Page 1





DYNAMIC DUO Spring 2019

£3.95 where sold

Sajid Javid and Tom Watson on their pasts and our future

BRIAN HARPER Malvern’s tech-savvy illuminator


The jaw-dropping derring-do of Patrick Leigh Fermor

PLUS . . .

Exploring the county’s beers | The Mercian Regiment Museum | Strictly Worcestershire returns | An evening with Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir | Nooks & Crannies: St Leonard’s Church, Ribbesford and Alfrick & Lulsley Community Shop | all the regulars and so much more. . . .




Discover three centuries of colourful history through the world’s largest collection of Worcester porcelain. Museum of Royal Worcester Severn Street, Worcester WR1 2ND T: 01905 21247 www.museumofroyalworcester.org

Open Monday to Saturday 10 am – 5 pm Sunday 10 am – 4 pm Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Easter Sunday

‘Royal Worcester’ and the C51 crown device are registered by and used under kind permission from Portmeirion Group UK Ltd to whom all rights are reserved. 2


ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019


Managing Director/ Head of Production Pippa Sanderson BA (Hons) Editor Gerald Heys MA Divisional Sales Executive Nelson King BSc Media Executive Jenny Walsh Editorial Contributors Seonaid Dawn Barber BSc Susie Brinton Mark Jackson OBE FCMI MA Elaine Lewis Michele Longari Pershore Patty Dr Emma Philpott Caroline Sproule Stuart J Wilkes Martyn Wilson Client Accounts Lissie Goble Accounts Katherine Baines BA (Hons) FCCA Publisher Peter Smith WR magazine Open Space Chequers Close Enigma Park Malvern WR14 1GP worcestershire@wrmagazine.uk www.wrmagazine.uk



elcome to the spring issue of WR magazine. As the front cover suggests, we’ve been talking to two very prominent politicians with county connections. With no intention of grilling them about their political programmes à la Malvern College old boy Jeremy Paxman, we simply wanted to get to know Sajid Javid and Tom Watson a little better. We did, however, ask them what they thought the nation’s political priorities should be post Brexit. You may also notice that we’ve had a redesign of the magazine, which we hope you like. In this issue, there’s plenty about food and drink. Pershore Patty reports back from Dine India in Bromsgrove, while Michele Longari demystifies organic, biodynamic and natural wine. And with the help of the chair of the Worcestershire CAMRA tasting panel, there’s a look at the remarkable number and variety of beers the county produces. In Health, allergy and nutrition expert Caroline Sproule offers advice on controlling blood sugar, and Susie Brinton explains the holistic approach to well-being of the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda.

We also celebrate a couple of anniversaries. 75 years ago this spring a group headed by Patrick Leigh Fermor (who went on to become a famed travel writer) abducted a German general on wartime Crete. And we pop along to a rehearsal of the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir as they prepare to mark 20 years of song. Plus, there’s Martyn Wilson on this year’s gardening trends, while fashion makes a case for the versatile hoodie, and Nooks & Crannies visits Alfrick’s award-winning community shop and St Leonard’s Church in Ribbesford. And we preview Strictly Worcestershire, the county’s glitzy annual dance spectacular. Science and technology are, as always, not neglected. Dr Emma Philpott and David Tyrrell offer tips on foiling cyber criminals, EV News keeps you up to date with the latest in electric cars, and we profile the cutting-edge work of Malvern scientist and engineer Brian Harper and how he and his gas lamp team have kept the town illuminated in the traditional way, but with a few ingenious technological twists. Enjoy the read. Gerald Heys Editor WR magazine is now available to buy from the Wyche Innovation Centre cafe, Walwyn Rd, Upper Colwall, WR13 6PL; The Commandery, Worcester Tourist Centre, adjacent to the Guildhall, and the Museum of Royal Worcester.

ISSN 2059-2965 WR magazine is published by Western Regional Media Ltd, a subsidiary of International Business Press Ltd. Articles and other material appearing in this magazine may be reproduced only with the express written permission from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed in the articles herein are those of the authors concerned and are not endorsed by the publisher. While every care has been taken during the production process, the publisher does not accept any liability for errors that may have occurred, nor for the views expressed.

© International Business Press Ltd. 2019





COVER PHOTO: Pippa Sanderson

To read the magazine online, visit ▷ www.wrmagazine.uk |


If you would like to contribute an article of historical or cultural value to do with Worcestershire, then get in touch with us at worcestershire@wrmagazine.uk.







8. 10.

Sustainable farming with Seonaid Dawn Barber Demystifying organic, biodynamic and natural wine with Michele Longari Review of Dine India, Bromsgrove, with Pershore Patty


Profiting from good design with Elaine Lewis

15. LEGAL The changing face of divorce



Diabetes…and why it needs a firm focus with Caroline Sproule Ayurveda…holistic health


Railways around Worcestershire by Steve Burdett

32. EV NEWS The latest from the world of electric vehicles

36. CYBER SECURITY How you can stay cyber safe with Dr Emma Philpott and David Tyrrell

32. |

HERITAGE 56. 62.

On trend with Martyn Wilson Let’s get geodesic

St Leonard’s Church, Ribbesford The heart of the village: Alfrick & Lulsley Community Shop

54. BOOK





Hoodies for all occasions


The rise and rise of Sajid Javid: The Home Secretary and Bromsgrove MP on aspirations, inspirations and post-Brexit priorities A Kiddy boy: Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson talks about kicking the sugar habit, Bewdley civic pride and the rise of the robots




Puttin’ on the glitz: Strictly Worcestershire returns Going from strength to strength: An evening with Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir

66. 68.

Dieses husarenstück*: Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and one of the most daring exploits of World War II From Oh Betty to the Maharajah’s Reserve: sampling the county’s remarkable variety of beer Worcestershire’s military might: The Mercian Regiment Museum Where there’s muck there’s gas: Lamps and doggy doo-doo



Can’t find a copy of WR magazine? They do go quickly . . . so to ensure you receive regular copies, just visit www.wrmagazine.uk to subscribe.

52. ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019









Easing the process of divorce Is the current legal basis for divorce hypocritical and does it lack intellectual honesty? It is criticised as such by Sir James Mumby, former President of the Family Division. It is no coincidence that the government is considering reform of our existing divorce law after the landmark case of Owens v Owens. In 2016, Mrs Owens petitioned for divorce. The court found the marriage had irretrievably broken down, but was not satisfied that the fact upon which Mrs Owens relied was proven. In simple terms, this means that Mrs Owens argued that her husband’s behaviour towards her had caused the marriage to break down and, as a direct consequence, she sought a divorce. The court on this occasion did not agree with Mrs Owens, finding that Mr Owens had not behaved in such a way that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with him. Currently, the only grounds for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In order to prove that it has, the petitioner must satisfy one of five facts; three of those facts are fault based and two rely on periods of separation. Once a marriage has failed, most couples want to divorce sooner rather than later and settle their financial arrangements. Currently, the quickest way to get divorced is to blame an offending spouse. The fact that parties can only legally settle their financial arrangements on grant of decree nisi is a persuasive factor and often the reason for expediency. A government consultation paper has been launched in order to review current divorce law and has largely been welcomed. The consultation process seeks to establish whether the current requirement to establish fault or wait two or even five years to divorce amicably should be replaced with a process of notification. Further, as the law stands at present, should one party wish to defend a divorce, they can currently do so, as in the case of Owens. However, the government is also considering whether to remove the ability to object to or defend a divorce petition.



There are arguments for and against simplifying divorce; those against believe the sanctity of marriage should be supported and articulate concerns that the divorce rate will increase and children might suffer. There have been many previous attempts to ease the process of divorce by senior members of the judiciary, Resolution and The Times newspaper, but none have yet succeeded. Those who are in favour of an easier process argue that a no fault divorce will remove conflict and reduce both cost and delay for parties who are necessarily facing a difficult and stressful time in their lives. The government has provided this overview of what is proposed and why: • The breakdown of a marriage is a difficult time for families. The decision to divorce is often a very painful one. Where children are involved, the effects in particular where there is ongoing conflict, can be profound. • Under current law in England and Wales, couples must either live apart for a substantial period of time before they may divorce, or else they must make allegations about their spouse’s conduct. This is sometimes perceived as showing that the other spouse is ‘at fault’. • Both routes can cause further stress and upset for the divorcing couple, to the

detriment of outcomes for them and any children. There have been wide calls to reform the law to address these concerns, often framed as removing the concept of ‘fault’. • The government therefore proposes to reform the legal requirements for divorce so that it is consistent with the approach taken in other areas of family law, and to shift the focus from blame and recrimination to support adults better to focus on making arrangements for their own futures and for their children’s. The reformed law should have two objectives: • To make sure that the decision to divorce continues to be a considered one, and that spouses have an opportunity to change course • To make sure that divorcing couples are not put through legal requirements which do not serve their or society’s interests and which can lead to conflict and, accordingly, poor outcomes for children • This consultation proposes adjusting what the law requires to bring a legal end to a marriage that has broken down irretrievably. This adjustment includes removing the ability to allege ‘fault’ (ref: Commons Briefing papers SN01409 ). Russell & Co is keen to reduce conflict when couples are divorcing and subscribe to the code of practice developed by Resolution, which commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way. Russell & Co is available to give initial free advice to assist parties who find themselves in this difficult situation.

Helen Morton, Senior Solicitor Russell & Co Solicitors, Church Street, Malvern Worcestershire WR14 2AH Tel: 01684 892000, fax: 01684 892202 Russell & Co Solicitors is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Russell & Co Solicitors is a Trading name of Russell Malvern Limited, Company No. 06722941. SRA Number 498255

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019


SUSTAINING ourselves Food for thought: Time to think small and return to how we once farmed for a more harmonious existence?


e all need food, and we will not continue to thrive without the stability and regeneration of food supplies. However, the limitations and the impact on the environment of monocultural farming methods and high-intensity agribusiness – with their tendency to rely on chemical intervention rather than good, regenerative practice – have been widely recognised. Natural, sustainable farming methods, especially as practised by smallholders, are a response to these shortcomings. Their methods are gaining considerable ground and are providing opportunities for us all to feel that we have a stake in responsible and sustainable food production. The number of niche food producers is rising, organic produce is more widely available than ever and seeking seasonal local produce is becoming more popular. The problems associated with food miles and excess packaging are now mainstream concerns, and campaigning for manufacturers and suppliers to take responsibility for the complete life cycles of consumer products – of which food is the major component – is having a greater effect.


Previously fringe terms such as agroecology, permaculture, carbon sequestration, food forests, care farms, community-supported agriculture and compassionate life cycle farming are becoming mainstream. Archaeological and anthropological studies are starting to support long-held beliefs that the small-scale way native and indigenous cultures farm has much to teach the developed world via their practice of living in harmony with nature and acting as its guardians. This is not to say that there have not been problems regarding the public acceptance of what the small-scale sustainable producer has to offer. The mantra that it is not what you eat but how it is produced, simple though it is, has taken time to be considered compatible with the drive for profitability. Consumer culture demands quality not quantity, but challenging consumer expectations of price, availability and choice with involvement, and a responsibility for how things are produced, can and does work effectively. The ethical approach of small-scale sustainable production also brings dividends. Morally informed consumer choices may be an unpredictable element of human nature, but the benefits and

FURTHER INFORMATION Seonaid Dawn Barber (BSc Business, Information, Technology and Management, BSc Environmental Biology) is a change management consultant featuring wildlife engagement and regenerative approaches to food production on a smallholding near the Worcestershire border, offering volunteer, special interest group and family opportunities to engage creatively with the natural environment.

regenerative potential of fair-trade initiatives and cooperatives are a great example of what can be achieved, without inflating costs, when ethical impulses are acted on. Sustainable farming techniques operating on a small scale also enhance the landscape and provide ready opportunities for people to interact with and learn about traditional methods, breeds, crops and skills. Large producers, with their reliance on technology and intervention, operate in ways that are difficult to reproduce and they offer limited opportunities to pass on their skills. This is not the case with those who work on a much smaller scale. To create a market that values the regeneration of natural systems, producers and consumers need to engage with each other, while monitoring environmental impacts. Such engagement is far easier with the smallholder than a faceless agribusiness conglomerate. Support for smaller, local producers is rising. There remains, however, a need for people to become more engaged with farming to create a culture of appreciating and improving the enviable bounties of these islands. ›







FURTHER INFORMATION Hay Wines stocks a wide range of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. All the wines listed here are also available online at ▷ haywines. co.uk/shop. If you want to learn more about wine, or just spend an evening tasting good wine, please visit ▷

haywines.co.uk/wine-tasting for a list of our upcoming events.

DEMYSTIFYING organic, biodynamic and natural wine


ou may have noticed that organic wine has recently gained huge media attention, and also that niche categories like biodynamic and natural wines have started to become more popular and accessible to consumers. For people working in the wine industry, it is evident that there’s a growing interest towards these kinds of products



but, at the same time, it is also clear that consumers are mostly confused about the real values of those products. This disorientation is mainly due to the fact that the wine industry is mostly exempt from EU food and drink labelling regulation, which means it does not have to give additional information about production methods and additives/preservatives often used to make wine. Therefore, wine labels

are almost completely useless for consumers trying to understand how a specific wine has been made. With this brief guide, we are going to navigate through the main differences between organic, biodynamic and natural wines, giving you all the tools necessary to make a more informed choice while shopping at your favourite independent wine merchant.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Michele Longari is the Sommelier and Import Manager for Hay Wines in Ledbury

▷ haywines.co.uk



An organic wine is a wine made a self-regulating, natural ecosystem, which is able FIZZ: Padroggi La Piotta, from grapes that have been to combat problems intrinsically, eliminating the ‘MilleBolle’ Brut (Italy, £10.99) grown without the use of need for artificial, and potentially toxic, chemicals. WHITE: Momo, Marlborough Sauvignon artificial or synthetic chemicals, However, just because a wine is organic, it does not Blanc (New Zealand, £13.99) such as herbicides and necessarily mean that it is, by definition, a completely RED: Villa Tempora, ‘Les Copains pesticides. To keep the weeds and natural product. The environment is certainly more d’Abord’ Rouge (France, £11.99) bugs at bay, organic farmers work protected and the grapes are definitely richer in nutrients with nature, rather than against it, by and aromas, but organic wine certification still permits the boosting their vineyard’s biodiversity. use of a limited set of additives, preservatives and mechanical processes during the winemaking. In saying that, it must be For example, they introduce cover crops to provide a habitat underlined that organic wine does contain almost half the for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem maximum legal limit of sulphites (a common preservative in species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, wine that is used to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria) eating the grass and weeds. In this way, the vineyard becomes used in standard commercial wine.

BIODYNAMIC WINE Biodynamic wines are linked to the concept of a spiritual–ethical–ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. This agricultural system differs from the similar organic protocol since it is not just a list of rules to be followed, it is a different way of thinking, involving the farm as a complex living system; there is also the belief that there are terrestrial and cosmic forces that influence plant growth.

they began farming in this way. In terms of human interventions, biodynamic wines are certainly a step closer to a completely natural vinification, since they must follow an even more limited list of allowed additives and processes compared to organic wine.


Winemakers do not follow an absolute code of conduct, but generally they work just to make wines with the minimum human intervention possible. In other words, a natural wine is a wine made from organic/biodynamic grapes following a winemaking process where additions or manipulation are kept to a very minimum. For many wine enthusiasts this is extremely important, because it gives to the different grape varieties grown in the different regions the opportunity to fully express themselves and their sense of place. ›

To understand what a natural wine is, we need first to think about how the wine industry has changed enormously For this reason, the during the last few decades. biodynamic system Wine has in fact become more is currently rather popular, as more people OUR MUST TRY SELECTION OF BIODYNAMIC controversial, are now able to afford WINES: especially in it. As a consequence, the scientific the wine market has FIZZ: Raventos i Blanc, ‘L’Hereu’ Brut world. moved its focal point (Spain, £18.49) While some from the product to WHITE: Rolly Gassmann, ‘Terroir de Chateaux Forts’ (France, £17.49) practices can the consumer. For this RED: Reyneke, Syrah be explained reason, wine has been (South Africa, £17.49) scientifically, such heavily industrialised and as the emphasis it has slowly become more on soil health, other and more similar to elements typical of this an actual manufactured OUR MUST TRY approach to agriculture seem far away product. This is the main SELECTION OF NATURAL WINES: from the empirical world of science. reason why natural wine, as a possible FIZZ: Davenport Vineyards, ‘Limney Despite this scientific scepticism, answer to the growing Estate’ sparkling wine (England, £29.99) biodynamic wines are undoubtedly being demand for authentic WHITE: Vale da Capucha, Branco Blend (Portugal, £15.49) taken more and more seriously from and genuine wines, ORANGE: Podere Pradarolo, VEJ 270 the wine professionals. This is mainly has recently been able (Italy, £17.69) due to the fact that some of the top to polarise part of the RED: Fattoria La Maliosa, ‘Maliosa producers recognised for their pursuit of wine industry. Rosso’ IGT Toscana (Italy, £18.99) excellence in many regions of the world are opting for biodynamic viticulture and It is not easy to describe their wines have clearly improved since what exactly a natural wine is.






