8300


Feeling tired? Wishing you’d had more sleep? You’re not alone, but we can help. Many effects of a lack of sleep, such as feeling grumpy and not working at your best, are well known. But did you know that sleep deprivation can put you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes and even shorten your life expectancy?

Take our free online assessment to see if you could benefit from better sleep, then choose whether to access the treatment privately or for free via the NHS. 0333 800 9404 sleepstation-advert.indd 1

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A day at the races Romping home as winners - Exclusive brought Cheltenham Gold Cup day to Newcastle Racecourse On Friday 18th March, North East business group, Exclusive brought all the excitement and drama of Cheltenham Gold Cup day to Newcastle Racecourse. The event was in aid of CHUF and with huge thanks to Barclays Premier Banking, all support partners and everyone who attended £6k was raised on the day. As befits the Cheltenham festival the day had an Irish theme, guests were welcomed by piper Alex Brennan and entertained by Tony Corcoran’s Ceili band, singer Dermot Hegarty and the Mason Cummings School of Irish Dancing. MC for the day Doddie Weir delivered great craic! Put 17th March 2017 in your diary now.

Are you Exclusive? Can you afford not to be? Find out more - request an invitation to become a member at Contact Founder Linda Hitman for more details NORTHERN


TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT Synergi Directors Justin Short (left) with Peter Joynson.

Using technology to transform your business into an economic powerhouse With all the talk about a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and the need to improve business productivity in both the North East and wider UK, technology company Synergi IT thinks we may be missing a trick. We spoke to managing director Peter Joynson about the role digital technology can play in business and regional transformation.

How can digital technology transform business performance? There is an enormous opportunity for regional businesses, large and small, to exploit digital technologies to drive productivity and transform performance. We see the adoption as part of a journey for business. We can connect processes and content to save time, reduce cost, improve compliance and accuracy along with productivity. Isn’t all IT meant to improve business performance? Yes, but there have been dramatic changes and developments with technologies in recent years. Microsoft technologies are more agile than ever before. There has been a big convergence and improved connectivity between cloud technologies and mobile. In the past, IT systems sometimes became the tail wagging the dog. Technologies like SharePoint can now be more tailored around a business. But, many traditional IT resellers are not exposing businesses to the modern cloud technology platforms. Microsoft Office 365 is an incredibly modern business platform and can help transform

business IT strategy. What sort of technologies are we talking about? With more than 20 years’ experience in Microsoft technologies, we guide businesses on their use on the journey to drive out inefficiencies and transform performance. Synergi director Justin Short is a SharePoint evangelist as well as one of only 17 Nintex vTEs in the world. He is able to provide a strategic overview of the main technologies from Nintex to SharePoint through to Office 365. We also have exceptional talent and experience in Business Intelligence, or BI as it’s known in the industry; we help many businesses by delivering dynamic reporting using Microsoft Power BI tools, allowing them to make more informed decisions.  Is anyone embracing this technology and approach in the North East? Yes, there is a big surge in interest from regional businesses. We’ve been overwhelmed by demand both in this region and across Scotland, prompting us to recruit more developers and consultants and open offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh this last year. Forward thinking companies like

Walker Filtration, Mill Garages, and Statex along with many others have really embraced modern technologies that are driving paper and forms from their business; processes are being automated and becoming agile and mobile. Businesses quickly see the benefits as we streamline processes. What is preventing more businesses from embracing such technologies? Businesses are getting mixed messages from the IT sector. Many resellers are still wedded to old technology and continue to promote that to clients. Some business people are concerned that new, cloud technologies won’t work with legacy systems, which isn’t true. Many of our customers enjoy the benefits of hybrid solutions where we marry up cloud technology with historic or very industry specific software. There are also some concerns and myths surrounding the security of cloud, which can also be dispelled. How can people find out more? Anyone can call and ask for me or Justin. Equally, we’re running a series of Digital Transformation Seminars; the next one in the region will be held at BALTIC Centre, Gateshead, on April 28, but spaces are limited.

For more information please call 0191 477 0365 or contact


The future world of work is already here

“The changing world of work is happening all around us today. It affects all organisations, large and small, irrespective of whether they operate in the private or the public sector. The issues defining it have tangible, practical consequences that can affect productivity and the bottom line.” Peter Smith, Regional Sales Director, Ricoh UK

Making the necessary changes to become a competitive, sustainable organisation can appear daunting, even to the most seasoned business leader. Are you prepared? • The next generation of tech-savvy workers demand a strong digital infrastructure • Cost effective document management for easy, secure navigation and archiving • An efficient, sustainable infrastructure to effectively reduce waste and meet environmental audits The Diamond Group in Partnership with Ricoh UK has created a suite of services to make the transition into tomorrow’s world of business cost-saving, productive and painless. Our modular solutions cover print management, document processes, IT infrastructure and sustainability. Discover the results-driven benefits the Ricoh portfolio can offer you by contacting: Mr John Burns on 0191 519 3700 or email Diamond Group Holdings LTD - Diamond House, Team Valley, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear NE11 0JH

Choose Diamond: sharing knowledge and success. “Ricoh UK congratulates John Burns and his team on their relocation to their new, larger premises and look forward to the continuance of our 24 year business relationship. Working with John and his team we can provide businesses a wealth of expertise, the latest hardware, software and specific tools to ensure a secure future, with full mobility and productivity. Now you can arm your workforce with the right information, at the right time, in the right form, no matter where they are.” Peter Smith, Regional Sales Director, Ricoh UK


The Diamond Group ...has grown rapidly since it first started trading in 1992. Its founder, John Burns was working as a service manager for a photocopier company, however It became obvious to him he had the ability and knowledge to create his own business within the field and set about opening his own operation; Diamond Business Systems.

Initially, the company was set up from a garage at John’s home where the initial funding came from a second-hand photocopier bought for just £25.00, refurbished and sold for £300.00, a nice little profit by anyone’s standards for a first purchase! Feeling confident in his ability, John then moved to a small unit when Enterprise Zone Funding was available, giving new companies the chance to have a base for three years without the burden of rates. The company moved to larger premises and ended up on Blacks Corner in Boldon for many years. As the company grew, their turnover also grew to £110,000 with an impressive operating profit of £60.000. After five years in their premises, the company’s turnover was a massive £500,000 with a profit of just £20,000 so overheads had eaten into the profits, as with most developing organisations. The advantage of John trading through a tough time like that, ensured the business was examined from top to bottom and systems put in place to prevent such tough times happening again. A tough lesson learned, however as John says, going through hard times teaches you to evaluate what you are doing and this was very much a turning point for the business and the way they operate. As they outgrew their Boldon workplace, and with the growth of the four sections of the business, it was time to search for even larger premises and so the whole operation has recently moved to the expansive Team Valley in Gateshead. This location is needed to accommodate the expansion in staff and the growth in clients, which hopefully will result in much needed breathing space to house the equipment and operating systems required. It’s a good indication of the rapid development of the Diamond Group; they now have in excess of 6000 sq ft of office and showroom space from 2000 sq ft that they were housed in previously, giving all the staff some much-needed breathing space. The group has four arms to the business, Diamond IT, Diamond Business Systems, Diamond Communications and Diamond Asset Finance, each

with its own particular specialism and Director tor heading it up but with the ability to be interlocking to complete their customer’s needs. Diamond IT headed up by Director Colin Grant supports complete I.T. infrastructures and handles everything from hardware provision to remote monitoring of their clients systems. Any virus or software issues can be detected immediately through constant monitoring, often finding problems in many cases before the client even has any knowledge of it! A state-of-the-art, large server bank allows a comprehensive watchdog operation for existing clients and has the capacity for many others coming on stream. Diamond Business Systems is the original arm of the organisations operations, and John’s baby! Supplying to its clients high quality, secure photocopiers and materials to keep their machines in tip top condition, it’s the jewel in the crown in the Diamond Groups’ family. In addition, this part of the business supplies clients with award winning printers, plotters along with maintenance and service contracts. Working with world-class brands such as Olivetti and Ricoh and other wellrespected OEM’s, the company is able to provide the very best in equipment. In the near future the Business Systems division intends to supplement its operations with the sale of office furniture, thus offering companies the complete office package. This being the largest division in the group, it has an impressive turnover of over £1m. “Here at Diamond, we are totally committed to all areas of the business. “Knowing the industry for such a long period gives us the ability to provide solutions and reduce costs for our clients. We take pride in the advice we give and the savings our customers make,” John told us. The communications side of the company is overseen by Director, Gary Rodgers. It concentrates on the provision of mobile as well as landline telephone systems and hosted telephony. Diamond Communications surveys closely the requirements of a company in order to provide the best bespoke


system for the job required. It’s not a one-cap-fitsall approach, each business and client is treated as an individual. The solutions cover everyone from a home worker or sole trader to some of the largest organisations in the country. The technology in place at Diamond encompasses broadband data and VoIP services as well as modern day vehicle tracking equipment – all of which are made affordable and reliable to fit their clients’ individual requirements. Looking at the divisions of the group, their services are perfect for a one-stop-shop package, giving their clients the ability to have all their communication and I.T. needs handled by a single entity. “We work as a team with our clients here at Diamond,” continues John, “It’s very much a team handled approach. “They tell us what they need and we work to satisfy that need. If we don’t feel we can help a customer, we will tell them so and walk away. “It’s not a case of taking the job if it’s not suitable for the client. “That way leads to problems and I like to think the people and companies that we work with see our professionalism shine through.” Diamond IT is regarded by its customers as their outsourced IT department, handling everything from the inception of a network’s cabling needs to hardware provision, cloud systems and remote monitoring of the clients’ equipment and Director Colin Grant oversees this important division of the company.” Reliability, professionalism and quality services are the stalwart at the Diamond Group. Testimonials are the key to understanding the acceptance of the company in the market place and Diamond have worked determinedly to achieve their excellent reputation, being described by their clients as second-to-none. Retention of existing clients is of paramount importance and much time and effort goes into the customer service aspect of Diamond’s customer base, after all, it’s always easier to keep a client happy than to constantly search for new ones.