Chi ck en a


ga rl



ocated conveniently only minutes from Junction 4 of the M5 – and in the Worcestershire village of Catshill – is one of Bromsgrove’s finest Indian restaurants. Dine India has a formidable reputation with locals, built upon its desire to offer quality Bangladeshi and Southern Asian food with customer service that goes over and above many a diner’s expectations.

10 |

A warm welcome was received as we entered the reception area and were greeted by Mo and Hussain, who have been running the restaurant since opening it around three years ago, following the success of their family’s first UK-based restaurant in Solihull. Hussain tells us that taking on the 120 seater restaurant, which is situated on two floors, was a big gamble; however, one that has apparently paid off for them if our experience of this busy Tuesday evening was anything to go by. r e t star -fr y stir m Trying to steer away a little oo hr s u from our usual choices when frequenting our local Indian, we were helped along by our waiter who made recommendations of dishes to try. The chicken and garlic mushroom stir-fry starter was a highlight, as were the giant tandoori tiger prawns, which would surely become our go-to dishes if we lived close

cou rse s



The mai n


enough to become regulars. Something different was presented in the often-standard condiment tray we’re so familiar with at our favourite curry houses: roasted garlic cloves, which had been marinated for a week in a secret blend of spices . . . a sweet and unexpected delight. The main course dishes were presented neatly along the centre of the table in individual ceramic bowls, making them easy to share.

WE WERE STARTING TO LEARN THAT EVERYTHING CAME WITH A SLIGHT TWIST TO WHAT WE MIGHT USUALLY EXPECT. Our selection of mixed jaipuri (one of the chef’s signature dishes) and a classic tandoori king prawn sagor, accompanied by a side of spicy saag dahl and a mushroom bhajee, gave us a good overall taste of the Dine India experience. We were starting to learn that everything came with a slight twist to what we might usually expect. The jaipuri was vibrant, sweet and slightly tangy, and was packed full with punchy flavours; the sagor had a grilled melted cheese topping with chunks of paneer packing out the sauce, and the saag dahl was the spiciest dish of them all, adding some heat to the occasion.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Living in Pershore, Patty’s passion for food and burgers inspired her to start a food blog: simple recipes she cooks at home and updates on visits to eateries.

To read about Pershore Patty’s culinary exploits, visit: ▷ www.pershorepatty.com Facebook: /pershorepatty Twitter: @pershorepatty Instagram: pershorepatty



To accompany our meal we opted for some saffron pilau rice, which was naturally flavoured and delicious, and a special naan made with onions, garlic, green pepper and a touch of coriander. I have to say, my preference as a huge naan lover was the plain naan, which was finished simply with some melted butter. The dough was light, thin, crispy and ridiculously moreish. Everything was so tasty that, in hindsight, on a return visit we’d probably ask chef to pick some dishes for us and we’d just go with the flow. The wine menu boasted a range of hand-selected wines from a local supplier, and offered a great choice in both price and variety. Great care and thought goes into everything at Dine India and it’s all about the detail. A complimentary dessert is offered to all guests, as well as tea or coffee, an after dinner shot and some sweets to finish or, in our case, to enjoy on our journey home.

Th e

co m

pli m





ss e


Dine India offers high-quality Indian cuisine with some unique touches, excellent service and reasonable prices, making it a very popular choice with locals and visitors to the area alike. ›

y mother has always been an amazing cook. As a child, she encouraged me to bake with her; she taught me to make all of the basics from scratch and I still do a mean chilli con carne. I’ve such fond memories of licking the bowl after the Victoria sponge mix went into the tin and salivating as I waited for the cake to rise in the oven. I loved the magic of how a few simple ingredients could transform themselves into something that not only smelled and tasted extraordinary, but also looked so incredibly beautiful too. Although my Mum did cook for our family, my parents also had a business that required them to travel the world and entertain clients, which meant they ate out . . . a lot. I was fortunate enough to dine with them at some unforgettable restaurants, pubs, tucked-away eateries (best kept secrets known only to the locals) and, from a young age, I learned all about fine dining. Food has always excited me. The journey of reading the words on a menu and picturing in your mind how that plate of food might look, smell and taste. Then it arrives at your table and the clever chef who’s designed and made this piece of art completely blows your mind with their creation. It’s entirely fascinating. It’s not just fine dining and Michelin star restaurants that impress me though, one of my quests is to find the perfect burger, if there is such a thing. Living in Pershore, my passion for food and burgers has inspired me to start a food blog called Pershore Patty. I post simple recipes that I cook at home, updates on visits to food places both locally and during my travels and, of course, photos of lovely burgers. The quest continues. To read about Pershore Patty’s culinary exploits, please visit:

▷ www.pershorepatty.com Facebook: /pershorepatty Twitter: @pershorepatty Instagram: pershorepatty

DINE INDIA BROMSGROVE 129 Golden Cross Ln, Catshill, Bromsgrove B61 0LA ▷ www.dineindia-bromsgrove.co.uk






Profiting from good

DESIGN In today’s competitive business environment, companies can no longer afford to waste the potential of their workforce. There are important factors in the employees’ workplace that influence their level of motivation and performance and, believe it or not, interior design plays a major role in this says Elaine Lewis


t is a proven fact that workplace design enhances organisational success by creating spaces that support work quality, quantity and style, while improving turnover and absentee rates.

It is equally important to create a positive welcome to any business reception area, be it an office or a hotel; once again, first impressions count.

So why should a company invest in interior design? This is perhaps the single most important question for companies and their clients alike . . . and one that each side may see differently. When it comes to the workplace, many organisations perceive design as a luxury, rather than a necessity. They may doubt even the most compelling data about the impact of design. While design may be among the considerations in the early stages of a project, it can quickly become a distant thought as the discussion shifts to concerns about cost and disruption to the company’s workflow.

12 |

However, when we remember that workplace design is really about people – creating a satisfying, engaging working environment – the conversation changes. Instead of placing the primary focus on efficiency, workplace design must first meet the needs of the people who use it. The true value of design lies in how the spaces we create make us feel. In the best case, design of a workplace should reduce stress and connect people to the organisation and to their colleagues around them. This then enhances a more positive dayto-day experience, better employee performance and, in turn, better business results. So what are some of the factors we should be considering when revamping a work place or creating a new one? Lighting, temperature, storage, desk space, acoustics, air quality and breakout zones all have a major effect on performance, well-being, positivity and even the retention of staff. To create a

workspace that evokes positive feelings and promotes productivity is seemingly obvious, but it is surprising how few environments are designed with these benefits in mind.

Seeing the light The importance of natural light is often overlooked, but daylight exposure should be a major factor when planning and designing a workspace. There are various ways to make the best use of the light that the windows in the office provide. Make sure the windows you have are free from obstruction. Remove furniture and clutter on the window sills, allowing the maximum light to enter. Try creating a more open environment and consider moving internal walls. These could be replaced with glass partitions so private offices still exist, but allow natural light to permeate the surroundings. They will also enhance the aesthetic of the office design.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Break-out space It is widely accepted that short breaks away from workstations can relieve cluttered minds and the spaces that adopt natural light and boast organic features can have an even greater impact than spaces that feel dull and uninspiring. By providing small outside gardens, or even a break-out space with plenty of plants, you will help employees relax and gather their thoughts. Break-out spaces offer a change of scenery, where casual or spontaneous conversations and thoughts can be exchanged. They encourage team communicate and build team spirit.

Investing in comfort Comfort is essential to physical and psychological well-being. It has been proven that reducing the budget on furniture will cost you money in the long run as furniture can stimulate productivity and reduce sick leave dramatically. Lower back pain accounts for more sick leave and disability than any other medical condition, costing businesses a fortune each year. Well designed work stations that genuinely support the physical needs of users


See ▷ www.elainelewisdesigns.org for more information. Follow her on Instagram.com/elainelewisdesigns and Facebook.com/elainelewisdesigns.

THE TRUE VALUE OF DESIGN LIES IN HOW THE SPACES WE CREATE MAKE US FEEL. should not be substituted for those that simply look like they do.

The colour story Commercial design specialists are acutely aware that certain colours can positively contribute to happiness, productivity and even physical health in the workplace. However, that doesn’t mean they can simply apply a coat of grey paint and, hey presto, magically these objectives are reached. Design teams need to look and understand the combination and relationship between the elements of lighting, textures, branding and the company’s culture. The key is finding the right balance and creating a space that is comfortable where staff can work

productively and also enjoy where they are working. With regards to specific colours and colour combinations, we have found that: • BLUE is commonly used as it can prove to have a positive impact on productivity and is frequently used in open plan spaces. • YELLOW is viewed as an optimistic colour and can promote increased levels of creativity; it can be found in a lot of creative work space, particularly areas for collaboration. • RED is an interesting choice and can give increased efficiency, but should not be used in vast spaces; more commonly it is used in break-out spaces and smaller meeting rooms. • GREEN can have a great calming effect and it is less harsh on the eye; it can also reduce fatigue. • WHITE can make certain spaces look larger but use sparingly or it may become all too clinical. So is it time for you to consider your working environment, and give your business a revamp and your staff a lift while impressing your customer base? ›




Elaine Lewis has been professionally styling residential and commercial interiors for over a decade. She lives in Malvern with her family.

‘live a life less ordinary’

elainelewisdesigns Interior Design 07816 369 895 info@elainelewisdesigns.co.uk www.elainelewisdesigns.co.uk Malvern, Worcestershire 14 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019


The changing face of divorce


here is very little ‘goodness of fit’ in our current divorce law, where couples are more and more recognising the benefits of prompt amicable separation. As the current law stands, people often find themselves stuck in unwanted marriages, where two years is often too long for even the most agreeable folk to wait. At present, if you want to divorce quickly and settle the financial aspects of your marriage but your spouse does not agree, then you can only extricate yourself from the marriage by relying on the other’s wrong doing. If your spouse hasn’t behaved badly, you simply have to wait. So, currently, if you are intent on getting divorced, the only way to do so is to record your partner’s faults; it is no wonder that, faced with a list of their shortcomings, emotions which were previously controlled are unleashed, resulting in frustration and anger. The requirement to find and list fault is counterproductive. Once the divorce is underway, solicitors often find themselves working with disenchanted couples with whom it is difficult to engage in meaningful negotiation regarding financial settlement or arrangements for the children. No-fault divorce has been widely supported by prominent members of the judiciary, lawyers and relationship charities, and was first introduced by the


Family Law Act 1996. Sadly, its provisions were later deemed unworkable. Finally, it appears to be gathering momentum, putting an end to the ‘blame game’ that many divorcing couples are currently forced to play. After launching a government consultation last autumn on reforming the law, the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, is committed to reforming divorce law through legislation in the next Parliamentary session, which starts in May this year. Responses received by the Ministry of Justice showed widespread support for no-fault divorce. Mr Gauke said: ‘Marriage will always be one of our most important institutions, but when a relationship ends, it cannot be right for the law to create or increase conflict between divorcing couples.

• Removing the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart • Introducing a new notification process where one, or possibly both parties, can notify the court of the intention to divorce • Removing the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application It is unsurprising that response to the government consultation has been overwhelmingly positive following the Court’s decision in the unfortunate case of Tini Owens, whose husband did not consent to divorce and the Supreme Court ruled that she would have to wait for five years before she could file for divorce and formally separate assets. A case such as this is extremely rare and no doubt sparked the controversy necessary to warrant a change in the law.

‘That is why we will remove the archaic requirements to allege fault or show evidence of separation, making the process less acrimonious and helping families look to the future. The proposals are set out in a government consultation launched on 15 September 2018, and will apply to marriages and civil partnerships.’

Ultimately, arguments about who caused the breakdown of a relationship are not pertinent; they do not alter or impact on financial settlement unless the conduct of one party is such that it would be inequitable for the Court to disregard.

Proposals detailed in the consultation include: • Retaining the sole ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage

There are much more important legal issues that need to be resolved when parties separate and the forthcoming change to the law will be welcomed by Russell & Co Family Department. ›




If you decide that your marriage has broken down and you want a timely divorce, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides that your partner has to be at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour. If you both agree an amicable separation, you can divorce after two years of separation with the other’s consent. In the absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for five years.



The versatile hoodie makes a handy item in any wardrobe . . . useful for those cold, crisp, spring walks, as a trendy fashion accessory or simply for chilled luxurious lounging. From cashmere and faux fur to velvet, our choice of hoodie will help put a stride in your step, add an extra comfortable layer and keep you cosy and warm on those chilly evenings


▷ www.purecollection.com


▷ www.riverisland.com


▷ www.riverisland.com


▷ www.badrhino.com


▷ www.riverisland.com 16 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Elaine Lewis has been professionally styling residential and commercial interiors for over a decade. She lives in Malvern with her family.

See ▷ www.elainelewisdesigns.org for more information. Follow her on Instagram.com/elainelewisdesigns and Facebook.com/elainelewisdesigns.

M & CO. KIDS’ OWL EMBELLISHED HOODIE £14.00, jeans £10.00

▷ www.mandco.com


▷ www.riverisland.com

PRIMARK KIDS’ ORANGE HOODIE £7.00, jeans £9.00

▷ www.primark.com



▷ www.whitestuff.com



▷ www.badrhino.com

▷ www.riverisland.com








Diabetes…and why it needs a firm focus A poor diet, too much stress and an inactive lifestyle can cause blood sugar problems which, over time, may make us prone to diabetes at any time in our lives; but it doesn’t have to be this way. Caroline Sproule, owner of the popular Bromsgrove Allergy and Nutrition Centre, has some tips to help reduce the risk or prevent it altogether


aking up tired, reaching for chocolate in the afternoon, drinking endless cups of tea or coffee, or opting for comfort food at mealtimes – these are all warning signs that you might be riding on the sugar rollercoaster and suffering from unstable blood sugar levels. Understanding diabetes and how it develops is the first step in making changes to make sure we don’t become a victim of this potentially serious condition. The sad fact is that many people do not understand what diabetes is. Put simply, it is a condition where the pancreas struggles with excess sugar in the blood, leading to hyperglycaemia

(high blood sugar) or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).

diabetes can not only be managed but reversed with diet and lifestyle changes.

Around one in nine people in the UK were diagnosed with diabetes last year alone, with experts estimating there are a million more people who don’t know they have it. Untreated, diabetes can lead to nerve and kidney damage, cataracts and even blindness.

The warning signs

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. This can be a more permanent condition and may not be reversible. However, nine out of 10 diabetics are Type 2, a condition where the insulin is weak and becomes resistant to sugar. The good news is that at this stage,

Early signs that you may be having problems with your blood sugar levels include feeling light headed or dizzy, feeling weak if you haven’t eaten, or having slightly blurred vision. You might have poor concentration or be a bit forgetful. If this sound likes you then it may be time to consult a nutritionist to help guide you with your diet and learn what to eat to balance your blood sugar.

The changes we can make to help ourselves SUGAR Too much sugar in our diet is still the leading cause of diabetes, although there are several other factors which play a part in developing the condition. We only have to look at the sugar in our drinks to imagine how much sugar excess there is in our modern diet. A can of fizzy drink contains nine teaspoons of sugar and some beers have four teaspoons in a pint. Considering the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend we should limit our sugar intake to six teaspoons per day, many people are consuming far more than double or triple the amount. PROTEIN AND BLOOD SUGAR Few people realise that a lack of protein can lead to blood sugar problems as

18 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Image: Pippa Sanderson

For advice on nutrition, lifestyle and diabetes, contact Caroline at Bromsgrove Allergy and Nutrition Centre by calling 01527 758385 or email at info@bromsgroveallergy.co.uk or visit ▷ www.bromsgroveallergy.co.uk

many people fill up on potatoes, pasta or rice in the evening, with the typical lunch of a sandwich. This causes us to use more insulin, whereas eating protein allows the pancreas to have a rest. This is why people feel more energy from high protein meals if they cut down on carbohydrates. So swapping a sandwich for boiled eggs or an omelette, or maybe a tuna or chicken salad at lunch time, is one way of regulating our blood sugar. Eating more oily fish, avocado and good fats like hummus will transform your diet too.

FEW PEOPLE REALISE THAT A LACK OF PROTEIN CAN LEAD TO BLOOD SUGAR PROBLEMS. I have seen many actual diabetic clients who have been able to reduce their insulin by making simple changes to the way they eat.

EATING HABITS Piling on the potatoes at dinner time can increase our need for insulin, as well as cause us to crave something sweet after dinner. Similarly, missing meals can also affect our blood sugar and make it drop too low. Over a long period of time it can cause the pancreas to be stubborn in producing insulin.

DEHYDRATION Not many people know that a lack of water is another main cause of blood sugar problems and can lead to diabetes if it becomes serious. A dry mouth is one of the later signs of dehydration, so if you feel waves of tiredness, have poor circulation in your hands and feet, or restless legs, or suffer with a muzzy head, you may have become very dehydrated.

Smaller, but regular meals, or having two small snacks, will go a long way to preventing blood sugar from dropping and causing the symptoms I mentioned earlier. It also reduces the afternoon energy droop. Ideal snacks include a handful of raw nuts, a small plain yoghurt or maybe a small scotch egg.

Drinking at least five glasses of filtered water slowly all day will make a difference and reduce your chances of developing symptoms of diabetes. Add a slice of lemon for a change. And did you know that every cup of tea we drink makes us lose a cup and a half of water from our body?


ALCOHOL So many of us drink alcohol and, like everything, it is fine in moderation. Regular overdrinking, especially beer which contains a lot of sugar, can use up insulin reserves. Also, excess alcohol can affect our liver, which is involved in storing glucose for times when we are not eating and require energy. The main advice is to cut down, but if you would like a drink, perhaps swap ales for lighter beers, and avoid juices and lemonades as mixers. Did you know that prosecco, dry white wine, champagne and spirits contain little or no sugar? But remember to keep to the NHS recommended limit of no more than 14 units a week. BOWEL PROBLEMS Malabsorption caused by constipation, or diarrhoea, can directly impact on blood sugar levels. When food is not absorbed properly it can also lead to tiredness, foggy brain, headaches and mood swings. The secret is to make sure we have healthy bowels and digestion, and avoid foods which don’t suit us. Over the years I’ve been able to help clients work out what’s best for them and specialise in bowel disorders. EXERCISE It’s proven that regular exercise can reduce your risk of diabetes by 40 per cent. Walking during your lunch break, gardening at the weekend or enjoying a round of golf twice a week – all of this helps make your blood cells more receptive to insulin. Just 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference. As I’ve outlined here, there are a huge range of measures people can take to stop diabetes in its tracks. Some are simple and others need a long-term commitment. Overall, however, some easy steps can make all the difference to your health and lifestyle. ›




Ayurveda is an entire healthcare system from India, which is as old if not older than the Vedas, the spiritual scripts which are reported to have been created some 5,000–10,000 years old. But what can it do for you? Ayurvedic practitioner, Susie Brinton, gives us a brief outline of the system of medicine

Ayurveda‌ holistic health 20 |


ccording to Ayurveda, disease is caused by an imbalance in the system. The balance is then restored holistically. A key point is that the treatment takes longer than we are used to in allopathic medicine (treatments received via the NHS) as the objective is to change the internal

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

FURTHER INFORMATION Look at your health a little differently, be responsible for it and learn about you on a deeper level.

Some of the tools of the Ayurvedic trade, including a pestle and mortar with raw herbs, used for decoction medicines; pindas (herbal boluses), used to treat joint and muscle-related conditions; herbal Ayurvedic oil used in massage; and barks and seeds, which are ground to make herbal medicines.

Susie Brinton, (MCMAyurveda) is a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and owner of Amla Health, Ayurveda, based in Wandsworth, London. Providing Ayurvedic medical consultations, she helps patients heal themselves through changes in lifestyle, diet guidance, massage and herbal medicines. She works with clients with chronic conditions, especially the nervous system, various types of pain, back problems, skin complaints, metabolic conditions, mental health conditions, stress and much more.

herbal medicines and lifestyle changes. The person then becomes balanced and their health is restored. Ayurveda is also closely aligned with the sister science of yoga and it is often prescribed as part of the treatment.

environment of the body and harmonise the mind. The soul can be treated too, as required. The jewel in the crown in Ayurveda is panchakarma, five cleansing techniques that purge toxins and remove damaged cells or tissue, which are then healed by strengthening the organs and growing new tissue with the help of massage, sweating treatments, diet,


She is currently carrying out research about treating Multiple Sclerosis through Ayurveda. Please contact Susie if you have any queries; she is very approachable and wants to help. Telephone: 07785 585100, or email: info@amlahealth.com

Meditation and sound therapy address the mind and soul. In India you can find Ayurvedic hospitals that treat health to improve their health and lifestyle. conditions on an in-patient basis. The relationship between patient and Often treatment can take practitioner is a partnership; compliance at least one month or with a prescriptive diet and lifestyle more, depending leads to positive well-being. Ayurveda on the severity is a Sanskrit of the disease. Ayurveda regards each word made up of two parts: ‘AYUR’ means Unfortunately, person as unique and life, or length of life; and in Britain there the system helps people ‘VEDA’ means science, are no Ayurvedic understand themselves and or knowledge; which hospitals yet their individual nature or translates to the as the Ayurvedic ‘doshic constitution’; ‘prakruti’ ‘science of life’. healthcare system is in Sanskrit. Once a person’s in its infancy. prakruti has been established, there are detailed instructions for a Has Ayurveda got a place in daily regimen to promote a long and modern Britain? healthy life. It includes advice on food As an Ayurvedic practitioner, the answer tastes and specific foods types that to this question is a definite yes. The should be included or avoided; when majority of my patients present with to eat, how much to eat, sleep patterns chronic health conditions, which they and exercise routines. The daily regimen may have had for five years or more, is guided by the seasons and the and which have had a major impact planets, which all directly influence our on their daily lives. It is my objective life on this earth. ›




Above: Shirodhara (oil pouring) treatment used to relieve stress, anxiety, insomnia and neuralgia.



Award-winning garden designer Martyn Wilson discusses a few of the gardening trends for 2019

ON trend


ith the changing seasons, a gardener’s yearly routine is, by and large, pretty consistent. Unless, of course, you take into consideration the whims of the British weather, climate change or the myriad of pests and diseases finding their way into the UK. I need not mention the dreaded box blight. But, as with many other industries, such as architecture, interior design or DIY, garden design follows changing or emerging trends. These changes may follow revisions in taste, an increasing environmental awareness, the need to relax from busy lives, innovations in technology and the invention of new materials. So as spring has arrived and you may be starting to consider changes to your

22 |

garden, I want to explore the forecast garden trends for 2019, which are based on those of leading designers in the UK.

A changing climate I think many of us are noticing and, indeed, some are welcoming, the change in climate; we need only take a close look at our gardens for plants that have been behaving strangely, maybe flowering a lot longer or at the wrong time of year. Or take last year’s weather from the extremes of the ‘Beast from the East’ to the long, dry, hot summer and, dare I say it, the relatively low rainfall. These trends are following those predicted by climate change scientists. As garden designers, we need to be aware of the changing climate and what this means for design. In some parts of the UK this means real concerns about

future water availability and increased awareness of gravel gardens and plants suited to drought-like conditions. Ultimately it means selecting the right plant for the right place and choosing plants that are better able to cope with prolonged dry spells. While we may not have experienced a hosepipe ban in the summer of 2018, there were certainly concerns about the use of hosepipes and warnings from the water companies. As gardeners, we can take steps to reduce this consumption by collecting water in water butts from our downpipes or by applying mulches to borders in spring to help retain water and reduce evaporation.

Space for teenagers If you’re lucky enough to coax your teenage children away from their TV or gadgets and out into the great outdoors,

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

MartynLewis Wilson a Worcestershire-based award-winning garden Elaine has is been professionally styling residential Seeprofessional ▷ www.elainelewisdesigns.org for more information. designer creating spaces for domestic and commercial clients. and commercial interiors forand overlandscapes a decade. She lives in Follow her on Instagram.com/elainelewisdesigns and See ▷ www.wilsongardendesign.co.uk for further information. Malvern with her family. Facebook.com/elainelewisdesigns.

a secluded garden room or seating area where they can relax with their friends or siblings. But do think of your neighbours and screen these areas well to avoid noise and disturbance.

Hot vibrant colours Orange and yellow hues, be that in planting or accessories, were present at a number of garden shows last year, including Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows, and those in the know are forecasting that this trend will continue in 2019 in a move away from more traditional tones. Now I appreciate this approach can be down to personal taste and I have a number of clients who are very specific about the colour palette they prefer in their gardens, with some specifically requesting no hot colours at all. But still, good to see we are bang on trend again here. Readers of past issues of WR magazine may remember our goldmedal-winning contemporary garden ‘A Space to Breath’ designed for Keyscape Design & Construction at BBC Gardeners’ World 2018 at the NEC.

Log walls Log walls continue to capture the imagination of many designers and there are a plethora of log features now available online. We first featured log walls on our RHS Malvern Spring Festival show garden ‘The Bees Knees’, supporting the Bumblebee Conservation Trust back in 2015. Good to see we are on trend still four years later!

then how about creating a separate space for them within your garden? Let’s not think of banishing them to the bottom of the garden; instead, what about creating a cool hang-out area with


The garden room featured in the show and the log wall is now in my studio where I currently sit writing this feature. The log wall does indeed add so much to the garden as a feature, or sculpture, but also as a habitat for solitary bees who have slowly but surely made this wall their home and this, in my view, is their greatest benefit.

So if you have a log wall and these threatened insects make it their home, please don’t chuck the logs on your fire pit or log burner; just leave and appreciate them.

Giving nature a helping hand Our awareness and consciousness of the need to support our struggling UK wildlife continues to grow, not least the threat to the garden favourite: the hedgehog. The need to see our streets and gardens as ‘green corridors’ to enable these wonderful creatures and many others to move freely is vital if they are to survive. A more relaxed attitude to planting and maintenance is growing; a slightly wilder part of the garden where the mower is not so ruthlessly put to use can be created, or where a wild flower meadow can be sown or indeed laid as turf. Some see the uptake of hedging and all the benefits it can bring as a replacement or addition to traditional fencing as a treatment for garden boundaries.

House plants House plants continue to grow in popularity this year with an everincreasing range of plant pots in various colours, shapes and sizes available on the high street and online, ideal for the socalled ‘generation rent’ where you may not perhaps have the space or indeed a garden to enjoy. The popularity of broad leaved or succulent plants is sure to follow out in to the garden this year, with a trend for more architectural and exotic plants to feature in the garden. And how about more hanging baskets, using plants with coloured foliage and texture to liven a basket? Be sure not to miss IKEA’s show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year; it’s bound to be a winner. ›




Previous page: The gold-medal-winning contemporary garden ‘A Space to Breath’ designed for Keyscape Design & Construction at BBC Gardeners’ World 2018 at the NEC. Below: A bee garden. Bottom: Log walls make a great feature.



Let’s get geodesic


otus Domes are ideal for corporate events, music festivals, academic functions, wedding venues, private weddings, garden parties, emergency shelters and temporary workshops. Geodesic domes are mathematical constructs, which allow a collection of flat triangles to mimic or approximate a

24 |

spherical shape. To achieve this, a number of pentagons and hexagons are arranged in a similar way to that of a football. Some of the more famous are at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Worcestershire-based Lotus Domes Ltd is at the international forefront of the design of elegant and efficient domes.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Retaining low overheads, the company is able to offer its products at extremely competitive rates without compromising quality, while offering a guaranteed alternative to inferior imports. UK manufacture also allows for rapid service response. The company’s geodesic domes have enormous strength and stability, and use unique geodesic nodes rather than bolts for construction. In addition, the domes benefit from having no internal poles or external guy ropes. The Lotus Domes’ patented ‘plug in and forget’ hub design and colour-coded structural elements offer a superior

engineering solution. The absence of bolts provides for rapid construction and/or relocation with incredibly strong rigging points for the support of lighting and PA rigs, trapeze setups or, in larger domes, suspended floors. The Lotus structures can be linked to produce geodesic complexes utilising any of the various sizes of domes. Special link canvases allow for fully integrated spaces or, alternatively, more ‘doorways’ when additional pod-like rooms are required. • Lotus Domes are extremely durable with zero reported problems after 12 years. • Domes are available for hire and range from 4m to 14m in diameter. • A 14m dome will accommodate at least 10 SUVs or 250 people. • Lotus Domes may be purchased. Bespoke sizes on request. ›


Previous page top: Garden party. Previous page bottom left: Music venue. Previous page bottom right: Hubs. Below: Structure. Bottom: In situ.

Lotus Domes Ltd Castlemorton, Malvern WR13 6LG 01684 566926 info@lotusdomes.co.uk

▷ www.lotusdomes.co.uk





Puttin’ on the glitz Sassy and sensational annual charity dance spectacular Strictly Worcestershire returns to the iconic Chateau Impney in Droitwich Spa on Thursday 23 May


rganised by Worcestershire Ambassadors, eight contestant couples will strut their stuff in a bid to lift the prized glitter ball trophy in front of a 750-strong corporate audience, and all will be supporting their own good cause in Worcestershire. Following on from last year’s show, which raised £32,000 for St Richard’s Hospice and the Rory the Robot Appeal, this year the event will be raising funds to support mental health and well-being initiatives at St Paul’s Hostel and Worcester Community Trust. Taking part are Elaine and Stuart Watt, who are supporting St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester; Grace Walton and Jack Tingle, whose chosen charity is Headway Worcestershire; Chris and Matleena Haywood, supporting Worcestershire Animal Rescue Shelter; and Jess Antley and Stuart Wilkes, who are backing Samaritans Worcester. Jason and Gaya Barnett are dancing in aid of New Hope Worcester while Ela Kropornicka and Mark Evans are supporting Primrose Hospice in Bromsgrove. Completing the Strictly Worcestershire 2019 line-up are Tracy and Tony Lowe and Geoff and Sue Adams, who are both rooting for Acorns Children’s Hospice. Worcestershire Ambassadors Vice-Chairman and Executive Producer, Julia Williams, who took part in 2014 and 2015,

26 |

Left: The audience at Chateau Impney in 2018. Right: Reigning champions Gareth Keyte and Dawn Owen lift the SW5 trophy. Images courtesy of FT Images.

said: ‘Our contestant couples enjoy an amazing journey in the expert hands of professional and highly experienced choreographer Sharon Tilki. Dancers will be made to feel a million dollars on the night with professional make-up, hair and spray tans supplied by our generous supporting sponsors. All we ask in return is that they bring bags of energy, commit to several months of training and leave everything out on the floor.’ Casting their eyes over each couple’s two Latin, ballroom or showdance performances will be the esteemed judging panel. Head judge and former trade minister Lord Digby Jones will be joined by veteran ITV Central broadcaster Bob Warman, Worcestershire-based dancer/ choreographer Katie Love, who was one of the finalists in So You Think You Can Dance series two on BBC One, and choreographer Jennifer Bennett Price. Originally from Los Angeles, USA, Jennifer has been involved in the theatre and live production business for more than 25 years. Alan Dedicoat, the voice of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, and BBC Hereford and Worcester breakfast show presenter Elliott Webb will return as announcer and MC respectively. Strictly Worcestershire event partners are DRPG, Andrew Grant, Lowe’s Solicitors and Greenworks Solutions. ›

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

FURTHER INFORMATION Since its launch in 2014, Strictly Worcestershire has raised many thousands of pounds for West Midlands charities, including Worcestershire Prostate Awareness Group, Ladies Fighting Breast Cancer and Worcestershire Breast Unit Campaign. Past hosts include BBC broadcaster Adrian Chiles. Previous champions are: Mark and Caron Steele (2014), Laura Bligh and Richard Hurst (2015), Ben and Geraldine Mannion (2016), Jon Bell and Fiona Watson (2017) and Gareth Keyte and Dawn Owen (2018). Gareth and Dawn will reprise one of their winning dances at this year’s show. For details of table packages and individual tickets, visit

lkes and Stuart Wi Jess Antley

Sue and Geoff Adams

art Elaine and Stu


Tracy a nd

Tony L owe

Ela Kropornicka and Mark


Chris and Matle

ena Haywood

â–ˇ strictlyworcestershire.co.uk/ tickets.html

Barnett Grace Walton and Jack Tingle

Jason and Gaya


Top: A ten from them? Judges Jennifer Bennett Price, Bob Warman, Katie Love and Lord Digby Jones. Middle: Strictly Worcestershire 3 (2016) contestants take a final bow. Postcards: The 2019 contestants.





crisp night and a perfectly clear sky over the cathedral. Through the door at the far corner of College Green, then down the steps and left into a room with archive shelves for a chat before tonight’s rehearsal. Around the table are Carole Oliver, the choir’s treasurer; Kevern Oliver, Carole’s husband and the choir’s secretary; and Stephen Shellard, the director. How did it all begin? ‘Well,’ Stephen says, ‘I had this crazy thought back in 1998 about having a choir here that actually had ladies in the alto-plus top line, which was actually quite a big thing because at that point the cathedral in all of its 900-plus years had never, ever had a choir that had girls or ladies in it. And the other reason was entirely because I always wanted to do it. And I took it to

the governing body people here – called the Chapter – and said please can I? And the answer came back as yes.’ There was, Stephen adds, absolutely no hesitation on the Chapter’s part. ‘And then we advertised and got, I think, approximately 85 applications. And over the course of two or three weeks, I actually heard all of them. And we got it down to about 30-odd.’ Choosing the right combination of voices was not difficult. ‘I actually had an idea in my head as to the kind of people I was after – the sound.’ Stephen was born in Ireland, and by this coming June, he will have been at Worcester for 29 years. He has had a distinguished musical career as a chorister and solo artist, specifically as a countertenor. Are they fairly unusual?