cont’d... Tolent Construction, a long term player in the building industry and a time-honoured client of Diamond recently said of the company: “Diamond have provided office technology solutions to us at our head office in Gateshead and also across 20 installations across the UK for over 20 years, we have been extremely happy with the quality of service provided by Diamond throughout this time.” John Donkin Solicitors have similar things to say: “When I asked Diamond to get involved in the replacement of the telephone system at our offices, they cannot possibly have known the amount of running around they would have to do before the job could be finally be complete. The too-ing and fro-ing between them and our Office Manager and Senior Partner was extensive to say the least but the result was that a telephone system was ultimately installed and thereafter care has been impeccable with Diamond Group staff responding quickly and efficiently whenever we have called them. Diamond were doggedly determined to deliver on their promises and while the postinstallation queries have continued, so have the responses without hesitation and with speed and efficiency. I recommend the Diamond Group to all businesses with similar needs.” The final component in the Diamond Group is their Asset Finance division, which husband and wife team John and Hazel run between them. During the recession it became increasingly difficult for companies wanting to source financial packages when procuring equipment. Through

prudent economic arrangements, John was able to offer a finance package to clients with the only criteria that he would be able to see the company’s financial records for the previous three years. This arm of Diamond was then born and has grown into a stand-alone company within the group. The finance companies that John dealt with prior to starting his own Asset company asked why he was no longer placing business with them and subsequently offered the group the opportunity to broker for them, which John and Hazel now do, particularly on high value accounts. The finance arm can put together packages for any requirement and it doesn’t even need to be the products or services that the Diamond Group provides, so flexibility really is the key. The mark of any good company is its ability to retain staff and to provide working conditions which make it pleasant to come to work. John has fixed ideas on how to achieve these important aspects, “I am very keen the staff members here having an input into the decisions that are made. “As a result we have regular meetings in which the team are actively asked their ideas on problem solving issues and are encouraged to voice their opinions,” commented John. At this moment the company stands at 20 employees. In the near future the plans are to create a further 20 plus jobs to cope with what John believes to be a period of sustained and rapid growth. At the end of the last financial year, the Diamond Group turned over £1.5M. The projections for the next five years should see


turnover jump to £5M. Those projections are based on each of the group companies acquiring just two new customers per month over the period, which seems eminently achievable. John is also looking into the possibility of bringing in apprentices in the near future to assist with the growing demands of the business as well as giving something back. At the point of printing of this article, new sales people and I.T. engineers were going through the interview process confirming John’s commitment to the growth of the group. They have worked tirelessly to offer an extensive range of products and services to suit all types of businesses and organisations. It’s the knowledge and customer service in the company, which makes it so successful, with a positive future assured. Most clients will fight shy of technical issues with their I.T. and communication needs, so a company like Diamond is a Godsend. It’s very much a people- buy-people approach and much time and effort is spent meeting, reassuring, even coaxing clients regarding the suitability of the organisation to not only handle, but improve a customer’s whole experience of working with such a professional company as Diamond.


cont’d... In their modern and airy new headquarters on Team Valley, clients and visitors are encouraged to see operations in progress. Its showroom exhibits the most up to date equipment available and if you were looking for a reason to pop in, they even offer free tea, coffee and biscuits! John will be the first to say he has experienced his share of downs in the past and that’s why he is passionate about helping businesses. The issues he experienced at low points in his career bolsters the determination of him and the whole team and one of the reasons why they can often offer a

higher standard of equipment and service where their competitors may be lacking. There is no doubt the doggedness to search out business, the ability to secure it, the unequivocal professionalism of the services provided and the way the Diamond Group provide their first class customer service means the company is sure to prosper in the future. From a company starting life in a garage in someone’s house to the stature of the Diamond Group as it stands today is a testament to John Burns’ determination and the loyalty of their

workforce and directors team to provide superb service and development of further options to provide their clients with everything to satisfy their business needs. In addition to all of the services they offer, the company takes its eco responsibilities extremely seriously, exceeding the requirements set by watchdogs Energy Star and Blue Angel. The Diamond Group has been praised for its work in this area with its ability to reduce power consumption and proves to be the cornerstone of the work they carry out.

Computer Components and Peripherals Supplying the IT trade since 1997 Ash Distribution and Canford Audio PLC would like to congratulate the Diamond Group on their continued growth and move into their new premises. Working together we see the Diamond Group are able to offer an increasingly wide range products and brands available via its IT support services. Many of the new products will be displayed in their new showroom with the drive for new products not only coming from ourselves, but more importantly from feedback from their growing customer base.

Ash Halfpg Diamond advert 2016.indd 1

07/03/2016 15:09:52

TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT such as Samsung, Panasonic, NEC and others, means we have a range of products second-tonone in the industry,” concluded John. Finally and most importantly, any company success is dependent on the attitude and professionalism of its entire staff. John is particularly proud of the total contribution made by each and every employee in the business, “I’ve been so fortunate to have personnel in place that care about the whole operation of the Diamond Group, many of whom have been with the company for years. “I can’t thank them enough for the achievements they’ve made to the success of the company. “They are our lifeblood and the Diamond Group wouldn’t be what it is today without their dedication.”

cont’d... As with most businessmen, who’ve worked hard to achieve their goals, John needs time to relax and unwind from the business and as a squash player he manages to keep fit. A property in sunnier climes is another way to achieve distraction as is just resting at home with his wife, a nice meal and a bottle of Prosecco. The business is never far away from his thoughts and even when abroad he keeps in regular contact with the team for updates. The Diamond Group is a holding company for three of the four divisions, Diamond Business Systems, Diamond IT and Diamond Communications with Diamond Asset Finance being a Limited Liability Partnership. A company of this size and diversity requires a Group Finance Director with the knowledge and skill to maximise the financial potential of the

company. In this case, Hazel Burns, John’s wife, is in place to ensure everyone sticks to budget, making sure the business remains financially sound and although she may be only small in stature, she can certainly handle the boys in charge, no problem at all and isn’t afraid to rule with an iron fist when required to do so! When the company relocated to their new Gateshead base, infrastructure links became a positive feature for the company with the A1 just off Kingsway on the Team Valley as it gives clients a central, accessible location with ample parking at their headquarters. “We pride ourselves on being responsive and our clients know we are reliable. “We have engineers on site within two to three hours if needed and we work with the biggest brands in telecommunication manufacturing. “Suppliers

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High performance business systems supplied by the Diamond Group Olivetti congratulates the Diamond Group on its expansion and move to new premises in Team Valley. Working closely with leading manufacturers, like Olivetti, enables the Diamond Group to offer a wide choice of solutions and exceptional support to their customers. Diamond Group’s brand new showroom is the ideal place for customers to view the latest business solutions from a wide range of colour and mono photocopiers, printers, telecoms and IT systems.

Olivetti looks forward to working with the Diamond Group team and helping them continue to build their business for the future.


Michael Grahamslaw meets

Barry Frost Nunnykirk Centre for Dyslexia

What was your background prior to joining Nunnykirk Centre for Dylexia?

What major student achievements have been achieved in the past 12-18 months?

I have been very fortunate to have a very varied career. This has included spells teaching Science and IT, and as a School Improvement Consultant, PRU Manager, and Senior Lecturer. All great experiences in their own way and hugely enjoyable.

Last years external results were very encouraging at an individual level with many attaining grades well above what they might have expected when they arrived. We have seen many improvements in student behaviour and raised self-esteem, and receive much positive feedback from parents and visitors.

What have been your major achievements at the school?

What can prospective parents expect from Nunnykirk School?

Having only been here since September 2015 my understanding of the Geordie dialect has been crucial! All joking aside we have maintained a great forward momentum which has been helped by a very positive Ofsted report gained under challenging circumstances. Parental feedback has also been fantastic. With a team of high quality professionals, a new staffing structure and excellent relationship with governors and outside agencies we approach the future with great optimism.

First and foremost an understanding of their needs and a nurturing of high expectations. We pride ourselves on being welcoming and approachable, taking an interest in the pupils as individuals and bringing them out of their shells.

What have you got coming up in 2016 and beyond? Much to look forward to including a new Curriculum in 2017. Also an improved leadership and management structure and a greater relationship with the wider community. We are extending boarding provision, maintaining our Dylexia specialism and developing associated needs such as mild ASD. This is all part of our Vision to be a Centre for Excellence and our forthcoming Ruby Anniversary means there is a lot to excite and enthuse!

What positive changes have you seen in education generally and

what further changes would you like to see going forward?

There have been many over the years and quite a lot of ebb and flow. It is pleasing there is now more recognition of, and focus on, Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). However, the lack of a robust and reliable national framework for assessment in schools is hampering, especially in SEND.

How do you relax away from the desk?

How much emphasis do you place on extra curricular activities?

Time with the family, being active. Running in Cragside and Rothbury and exploring our wonderful Northumberland Coastline.

Absolutely masses which is mirrored in my weekly inbox!

Nunnykirk Centre for Dyslexia, Netherwitton, Northumberland, NE61 4PB.



Real skills for an online world

From helping budding entrepreneurs set up their own digital businesses to inspiring the young to become creative coders, Gateshead College is designing skills for a digital future.