‘I am rare,’ he says, laughing. ‘As rare as gold dust.’ Carole and Kevern began as singers with the choir in the year 2000. Asked to mention some of the highlights in that time, Carole says, ‘It’s endless, really. I love singing sacred music in the cathedral, which is a passion really. And what’s great is singing with a group of like-minded people. I think I find that very invigorating.’ But it’s not just the love of the music and the teamwork. ‘It’s so good for you physically, because it makes you breathe properly and sit properly. Mentally and spiritually it has so many benefits. I would recommend it to anybody. Absolutely amazing.’ Would Kevern go along with that? ‘I think I would,’ he says. ‘As usual, I can only echo what Carole says.’ There is general

An evening with Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir as they rehearse Brahms’ German Requiem for April’s 20th anniversary concert

28 |


Going from strength to strength

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

More details are on the choir’s website:

▷ worcestercathedralchamberchoir.co.uk

FORTHCOMING EVENTS 6 April 20th Anniversary Concert at St Martin’s 15 April Compline Service, Worcester Cathedral 6 June Elgar Festival. Choral performance of Sea Pictures. With the English Symphony Orchestra 6 July

laughter as Kevern adds that regardless of anyone’s beliefs, singing in a place like Worcester Cathedral is particularly special. ‘The building is suffused with a thousand years of people’s experience of love, faith, or torment, and when singing in it, one is actually aware of it. It’s extremely difficult to explain, but when you actually hear the choir interacting with the acoustics, it’s an absolutely astonishing experience. It really takes one out of one’s normal self. Does that make sense?’ Everyone around the table says that it does. Both Carole and Kevern agree that the choir offers a shared sense of joy and speak warmly of the choir’s camaraderie and the good friends they’ve made. They add, though, that they have been some sad and difficult times when members, for example, have died. It hasn’t, of course, all been highs. ‘But the music is wonderful,’ Kevern says. ‘The very best of English fifteenth and sixteenth-century church music, which is just stunning.’ Apart from that, there is the broad range that Stephen chooses for the repertoire, including Victorian and modern material, and performing with the likes of rock legend Rick Wakeman. They have also had music written for them, including a Christmas carol this Christmas just gone. ‘Being in a choir like this is an astonishing experience,’ Kevern says, ‘And that’s what we love.’ They describe an experience they enjoyed on a tour last year. Arriving at Ely at harvest weekend, they found the cathedral was packed. It was a lunchtime


concert, for which they’d normally expect an audience of no more than a hundred, but they stood in front of the high altar and saw that the choir stalls and all the seating was full of those who’d come to hear them sing, with people even spilling out into the ambulatory and leaning and sitting on the bishops’ tombs.

Evensong, Worcester Cathedral

They began their concert with Parry’s ‘I Was Glad’ and, Kevern says, ‘There was a gasp from the audience.’ And everywhere they looked, there were, from toddlers up, people watching them and smiling. ‘It was inspiring. We got this fantastic reception. Wonderful. That really was a highlight. What was lovely for Carole and I as well was we happened to meet a relative on the way out and she said, “Where’s the rest of the choir?” I said, “Well, that’s it.” And she said it sounded as though there were hundreds of people singing.’

Concert for St Cecilia’s Day

They stress that their work is not confined to the cathedral. They are, for example, almost regulars as carol singers at Kempsey church, where they do their own nine lessons and carols, and they sing the occasional evensong in Fladbury. They have also performed at the Swan Theatre in commemoration of the Great War, for Breast Cancer Awareness and at the RHS garden festival in Malvern. Singing outdoors, Carole says, is always difficult. Memories of singing an open-air Hallelujah Chorus lead Stephen to mention a particular claim to fame that links to his time as a chorister back in Ireland. ‘When Handel first did Messiah, half the chorus was the Cathedral Choir

7 July Eucharist and Evensong, Worcester Cathedral 23 November

20 December Nine Lessons and Carols, St Mary’s Church, Kempsey

of St Patrick’s, and we have actually traced this back to find that one of the original bass soloists was an ancestor of mine. Which was fun to find out.’ It’s nearly rehearsal time. Is Stephen a hard taskmaster? ‘Put it this way,’ Kevern says, ‘there we all are with a piece of music, and we’ve got to page 47, and he says “Fine. That’s great. But can we go back to page 17?”’ Carole says, ‘There’s always a but.’ ‘And,’ Kevern adds, ‘you’ve heard of Paddington’s hard stares. Well, you watch his face and he has this instant wither look. And though he never names anybody. . . . But it’s fun. Rehearsals are fun. And tiring.’ ‘But it also,’ Carole says, ‘gives you energy. You come on a Thursday night feeling absolutely like death – Oh, why have I got to go and sing? I really don’t want to – and then when you leave,



you’re actually floating on air because you’ve been breathing properly for two hours, and you’ve been doing something you actually enjoy with people you like, and it’s just fantastic.’

Bags at their feet, in jeans and trainers, pencils behind ears and stuck in hair. It’s a bit chilly and a couple of people are still in their coats. A round of ironic applause for a latecomer, and we’re ready to begin.

Stephen says, ‘I thinks it’s actually worth mentioning that the Brahms Requiem is actually normally done by a big, big choir – about 120 or 130-odd – and a big orchestra as well, and we’re doing it, obviously, as a chamber choir and with two pianos, which has its own challenges. It’s a big ask of the choir. We actually did it about 13 years ago. And I thought it was time to pull it out again.’

‘Bar eight,’ Stephen says. Watching Stephen conduct is a show in itself: a swish of his arms, his hands scooping the

In their time, the choir have also recorded seven discs. The latest is Royal Worcester: A Celebration of Music for Royal Occasions. There are plans in the pipeline, Stephen adds, for a Christmas disc of a Worcester nine lessons and carols. ‘The idea is to get local readers and also do lots of carols that have been written by past organists here and other local people. A real local-based thing.’ Kevern says that they have featured on the carols that Classic FM play at Christmastime, and were quite proud to have been broadcast at lunchtime on the Christmas Day just gone. They also sing at the occasional wedding and are currently working on an educational outreach project with St George’s school in Barbourne. There are, Stephen adds, lots of irons in the fire. Down the years, the choir has attracted all kinds of people: paramedics, heart surgeons, lawyers, estate agents, management consultants, retired musicians, child psychologists, and lots and lots of teachers. ‘And,’ Carole adds, ‘spys.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ Stephen says, remembering. ‘He had,’ Carole says, dropping her voice, ‘a kind of covert job’. Stephen nods. ‘He worked for GCHQ.’ Watches are checked. It’s 7.30. Rehearsal time. There’s barely enough space in the room along the corridor for the 30-plus people, and the organ and grand piano.

30 |


air, he crouches, hands clawed and then up on his toes, punching the air, then squeezing it, his fingers like tweezers, then claws. And up on his toes again, and up and down in rhythm. The passage finished, he says, ‘Generally good.’ There is, though a ‘but’ and it sounds like they’re peaking too soon: if they’re putting in that much so early, they’ll be exhausted by page 10. ‘And when it’s p,’ he reminds them, ‘it’s absolutely p.’ A few bars from the piano and we’re off again, Stephen’s arms are high then down,

hands flat now, shushing them a little. But we stop almost immediately. There is one thing that’s a bother and it seems to be a bugbear: ‘As you know, I don’t name people, but please look up . . . I’m going to have to get tough.’ Eyes and texts must be up, he stresses. If they were a chorus line and not a choir, they’d been getting the admonition now about ‘eyes and teeth’. But there is some praise: ‘Tenors, that was lovely, but it can always be a bit warmer.’ His hands now briefly like talons, we go on for while, but he cuts it short again: ‘Text, please.’ And there’s a reminder about those German consonants, making them crisp and clear. And, he adds, ‘as legato as you can possibly go.’ This time they carry on uninterrupted, and the music pours out for a good 10 Director Stephen Shellard in full swing.

minutes. A very good 10 minutes. Among the occasional Paddington hard stares, there are times when Stephen’s eyes flash, transferring the energy, then there are nods as the whole thing is starting to come over just so. It sounds lovely in this tight space, even with the carpets, the furniture, and the bodies and overcoats deadening the sound. And you can begin to imagine how it would be in the space of the cathedral with a thousand years of history over your head. ›

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019






ŠKODA VISION iV: A look at the brand’s electric future


KODA presented its outlook on electromobility with the VISION iV during the International Motor Show in Geneva recently. The all-electric VISION iV concept study offers a look ahead at ŠKODA’s electric future. By introducing its first vehicle to be based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB modular electric car platform, the Czech brand is taking the next step in its journey towards eMobility. The four‑door crossover coupé impresses with sporty, emotive lines and exudes a feeling of spaciousness. Dynamic lines lend it a sporty appearance. Even from the outside, the interior’s spacious feel is evident from the new proportions created by a short bonnet and a long passenger cabin. The VISION iV offers a concrete preview of ŠKODA’s first production car to be based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform. The concept car features a horizontal light strip that spans the entire width of the vehicle and connects the Matrix LED headlights. The doors do not have any handles; just a touch will open them automatically. Classic wing mirrors have been replaced by cameras, providing a 180-degree view, which is relayed in the rear-view mirror. The multi-level arrangement of the instrument panel and centre console, as well as a seemingly floating screen, add a new dimension to the interior.

32 |

The zero-emission ŠKODA VISION iV is powered by two electric motors – one on the front axle and one on the rear axle – giving the VISION iV all-wheel drive. The power of 225 kW (306 PS) is distributed to the wheels depending on requirements, thus providing a dynamic yet safe driving performance. The car has a maximum range of 500 km in the WLTP cycle; the battery can be charged to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes. Through the use of laser scanners, radar sensors and cameras, the concept car can perfectly navigate its surroundings. In suitable situations it can even drive autonomously and park by itself. Comprehensive connectivity features allow for direct communication with other road users, cars and the infrastructure. The latest-generation infotainment system provides access to ŠKODA’s numerous mobile online services and is not only able to master gestures and voice command but also to fully integrate the driver’s and front passenger’s smartphones into the operating concept. Using the smartphone as a digital key, the VISION iV can be unlocked and started. The concept car also monitors the driver’s heart rate, thus offering increased safety, and, if necessary, brakes automatically to come to a complete stop.

Electric Nation completes world’s largest EV smart charging trial


lectric Nation, the largest smart charging trial in the world, collected data to expand understanding of the impact of the home charging of EVs on the local electricity network, and to evaluate the reliability and acceptability of smart charging to EV owners. At the conclusion of the Electric Nation project in December 2018, data had been collected from more than 140,000 EV charging events. Analysis suggests there is likely to be sufficient flexibility to manage charging away from peak electricity demand periods. Initial findings show that, on average, vehicles are plugged in for over 12 hours, but they are rarely charging for the full time. Other conclusions from the project suggest that the average charging event starts with the battery already more than 50 per cent full and EV owners only charge their EVs three times a week. The trial will help Western Power Distribution to improve its understanding of the impact of EVs on its networks and how this impact could be reduced using smart chargers alongside customer incentive schemes.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

the future’s electric

Citroen’s Ami One Concept EV


o celebrate its centenary, Citroen stated that it ‘is perpetuating 100 years of innovation and boldness dedicated to the freedom of movement with the presentation at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show of Ami One Concept, a disruptive all-electric object that places digital technology at the heart of a new experience of urban mobility affording more freedom and peace of mind.’ The concept illustrates Citroën’s vision of freedom in the city: • Freedom of use for everyone: Accessible without a driving licence, the Ami One Concept is accompanied by an innovative global digital ecosystem fostering a modern, cheerful and broadly accessible mobility experience.

The ecosystem rethinks the customer journey and offers customers ‘on demand’ use, ranging from five minutes to five years and spanning car sharing, rental and purchase. It includes a special mobile app that motorists use to manage their relationship with the object, providing access to a portal of services that simplify each journey. • Freedom of movement: City-centre access with an ingeniously designed 100 per cent electric mobility solution that is ultra-compact and agile, offering mobility freedom for two people in an intuitive and connected object. • Freedom to be modern: An assertive, bold and colourful personality, and a virtuous and symmetrical design for a hip and protective object, for enjoying the city in style and comfort.

Renault ZOE S Edition brings enhanced value to electric car segment


enault has introduced a new version at the top of the Renault ZOE range. The new Renault ZOE S Edition replaces the previous Signature Nav version and brings a host of equipment at a small premium over the Renault ZOE Dynamique Nav, including a BOSE stereo, with DAB radio, and a rear parking camera. All of the seats are finished in a leather and textile covering, and customers can choose between 16 or 17-inch alloy wheels. These features are in addition to those already found on the well-equipped entry level Renault ZOE Dynamique Nav, which includes a hands-free keycard, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and lights, climate control, leather steering wheel and gear knob, front and rear electric windows, and electric, heated and folding door mirrors. Voicecontrolled satellite navigation is also standard via an embedded tablet in the centre console, which includes a seveninch touchscreen. A variety of features ensure running a Renault ZOE is easy. This includes


Z.E. Connected Services that takes communication between smartphone and car to another level, allowing features such as remote charging, monitoring of your charge status and pre-conditioning. The latter means the customer can pre-set the temperature of their ZOE so it’s ready for when they get in. Toasty in winter and cool in summer!

S Edition. The Q90 Quick Charge motor allows for faster battery charging, from zero to 80 per cent in 65 minutes with a 43 kWh charger. The R110 motor has an extra 19 horsepower and has improved performance, especially between 50mph and 70mph. Both are mated to the Z.E. 40 battery and both have a WLTP-rated range of 186 miles.

The Renault ZOE S Edition is priced from £19,270 on the road, including the government Plug-in Car Grant. Customers can choose to buy their Renault ZOE and lease the battery, or they can purchase the full car outright (referred to as ZOE i). Battery leasing begins from just £59 per month. A choice of two motors are available in the both the ZOE Dynamique Nav and the ZOE

All retail customers that purchase a Renault ZOE receive a free 7 kW wall-box for their home that ensures the easiest possible charging experience at home. ›






pen Space provides professional, convenient and hi-tech space for both start-ups and local and national businesses. With our flexible terms and fully inclusive nature, we take the stress and admin out of having your own office space. We deal with all maintenance, utility bills, rates, phone lines and Internet. We also provide 100/100Mb leased-line Internet, which is vital for modern businesses;

especially for those who live rurally and usually suffer from poor connectivity. By taking space with us, businesses can manage their costs and avoid the commitment, risk and hassle of owning their own property, which gives them the flexibility to grow in a professional, well-equipped environment. By having just one bill at the end of the month and everything else dealt with by us, our clients save time, energy and money.

WHAT’S INCLUDED? • • • • • •

Just one monthly bill Flexible monthly terms 24/7 access Secure entry & intercom Furnished/unfurnished On-site car parking

• • • • • •

100/100Mb Internet Private secure network Air conditioning Bills & rates included Telephone lines Private post box

• • • • • •

Printing facilities Meeting rooms Cleaning & maintenance Brand new kitchens Shower room Views of the Malvern Hills

Open Space Business Centre, Willow End Park, Malvern WR13 6NN ENQUIRIES & INFO: sarah@openspacebc.co.uk, 01886 834814, openspacebusinesscentres.co.uk 34 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

“. . . Open Space allows us to run our business without spending our time on the practicalities of running an office. They manage the administration and associated costs for our energy bills, our Internet and telephone lines, and the flexibility of the letting terms gives us peace of mind and allows us to grow our business without committing to a lengthy rental agreement. . . .” Amanda Woods Frodshams Solicitors










We’ve all heard the stories on the news of people being conned out of, in some cases, thousands of pounds by cyber criminals who persuade them to allow them access to their computers. They may purport to be from Internet service providers, software companies, or any manner of organisation . . . and they will be very convincing. David Tyrrell, a cyber security analyst for IASME, who works closely with Dr Emma Philpott, writes about one such attack that affected a member of his own family, and offers advice about how to avoid being a cyber victim 36 |

ome time ago, a member of my family was phoned up by a company who warned that there were serious faults with their laptop computer. The caller claimed to be affiliated with Microsoft, which made him sound legitimate; he was also friendly, helpful and professional in his telephone manner. Over the phone, he give my relative instructions about what they should do to the laptop to allow the caller access the laptop remotely, and they then paid the caller to fix the ‘problems’.