The tech and digital sector in the North East has grown rapidly, with figures from Tech City showing that over 26,000 people are in digital employment. It’s estimated to be worth £1.1bn to the regional economy by 2020 and so this high speed growth is set to continue as is its importance as a driver of investment and job creation. There’s an increasing skills shortage and from ambitious start-ups to global companies, businesses in the industry are crying out for more tech talent. Gateshead College is supporting the industry to ensure that skills provision matches the needs of businesses, creating a workforce that has the technical capability and creative flair to encourage further investment and growth. Developing ever closer ties with schools and industry, the college works with leading North East networks such as Dynamo as well as virtual reality experts from Vector 76 and Bede Gaming, a software supplier to the online gaming sector. These partnerships have given dozens of students learning opportunities that have paved the way to a successful career in the IT industry. They are also a catalyst to engage youngsters, helping them to learn about the exciting pathways into coding and software development. Students are well prepared for employment with opportunities to complete work placements and apprenticeships at high profile companies

such as Ignifi, a Gateshead-based specialist creative communication agency. Dave Watson, managing director at Ignifi, said: “During their week with us, students see the technical skills needed and put them into practice on live client projects. Just as importantly, they experience the communication, project management attributes and attitude that working in this industry requires. “It’s refreshing to see young students with good core capabilities and interaction skills. They come to us demonstrating an impressive ‘readyfor-work’ attitude nurtured by the college that we can build on rather than train from scratch.” Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College, said: “We pride ourselves on being highly responsive to the needs of North East businesses and providing them with the right training and further education opportunities to enable effective staff development that is bespoke to each business. “It’s important that we give students skills for work and our collaborations with industry are enabling them to do this. I’m proud of their achievements and excited about their potential.” A shining example of this responsiveness is the college’s move into skills provision for virtual reality, incorporating learning about computer simulated reality techniques into existing games design programmes. Students on these courses

were part of the first ever UK VR developer day, held in Gateshead in March 2016. Sponsored by ARM, a global software and hardware development company, the event provided networking opportunities with technical experts and the chance to exhibit their recent work. Roberto Lopez Mendez, software graphics engineer from ARM, said: “I am very happy to see students getting into VR development. What they have produced in such a short time is a wonderful piece of work. A great job by the students and by the teachers at Gateshead College.” The real work environment experience gained by studying at Gateshead College has led 28 year old Phil Duggan to become the proud owner of a successful digital marketing company, Noiseworks. Phil’s interest in web design began when he was 14 years old. He went on to study for a Higher National Diploma at Gateshead College which enhanced his skills with learning about the strategies, practices and processes used by the industry. He says “Since finishing my course in 2012, business has really taken off. My client base is growing steadily and we’ve just landed our first client from outside of the region. I chose the college as I’d heard excellent things about their computing and IT department and I can honestly say it was the best decision I could have made.”

For more information on apprenticeships and how they can help your business, call 0191 490 2258 or email



Leadership in the digital age Veronica Swindale

Most senior business leaders tend to agree that it is very important for leaders to be ‘technology literate’ in the current business environment.

The findings in an e-consultancy survey at the end of last year also revealed that far fewer were confident that the level of technology literacy among their own leadership was strong. Indeed 29 per cent of the respondents said leaders within their organisation were ‘not very technology-literate’. The research revealed that leaders are understanding the potential of digital capability, with the ownership of digital now at board level. More board members are actively engaged in digital with new roles contributing to the reshaping of organisations at the highest level.

Skills shortage As part of the same research project, e-consultancy showed that after legacy systems, the second major concern is finding skilled people. More than 40 per cent of businesses believed that recruiting staff with suitable skills was a significant barrier to progress.

“There’s a massive talent grab still going on as leaders champion a ‘digital culture’ to try to attract and retain the right people.” Similarly, earlier research for the Digital Domination Summit, revealed that although 90 per cent of professionals said that technology influences their job, only 20 per cent had the right skills. There is a growing consensus that organisations need people who have broad management skills, but depth of knowledge in marketing and technology/data.

Characteristics of digital leader Our experience at nesma is that there are some critical characteristics for effective digital leaders. e-consultancy suggests that leaders need to be “ruthlessly customer-centric”, visionary, adaptive and agile, among other qualities. And the imperative of agile can be intimidating. Customers and clients want answers and they want them now. There is little doubt, however, that digital leaders need new attitudes, new

skills and new knowledge, reinforced by new professional experiences.

Digital qualifications I am finding that there are two types of managers who enrol for our digital qualifications. They are either experienced managers who are ‘digital immigrants’, managers who began their careers before the internet was born, or younger managers who are ‘digital natives’, who have grown up in the digital world. The experienced managers are competent, effective marketers who want to understand the opportunities of digital, and how to manage their more proficient juniors. Meanwhile the younger members are ambitious to apply their digital skills to their marketing roles. nesma offers a comprehensive range of courses throughout the year for CIM, CIPR and DMI qualifications. We provide a wide range of one day, half day courses ranging from Google analytics to social media for business to business marketing.

For more information about digital, marketing and communications qualifications and bespoke training, please contact nesma: or


Jennings Ford showcases all-new Ford Focus RS at exclusive preview event

Sales manager, Colin Massey with the Focus RS pre-production model at Jennings Ford’s Cargo Fleet Lane dealership in Middlesbrough.

Jennings Ford, part of the multi-award winning Jennings Motor Group, was the first dealer in Teesside to preview the all-new pre-production Ford Focus RS model.

Customers were given an exclusive sneak preview of the all-new mega hatchback model with its specially engineered 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine at Jennings Ford’s Cargo Fleet Lane dealership in Middlesbrough. Throughout the event, customers were also given the opportunity to take part in some interactive activity with a number of gaming seats available, in addition to getting expert advice from a Ford RS specialist. Colin Massey, sales manager at the Jennings Ford dealership in Middlesbrough, said; “We were delighted to be able to showcase the third generation all-new pre-production Ford Focus RS model. “The event was a huge success and customers were extremely impressed with the overall appearance and range of advanced performance technologies the model has to offer.” To date, more than 31 orders for the all-new Ford Focus RS have been taken at Jennings Ford, with customers expected to take delivery of their new motors sometime in spring.

Priced from £29,995, the all-new Ford Focus RS comes with a specially engineered 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine and a range of advanced performance technologies, including all-wheel drive with dynamic torque vectoring control, launch control and selectable drive modes, such as Normal, Sport, Track and Drift. Each model adjusts the all-wheel drive system, damper controls, electronic stability control and ABS systems, steering, engine responses and engine sound. The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine’s revolutionary technology incorporates direct fuel injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing and a twin-scroll turbocharger. A distinctive front bumper and huge air vents envelope the front vents, which features a visible intercooler to leave a genuine racing impression. The five-door model provides a spacious interior that defies the sporty exterior appearance. Recaro sports seats not only look stunning, but also offer excellent support. Ford SYNC connectivity system is fitted as standard with the eight-inch colour touchscreen easy to use and access.

The Jennings Ford dealership in Middlesbrough is the only FordStore branch in Teesside. FordStores represent the essence of the Ford brand, with the aim to give customers an even better sales and dealer experience and additionally extending that experience to dedicated all-new Focus RS, Mustang and Vignale sales and service facilities. Other models available in the new car Ford range and on display at the Jennings Ford branch in Middlesbrough, include the Ka, Fiesta, Fiesta ST, Focus, Focus ST, Mondeo, C-MAX, Grand C-MAX, B-MAX, S-MAX, Galaxy, Kuga and EcoSport. The Jennings Ford dealership also offers a wide variety of quality used vehicles on display and available to test drive. Customers can also take advantage of a service department at the Middlesbrough dealership where Ford trained technicians are available to service and MOT vehicles, using the latest tools and diagnostic equipment. There is also an accident repair centre and parts department housed on the Middlesbrough site.

For more information about the range of products and services available at Jennings Ford in Middlesbrough, call in to the Cargo Fleet Lane dealership, contact 01642 240055, or visit


Introducing the New Ford Vignale An intense focus on design creates a new expression of refined taste.

New Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Vignale 4dr (180 PS) • • • • • •

18’’ 10x2 spoke alloy wheels • Sony DAB audio touchscreen navigation Ford SYNC2® 8’’ touchscreen with Bluetooth® and voice control Rear view camera • Premium leather seats CASH PRICE ON THE ROAD Lane Keeping Aid with Traffic Sign Recognition Ford KeyFree System with Ford Power Starter Button 3 years Manufacturers Warranty†


Call in and take a test drive today! MIDDLESBROUGH, Cargo Fleet Lane. Call: 01642 240 055.

OPEN HOURS: Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10.30am-4pm.

Official fuel consumption figures in mpg (l/100km) for Vignale 2.0 (180 PS) Urban 55.4 (5.1), Extra Urban 68.9 (4.1), Combined 62.8 (4.5). Official CO² emissions 140g/km. Standard EU test figures for comparative purposes and may not reflect real driving results. This offer supersedes any previously advertised offers/discounts. Subject to availability. Retail customers only. Model year restrictions may apply. †1 year Manufacturers Warranty and no fee customer option of 2 years extended warranty. Car not necessarily as illustrated. Offer ends 30th April. E&OE.

The Citan. Our small van at a great price With a comprehensive support package that keeps your business moving. Contact Bell Truck and Van today to discover more.

*BUSINESS USERS ONLY. Based on a Citan 109 CDI Long van manual transmission including first registration fee, RFL, delivery and finished in white paint at a price of £18,215.58 on a Mercedes-Benz Agility contract with a customer deposit of £3,739.26 and a deposit contribution of £3,200.00 followed by 48 monthly payments of £185.00 and an optional final payment of £4,300.00. Based on 10,000 miles per annum. Vehicle condition, excess mileage and other charges may apply. Offer is subject to terms and conditions. Vehicles must be registered between 01/01/2016 and 31/03/2016. Credit subject to status by Mercedes-Benz Finance, MK15 8BA. Prices correct at time of going to print.

Bell Truck and Van Longbenton, Whitley Road, Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE12 9SW. Tel 0191 270 0787 Bell Truck and Van Stockton, Teesway, North Tees Industrial Estate, Stockton, TS18 2RS. Tel: 01642 606675 |


Michael Grahamslaw meets

Alex Nelson, Director & Station Master with Chester Le Track Ltd What is your current role?

What qualities do you need within your job on a day to day basis?

Director and Stationmaster of Chester-le-Track Ltd which is a small company operating the main line railway stations at Chester-leStreet and Eaglescliffe. Please don’t think steam railways - we sell tickets across the National Rail network in person, over the phone and through our website at

Most of all, the ability to jump from one issue to another, from one company’s affairs to a charity, maybe from a large scale issue to a small scale issue and the ability to identify what is important and what is urgent, which is certainly not always the same thing.