My relative witnessed the caller perform a ‘clean’ of the laptop but, unknown to them, the caller was also using commands to instal malicious software to run on

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Dr Emma Philpott is the Managing Director of the UK Cyber Security Forum and is one of the 50 most influential women in cybersecurity (SC magazine UK).

the computer in the background. The software put onto my relative’s computer during the ‘repair’ allowed the caller to gain access to the computer any time they wanted and also to track all of their on-line activity, including the typing of passwords and on-line banking. After the phone call, my relative became suspicious and took the laptop to a certified computer technician. He confirmed that the call from ‘Microsoft’ was probably from a cyber criminal. He found the malicious software that had been installed on the computer and removed it all. At this point, my relative felt ashamed they had been so trusting and regretted the payment they had made to the cyber


For further information, visit

▷ www.ukcybersecurityforum.com

Cyber criminals can instal malicious software on a computer, allowing them access to track activity, including the typing of passwords and on-line banking.

criminal, but they hoped that was the end of the matter . . . one to be put down to experience. A few weeks later, the same person claiming to be affiliated with Microsoft called again. This time he became more aggressive in tone and threatened to shut down the computer so that my relative could never use it again. At this point though, they knew the malicious software had already been removed and so the cyber criminal had no control over the laptop anymore. If we had not known this, it would have been even more frightening than it already was. This incident was an example of what cyber security experts call ‘phishing’ attacks, where cyber criminals use a computer or the telephone to contact you to try and trick you into allowing them access to your computer. We want to help people avoid being caught out by these attacks so offer the following advice: • Legitimate companies will never ask you for your log-in password over the phone.



FURTHER INFORMATION To find out more about the scams and how to stay safe online, please visit the Get Safe Online website at ▷ https://www.getsafeonline.org/. If you’ve been a victim of cyber crime, you can report it on the Action Fraud website at ▷ https://www. actionfraud.police.uk/. You can also contact the regional cybercrime unit at ▷ https://www.wmrocu. org.uk. A Malvern company – IASME – is working to develop a low-cost monitoring service to protect vulnerable people from as much cyber crime as possible. This service will be simple and low cost, and it is hoped that it will be ready to launch in a few month’s time. The service is being built and run by a team of neuro-diverse individuals, who will help monitor the Internet traffic that comes through a client’s computer and ‘be like a fly swat to any potential cyber nasties’. If you’re interested in finding out more about this service, please visit ▷ https://www.

different organisation to verify who they are, make sure you can hear the dial tone before you re-dial. Sometimes the criminals stay on the phone and pretend to be the person you have rung to verify who they are. • In an email, if you hover your cursor over a link using your mouse, it will show a little box with the website address it links to. If that website address doesn’t match the company the email is meant to be from, then there is a strong chance the email is a fraud. • When you’re browsing the Internet, always look for an ‘s’ in the https:// part at the start of a website address. This ‘s’ means the website in question is secure. In conjunction with this, there should also be a small padlock

icon to the left of the address, which also indicates a secure website. The Office for National Statistics estimates that 4.5 million cyber crimes were committed in England and Wales in 2017 and, currently, more than £190,000 a day is lost by victims of cyber crime. The police have noticed that vulnerable people, including the elderly, are being specifically targeted by cyber criminals using these kinds of attacks. According to the BBC, 49,000 elderly people were affected by online fraud last year, including a couple who lost nearly £10,000 to TV licence scammers. It can be difficult to determine the real from the fake so it’s best to think twice before being rushed into clicking on links or giving people access to your computer. ›

iasme.co.uk/communitysoc/ communityprotect/

HE CONFIRMED THAT THE CALL FROM ‘MICROSOFT’ WAS PROBABLY FROM A CYBER CRIMINAL. • If you get an unexpected email that asks you to click on a link, especially if it tells you there is a hurry to do this, be suspicious. You can always contact the company directly and ask if the email is genuine, but remember not to use the contact details in the email. Look the company up on Google and contact them from there. • If a person on the phone suggests you put the phone down and ring a

38 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Xytron Data Recovery UK


n operation for 14 years, Xytron has recovered data from a vast array of situations. Managing Director Richard Cuthbertson recalls one of the more memorable cases: ‘In 2006, a Norwegian client contacted us in a state of considerable panic, having dropped a hard disk into the sea. Upon receipt of the drive, we were able to completely recover all of the client’s data.’ Richard adds: ‘After thousands of cases, we really have seen it all, but dud Internet information doesn’t help so, to put the record straight, if you have a hard drive malfunction, please note the following and call us straight away’: • •

• • •

Don’t put your hard drive in a freezer: This will destroy the hard drive and eliminate any chance of a possible recovery. Don’t open your hard drive and don’t let anyone else, unless they’re a specialist lab: Opening a hard drive in any environment, other than a laboratory clean room is likely to jeopardise the recovery effort and will almost always add to the cost. Never change the circuit board: Hard drives contain unique codes, and with some drives – Hitachi, for example – using a substitute circuit board can result in total and irretrievable data loss. If your hard drive is clicking: It usually indicates a mechanical failure requiring the drive to be rebuilt in a specialist laboratory. If your hard drive spins but does not boot or operate the computer: This is usually a firmware issue.

Xytron’s lab data specialists recover files from all types of storage device failures; from dropped or bumped external hard drives, to virus or malware damage. Routine data recovery includes hard disks and RAID systems, mobile phones and tablets. The company’s strict Confidentiality and 256 AES Security policy provides clients with the peace of mind that their recovered data is in safe, secure and competent hands. Their services have been employed by many of the UK’s leading organisations, companies and celebrities to recover accounts, videos, photos and all manner of documents.


18 |



Winter 2018

‘Excellent service,’ says WR magazine publisher Peter Smith. ‘We’ve used it; so have the BBC, DHL, Oxford University, Malvern College and many others. Have a look at its impressive client list’.

▷ www.xytrondatarecovery.co.uk/clients

Tel: 0800 881 8900 Tel: International +44 (1432) 273469 enquiries@xytrondatarecovery.co.uk www.xytrondatarecovery.co.uk Xytron Data Recovery UK, Xytron House, Twyford Road, Rotherwas Industrial Estate, Hereford HR2 6JR

| 39 www.wrmagazine.uk



40 |


ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019


hatever happened to ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’? An expression with its origin in the law courts, folk used to trot it out when speculating about the opinions of the average person in the street, aka Joe Public. You’d hear it on Any Questions? on the wireless – David Jacobs or Daylesford-born Freddie Grisewood in the chair – when a panellist would wave the phrase about like a light to signal that he or she was in touch with the people. But you just don’t hear it any more. Is it because politicians who are familiar with buses (real buses, mind, not campaign buses) are hard to find? If so, it’s nice, then, to meet one of our representatives who’s not only been on a bus, but whose dad actually drove one. Finding Sajid Javid’s constituency office in downtown Bromsgrove is a cinch: the enormous blue-and-white sign over the door next to the back of the Golden Cross Hotel is hardly what you’d call shy. Immaculately turned out in blue suit and tie, Sajid is eminently polite, warm and full of energy as he greets us. It’s 5.00pm, but Mary Marsh, the constituency office manager, says his day as MP and Home Secretary won’t be over till after 11. WORDS: GERALD HEYS PHOTOS: PIPPA SANDERSON


SAJID JAVID The Home Secretary and Bromsgrove MP on aspirations, inspirations and post-Brexit priorities WR MAGAZINE WORCESTERSHIRE



With only half an hour for questions, it’s tricky to know exactly how to kick off. But why not start at the very beginning? Which, as the song suggests, is a very good place to start.

lot of weight on his shoulders to pay his grandfather back, which he did as soon as he could. Whether to stay in England or not was, however, something Sajid’s dad had to ponder.

‘I was born in Rochdale,’ Sajid says. ‘My parents were immigrants from Pakistan. My dad came over first.’ And the story that his dad arrived in the UK with only a pound in his pocket is, he adds, absolutely true.

‘Originally, I think he thought he’d come over for a few years, and then go back to Pakistan. But he decided that he’d have a brighter future for himself and a future family in the UK. He wanted though to marry the love of his life, so he went back to my mum in Pakistan, who he’d already met in the village, and proposed.’ When it came to the prospect of living such a long way from home, Sajid says that his mum had very little idea of what she was letting herself in for. ‘But they both came here and started a new life. And I’m one of five boys. I was boy number three.’

‘In those days, you could come over quite easily to the UK for work, like a lot of people from Pakistan did at the time. But to get a plane ticket, his grandfather had to effectively mortgage his house with a local moneylender, and the entire mortgage paid for the flight.’ This meant, Sajid says, that his dad felt a

Behind Sajid is a photomontage of events he’s attended and people he’s met during his time as the MP for Bromsgrove.

42 |

Sajid’s earliest memories, he says, are of his dad working. When he wasn’t behind the wheel of his bus, he ran market stalls, and Sajid recalls helping him out, and wearing, when he was old enough, a money belt. His parents’ devotion to the work ethic had a

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

profound effect. ‘And trying to aim high. My parents would say to me and my brothers, “You’ve got to do well at school. And if you do well at school, your qualifications will help you get better jobs.” There’s no shortcut to that.’ His parents recognised, however, that learning shouldn’t be confined to the classroom. ‘Even though my mum couldn’t read and write at the time, and had no formal education, she would march me and my brothers to the library on a Saturday. We would all have to sit there and read a book. She’d be in the corner – sometimes knitting while we were reading – and she’d absolutely insist that we had to read books, take books out and so forth.’ At the time, Sajid says, his mum’s English was not very good, and he frequently, at the age of only about 7 or 8, had to act as her interpreter in shops or at the doctor’s. ‘Eventually, she went on to learn English, and that’s been great for her life and for the opportunities that that opens up.’ The family left Rochdale for Bristol when Sajid was, he thinks, about 5 or 6. Things were very different in the West Country, especially at the schools, which were, Sajid says, ‘very white’; a fact that is hard to ignore if you don’t happen to be white yourself. ‘Not that it was something I thought about much at all, but you noticed it, because at the schools I went to, most of the people that weren’t white were my brothers.’ He adds, though, that he was happy to meet and make friends with young people from different backgrounds. This wouldn’t have happened, he says, if he’d grown up in a neighbourhood that was what he calls ‘self-segregated’ – a thought that he expands on later. Another person he would pick out as very important in his early life was his economics lecturer at Filton Technical College (now South Gloucestershire and Stroud College). ‘Probably the most influential teacher I ever had. His name was Charles Stamboulieh. He was a wonderful man.’ Mr Stamboulieh was, Sajid says, the first teacher who ever told him that he was something special


– ‘if I can put it like that’ – in terms of academic ability.

in 2001). ‘And I was like, “Really? Me? S-level?” And he said, “Yeah, you.”’

Before then, Sajid felt that his talent for studying was okay but hardly earth-shattering. ‘But Mr Stamboulieh thought otherwise. He said, “You really can do this, whether it’s your economics A-level, your maths A-level, whatever.” And he’d keep telling me I was brilliant at economics and I’d only started studying it at A-level.’ Sajid admits to being very sceptical about his abilities himself, though his interest in stock

Sajid got top grades at A- and S-level (a distinction), results that showed Mr Stamboulieh was spot on and that Sajid had what it took to go further. Before that point, university wasn’t something Sajid had considered; he wasn’t even sure, he says, quite what a university was. ‘But he [Mr Stamboulieh] would keep going on: “You must apply to university, and you must study economics”’ – with each ‘must’, Sajid gives the table a firm tap with his forefinger – ‘and by then, I’d developed a strong interest in politics. So I decided to do economics and politics at Exeter University.’

EVEN THOUGH MY MUM COULDN’T READ AND WRITE AT THE TIME, AND HAD NO FORMAL EDUCATION, SHE WOULD MARCH ME AND MY BROTHERS TO THE LIBRARY ON A SATURDAY. markets, business and finance had already been stimulated by some more extracurricular reading. And once again, a bus enters the picture. In his mid-teens, Sajid became, by sheer chance, ‘a reasonably regular’ reader of the Financial Times. And for free. ‘I’d catch a bus to school every day. And a passenger I never got to meet always used to sit in the same seat and leave his FT behind. I would just pick it up, knowing that if I went to that seat there would be a copy of the FT.’ So Sajid already had an inkling of what was involved when Mr Stamboulieh said that he should, in addition to economics A-level, do the S-level (an exam for the most able A-level students, last set

Exeter, though, wasn’t Mr Stamboulieh’s choice. ‘He wanted me to apply to Cambridge, because he had gone to Cambridge. And I refused. Because I thought I’d never get in and I didn’t want to be disappointed.’ Even though Mr Stamboulieh had persuaded him that he could go far, Sajid felt that Oxbridge was somehow beyond his reach; places like that were only, he thought at the time, ‘for the elite and those that are really, really special’. But he has, he says, no regrets about going to Exeter. ‘I felt where I went was absolutely perfect for me, and also I made some really good friends and did all sorts of extracurricular stuff.’ The memory, though, of not reaching as high as he could came back to him years later when, as Business Secretary, he had the responsibility for overseeing the higher education sector. Looking at ways to get young people from working-class backgrounds to apply to top universities, he found that he could empathise with how they felt. So young Sajid was inspired by his parents, and a particularly special teacher, to work and study hard, and to go for the best. But which politicians does he think have had the strongest influence on his career? ‘One would be Margaret Thatcher,’ he says, adding that she would be one of his



dad’s choices as well. ‘When he first came to the UK, he was a Labour voter – it was very common at the time for immigrants. But he switched in 1979. By then, he had a shop and he felt that she was good for business. He was very fed up with the way the country had gone, so he switched. And that’s when I started taking a bit of an interest, aged 10ish, in the news on TV – watching it with him, commenting on it.’ The other politician he most admires, Sajid says, is Nelson Mandela, whom he only started thinking about when he was studying at college and trying to understand the nature of apartheid. ‘That admiration grew at the time when Mandela was released and how he handled the situation. He just was one of the most remarkable politicians ever. In fact, I recently visited Robben Island, which I’d always wanted to do. And it was as fascinating as I’d expected it to be. So he’s someone I’ve always admired.’ It’s been said that Sajid was a Thatcherite before he was a Conservative. Is that true? Sajid says yes. ‘I was more interested in her politics rather than a political party. Obviously, she was Conservative, but I wasn’t sitting there thinking, I am a Conservative.’ What Sajid decided was that he liked Mrs Thatcher and what, by and large, she was doing; and as she clearly regarded the Conservative Party as being, in Sajid’s words, ‘the vehicle for change’, he therefore decided it was something worth exploring. At Exeter, he joined the party via the university’s Conservative Association.

And history, of course, proved him prescient. Britain joined the ERM, and then, not long after the 1992 election, came Black Wednesday and the humiliating withdrawal. No matter how much the economy subsequently picked up, the Tories’ reputation for financial competence was tarnished for years.


Once a member, though, he didn’t always toe the party line. In 1990, Britain joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), when John Major was Chancellor and Mrs Thatcher was still PM. At the party conference that year, however, Sajid distributed leaflets criticising the government’s decision, for which he got into trouble. ‘I just thought the whole things was ridiculous and campaigned against it.’

Further proof of Javid’s aptitude for economics was demonstrated by the fact that after university, he secured a position with Chase Manhattan Bank, working with the high fliers in New York and becoming a vice-president by the age of 25. This was followed by a spell with Deutsche Bank, where he became a senior managing director. He left DB in 2009 in order to pursue a political career; in doing so, it’s been estimated that he took a 98 per cent pay cut.

What might have been seen as disloyalty was, however, Sajid simply doing what he thought was right. An act of principle.

Since his election as MP for Bromsgrove, his rise in the political world has been rapid and a number of commentators

44 |

have predicted that it might not be too long before the top job is his. Bearing that in mind, it’s perhaps worth asking what Sajid considers the nation’s priorities should be once Brexit is out of the way. ‘One I’d certainly put near the top of the list is housing, as in the cost and accessibility of decent housing for all age groups, especially younger people. And by younger, I mean under the age of 30.’ Before he became Home Secretary, he was Communities and Local Government Secretary, a brief that included housing planning. And that’s when, he says, he began to fully appreciate how big the challenge is and just how unaffordable either buying or renting a home has become. Housing in the UK is, Sajid says, extremely expensive when looked at in terms of income. ‘The average house price in England – so I’m not talking about London – is eight times the average earnings and that’s the highest ratio that’s ever been in Britain, and the highest of any major industrialised country. And, sadly, I think that’s why people feel that if they work hard and do the right thing, they’ll never be able to own a decent home. And that’s wrong.’ Sajid considers it important for the fabric of society that people should have a pleasant and affordable place to live, whether owned or rented. ‘To deal with a housing challenge of such proportions, you need to be firing on all cylinders in terms of private-sector housing and social housing. One of the changes I

SAJID AND MRS T Sajid’s enthusiasm for Mrs Thatcher is such that he chose to have her portrait on the wall of his room at the Home Office. And his early admiration of her was, he says, later reciprocated: on Robert Peston’s TV programme Sajid confirmed that, at a reception, Mrs Thatcher had said, ‘Sajid, you will protect our great island.’

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Image: Pippa Sanderson




46 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Image: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at a Creative Britain event at the Foreign Office in London, 14 May 2014.

made when I was Housing Secretary was making it easier for councils to build homes, either themselves or with housing associations.’ But, he says, there still remains a great deal to be done. ‘It’s nothing you can solve’ – he clicks his fingers – ‘like that.’ He encounters this problem first hand as an MP, with constituents coming to see him saying that their children have come back to Bromsgrove after finishing university and can’t afford a place to live, even though they’re in work. ‘And that’s not particularly because they’re on super-low earnings. It’s just that house prices are so high. So I think that would probably be top of my list in terms of the biggest issue of social justice to address.’ The other problem that Sajid thinks needs facing is more to do with how the nation feels rather than anything tangible. ‘There’s no one policy, but I do think that, sadly, we are in some senses pretty divided as a country. You mentioned Brexit earlier and there’s a divide around that. There is a north–south divide, I think, still. There’s a generational issue: I think younger people feel they’ve got a raw deal, whether it’s tuition fees and loans, housing costs, job markets. Whereas there are people in older generations – and I include myself in this – who, even if it wasn’t easy for them, didn’t have the same challenges that some young people have today. ‘So I think there’s a need to have more of a sense of belonging for all of us, to try and heal these divides that we have. We see in other countries where these kinds of divides can lead: people supporting populist and radical policies that don’t really have much of a rationale behind them. And I don’t want to see Britain go that way. I want us to remain an open, welcoming, tolerant county. And I think that is a big job for government. And there’s no easy answer. There are


SAJID’S POLITICAL RISE 2010: Member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee 2012–13: Economic Secretary to the Treasury 2013–14: Financial Secretary to the Treasury 2014–15: Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 2015–16: Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 2016–18: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government January–April 2018: Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government From 30 April 2018: Home Secretary

many areas that you need to act on, but, looking beyond Brexit, an overall strategy should be a priority.’ Sajid adds that he’s talked frequently about the desirability of having better policies on integration and social cohesion. ‘I mentioned earlier about my own background, but there are parts of Britain today that are what I’d call selfsegregated: communities where almost every person is Asian, or some other communities where every single person is white. We are a very successful multiracial society and it’s good that more people of different backgrounds, who look different or have different religions, meet each other and come across each other, whether it’s at their place of work or at their school.’ The kind of isolation he’s talking about is, he says, not good for individuals or for society as a whole.

But there are relatively simple ways, he says, to help bring people together. He uses the example of his mother who, until she learnt English, couldn’t really have her own group of wider friends of all backgrounds. ‘A couple of years ago, when I did work on this in government, we estimated that there were almost half a million British residents who spoke little or no English. And if you’re a British adult or a resident who can’t speak English, that’s not good.’ But, he stresses, this is a difficulty that can be resolved. ‘And I think that it all comes back to this sense of belonging and social cohesion.’ Sajid’s been MP for Bromsgrove since 2010, so he must have a very good sense himself of what it means to belong to the area he represents. But what does he like the most about his constituency and the county? Bromsgrove is obviously the place he’s the most familiar with and he feels privileged, he says, to be its MP, but as to what he likes best in Worcestershire, he confesses to being a little spoilt for choice. He does though speak warmly of the landscape and the history, from the history of the people to the history of Worcester Cathedral, adding that he’s been to the cathedral many times to attend services as well as to see plays. Earlier today, he was at St John’s church in Bromsgrove in his capacity as a supporter of its renovation appeal. This, he says, is the kind of heritage he loves. ‘And then I’d also say I feel very at home with the people in my constituency and around Worcestershire. I’m very lucky, I think. I was doing a little street surgery in the High Street today. And clearly not everyone votes for me, but I still think there’s a good level of support and goodwill. And that’s great because you want to feel that there’s a recognition of what you’re trying to do.’ And whichever way visitors to his surgery may have voted is, he stresses, utterly immaterial. ‘All I see is a constituent and I think, Right, they’ve got an issue; my job is to help. And if I do a good job, they



Mary, her eyes on the diary and the clock, is signalling that our half-hour is up, but there’s a moment or two for Sajid to sit for a couple of photographs, trying to be as accommodating as he can in search of that winning pose. Before he does so, Mary hands him a paper towel so he can pat the top of his head dry to minimise any glare. A shaved hairdo (à la Yul Brynner or Telly Savalas) is highly recommended if, like your father before you, you are, as Sajid has quipped, ‘follically challenged’. If you visit his website and read his speeches, you’ll find that he does a nice line in jokes and anecdotes. A public figure without humour is almost as unbearable as one who lacks courtesy.

may go away and say something nice about it, but what matters is to try and help them.’ Asked if he always enjoys the job, he needs to give the question some thought. ‘Most of the time,’ he says. ‘The best bits are to do something, to change something’ – a couple of forefinger taps on the table for ‘do’ and ‘change’ – ‘to make a difference. And I’m privileged, not just as an MP for Bromsgrove and working directly for my constituents, but also as Home Secretary. You can have a big impact on national policy and, obviously, big aspects of the Home Office’s own policy. So that’s the best bit: being able to do something, change things, make things better.’ A bugbear Sajid has, however, is the way some people conduct themselves in the political arena. He recognises that he can’t hope to please all of the people all of the time; along with the bouquets, there are the brickbats. ‘But you get

48 |

some people who are not respectful, let’s say, in criticising you. And that’s about civility. In politics, I think we need a bit more of that; more recognition that it doesn’t matter if you’re Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat; you have decided as an MP to do something for your wider community, for wider society. We don’t have to agree on everything – we’re not robots – but we can disagree respectfully.’ This goes back, he says, to his point about a sense of belonging; a feeling that we’re somehow all in it together. We appear to have lost some of the respect for each other that he thinks politics needs: respect matters, even when you simply cannot accept the other person’s point of view. The proper channels for expressing severe disapproval with any politician’s position are, he stresses, in place and available to everyone: ‘When a general election comes along, you’ve got your democratic choice and you can make it known.’

Behind Sajid are a few placards used as part of the street surgery he held earlier on in the day. It’s the kind of thing that all politicians do, but it must take at least a little pluck to face members of the public with potentially quite profound grievances in such an exposed way. And the thought that a man as successful as Sajid is willing to stand out in the cold and the wet because he wants to help is a good one, even if you could never vote for him or his party. In the last half-hour, Sajid’s frequent use of words like ‘right’, ‘good’ and ‘wrong’ suggest that he is, as Norman Tebbit commentated in the Telegraph, a man of principle. And while it’s often argued that the British prefer to have the country run by pragmatists, that’s not to say that we never have time for leaders more inclined to stick to their guns. As Roy Hattersley once wrote, ‘Mrs Thatcher proved that the people admire and support politicians with strong convictions – even when they don’t share them.’ It’s dark and drizzly outside. A big official-looking SUV-type vehicle is waiting by the constituency office door, the motor running. Perhaps it’s here to whisk Sajid away to a hush-hush meeting, or to one of those black-tie do’s that are as much a part of the job as making decisions that affect the lives of millions. ›

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Go on . . . give your tummy a treat

Enjoy year-long offers at more than 80 of Worcestershire’s best independent restaurants, food & drink shops, cafes, pubs, cookery schools and more with the Worcestershire Foodie Card. Yummy :)


a card for £20 (or two for £30) and view all offers at

www.pershorepatty.com Tag us with a photo on Twitter or Instagram using your

#TheFoodieCard for a chance to win £50 at one of the card’s participating independents. WR MAGAZINE WORCESTERSHIRE

Winter 2018



| |

49 17




ven the best museums can’t present the past the way we experience it. Most of the time, they consist of discrete historical compartments that, one after another, take you through a chronology: the medieval room, followed by the Tudors, then Stuarts and, before you know it, you’re confronted by a freshly blacked Edwardian range. This plod through the ages may give history coherence, but in the places we frequent, the past is never neat: a Morris Minor sits in front of a half-timbered cottage; cobbles abruptly give way to paving slabs; a George VI pillar box stands next to a Victorian coal hole. But though everything is all jumbled up, we can usually place and date things with ease. Churches, however, can be much more difficult to read. St Leonard’s in Ribbesford is a case in point. The original Norman building dates from about 1150 and occupied the area that is now the north aisle, but the north entrance’s timbered balustraded porch is from 1633. The north door is, however, Norman, as are the decorations around it. These are from the Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture, a name coined

by the Polish–English scholar George Zarnecki for a group of master masons who worked in the area in the twelfth century and whose carvings drew on various cultural sources, from Celtic to Anglo-Saxon to Norman. Over the north door, the tympanum (the semi-circular surface) is illustrated by what appears to be an archer aiming his bow at some kind of bloated creature (often described as a bird) and accompanied by what looks like a very lean dog that might even be attacking the man. The archer is wearing what’s been identified as a phrygian cap: ancient headgear associated with a number of Eastern European peoples that in early modern Europe came to symbolise freedom. It does, however, look a bit like a Norman helmet with its distinctive nosepiece. Either way, the imagery doesn’t appear to be specifically Christian.

echoes. The fish has been a Christian symbol since the early days of the Church, and it’s been speculated that the birds are pelicans, which are frequently used to symbolise Christ. This is founded in a pre-Christian belief that the mother pelican would wound herself with her beak in the breast to feed her young with her own blood when food was scarce. Perhaps the most appealing thing about St Leonard’s are the half-timbered bell turret and the fifteenth-century fivebay oak arcade on the south side – the only example of such a use of wood in a church in the county – while the earlier north side is of stone. It’s been said that

This is, however, probably not the case with the images carved into the capitals (the top parts) of the columns under the tympanum, which seem to include birds and fish, as well as some elaborate abstract decoration that has Celtic

A William Morris stained glass window, a surprising amount of wood and a clutch of musical pigs


50 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

A closer look at some things worth looking at.

FURTHER INFORMATION Many thanks to the following for vital information: Lionel Wall’s website devoted to the best of English churches:

▷ bit.ly/2XhI5rl

Malcolm Thurly’s The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston Press (2013) And the online leaflet produced by the parish: ▷ bit.ly/2SQkcZu

including the north aisle, chancel and the bell turret – after it was struck by lightning in 1877. Preedy’s work can be seen all over the county and beyond, and includes new buildings, restorations and a lot of stained glass. His restoration work here at Ribbesford was not appreciated by the critic John Ruskin, who said that after the church had been struck, it should have been left as it was, proposing that ‘the dear old ruin grow grey by Severn’s side in peace’.

meaning cross, as the screen would be surmounted by a crucifix and, frequently, have supporting statues of Mary and St John. All these screens were removed under the very Protestant Edward VI.

this gives a lopsided effect, but it also adds to the charm. The bell turret is perhaps best viewed from the highest point of the churchyard, which slopes quite steeply uphill and has several early nineteenth-century chest and pedestal tombs at the top. Back inside, there are further intriguing carvings on the wooden pulpit that was originally part of the fifteenth-century rood screen. Such screens were there to separate the chancel from the nave (i.e. the clergy from the congregation) during certain parts of the mass, especially the consecration of the Eucharist (though the people could see through the decorated openings). The word ‘rood’ comes from the Old English ‘rood’ or ‘rode’,


A few of the carvings feature pigs, including a sow feeding her farrow and a pig playing the bagpipes, musical pigs being a popular theme in English parish church carving. Again, this seems to be an image not readily associated with Christianity and must have been, you would have thought, a little at odds with the attitudes of the church towards this kind of music-making (the bagpipes symbolising rustic bawdiness) and the greed and gluttony that a pig might represent. You might also spot a fox preaching to a gaggle of geese, with another goose secreted in the fox’s clothing. This is also a common feature of church carving, and the satire, aimed at the clergy, is clear. Notable Offenham-born architect Frederick Preedy (1820–98) was responsible for restoring the church –

A couple of very notable artistic figures have associations with St Leonard’s: William Morris built the beautiful stainedglass west window from Edward BurneJones’s design. It is dedicated to Hannah McDonald, Burne-Jones’s mother-in-law and grandmother of Stanley Baldwin and Rudyard Kipling. This is a reminder that Ribbesford House, with its strong associations with both Kipling and Baldwin, is only round the corner. During World War II, the house was used to train Free French soldiers, who were also responsible for upgrading the church’s nineteenth-century organ while they were there.

Getting there A leaflet produced by the parish suggests approaching the church by road via the avenue of horse chestnut trees off the B4194, one mile south of Bewdley town centre. For SatNav users, the postcode is DY12 2TQ. There is free parking adjacent to the churchyard. If you decide to come on foot, the church is roughly halfway round the Ribbesford Circular Trail, and the Worcestershire Way goes through the churchyard. ›






Nestled in the heart of the Worcestershire village of Alfrick stands a new award-winning community shop

The heart of the village


he quintessential English village needs just a few elements to go about its dayto-day business: a church, a pub and a shop. There have been many stories of how, when one or more of these elements closes, it has had a detrimental effect on village life and the community at large. Back in 2011, the delightful Worcestershire village of Alfrick was facing the closure of its village shop. Knowing the potential ramifications of this, the village swiftly got together and started looking into how they could reimagine the concept of the village shop for the modern age. They knew what facilities they wanted and what

52 |

the community needed, and set about developing a new community shop. This journey involved seeking out grants, obtaining the necessary planning permission, raising money and, most importantly, ensuring that a new shop could be run for the community, by the community, for the long term. Fast forward a few years and a temporary shop was tried out. Based in a Portakabin, it enabled the volunteers to put their theories to the test. The result was overwhelmingly positive and they set forth on the construction of a permanent shop. This was fully realised in September 2018 when the Alfrick & Lulsley Community Shop was officially opened by Harriet Baldwin MP. Harriet had been

Above: With both indoor and outdoor seating, the cafe has become a regular meeting spot for all manner of village activities. Next page, clockwise from top left: The shop is a meeting spot, a community hub and a social gathering place; as night falls, it’s a welcoming sight; many of the items on sale are sourced locally; the shop welcomes visitors seven days a week; the outside sign; and the shop is staffed by more than 70 volunteers of various ages.

a key supporter of the shop from its inception, having assisted the committee with necessary negotiations with the Post Office. They knew that a Post Office was a ‘must’ for the shop, yet Post Office rules and regulations prohibited such facilities being run by volunteers. Harriet intervened and assisted in these rules being changed, enabling the Post Office facility, with all its postal and banking services, to be operated from the shop. Part of the founding ethos of the shop was to try and reinforce its local connections. Many of the items available for sale are from local food providers who are located within 30 miles of Alfrick. Produce ranges from bread and beer to cakes and cauliflower, all served by a

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

A closer look at some things worth looking at.

Bringing the shop to life, from idea to realisation and staffed by volunteers, has been a true success story, so much so that the shop was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2016. And now, on a regular basis, representatives from the shop meet with other groups from all over the country who wish to

team of more than 70 volunteers from the village, whose ages range from 14–89, which has done much to help break down generational barriers and develop a genuine community feel.

replicate the Alfrick model for their own local community.

meeting spot for all manner of village activities and, as it is located close to the Worcestershire Way, National Cycle Network and the nature reserves of Ravenshill and the Knapp & Papermill, more and more people from outside the village are discovering this glorious watering hole, often stopping off for a well-deserved cup of tea on their travels.


Alfrick & Lulsley Community Shop has breathed new life into the village, but to refer to it as just a shop does it a disservice. It is a meeting spot, a community hub and a social gathering place, which helps maintain connections and conversation with all those in the village; and as it is open seven days a week, it keeps the village alive and vibrant on a daily basis. On its website, the Alfrick & Lulsley Community shop describes itself as the ‘Little Shop with the Big Heart’ and it has certainly put its heart and soul into creating this wonderful Worcestershire gem. ›




A beautiful cafe, with both indoor and outdoor seating, has become the regular


Railways around Worcestershire


ailways around Worcestershire is one man’s view of a range of railway operations in the beautiful heart of England over a period spanning nearly half a century. The early 1970s was an era neglected by many photographers following the end of steam – however, it is now quite apparent how the intervening generations have seen even greater changes. Ranging from the Malvern Hills through the beautiful capital city of Worcester to the Cotswolds, the railways are once again going through a transitional period where traditional semaphore signalling controls operations at Worcester to the creation of a new Parkway station on the city outskirts. A wide range of motive power is featured at a range of locations – Worcester, Great Malvern, Evesham, Droitwich Spa, Kidderminster and more. ›

54 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Bibliographic information Author: Steve Burdett Publication: December 2018 Price: £14.99 ISBN: 978 1 4456 8401 7 Size: 234 x 165mm Binding: Paperback Extent: 96 pages See Amberley Publishing at ▷ www. amberley-books.com for more.