What are you currently working on?

Freedom to pick my own projects, hire good people, train them and let them get on with the job without interference. I work in the business part time, so I have time for other organisations. I am there for opening time sometimes, but certainly not every week.

Lots of projects on the go, currently revising our National Rail map for the franchise change on 1 April, and getting some filing done on a crowded desk.

What do you most enjoy about running your own business?

Has the world of rail travel changed during your career? Yes, hugely, and the industry has grown too alongside. When we started in 1999 the ticket machine could only be programmed with fares for our own station, and fares from other stations in the north east region had to be looked up in a large paper manual and entered by hand. We did not have printed manuals for other parts of the country so we could not sell a ticket, say, from Plymouth to Penzance. This was not a problem since we were never asked for that. Now with fully computerised ticket machines we can sell tickets from anywhere to anywhere. Meanwhile, trains are longer, faster, some new with more on the way, and wifi on board has been a blessing for both business and leisure travellers.

Whats your motivation at this stage of your career? I like the fact that in the morning I can stay in bed until 11 o’clock if I want to. Actually, I never do, but it is nice to know that I could if I wanted to. If I have an early start on the first train out of Chester-le-Street, I never have any trouble jumping out of bed, and I like meeting our customers and visitors. I like getting things done, especially with the team.

What has been your career highlight? I often used to tell the story of a laundrette in Norwich where I got some change from a bus driver on a zebra crossing. Ask me to retell the tale if I come to talk on how to save money on rail ticketing. In recent years, my highlights have been in training and developing our young apprentices who have come in to the business and grown into confident, knowledgeable and expert members of staff who move on to other companies after a firm grounding at Chesterle-Track.

What remaining personal and career ambitions do you still have? Good health is vital, and I have learned to live as a Type II diabetic on insulin. Mental health is good, and I hope to serve further in my livery company in London. I hope I continue to have free first class travel on the East Coast Main Line with Grand Central since I am a regular visitor to London. Later this week I am attending the birthday party of a friend who is 100. That’s an ambition to achieve, subject to good health.

How would you like to be remembered? I have had five houses, four jobs, three daughters, two wives and edited one magazine for 29 years. I hope I would be remembered as a rail guru who helped people to find the best fares, and helped to rewrite the rules of lots of things in plain English to be readily understandable. I doubt a statue outside the ticket office at Chester-le-Street station would be allowed.



Dance, drama and deadly intent at Newcastle Theatre Royal! A programme bursting with variety, from musicals to murderous plays, has just been announced at Newcastle Theatre Royal for 2017.

Harry races onto the Theatre Royal stage (Fri 24 & Sat 25 Feb). North East playwright Ed Waugh tells the story of Harry ‘Hadaway’ Clasper, a rowing icon.

The season kicks off with Dirty Dancing (Mon 23 – Sat 28 Jan). Full of passion, romance, heartpounding music and sensationally sexy dancing, the record-breaking musical is even better than before.

Audiences can get their gladrags ready for a night of rock ‘n’ roll legends with Million Dollar Quartet (Mon 6 – Sat 11 Mar). This worldwide smash-hit musical is inspired by the famous recording session that brought together icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

Romance is on the cards when Regent’s Park Theatre presents Pride and Prejudice (Tue 14 – Sat 18 Feb). As the Bennet sisters haplessly search for love in Jane Austen’s ultimate romantic comedy, it is Mr Darcy who unwittingly finds his match. Next for a totally local tale, Hadaway

Back by popular demand, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers (Mon 13 – Sat 18 Mar) tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides

of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences. Following the huge sell-out success of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple, multi-million selling author Peter James returns to Newcastle Theatre Royal with the world premiere stage production of Not Dead Enough (Mon 20 – Sat 25 Mar). And finally, the worldwide smash-hit musical Mamma Mia! will come to Newcastle Theatre Royal for the first time (Tue 28 Mar – Sat 15 Apr). Mamma Mia! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship on a Greek island paradise.

Footloose: The Musical returns in a brand new production Worldwide smash hit musical Footloose: The Musical will burst back onto the stage in 2016, playing at Sunderland Empire from 11-15 October. Based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren, who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned. All hell breaks out as Ren soon has the whole town up on its feet. Footloose: The Musical is bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music. The cast includes Gareth Gates as Willard and Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore. Gareth Gates rose to fame through the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, going on to sell over 5 million records worldwide. Gareth is the youngest ever-male solo artist to debut at number 1. More recently, he has enjoyed a successful career on stage, with credits including Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Maureen Nolan has been singing with her sisters since she was nine years old when they became one of Europe’s first girl bands, The Nolans. Best known for their smash hit single I’m in the Mood for Dancing, The Nolans enjoyed phenomenal record sales worldwide. On stage, Maureen has played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in the West End and on tour to critical acclaim. Luke Baker will play Ren McCormack, the role immortalised on screen by Kevin Bacon. Luke recently finished playing Theo in Green Day’s American Idiot in the West End, with other West End credits including the Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon, Beautiful Thing and I Can’t Sing. Footloose: The Musical has music by Tom Snow and is adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. It is directed by Racky Plews, American Idiot, with choreography by Matthew Cole.

“More than just a theatre” Box Office: (0191) 454 1234

Mill Dam South Shields NE33 1ES



90s Indie legends Ocean Colour Scene head to Newcastle for epic weekender

What’s on this April? Newton Faulkner April 1 O2 Academy Newcastle T: (0844) 477 2000 The Hollies April 3 Sage Gateshead T: (0191) 443 4661 Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty April 5 -16 Newcastle Theatre Royal T: (0844) 8112 121 Billy Elliot April 6-30 Sunderland Empire T: (0191) 566 1040

90s Britpop icons Ocean Colour Scene are set to perform at an epic live music weekender at Times Square Newcastle on 30th July. The event will kick-start at 2 pm and will close at 11 pm. The band, whose chart-topping anthems include The Riverboat Song and The Day We Caught the Train, are currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of their legendary Moseley Shoals album and will be taking part in a two-day indie showdown in the centre of Newcastle this summer. Ocean Colour Scene will also be joined by fellow 90s stalwarts Shed Seven, as well as Sunderland rock popsmiths Hyde & Beast, whose chief vocalist and guitarist was a member of English post-punk outfit The Futureheads.

The event is being hosted by the men behind Newcastle clubbing venues Digital and Think Tank in collaboration with the Centre for Life. SSD Concerts’ Steve Davis said: “Growing up, the Moseley Shoals album and Ocean Colour Scene’s music was a constant feature in all of our lives and we’re delighted to be able to bring them back to Newcastle for this super-sized open air event. If we’re lucky, the sun will be shining on Times Square in July and fans of 90s British indie and live music will be in for a royal treat.” Ocean Colour Scene have notched up nine albums, three of which went Top 5, and nine successive Top 20 hit singles. They also supported Oasis at their massive Knebworth shows and their biggest arena tour to date. Their achievements have been nothing short of phenomenal.

Record of The Month - The Feeling - ‘The Feeling’ Soft-rockers The Feeling return with their selftitled 5th album which marks their first since 2013’s outing Boy Cried Wolf. Interestingly, the band have elected to produce a ‘live album’ with recording taking place over just a few days as opposed to previously labouring over the production for months at a time. Charismatic frontman Dan Gillespie recently expressed his desire to capture the spontaneous intensity with which live performance brings and as a result the album can feel rawer and fresher in comparison to earlier offerings. That effortless melodic sparkle however which punctuated their debut album Twelve Stops and Home so delightfully has not abandoned them as their catchy new lead single Wicked Heart is every bit as good as any older material. The Feeling will be supporting Jeff Lynne’s ELO on their tour of the UK and Europe and will play Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on the 14th April. A date for your diary? We reckon so.

Little Mix April 9 Metroradio Arena T: (0844) 493 6666 Jeff Lynne’s ELO April 14 Metroradio Arena T : (0844) 493 6666 5 Seconds of Summer April 18 Metroradio Arena T: (0844) 493 6666 The Father April 18-23 Newcastle Theatre Royal T: (0844) 8112 121 Be My Baby April 19-23 The People’s Theatre T: (0191) 265 5020 Riverdance April 23-24 Metroradio Arena T: (0844) 493 6666 UB40 April 26 Newcastle City Hall T: (0191) 277 8030 Russel Watson April 28 Whitley Bay Playhouse T: (0844) 248 1588 Yes April 29 Newcastle City Hall T: (0191) 277 8030

“More than just a theatre” Box Office: (0191) 454 1234

Mill Dam South Shields NE33 1ES



Make it a night at The Stand The Stand Comedy Club opened its doors four years ago in the vibrant heart of Newcastle and has become the go-to place for live comedy in the city seven nights a week. The venue is split into two levels including the comedy club in the basement and the Stand Bistro and Courtyard at ground level. Since opening the doors the venue has seen the likes of Kevin Bridges, Sarah Millican, Kevin Bishop and many more national and international comedians grace its stage.


tel: 0191 300 9700


The ethos of the comedy club is to provide an intimate candle lit setting where you can experience great comedy, enjoy a good bottle of wine and grab some food. The Newcastle venue is the latest Stand Comedy Club with its sister venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow having developed a world class reputation amongst visitors, comedy writers and comedians for over two decades. The Weekend Shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday feature five different acts on each bill. There’s something for everyone to laugh at including the very best comics from the UK and beyond. The weekend shows are perfect for first time visitors and seasoned comedy fans who wish to see comedy in a purpose built intimate environment as it’s supposed to be seen. The legendary Red Raw (new comedy night) every Wednesday and only £2 features a seasoned compere and headliner and a selection of new comedians cutting their teeth on the comedy circuit. Kevin Bridges comedy career began at Red Raw in its sister venue in

Glasgow so you may well see the big comedy stars of the future today. This legendary night is so popular that often big name comics drop in to perform a random ten minute set. There are also a selection of monthly shows dedicated to specific themes such as the Football Show, Kids Comedy Show and Free Thinking Radicals. The Football show featuring two favourite comedians Gavin Webster and Lee Kyle is the only topical north east football comedy show. Not only will there be Bovril and pies but a selection of regional footballing legends all providing some friendly banter about the local clubs. The Kids Comedy Show has become a family favourite amongst kids and their parents and is ideally suited for 8-12 year olds. There will probably be fart jokes! Free Thinking Radicals with John Scott is perfect for anyone loving political satire and current affairs. The Stand Bistro offers a seasonal menu of locally sourced fresh produce and has developed a reputation amongst the cities food connoisseurs. The café menu and Bistro


menu offer a selection of fine food for every taste at affordable prices. Sunday lunch is a must with regular visitors so booking early is advisable. The Stand Bistro is the perfect place for a business lunch; catch up with friends for cake and coffee or a pre-show meal. The club menu is available downstairs pre-show with some of the best burgers, burritos, nachos and wraps you have ever eaten. The courtyard is one of Newcastle’s hidden gems offering a quiet oasis in the heart of the city. It’s the perfect spot for a sunny afternoon drink and occasionally will host a BBQ or live music event. The downstairs venue regularly hosts private business events for some of the regions local businesses and institutions. Both the Stand Comedy Club and Stand Bistro have been awarded tripadvisor certificates of excellence for 2014 and 2015. The Stand’s dedication to providing great service, entertainment and value for money makes it one of the best loved venues in the North East.

Great Drama at The Customs House this Spring More than just a Theatre Theatre — Cinema — Restaurant — Events — Gallery NELSON: The Sailors’ Story Tuesday 19th April, 7.45pm £14, £13 Conc., & Friends / £10 Groups 10+ Inspirational hero. Flawed maverick. Tactical genius. Rebel. 200 years after Trafalgar Nelson surveys the world from the top of his column with a wry and observant eye. Below him a homeless Falklands veteran shivers in the cold. An award-winning show from Nicholas Collett.

Father Brown Mon 25th & Tues 26th April, 7.45pm £15, £13 Conc. A spine-chilling whodunit based on the classic mysteries by G K Chesterton. Multiple murders have been committed, but the culprit leaves no trace. Can he … or she … be truly invisible? Can the mild-mannered Father Brown peel away the many layers of this haunting case, until he finally unmasks the killer and will the killer strike again? Touch of Frost’s John Lyons stars.

Baby Love Tues 3rd & Wed 4th May, 7.30pm & 2.30pm (Wed Only) £9 Early Bird / £11 / £21 Meal Deal (two-course meal) Shelley and Darren sing sixties songs to declining crowds in North Eastern club-land. It may be all Sonny and Cher onstage, but offstage the cracks are starting to show. This two-handed play is packed with humour and great songs, sung live. Written by awardwinning local playwright Tom Kelly (writer of Geordie The Musical and I Left My Heart in Roker Park), it’s characteristically down-to-earth, warm-hearted and funny.

Romeo & Juliet

Thursday 19th May, 7.30pm £8 Early Bird / £10 Standard / £6 Friends / £20 Meal Deal (two-course meal) This modern-day twist on Shakespeare’s classic will see the star-crossed lovers meet, fall instantly in love, and defy all the odds to be together to the end despite their “ancient grudge” – and the colour of their teams’ shirts. Forget the Capulets and Montagues, can Romeo and Juliet’s love triumph over the rivalry

Box Office: (0191) 454 1234


Michael Grahamslaw meets

Leon McQuaid Aviation Development Manager, Newcastle International Airport What were your career ambitions growing up? I never really knew what I wanted to do. I was always good with numbers so I initially followed that path, taking mathematics as a degree and then qualifying as an accountant whilst working at Newcastle Airport. I’m ambitious and have always looked for opportunities to further my career and the airport has been very supportive of this. What has been your career path so far? I worked for Procter and Gamble and IBM and spent time living in Brussels which was a great experience. I then secured a job at the Airport in the finance team working up to the position of Management accountant which allowed me to learn the “bare bones” of the company. After a spell as Business Income Manager, I moved into my current role which is where I aspired to be. Describe a typical day in the Life? There isn’t one and I love that! My main role is to procure, maintain and manage airline services which can include anything from market analysis to networking and relationship management. What has been your greatest career achievement so far? I suppose the recent launch of the Vueling Airlines

service to Barcelona which I am very proud of. This has been 3 years in the making, practically since I started my current role, so great to get this over the line especially as it connects beyond Barcelona onto its extensive network to unserved destinations such as Seville, Madrid and Bilbao. Hopefully it will also bring more tourism into the North East which I am passionate about as we have a great deal to offer. Getting the United Airlines direct service to New York was a great highlight also, but I can’t take the credit for that one. What has your toughest challenge to date? As I say, I’m very passionate about the North East and personally I don’t think we shout loud enough about all that we have to offer and all of the amazing things we have on our doorstep. What is the best business advice you have been given so far? My brother once told me about a self-help book called “Eat That Frog” which in principal is about not procrastinating and getting more done in less time. My job is very demanding so it’s good to remember tips like this so I can manage my time as effectively as possible.

Who are your heroes in and out of business? I don’t really have heroes as such. My family are very important to me and they inspire me to do well. I’m also driven by the fact that my role can have a positive effect on the region. What are your plans for 2016 and beyond? Most of 2016 is in place and so we are already looking at 2017 and beyond! We recently announced more services with Ryanair and in a month’s time I’m attending a conference with other airlines to look at what opportunities may lie ahead. How do you like to relax? Time with my family (I have a 23 month old son), keeping fit and cycling. I also love spending time at the coast where I live. Favourite Film/Book/CD? Film - Trading Places Book - This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Holmes CD - Blue Lines by Massive Attack

Leon McQuaid, Newcastle International Airport, Woolsington, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tel: 0191 2143413 email:


ROYAL TELEVISION AWARDS The stars were out in force at The Royal Television Awards at the Hilton Hotel, Gateshead this month with Managing Director of Virgin Trains East Coast David Horne one of the headline sponsors at the glittering event. Acclaimed actresses Brenda Blethyn and Melanie Hill rubbed shoulders with some sparkling young talent and the region's best known broadcasters. The BBC's Steph McGovern hosted the evening.


Abraham Lincoln Memorial

The Ultimate Deep South American Experience by Travel Writer, Ken Spearen For obvious journalistic reasons, I have never written about a destination that I haven’t experienced first-hand but I’ve just received an e-mail which is so out of the ordinary, I just had to share it with Insight readers while the early bird price is still available.

Called the “Ultimate Deep South”, this 18-night cruise and stay adventure by land and on the American Queen Steam paddleboat in March next year incorporates many places I’m aware of but have never experienced before. I thought I knew the ‘States back to front but this was from a major city/popular tourist destination point of view. This trip is something else. The two-part package travels through the USA from New York to New Orleans by executive coach and a very unique river boat. After flying out of Newcastle with either BA, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines or United Airlines for a two-day stop-over in The Big Apple, the adventure continues with an escorted tour of Philadelphia, Washington DC (another two night stay) as well as overnighters in Roanoak and Ashville before arriving in Nashville for another overnight stay. The following day the tour moves on to Memphis, the spiritual home of “The King” for another two night stay. Just some of the tours included in the price are a tour of the White House and the Lincoln Memorial; a visit to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg - now do I have your attention?; a visit to the Great Smoky National Park; an evening show at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and a tour of Elvis’ Graceland Mansion in Memphis. The group then embarks on the second leg of the journey by boarding an amazing-looking paddle steamer for an eight-day cruise down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Famous in the US, the American Steam Queen is the brainchild of The American Queen Steamboat Company and it is a real hark back to the “slow, southern style” times of yesteryear. Apparently it is the only authentic paddlewheel steam boat operating in America to offer guest accommodation and a cruise-type experience. Although it’s obviously meant to look old with its antique Victorian trappings etc., on

closer investigation, it affords every modern-day requirement. An on-board entertainment programme includes show revues, cabaret, jazz and blues as well as a six-piece orchestra. Four levels of accommodation are available from a category E outside stateroom with a bay window to an AAA suite with a private veranda. For a greater in-depth video tour, log onto www. After eight days navigating the Mississippi with stops at Greenville, the very heart and soul of the sultry Mississippi Delta; Vicksburg, described by Abraham Lincoln as the “Key to the South” in the American Civil war; Natchez, a very elegant town once the home of the Natchez Indians; St Francisville, famous for its Rosedale Cotton Plantation; Baton Rouge, famous for its 175 foot Memorial Tower and red poles marking two tribal hunting grounds - which the town is named after; Nottoway, famous for its wonderfully preserved antebellum (pre American Civil War) mansions and, of course New Orleans - the “Big Easy” itself, where there’s a two night stopover for personal exploration before flying back to the UK. Included in the price are all flights and transfers; return chauffeur-driven limo from your home to the airport; admittance to applicable all-inclusive airport lounges; a fast track lane through security; all land-based transport and quality accommodation with breakfast; all accommodation, food, beer and wine on the American Queen; the service of an accredited tour guide throughout as well as an on-board history and culture expert. The prices for this amazing 18-day trip range from £4,349 for an E-grade deluxe outside cabin with a bay window, to £6,829 for an AAA-grade suite with a private veranda.These days It takes quite a lot to float my boat but this does it in spades and I really cannot wait until next March. Now I’ve just got to hope the editor shares my enthusiasm and approves it all.