About the author

Born in Aston in Birmingham in 1952, Steve’s railway enthusiasm was encourage by his family. This hobby provided a distraction during a career in banking and he always carries a camera on the railways to capture scenes for posterity.

Previous page, left: This humble Class 150 Sprinter, No. 150104, is nearing Worcester Foregate Street after a 153-mile trip on the 08.23 service from Southampton Central, 13 November 2017. Previous page, middle: West Country Pacific No. 34046 Braunton calls at Foregate Street on the Railway Touring Company’s ‘Welsh Border Express’, 17 May 2017. Previous page, right: Between the stations at Foregate Street and Shrub Hill, the railway crosses the Worcester & Birmingham Canal by way of a distinctive bridge at Lowesmoor, 13 December 2017. Top: Passing Churchill & Blakedown signal box are West Coast Railways Nos 47854 and 47804, which are seen hauling the first leg of the Severn Valley Limited to York on 14 March 2014. Left: A First Great Western service in the charge of No. 158958 is seen waiting to leave Great Malvern station, 12 May 2012.




It was one of the most daring exploits of World War II: 75 years ago this spring on the German-occupied island of Crete, two British officers and a group of Cretan resistance fighters kidnapped a German general. The operation was conceived and led by Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, who is buried next to his wife Joan in Dumbleton churchyard on the Gloucestershire– Worcestershire border



Next page: W Stanley ‘Billy’ Moss (left) and Patrick ‘Paddy’ Leigh Fermor disguised as Germans for the ambush.




efore becoming a celebrated travel writer, Paddy (as he was known by pretty much everyone) was a hero. Described by the BBC as ‘a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene’, he nevertheless had a less than auspicious start: expelled from the King’s School in Canterbury for being caught holding hands with a greengrocer’s daughter, his penultimate school report called him a ‘dangerous mix of sophistication and recklessness’. But one man’s recklessness is another’s idea of fun. On a whim in late November 1933, at the age of 18 and sick and tired of London, he put plans to become a soldier on hold to walk across Europe by following the Rhine and then the Danube from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (Paddy always used the Greek name). The journey should have taken a matter of months, but Paddy’s meanderings and lingerings in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece stretched it out into years. When war was declared in September 1939, he returned to England to join up. Turned down for a commission with the Irish Guards, his knowledge of French, Greek, German and Romanian secured him one with the Intelligence Corps and immediate action in Greece, where he fought alongside the

56 |

Greeks in resisting the Axis invaders. Once mainland Greece was occupied, the Germans set their sights on Crete, which they finally took on 1 June 1941, but not, as Paddy later wrote, without a struggle: ‘When the Germans invaded Crete, their armies had just defeated the whole of Europe, except – thanks, perhaps, to the fluke of the Channel’s existence – England. Logically the civilian population could have been expected to remain inactive while the professionals – the British Commonwealth and a small number of Greek troops – fought it out with the invaders. But to the great astonishment of both sides, all over the island bodies of Cretans – villagers, shepherds, old men, boys, monks and priests, and even women, without any collusion between them or master plan or arms or guidance from the official combatants – rose up at once and threw

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019





Image: © The Estate of William Stanley Moss

Image: © The Estate of William Stanley Moss

themselves on the invaders with as little hesitation as if the German war machine were a Pasha’s primitive expedition of Janissaries armed with long guns and scimitars. They had not a second doubt about what they should do. . . .’ Such resistance came, though, at a price: the German reprisals were vicious and murderous, particularly at Kandanos and Kondomari. As the island provided the Germans with a strategically important Mediterranean base, they maintained a heavy garrison there throughout the war – peaking at 75,000 – to repel potential attacks and quell the population of 400,000. Not for nothing did the German invaders call it Festung Kreta: Fortress Crete. After the German victory, Paddy withdrew to Cairo, where he was recruited to the Special Operations Executive, who sent him back to Crete to blend in with the islanders and assist the continued resistance. When the Italians left the war in 1943, Paddy helped evacuate an Italian general from what had been the Italian sector of the island. The success of this inspired Paddy’s plan to abduct a German general, the target being the hated Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, whose brutality towards the local population had earned him the nickname ‘the Butcher of Crete’. There were objections to Paddy’s proposal, not least because, by the end of 1943, defeat for Nazi Germany seemed merely a matter of time. But the plan was approved, and Paddy, his second-in-command W Stanley ‘Billy’ Moss and a group of Cretan andartes (resistance fighters) made their preparations. One detail altered at the last moment: the Germans replaced Müller with General Kreipe, an unknown quantity from the

58 |

Above: The Operation. Next page: Billy (left), a camerashy General Kreipe (centre) and Paddy.

Russian front. Nevertheless, the operation went ahead. It was very simple. Under cover of darkness and dressed in German uniforms, Paddy and Billy stopped the general’s car on the road between his residence and the divisional HQ with a traffic policeman’s paddle, asked for identification, aimed a gun at the general’s chest and coshed the driver. Then, with the general on the floor of

W STANLEY ‘BILLY’ MOSS Ivan William Stanley ‘Billy’ Moss (1921–1965) was born in Yokohama, Japan, to a Russian mother and English father. In World War II, he served with the SOE and the Coldstream Guards, and later became a successful writer, broadcaster, journalist and traveller. After the Kreipe abduction, Billy returned to Crete to fight with the resistance and went on to see service in Macedonia and Thailand. For his part in the Kreipe operation, he received the Immediate Award of the Military Cross ‘for outstanding courage and audacity’.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

the car, a Cretan knife at his throat, and Paddy in the seat wearing the general’s cap, Billy drove through 22 checkpoints in Heraklion. After ditching the car, they walked over Mount Ida to rendezvous with an SBS boat on the other side of the island. Fear of German reprisals was great, so before the car was abandoned, a note composed by Paddy and Billy was left, stressing that the operation was performed entirely by a British raiding force and that no Cretans were involved.

Based at 64 Baker Street, the SOE’s job, under Minister for Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton, was to conduct reconnaissance, espionage and sabotage in occupied Europe. It had around 13,000 members, over 3,000 of whom were women, and was variously known as ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’, the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’ and ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’.

Clambering over rocks, trudging through snow, evading German patrols, with the general frequently stumbling and falling and suffering great indignity, the operation was a celebrated success. Billy Moss’s account, Ill Met by Moonlight (1950), was made into a 1957 film, starring Dirk Bogarde as Paddy. Paddy’s own record came out after Billy’s death. Perhaps the most famous incident of the abduction has a literary flavour and

took place at dawn. Watching the sun come up on Mount Ida, Kreipe quoted, in Latin, the first line of Horace’s ‘Ode to Thaliarchus’: ‘See, Soracte’s mighty peak stands deep in virgin snow.’ Paddy then finished the poem. Later, Paddy wrote: ‘The general’s blue eyes swivelled away from the mountaintop to mine, and when I’d finished, after a long silence, he said: ‘Ach so, Herr Major!’ It was very strange. ‘Ja, Herr General.’ As though, for a long moment, the war had ceased to exist. We had both drunk at the same fountains long before; and things were different between us for the rest of our time together.’ An echt Paddy moment: in the midst of danger on top of a Cretan mountain, he quotes from the classics. Paddy may have been kicked out of school, but he was a great autodidact; his reading was voracious and his facility for languages a rare gift. He advanced his German on ‘the Great Trudge’ (as he frequently called his transcontinental walk) by buying a copy of Hamlet, Prinz von

Image: © The Estate of William Stanley Moss






Image: © The Estate of William Stanley Moss

Dannemark and mentally comparing it to the original. Paddy was not only a scholar but also a considerable ladies’ man, and a loquacious carouser with charm to spare. In the introduction to her biography of Paddy (aptly subtitled ‘an adventure’), Artemis Cooper, who knew him for many years, admits to having had ‘a schoolgirl crush’ on her future subject. And, in a telephone interview, adds that to feel this about him was quite normal. ‘A lot of people fell for him,’ she says. ‘Absolutely they did.’ There are two reasons why she thinks he had such an effect. ‘The first is a lovely quote from Ricki Huston [wife of film director John Huston and mother of actress Angelica]. She was talking basically about sex, and she said, “With most men it’s take, take, take. With Paddy, it’s give, give, give.” A pretty big plus there.’ The other big plus for Artemis occurred to her after a visit to Paddy’s home in

60 |

Above: The abduction gang: (clockwise from top left) Efstratios, Emmanouil, Antonios, Georgios, Nikolaos, Billy, Paddy, Grigorios. Right: Paddy’s grave in St Peter’s churchyard, Dumbleton. The epitaph has been translated as ‘He was that best of things, a Greek.’ Image courtesy of PicturePrince.

Kardamyli on the Mani peninsula in Greece. ‘You always think of him as a brilliant talker, but I remember the time I went to see him after Joan’s death. I was going to spend 10 days with him, and I though, Oh, my God, he’s going to be so bored with me by the end. Here’s someone who’s known everyone; who’s read

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

everything. How am I going to keep the conversation going?’ But on the plane back, she found herself thinking that she’d made quite a splash: ‘What a lot of books I’ve read. What a lot of funny stories I know. But, of course, it wasn’t me at all. Any time you mentioned a book, he said, “Oh, I must write that down. That sounds wonderful.” And any time you told him a story, he was leaning on the edge of his seat, eyes shining, waiting to hear what happened next. Every time you told him

ARTEMIS COOPER Daughter of historian John Julius Norwich and Anne Frances May Clifford, Artemis was born in London in 1953 and read English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. She married historian Antony Beevor in 1986. Her first book was an edition of the letters of her grandparents, Duff and Diana Cooper. Other books include Cairo in the War, 1939–45 (1989); Watching in the Dark: A Child’s Fight for Life (1993); Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David (1999); and (with Antony Beevor) Paris after the Liberation: 1944–1949 (2007). Her biography of Paddy, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, was published in 2012.

a joke, he’d throw his head back and roar with laughter. There was an incredible responsiveness and generosity. And, let’s face it, he didn’t have to impress me.’ Paddy enjoyed the fame that the abduction gave him, Artemis says, but she thinks that, as time went on, it became a millstone around his neck as perceptions of the event became more nuanced. There was, for example, a version of what happened put about by the Communists that said British agents on Crete weren’t remotely interested in helping the Cretan resistance but in merely supporting British imperial ambitions. ‘All that had to be countered,


and there would be articles in the press, and then Paddy’s old comrades-in-arms would have to say, “This is outrageous. You’ve got to stand up for us and everybody else.” ’ Paddy’s recollection was unequivocal. He later wrote that when they heard about the abduction, the Cretans were as amused as they were exultant and defiant. At the prospect of the Germans burning down their homes, one old man said: ‘They’ll burn them all down one day. And what then? My house was burnt down four times by the Turks; let the Germans burn it down for a fifth! And they killed scores of my family, scores of them, my child. Yet here I am! We’re at war, and war has all these things. You can’t have a wedding feast without meat. Fill up the glasses. . . .’ But in those last days of August ‘44, the German reprisals, under the reinstated Müller, were savage in the extreme. For the massacres he ordered, Müller was tried in Athens in 1946 and executed by firing squad. Artemis says that Paddy’s ambitions in his early years were uncomplicated. ‘He certainly didn’t want a job or anything like that. What he thought he was going

JOAN LEIGH FERMOR Born Joan Elizabeth Eyres Monsell in Dumbleton, her father was Conservative MP for Evesham (1910–1935) and later Viscount Monsell, and the family home was Dumbleton Hall. Educated at St James’s School in Malvern, Joan became a photographer and married John Rayner, features editor of the Daily Express, in 1939. In World War II, she trained in encryption and worked in the British embassies in Madrid, Algiers and Cairo, where she met Paddy just after the Kreipe kidnapping. Her marriage to John Rayner was dissolved in 1947 and she and Paddy married in 1968.

‘THE GREAT TRUDGE’ TRILOGY Paddy’s first travel book came out in 1950, but his main claim to literary fame arrived with the first two parts of his trilogy tracing his youthful journey across the Continent: A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Wood and the Water (1986). The third part, The Broken Road (2014), prepared for publication from Paddy’s manuscripts by Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron, came out after Paddy’s death.

to do for the rest of his life was sort of swan around. I don’t think he had a clue. All he wanted to do was to write. And thank God too he never got a job in the Irish Guards. He would never have made a regimental officer. Dreadful!’ Artemis adds that though he said that if he was going to die, he’d rather do it in the handsome uniform of the Irish Guards, the Intelligence Corps was the best place for him. ‘All that skulduggery was brilliant. And of course it was exactly the right place for his talent for languages.’ At one point, he applied to be parachuted into France, but was rejected, which was, Artemis says, given Paddy’s fondness for having a good time, probably just as well. ‘He would have been dismal. Absolutely awful. Someone as noisy and ebullient as Paddy sticks out a mile. A quiet, self-effacing person who listened intently was what was required.’ But Paddy was offended at being refused. ‘He said to me, “Why was I turned down? My French is really very good.” And I had to say, “Paddy, come off it. I wouldn’t have chosen you in a month of Sundays.” He looked very hurt. And I said, “Think about it.” And he said, “Ah, well, I suppose you’re right.” ’ But he was, Artemis adds, perfect for Crete. ‘All that singing along didn’t matter when you were in a cave in the mountains and you were just keeping up people’s morale. Brilliant.’ Recklessly brilliant. ›



Nick Yarwood, Chair of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Worcestershire tasting panel, talks about sampling the county’s remarkable variety of beer






e are forever reading and hearing that the pub is in decline. And, Nick says, recent figures produced by CAMRA say that we are losing as many as 18 a week. This does sound bad, but not as alarming as the number for two years ago, when it was reported that each week 29 pubs were calling their last last orders. So it’s a decline that at least appears to be slowing down. This is better news for brewers everywhere and for the county’s many producers of beer. Before focusing on Worcestershire’s ales, it might be a good idea to say a few words about CAMRA. Founded in a bar in Ireland in 1971 by a group of gentlemen who were perturbed by the damage that mass production was doing to the traditional pint, it went on to strike a resonant chord for those fed

62 |

up with the carbonated stuff coming out of the taps. The organisation’s success has been something of a cultural and campaigning phenomenon. With over 190,000 members, it is now the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK. Ignoring what they have to say in any conversation about ale therefore seems churlish. There are four Worcestershire branches of CAMRA, Nick says. Three of them are wholly within the county: Redditch and Bromsgrove, Worcester and Wyre Forest. Then there’s the Shakespeare branch, which straddles the border with Warwickshire and covers the Vale of Evesham. ‘Each of these branches has regular monthly members’ meetings. Most branches move them around – you know, a different pub each month.’ CAMRA members like to drink beer and talk


about beer, breweries and cider and, not unreasonably, prefer to do it in a pub. ‘And each of the branches runs an annual beer festival. So Worcester’s, which you’ll have almost certainly heard of, is on the racecourse during August. Redditch and Bromsgrove’s is in June and held at the rugby club on Finstall Road. This year, Wyre Forest’s is going to be in November at the town hall in Kidderminster.’ A major job for the branches is managing the information that they have on the pubs within their area and maintaining the contact between CAMRA and the various licensees and pub managers.

The panel members post their tasting notes online to a special CAMRA website. ‘And from there, my job is to compile representative tasting notes for each beer we’ve done a tasting for. That is then used in various places, including the back of The Good Beer Guide, which contains listings of all the beers and the breweries.’ CAMRA also operates an online version of the guide. Yes, pubs are in decline, but there seems to be no shortage of breweries in the

A SELECTION OF INTRIGUING BEER NAMES BOTTLED: Man in a Hat (Pershore) Oh Betty (Pershore) The Hop Nouvelle (Teme Valley) This (Teme Valley) That (Teme Valley) Wotever Next? (Teme Valley) Cap’n Wills Rum & Raisin Stout (Woodcote Manor) DRAFT: Flower Power (Ambridge) Sticky Dog (Ambridge) Bah Humbug (Bewdley) Red Dubbel Haze (Lakehouse) Dodgy Banker (Malvern Hills) Radar Love (Malvern Hills) Wingding (Sociable Brewing) Butcher’s Beastly Best (Wintrip) Muddy Knees (Worcester)

Image: Sandry Studio

‘CAMRA has a website called WhatPub? that contains nearly 40,000 pubs and clubs from across the whole of the country and anybody can use it to find out where pubs are in any place they might visit. Very useful. The branches have a role in keeping the information up to date.’