This Deep South Adventure 18-day package is available from Tailor Made holidays, a division of


Graceland Mansion

American Queen Theatre

Jack Daniels (1846 - 1911) Jack Daniels Distillery American Queen Stateroom

American Queen Sitting Room

New Orleans

American Queen Paddle Steamer


Crowne Plaza Newcastle tops the league for customer satisfaction Crowne Plaza Newcastle – Stephenson Quarter is the top performing hotel within its group in the UK and is among the top 10 in Europe. The 251-bed luxury hotel located at Stephenson Quarter, near Newcastle Central Station, is the best performing for customer satisfaction among the UK mainland Crowne Plazas. It is also 9th out of 82 in Europe in the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). The hotel was officially opened last November to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the £200m Stephenson Quarter development, a visionary project led by property developer Clouston Group. General Manager, Andrew Fox, said: “To be number 1 in the UK for customer satisfaction within our group of prestigious hotels is a major coup for the staff and team but also for Newcastle which is aiming to attract more visitors and provide an excellent visitor experience. “When we started the journey of opening the hotel around a year ago, one of our aims, aspirational at the time, was to be the first UK based Crowne Plaza in the top 10 in Europe for customer satisfaction. We’re achieving that and are delighted. “This achievement is down to the customer centric philosophy we’ve adopted in Newcastle and of course reflects the commitment the

management team has made on recruiting and training some great hospitality ambassadors. Now that we’ve set the bar so high the challenge is maintaining that quality of service and driving continual improvement.” Michelle Percy, Managing Director of

Stephenson Hotel Ltd and Director at Clouston Group, said: “The success of Crowne Plaza Newcastle – Stephenson Quarter is down to our early vision and determination that the hotel would be a beacon for the city and would raise the bar for excellent customer service.”

Perfect pairings of food and wine at Mantra Thai A Newcastle restaurant is raising a glass to the launch of its new food and wine menus, created and paired to complement the fusion of flavours of Thai cuisine. Following its first full year in business since opening in December 2014, Mantra Thai Dining Restaurant, located on Forth Banks, has added a selection of new mouth-watering Thai favourites to enhance its evening menu, which have been expertly paired with a selection of new wines. Mantra’s new evening menu features a selection of new stand out appetisers including Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab, while new to its offering of tantalising main courses is Crispy Pork with chilli and basil, as well as King Prawns in Black Pepper Sauce served on a sizzling platter.

To complement the new menu, the Thai restaurant has enlisted the expertise of wine merchants House of Townend to introduce a selection of new red, white, rosé and sparkling wines to its wine list, specifically chosen to bring out the flavours of fresh Thai herbs and spices. Mantra Thai owner, Jeab Prapunwong, said: “Flavour is at the heart of everything we do and our talented chefs have worked hard to create an exciting range of new dishes to spice up our evening menu, offering diners a taste of truly authentic Thai cuisine. We called on the expertise of House of Townend to offer guests an enhanced dining experience and have worked closely with them to select a range of high quality wines.”

26 Goldspink Lane | Sandyford | NE2 1NR, UK | t: 0191 232 5888



New North East hotel nears completion The North East’s newest hotel is nearing completion, marking a Northern landmark for one of hospitality’s biggest brands. The Hilton Garden Inn Sunderland will open adjacent to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light later this spring. It will be the first Hilton Garden Inn property to launch in Northern England. Kim Kelso, Hilton Garden Inn Sunderland’s General Manager, said: “It is a real coup for us to

be bringing the Hilton Garden Inn brand to such an exciting location just opposite the Stadium of Light. The new hotel will help to fill a gap in the market catering for the growing number of people coming to work and play in Sunderland.” The Hilton Garden Inn Sunderland, created by Gateshead-based architects, Redbox Design Group, will offer high quality, good value accommodation, housing 141 en-suite guest rooms.

Each room will boast the brand’s signature bedding, as well as a spacious work desk with an ergonomic desk chair, an in-room mini fridge, individually controlled air conditioning, a flat screen TV and access to complimentary WiFi. The Hilton Garden Inn Sunderland, which is expected to launch in early May, is already accepting bookings and is looking ahead to a busy first quarter.

Emirates becomes main sponsor of Durham CCC until 2022 Emirates has extended its sponsorship of Durham County Cricket Club for another seven years taking it through to the end of the 2022 season. The new deal sees Emirates continue as the main sponsor of the club and the famous Chester-le-Street based stadium known as Emirates Riverside. Laurie Berryman, Emirates Vice President, commented: “As a long-standing supporter of Durham County Cricket Club, we’re delighted to be continuing our partnership. We are proud to be associated with one of the best clubs in the country which is globally renowned for its world class facilities.” David Harker, Chief Executive of Durham CCC, added: “We have enjoyed a fantastic partnership with Emirates over the past six years and are thrilled to be able to extend that to 2022. Emirates is a company that matches our ambitions and we look forward to working closely with them over the course of the deal.” The commitment and investment from Emirates will allow the club to continue its work in developing locally sourced, home grown cricketing talent.

The Botanist fulfils its pledge to CHUF The Botanist has celebrated raising over £8,000 for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) after partnering with the charity when it first opened in December 2014. Throughout the course of 2015, the bar and restaurant ran a series of incentives to boost the fundraising pot. With plans of only raising £5,000, it smashed its target by adding £4,000 to the total in the final month of the fundraising campaign. Chris Gray, head of fundraising at CHUF, said: “It’s incredible to receive £8,100 from The Botanist. The donation will go towards the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital to provide world-class care to critically ill babies, children and young people.”

Tania Vesty appointed as Marketing Manager at intu Eldon Square Tania, 33, joins intu Eldon Square from the company’s intu Derby shopping centre, where she led the marketing team for almost two years. Tania joined the intu group following ten years in a wide variety of marketing fields, gaining extensive skills including social media marketing, consumable education brands, public relations and online marketing projects. She worked for a range of high profile companies including Status Social, Findel Education, Mills & Boon and London South Bank University. Tania is no stranger to the North East, having spent three years at Newcastle University, receiving a BA Hons in Marketing and Management.


HG Wedding Insight Magazine:Layout 1



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A SPECIALIST WEDDING VENUE IN A GRADE II LISTED COUNTRY HOUSE AVAILABLE FOR YOUR EXCLUSIVE USE! Horton Grange Country House Hotel is an elegant and intimate Grade II listed Country House offering a distinctive mix of contemporary and traditional decor set in 4 acres of beautiful grounds in Northumberland. The House and grounds can be exclusively yours to provide the perfect venue for your perfect day! Horton Grange Country House Hotel is a specialist wedding venue and the quality of the food, service and organisation on the day reflect the substantial experience of our Wedding Team in making sure everything goes perfectly. Garden ceremonies in the stunning Wedding Gazebo to take advantage of the grounds and setting are very popular.

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Horton Grange Hotel, Berwick Hill Road, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne NE13 6BU T: (01661) 860686 E: W: Facebook: Horton Grange Country House Hotel Twitter: @HortonGrange Photography: Browns Photography


Newcastle Racecourse bolsters racing team

Lorna Beckett

Sarah Thompson

Newcastle Racecourse has added to its commercial team as part of a drive to further bolster the new all-weather track racing schedule this spring.

Following a £12 million investment by Arena Racing Company (ARC) which will see the venue transformed with the introduction of a new all-weather track, the racecourse has made strategic staffing restructures and additional improvements to enhance the experience for all horsemen, racegoers and visitors. Formerly the racecourse’s Commercial Executive, Sarah Thompson is back in the saddle as Head of Racing Sales in a newly created role that will see her responsible for hospitality and admission revenue as well as driving new business. Sarah, who is originally from Darlington but lives in Gosforth, re-joins the 60 strong team at the Gosforth Park venue from her previous role as Sales and Marketing Consultant at Solutions Recruitment in Newcastle. Commenting on the appointment, Sarah said: “I’m thrilled to return to Newcastle Racecourse at a time when positive changes are taking place on the ground as a result of the £12 million all-

weather track investment. “The new all-weather track is a major focus for me with the first raceday taking place on 17 May and I’m already involved in preparations for the Northumberland Plate Festival in June, which is one of our pinnacle fixtures and a highlight of the North East social calendar. I’m really looking forward to the exciting challenge ahead. “Among some of the changes, we now have a packed racing schedule which has increased from 29 to 49 fixtures and it’s fantastic to see we can now offer something for everyone as hospitality ranges from £35 - £400 per person.”

Lorna said: “Having been employed by the racecourse for over a year, stepping into the role of Events Sales Executive was a natural progression and something I was really keen to take on. I’m enjoying the extra responsibility that the role entails and look forward to building on my expertise in the lead up to the exciting racing schedule ahead. The team here is fantastic and I’m delighted to be able to progress the next stage of my career.”

Meanwhile, Lorna Beckett from Cramlington, has been promoted to Events Sales Executive from her previous role as Customer Services Executive.

David Williamson, executive director at Newcastle Racecourse, said: “Before the new track and facilities are unveiled this spring, a strategic restructure was necessary to ensure we had the best possible team on the ground to lead the racing schedule and both Sarah and Lorna’s roles are vital in the coming months.

The role will see Lorna responsible for maximising sale opportunities, preparing contracts for new business and acting as first point of contact for event organisers.

“It’s a very exciting time for Newcastle Racecourse which with ARC’s significant investment and Sarah and Lorna’s new roles, has a very bright future.”

For more information on racedays and events at Newcastle Racecourse call 0191 236 2020 or go to


MTREC Race Day Guests recently celebrated St.Patricks Day at the hugely popular MTrec St.Patricks Raceday which saw 7 fantastic races ran amidst superb Spring Weather.


Ravensworth Golf Club Overlooking the Angel of the North

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Head Chef Chris Wood

Hawthorns a bright, classy brasserie with flirty regional flavours

Hawthorns is a new entrant to a bustling, lively Newcastle restaurant scene. This modern brasserie, specialising in local North East produce, has been open for a short while but is only starting to build its personality and reputation around the city and wider North East.

the demands of a very busy corporate hotel, managing events for hundreds of people in the build up to its first ever Christmas in Stephenson Quarter.

For those who don’t know, this buzzy brasserie sits within the larger, swanky Crowne Plaza Newcastle – Stephenson Quarter hotel. For several months now it has been the unassuming dining place within this luxury hotel.

“The final months of 2015 were fairly frantic; the run-up to the hotel’s official opening in November and then Christmas put a lot of stress on the kitchen team. It was exciting, spirits were running high but it was hard work,” explained Chris.

Increasingly, Hawthorns has started to develop its reputation beyond the guests who stay or visit the hotel, near Newcastle Central Station.

With the hotel operation running smoothly, this provided an opportunity for Chris to make more of a mark and statement within Hawthorns.

This should surprise nobody who has already tried the tempting starters and mains on the menu. It balances the sort of modern dishes you’d expect on a brasserie menu with some signature surprises that are all packed with big regional flavours.

“Being part of a global brand like IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group), I expected more restrictions in the restaurant with the food styles we could offer,” said Chris. “What has struck me is the flexibility they have allowed me to have; allowing me to do things my way and tap into the regional food market.”

Chef Chris Wood brings his own style and passion to the dishes and a menu which has just changed for April, taking us into the early part of the summer. For 32-year-old Chris, this new menu better reflects his ethos and personal signature on the food served at Hawthorns. On joining the Crowne Plaza team last autumn, initial tasks included building a restaurant team to cope with

Hawthorns isn’t your typical hotel restaurant. It needs to stand on its own two feet and prove itself against similar, modern, fashionable restaurants around Newcastle. The food on its new menu stands comparison against the best in the city. The menu is a celebration of great modern cooking and also the fabulous regional larder;

with produce from the fields of Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire along with the seas off the Northumbrian coastline. Fresh, seasonal local produce is a drum that’s beaten by most good chefs. But Chris and his team at Hawthorns take this several steps further. There is a passion and genuine commitment to understand and love the produce. They know their producers intimately. Chris has visited the locations of all his regional suppliers, whether that’s to Robson & Son of Craster to look at the quality of fish, the cheeses from Doddington Dairy and Northumberland Cheese Company, to Turnbull’s of Alnwick and Yorkshire Game, where the brasserie gets its venison and game. In addition, producers like Doddington, Turnbull’s and Wylam Brewery have been into Hawthorns as part of a wider training programme with all the brasserie staff. The team, in turn, are also visiting a number of suppliers, including Geordie Bakers; they want customers to be as enthusiastic about the produce as they are. Hawthorns is a real marriage between producers, cooks and waiting staff. The brasserie offers freshly prepared, seasonal food throughout the day. It’s ideal for a business lunch or a relaxing night out with friends. Give it a go.

For more information visit or call 0191 562 3333.



Amazing Alsace With so much news currently revolving around the future of the UK in Europe it is perhaps appropriate to look at the wines from Alsace, one of France’s premier grape producing regions that is also the home to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Alsace lies in the North East corner of France right next to the border with Germany – indeed over the last 100 years or so the region has been part of both Germany and France. Since the Great War, however, Alsace has remained French, although it is definitely an area that has absorbed aspects from both French and German cultures and this is certainly true of its wines. The geography of the wine growing area in Alsace is greatly influenced by the Vosges mountains that lie to the west of the region. The vineyards are concentrated in a narrow strip, running in a roughly north-south direction between Strasbourg in the north and Mulhouse to the south. The best vineyard sites are on the lower, eastern slopes of the Vosges, at altitudes of 175-425m. Because of the predominantly westerly winds, the Vosges mountains tend to shelter Alsace from rain and the region tends to be rather dry and sunny. This is especially the case later in the year and the region often benefits from warm and sunny autumns – ideal conditions for the ripening of grapes.

The region is predominantly a white wine area although small amounts of red are also produced. Alsace wines are somewhat unusual in that they are usually named after the grape variety that they are produced from, a practice common in the New World but less so in more traditional growing areas. Another oddity of the region is that the wines are always bottled in tall “flute” shaped bottles – a nod to the German influence of the past. Much of Alsace’s white wine is from aromatic grape varieties often of Germanic origin eg – Riesling, & Gewürtztraminer as well as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Sylvaner. The only red variety grown is the Pinot Noir that can give wonderfully fresh and elegant red wines. In recent years the Pinot Noir has been gaining popularity and today accounts for some 10% of the total plantings. The classic style of white Alsace wine is dry and elegant as opposed to the sweeter styles more often associated with these grape varieties when grown in neighbouring Germany. The best sited vineyards tend to lie on the steeper slopes

and are often designated as “Grand Cru” and are capable of producing wines of great character. There are currently 51 individual Grand Cru vineyards. It is worth noting that Grand Cru status can only be applied to wines from the Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Pinot Gris and occasionally Muscat varieties – there is no Grand Cru for red wines. The generally dry climate of Alsace, together with the warm autumns, makes for a long growing season that can produce super-ripe grapes that make incredibly rich and opulent wines. The late harvested (Vendanges Tardives) wines are incredibly intense and rich – not dessert wines as such, but wonderful wines that are the perfect partner to rich savoury dishes (goose or duck pâté or the local Munster cheese for example). Whatever the outcome of the politics of Europe, Alsace is a wonderful area to visit with beautiful scenery, wonderful food and of course great wines, so if you have never been, give it a go!

Further information about the aforementioned wines can be found at or instore at Richard Granger Fine Wine Merchants, West Jesmond Station, Lyndhurst Avenue, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3HH



Exciting developments at the Holiday Inn, Washington Hotel

The hotel is currently undergoing a bedroom refurbishment which is very near its completion towards the end of March, so if you haven’t been in for a while then why not revisit us soon. Perfect location just off the A1, with extensive free parking the hotel can be the perfect base if you are planning travelling into Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham and Sunderland, so whether it’s a business stay or a leisure visit you’re only a stone’s throw away from your destination. What else is new? Well the hotel is pleased to announce a new kitchen team on board under the direction of Head Chef Mariusz Urbanczyk.

Mariusz brings with him a wealth of experience and a new and exciting style of cuisine. He has created some fabulous menus that we are keen for you to experience. Traders Restaurant is open daily for dinner, the lounge and bar area offers all day dining and perfect for a light bite, or a coffee or welcome drink towards the end of the day, whilst Sunday Lunch is ever popular.

Or if a certain question has just been posed this “leap” year, then look no further than our 2016 “Wedding in a Box”, a full wedding package for 40 day and 80 evening guests, including wedding breakfast, toast drink, evening buffet with disco, room hire, table decorations, chair covers and lots more, including a souvenir wedding box of goodies, all for only £1,016. Be sure to ask for more details.

If you are planning a special occasion, whether it be a milestone birthday, Christening, engagement party, proms party, or simply a family gathering then our Beamish Suite is perfect for a private event, and we have the package to suit.

And not forgetting that business meeting, with introductory rates available for an overnight bed and breakfast stay or a Day Delegate meeting package in one of our 10 well-appointed meeting rooms.

Call or email for more details Holiday Inn, Washington, Emerson Road, Washington NE37 1LB Telephone 0191 4189400 Follow us on Facebook Holiday Inn Washington and Twitter @HIWashington


NORTH EAST HOTEL STAFF SHINE AT AWARDS CEREMONY The hotel industry’s brightest stars gathered for the 5th annual North East Hotel Excellence Awards 2016 at the Hilton Newcastle-Gateshead.

The winners were: Sarah Barber, at Matfen Hall Hotel, Northumberland; Stephanie Taylor Birch, at the New Northumbria Hotel, Jesmond; Christopher Lincoln, at Mercure Newcastle County Hotel and Dale Toner at Newcastle’s Jesmond Dene House. Kathryn Hancock at Darlington’s Rockliffe Hall Hotel and the venue’s community team both won awards and other winners included Peter Cavanagh, at Staybridge Suites, Newcastle; Pam Richardson, from Hilton Newcastle Gateshead; Harry Howe at Ramside Hall Hotel, Co Durham and Amy Jo Pacitto, at Jury’s Inn, Middlesbrough.


Career skills to take anywhere in the world Hospitality is a boom sector in Newcastle and the wider North East. It supports thousands of jobs with a rising number of operators training and investing in great career opportunities for talented people. We spoke to Chris Eagle, who rose from apprentice to a head chef within Terry Laybourne’s successful Newcastle-based 21 Hospitality Group.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a chef? I’d always loved cooking; when I was young I was really interested in what my grand-mother and mother were cooking in the kitchen. The interest came from there really. At school, in Washington, I chose catering as an option. What were your first jobs in the sector? I left school when I was 15; I was one of the youngest in my year. On my sixteenth birthday I started a job in the kitchens at the County Thistle Hotel, in Neville Street. It was there I met Phil Mason who helped me and who has been a mentor and friend ever since. (Today Phil runs the award-winning Rat Inn, Anick, near Hexham with Karen Errington). I gradually decided the hotel wasn’t for me and I wanted to be in a restaurant focussed kitchen. Phil advised I meet Terry Laybourne who shortly after offered me a workbased apprenticeship in Café 21, Queen Street. I would have been about 18. What was your training like? Terry takes a genuine interest in young people and their careers. He really wants to encourage and get the best out of people. I was lucky with my apprenticeship because there was a heavy focus on work-based activity. It began with Newcastle College but mainly it was assessors

coming out to see me on a regular basis. Terry was closely involved in this, ensuring theory and work tasks were all done correctly. It was a really good process where you learnt everything, moving around all sections of the kitchen, enabling me to gain a broad knowledge.

for more than four years. More recently, I’ve been doing something different again; involved in the opening and running of the new Saltwater fish bar in Fenwick.

How has your career progressed within 21 Hospitality Group?

You’ve got to put a lot in to get a lot out. Being a chef is a lifestyle. If you treat it like a job, then you are always going to struggle with it. Hours can be long but not as bad as they used to be. The money is good for senior positions. Working with Terry has offered me great opportunities; travel abroad, experiencing other restaurants, trying other cuisines. There’s a great spirit in the kitchens; it becomes a tight family unit where everyone is supporting everyone else. There are a lot of perks to the job.

The great thing about working with a constantly changing and growing independent restaurant group is that there’s always opportunities to progress and do something different. I started at Café 21 in Newcastle but then moved to Café 21 at Ponteland where I first met head chef Ian Lowrey. (Both are back working together at Saltwater Fish Co in Fenwick Newcastle). I then returned to Queen Street before moving to the Café Live bistro, which has since been replaced by the larger Caffe Vivo. The next opportunity came when I was part of the kitchen team involved in the opening of Jesmond Dene House Hotel and Restaurant where I spent four great years. Around this time, I decided to spread my wings a little and spent a year in Cornwall, at a three rosette hotel in a lovely fishing village. I ended up becoming head chef. I always knew I’d end up back in Newcastle and shortly after returning I was back with Terry and involved in the opening of the Broad Chare pub where I was head chef

How tough is the job? What are the working conditions?

How would you sell the job to a young person considering their options? You’ve got to want to be a chef. It’s a great life but it’s not a casual decision to make. If you want to be a young chef then there is no better place around Newcastle than working within 21 Hospitality Group. The level of training you get is second to none. You get a set of skills that can take you anywhere in the world. There are former cooks from here who are now living and working across Europe, the US and Australia.

Chris can be found cooking at Saltwater Fish Company in Fenwick Food Hall. For anyone interested in cooking and a career in hospitality please visit



Wraith Promotions launches exciting music brand

after the show. The pairs showing, Jamilah and Arya, was more than enough for Wraith Promotions to strike whilst the iron was hot.

Everyone has a love and passion for music, irrespective of genre and, in Wraith Promotions Managing Director, Steve Wraith, his latest additions couldn’t ask for a better ear to the sounds of the streets.

The soul-stresses have, very much so, their own individual stories, unique to them, and their respective futures are as bright and blossoming as they are themselves, both being two talented, eye-catching vocalists. Wraith though has certainly struck the right chord with the duo and, moving forward, they, along with The Longsands, will show how much talent Wraith Promotions has to offer.

Having rolled out his flagship band, UKIndie group, The Longsands, over the past few years Wraith and his team have never missed a beat and this year is already promising to be as big as they have been. Recently though, and having managed the ‘Sands for five years, Wraith Promotions have added further to their catalogue of stars with female RnB vocalists, Jamilah and Arya Sage, being joined by The Baldy Holly Band. In The Longsands, fans nationwide are eagerly awaiting a much anticipated return. The quintet, consisting of the Manchester-based Trevor Cox (Guitar & Vocals), Ian Barnes (Vocals), David ‘Stan’ Stanyer (Lead Guitar & Vocals), Paul Stephenson (Drums), and Callum Thompson (Bass, replacing Gary Ormston in 2012). released their iconic debut album ‘Meet me in Spanish City’ back in 2012 and featured the hits ‘Little Britain,’ ‘Worlds Collide,’ ‘Streets and Pavements,’ and ‘North South Divide.’ Although a hiatus followed they returned last year with the single ‘Tomorrow we Vote,’ timed to perfection for the political elections. The return not only reignited the love of their increasing following with their music but also the love the lads have for what they do. Studio-bound since the ‘Sands are very much back in the frame and

2016 is shaping up to be another big year for the talented quintet. This year Steve has been looking at other musical talent as well, and, having expanded his sporting stable, decided the time was right to do the same with his music signing up female vocalists Jamilah and Arya Sage in quick succession, both arriving at Wraith Promotions on the back of high recommendations. Both ladies were snapped up after appearing at the recent ‘An Evening with Tyson Fury’ at the Hyena Comedy Club, an event which saw the world heavyweight champion’s wife, Paris Fury, tweet plaudits for the performance of Jamilah

The same, in effect, can be said of the impending addition of The Baldy Holly Band, a 50’s, 60’s Rock & Roll montage of musicians paying tribute to the greats of the time in Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Neil and the like. They’ve done the club scene, loved it, and realised it’s time to take things up another level and with three albums already to their name (Tyne to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Gotta Travel On, and Newcastle to Nashville), the classic quartet provide a differentiation to what they may be used to, but talented in their own right to warrant their addition to the Wraith Promotions brand. Jamilah and Arya Sage will be making appearances at upcoming events put forward by Wraith Promotions, The Baldy Holly Band are also available for appearances, and as for The Longsands, they’ll making waves very soon indeed – watch this space, you won’t be disappointed.

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Toughest Hole


Heddon on the Wall, Newcastle upon Tyne. When travelling to Close House by SAT NAV use the postcode – NE41 8BL

Colt Course 15th Hole/Filly Course 16th Hole.

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Acting the Promoter Words by Gordon Taylor

Steve Wraith is a fascinating man. There can’t be many individuals who’ve had such an interesting and varied life and certainly few if any, in the North East.

The man has an unshakable belief that destiny or fate, motivates him to achieve success in many things he’s already undertaken and will continue to accomplish in the future. South Shields was his birthplace, although he never lived there. He moved to Washington for a short time, before relocating first to Heworth and then to Dunston when his own family came along. He regards himself as a Gateshead lad and it’s from there, many of his business interests came about. “Schooling in my early years wasn’t my finest hour,” he freely admits, “I was regarded the class clown when I attended St. Anne’s in South Shields. Originally a girls school, you can imagine my delight at being the only boy in a class of Thirty. Needless to say I had a great time but my father withdrew me and put me in an all boy establishment to try and produce the son he required.” From commercial dealings with some of the most notorious people the United Kingdom has ever seen, to personal friendship with premiership footballers, boxers and many other sports personalities and the opening of highly successful businesses, shows a determination rarely found in others. Add to that, fulfilment of his long term ambition as an actor in such programmes as ‘Vera’ recently on ITV and in local cult children’s show ‘Byker Grove’ and you begin to see what a single minded individual he is. Throughout all that and despite having business interests with the Kray twins and writing a fascinating account of the Sayers family in our own region, Steve has managed to take those involvements and utilise

them to his advantage. It’s clear this relationship with businessmen and sportsmen along with a protracted ownership of a major sub post office in Gateshead for many of his younger years, where Steve was responsible for the financial dealings there, has been pivotal in providing the expertise needed to administer his company, Wraith Promotions’ and the other commercial interests he’s been involved in over the years. “I’ve done the stacking of papers, putting supplements into the editions and when paper lads didn’t turn up, I pounded the cold, wet streets grumbling incessantly but it gave me a great grounding in the operation of a business, where you have to roll up your sleeves and graft when the buck stops with you,” Steve explained. Anyone who has attended a Wraith Promotions event will testify to the professionalism, dedication and organisation demonstrated on the night, providing a scintillating and exciting evening. From boxing legends like Joe Frazier and Tyson Fury to talk in’s with ex Newcastle United players hosted by local sports journalists, people cannot fail to be impressed. He’s taken things a huge step further and is now a boxing promoter, licensed by the British Board of Boxing Control, with a stable of fighters to promote. He freely admits to being a Freemason, dedicated to the brotherly features of the craft and taking the charitable aspects to his heart. Most of his working life has been given over to helping many organisations achieve their aims. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Bubble Appeal and many others have benefited from his generosity.


Pride in those ventures rivals the gratification he feels at the success of his many enterprises. Under the umbrella of Wraith Promotions, there are two major enterprises in ‘Newcastle Legends’ and publishing company ‘Mojo Risin Publishing’ with successful books to its name, including the recent biography of Pavel Srnicek, a legend in his own right and someone Steve counted as a close friend. A rampant Newcastle United fan for most of his life, Steve showed his early entrepreneurial skills by the production of early fanzine ‘The Mighty Quinn’ which changed to No 9 after the selling of the forward in the eighties. “That was a bit of a task in itself. It took a friend of mine and myself to produce it, me writing the articles and it was produced on ordinary paper and photocopied. It’s probably policy not to say where the pictures came from but we bound the pages and took it to St. James’ Park and sold it on the day they played Plymouth Argyle. We sold all 500 copies at 40p a time and it went on to produce many editions,” smiles Steve, “And one thing which is vital when you’re starting out with a new venture is the support of family, both my dad and brother helped us to launch the first edition and I can’t thank them enough for their support then, as well as now. Without their help the fanzine would never have come into being.” That probably says it all about Steve Wraith. He’s a man whose never been afraid of hard work, will never allow a setback to deflect him from his path in life and is a proud North Easterner.

Promoter, businessman, actor, publisher, the list could go on and on...



All Hail the Colonel The hugely popular Durham and England cricketer Phil Mustard celebrates his Benefit in 2016. Here Committee Chairman Mike Bowers talks about the year ahead. "The Colonels Benefit 2016" promises to be a fantastic project and an opportunity to entertain his supporters, get the Colonel engaged with as many people as possible, raise some much needed funds for his charities and celebrate his many achievements in his career to date. We are here to honour his feats for Durham over many years, his time with England and his efforts off the field which have won him accolades and prizes. The French philosopher Diderot said "Only passion, great passion, can elevate the soul to great things." But Cicero also observed: "He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason." Here in a nutshell we have the "Colonel enigma." Passion and reason. During his thrilling career we have loved seeing the passion from Phil, regardless of whether he is batting or keeping,his passion is evident for all to see and it is this trait that has helped him carry Durham through to numerous victories in the County Championship and LV finals over the years. After accepting the onerous task (I would say pleasure but that might be pushing it) of being Chairman of this benefit we have gone about constructing this year with enthusiasm and pride. As you will see below we have compiled a fantastic calendar of events. My thanks must go to The Colonel for selecting me, the entire benefit committee,our wonderful secretary Christine Lindon, Phils many friends and supporters and of course his wife Louise. We look forward to welcoming you as our innings plays on.

The Colonel Benefit Year 2016 Calendar of Events 23 April - Did the Colonel Do It ? The Towers, Newcastle 16 May - Supporters Cricket Night Emirates ICG, Chester le Street 17 May - 1st All Weather Race Day Newcastle Races 8 June - PCA Masters v Colonel XI South Northumberland CC, Gosforth

Contact : Christine Lindon Email :



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Northern Insight - April 2016  
Northern Insight - April 2016  

The Business and Leisure magazine for the North East region