Tasting beer and sharing the results is, however, perhaps the most crucial part of CAMRA’s work. Each tasting panel, Nick says, consists of volunteers who have their palates trained by CAMRA to enable them to appreciate the key attributes of each pint and come up with proper tasting notes to describe it. In a tasting session, they will be assessing the aroma, the colour and clarity, the flavour as it’s drunk and the beer’s aftertaste.




county. There are 16 of them, producing 112 different caskconditioned and 23 bottled-conditioned beers. Those that Nick thinks people are most likely to be familiar with are Teme Valley, Bewdley, Pershore and Malvern Hills among others, the last of which, he says, can frequently be spotted in ale houses. All of the above are award winners and pride themselves on their adherence to craft, traditions and guarantees of quality. Teme Valley, for example, emphasises that its hops are grown in Worcestershire and Herefordshire and that its malt and barley are sourced in the UK. There are some others that distribute more locally, Nick says, such as Ambridge (based where else but Inkberrow?) and the Hop Shed in Suckley, one of the few breweries in the UK that is actually situated on a hop farm. And there are some very micro outlets, such as the Wintrip Brew Company, run by Rob Wintrip, who only sells from his pub in Worcester, the Oil Basin, where he does all the brewing round the back. And there are a few other similar brewers in Worcester, such as the Sociable Beer Company, which brews the likes of Splurge, Hootenanny and Blow Out.

64 |

Above: Will Taylor at his Woodcote Manor Brewery near Bromsgrove. Next page top: CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer of Britain held at the BBC Good Food Show in 2018. Nick is second from left. Next page bottom left: Elizabeth Barnett at Pershore Brewery clearing out the mash tun. Next page bottom right: Hop kilns and hops at the Hop Shed brewery.

‘They all operate in different ways,’ Nick says. ‘The smaller scale ones tend to produce small runs of beers all the time. And they produce somewhat – I was going to say more interesting, but they’re intriguing beers. Put it that way.’ He suggests having a look at some of the names of the ales that Woodcote Manor brewery turns out, citing the example of Maharajah’s Reserve. Nick adds that the CAMRA tasting panels serve producers as well as consumers. For example, the tasting session in March at the Red Lion in Evesham was requested by brewer Gerald Harvey, who’d moved his Cannon Royall operation from behind the Fruiterers Arms on Uphampton Lane in Ombersley to the White Rabbit brewery in Honeybourne and wanted some feedback on how the relocation had affected the product.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

‘And of course it’s quite difficult to replicate a beer when it moves from one location to another, because beer’s influenced by all sorts of factors, aside from what the brewer puts in. The thing that can affect a beer quite fundamentally is the water that’s used. That’s a big constituent of brewing. And

drink: ‘It tells you something about the consistency and ingredients of the beer.’ And, Nick adds, it’s important to remember that people eat and drink by sight: the look of the beer is crucial. Added to that, it’s worth remembering that there are regional variations in


▷ rb.camra.org.uk SHAKESPEARE:

▷ shakespeare.camra.org.uk WORCESTER:

▷ worcester.camra.org.uk/ wordpress WYRE FOREST:

▷ www.wyreforest.camra.org.uk

Image: Sean Barnett

Image: Sarah Saleh

The Worcestershire branches produce a quarterly magazine, Pint Taken: ▷ pinttaken.org.uk

when a beer moves from one location to another, it’s going to change a little bit, so [Gerald Harvey’s] interested in what our honest view is of the beers that he’s moved and also the new ones he’s producing at White Rabbit.’ A proper tasting session requires getting three or four tasters together. ‘And I’ll just make it clear – we don’t drink a lot. We might have a third of each beer. It can take 20 minutes to appreciate the subtleties of each one.’ They pay close attention to the head and how it clings to the glass and leaves bubbles down the side as they


taste to be considered: for example, the Midlands and the North prefer a fuller head on a pint and the South, little or none. Regardless of what your preferences may be, given that there’s so much

of the stuff made in the county, there is surely something there to appeal to everyone. Why not form your own impromptu tasting panel and give one or two of them a go? Cheers. ›



HERITAGE Worcestershire’s rich military history is brought to life through The Mercian Regiment Museum located in the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum in Foregate Street. It is dedicated to preserve the history, traditions and achievements of the regiment and to educate current and future generations. Mark Jackson OBE FCMI MA, Chairman of Museum Trustees at The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire), tells us more




display in the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum in Foregate Street was updated in 2001 with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and its offices and archives moved into Dancox House Army Reserve Centre in Pheasant Street, Worcester, in 2012.

The museum grew as the regiment evolved into the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment in 1970 and The Mercian Regiment in 2007 due to amalgamations as a result of cuts in the size of the army. The museum, which reflects these changes, became a registered charity (No 276510) in 1978. Its

Its purpose is to preserve the history, traditions and achievements of the regiment and those who have served, or are serving in it, from 1694 to the present day, and to educate current and future generations. It does this through its superb collection of weapons, uniforms, artefacts, letters, diaries, papers, photographs, archives and a library that tell the military and social history of those who served in the Worcestershire Regiment and its successors over more than 300 years. It provides an in depth insight into life around the world relating to our nation’s history and the regiment’s part in it. Today, it still collects and displays the story of young soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2016, a new display

he 29th Worcestershire Regiment was first raised in 1694, as Colonel Farrington’s Regiment of Foot, and has a long and glorious history serving crown and country. In 1881, as a result of the Childers Reforms, which restructured the infantry regiments of the British Army, the 29th Regiment of Foot and the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment and adopted the 36th’s motto ‘FIRM’. After World War I, a regimental museum was established at Norton Barracks, Worcester, as a memorial in 1923.

66 |

to mark the end of the combat role of The Mercian Regiment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, was officially opened. 2014 marked the end of a 13-year deployment of British troops in Afghanistan during which time the three battalions of The Mercian Regiment, and its antecedents, have been deployed almost continuously. With its display in the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum and its archives in

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

FURTHER INFORMATION The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire), Army Reserve Centre Dancox House, Pheasant Street, Worcester WR1 2EE 01905 721982 museummercian@btconnect.com

▷ worcestershireandmercianregimentmuseum.org/ ▷ www.facebook.com/WorcestershireSoldier The Worcestershire Soldier Gallery can be found on the first floor of Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, Foregate Street, Worcester WR1 1DT. It is open 10.30am–4.30pm, Monday to Saturday. There is no charge for admission.

Regiment Museum (Worcestershire) is no exception. We are very grateful for the support and commitment of all our volunteers. They work across the full spectrum of museum activities, including research, collections care and learning. This year alone, they have catalogued and photographed more than 546 objects and the overall collection now stands at 13,053 items. In addition, their work contributed towards the completion of our retrospective documentation action plan, which led to full-accreditation status being awarded to the museum by Arts Council England in May 2018.

Dancox House, it seeks to present them in a way that entertains, educates and inspires current and future generations from Worcestershire and beyond. The museum is managed by a full-time curator and part-time assistant who are supported by a dedicated team of 20 volunteers, who help with the management of the collection and field research enquiries. Their work was recently recognised when one of their number won the Collections Award at the West Midlands Volunteer Awards in 2018. Volunteers are the lifeblood of most small museums and The Mercian


In its wider community role, the museum has played a leading role in the Heritage Lottery Funded partnership Worcestershire World War 100 and the county’s centenary commemorations. Our recent exhibition, held in the Worcestershire Soldier Gallery was

entitled The Kaiserschlacht: The German Spring Offensive of 1918. It ran from March to July 2018 and was well received, being seen by more than 6,000 visitors. As can be imagined over the last four years of the World War I commemorations, it has been very busy and, as the World War II anniversaries start from 2019, an increase in activity is anticipated. › Previous page: A German Imperial Guard helmet, captured by the Worcesters in 1918. Top: Painting of the meeting of the 2nd Worcestershire with the 1st South Wales Borderers at the Battle of Gheluvelt in 1914. Above: A Sikh jacket captured at the Battle of Ferozeshah, 1845. Middle: A reconstruction of a drummer in 1770. Bottom: Portrait of Lt Colonel Kennedy, who commanded the regiment from 1717–1743.



HERITAGE Scientist and engineer Brian Harper on lamps, doggy doo-doo and going underground




here’s a fan over the hob in Brian Harper’s kitchen, but not an extractor fan. It’s there to blow the rising heat from the cooker back down into the room, making the place as warm as toast in a trice: a simple and effective corrective to one of the many profligate uses of power in the home. As Brian points out, ‘We waste so much energy in houses heating the ceiling.’

With regard to national efforts to save energy, there have been, Brian says, quite a few recent advances in transport and industry, but we have badly neglected the places where we live. ‘We’ve done very, very little in the last five years since the Green Deal collapsed. And that’s got to change. We’ve got

68 |

to be able to refit our houses to make them low energy and also have people’s behaviour with energy in the home change as well.’ Informed by his understanding of atmospheric spectroscopy, the global warming problem has, he says, driven his thinking since 1985. For 13 years, Brian was engaged in military research at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern, including working on thermal imaging and developing night vision for spotting Russian tanks and infantry, but he left RRE in 1980 with the intention of applying his military knowledge in the civilian field. He is, he says, not only an engineer and a scientist but, among other things, an entrepreneur and a salesman.

Regardless of which category of ransomware you think you’ve become a victim of, the first step is to check it is real.

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019




WE’VE DONE THREE YEARS OF SECRET RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ON OPTIMISING OUR OWN GASLIGHTS TO RUN ON BIOGAS, AND EXPLORING EVERYTHING WE COULD ABOUT DOG POO. I’M NOW AN EXPERT. this single source of illumination that his interest in the town’s lamps began. In, he says, about 2010, he was upset to find that most of the time this lamp wasn’t working and that it relied upon a man coming every week to wind its mechanical clock. Something, Brian decided, had to be done. Brought up on a farm in Bromyard, Brian had such an early enthusiasm for science that his dad bought him a shed to use as a laboratory that Brian still has and has gone with him whenever he’s moved house (he never throws anything away). Today, the shed sits on a grassy bank behind his home high up in the Malvern Hills. Brian went to the Worcester Royal Grammar School but was anxious to move on as soon as he could. ‘I wasn’t interested in A-levels. I was already streets ahead of the physics master and was designing electronic circuits in the shed using transistors in 1964 – really early stuff.’ He didn’t, however, go to university. In fact, he sort of skipped it. ‘I was very lucky. I got what was called a student apprenticeship with the Ministry of Defence.’ It was what Brian describes as a brilliant four years’ education, with the focus on science and engineering. From there, he went straight to becoming a scientific officer in the Scientific Civil Service. His passion for innovation and experimentation has never waned. ‘I cannot stop designing. Ideas, concepts just keep flooding out of the brain.’ And the scheme that has gained him the most attention over the last few years began on his doorstep. Look down the lane from Brian’s home, and you’ll see a gas lamp that was there when he first moved in 30 years ago. It was from

70 |

Previous spread: Brian and Julian Salter next to the dog poo biodigester that provides biogas to fuel the gas lamp. Above: A thermal imaging camera housed in a very rugged casing that they developed for NASA in the late 1980s. Next page: The collection of gas lamps and Brian’s old shed, his first laboratory.

So he popped along to the parish council AGM and read their financial report, which showed that 60 to 70 per cent of the budget was being spent on West Malvern’s 26 gas lamps. Brian told them he could see ways that things could be improved. ‘And they instantly grabbed hold of me and stuck me on an inter-council gas lamp committee as the technical representative for West Malvern Parish Council.’ Once coopted, he discovered that the committee had been formed to implement financial cuts and saw this as an opportunity to show how a carbon footprint could be reduced. In the course of two months, a team of fellow volunteers from Transition Malvern Hills formed a gas lamp group known as the Gasketeers. Research took place and equipment was brought in from America and Germany. Then, they outlined a proposal to the councils that could reduce the amount of gas used by the

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

lamps and the cost of their maintenance and refurbishment, as well as make them better and brighter. Instead of the councils then implementing the suggestions, they asked if Brian’s team could do it for them. There was, Brian says, a lot of umming and ahhing, but in the end they said yes. ‘It then turned into a commercial proposition, having to do quotations and contracts, and all the rest of it, with the four councils.’ There are 104 lamps in Malvern, split between the four councils, the biggest portion being with Malvern Wells. As part of the project, all of the lamps were put on a database: the one down from Brian’s house is, he says, WM4 – West Malvern no. 4. ‘It has turned out to be very successful, because we managed to get them all back to working order. Some people thought

consumption shot down, reducing cost and carbon footprint by 60–70 per cent. Then we reduced the maintenance cost from about £500 per year to about £150 – huge savings. The councils recovered the costs of the whole project in about two years. Which is one of the best spend-tosave projects I bet they have ever done.’ Due to their condition, getting all of the lamps fixed took twice as long as expected, but meant that Brian and his co-workers’ knowledge of the field expanded considerably. ‘We found we’d got so much expertise in gaslighting, we ended up starting to make our own. And that’s what it’s moved into. It’s a business now, where we not only refurbish, we also manufacture.’ And then, of course, came the dog poo. About four years ago, they started

work on the idea of making their own gas – ‘you can see we’re fanatical about gas’ – which meant bio digestion (microorganisms turning organic matter into biogas). At the same time, they heard of an attempt in a park in America to use dog poop in a basic biodigester, so with support from the Malvern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty they obtained a sophisticated version from a company on the Herefordshire border. ‘And we’ve done three years of secret research and development on optimising our own gaslights to run on biogas, and exploring everything we could about dog poo. I’m now an expert.’ As he grew up on a farm, Brian’s never been a stranger to what the animals leave behind. ‘I spent the first 12 years of my life up to my neck in mud and muck, so it’s all quite natural. I also had a period through the 1980s designing television systems for inspecting the insides of sewers. I spent quite a few years down sewers. Now, of course, here I am, much later, back in the s***.’ The process has been proven technically, Brian says, and the green machine with the handle outside his house is doing sterling work. ‘We pointed it at the track here and the public have taken to it like a duck to water. And the dog poo problem on this track up the Malvern Hills has disappeared.’ There’s even a bag dispenser, sponsored by a local chain of pet shops, where dog walkers can pick up a bag, use it where necessary, then drop it into the hopper, turn the handle and walk away.

we were putting new ones up. But they weren’t new; they were restored.’ The 10 different styles of lamp go back to the 1870s. ‘We have two lanterns that have a trapdoor in the bottom, so the lamplighter could put his lighted spill up and light the fishtail burner – this is pre gas mantles. We’ve kept all that and with one of them we’ve actually made it so that you can, if you want, light it with a spill.’ Brian and his team solved all the lamps’ previous problems. ‘The gas



Brian stresses that the point of the idea was simply to sort out the dog mess problem. ‘It wasn’t to make biogas. But the point is that if you can show people that dog poop is useful – in that you can make biogas and then make light – then all of a sudden people think it’s got a value and it’s not rubbish to be thrown away. And here, of course, it is of value, because at dusk it lights the surrounding area. And for the people coming off the hill, it’s a light pointing their way down.’ Before a tour of Brian’s lab, we admire the collection of gas lanterns under his



old shed. And among them, there’s a white cylinder that illustrates one of his many other endeavours. When he left military research in 1980, he used his thermal imaging and television expertise to start up a company in his bedroom with two civil engineers. It grew rapidly, and even went global.

Africa, and even landed Brian and his team a Hollywood agent. Then one day, a company based in Bristol bought a couple of cameras and ended up coming back for more. It was an animation outfit called Aardman, for whom Brian supplied the kit they needed for shooting their stopmotion plasticine models in close-up and high definition. The detail you can see in the Wallace and Gromit films is thanks to the sensitivity and top-end broadcasting quality of Brian’s technology. In the late 1990s, Brian decided to change direction and go back to research and development. To do so, he started creating his own laboratory space by digging into the hill under his home. The 2,000 square feet of the lab – ‘the Wunderground’ – are jampacked with activity and projects. Brian describes it as ‘an integrated research and development cum small batch production facility’. There’s a furnace

Image: Brian Harper

The white cylinder is, Brian explains, a thermal imaging camera housed in a very rugged casing that they developed for NASA in the late 1980s. After the Challenger disaster, NASA needed a


Above: Lynn Jones at work. Top right: Brian’s chemistry set from the 1960s. Bottom right: The jam-packed ‘Wunderground’. Next page top: Further into the laboratory, dug into the hill under his home. Next page bottom: Julian at work.

means of detecting invisible hydrogen fires. ‘So I turned up there and did some experiments with our thermal camera and showed them that we could easily detect them.’ Another project involved installing thermal imaging cameras that could withstand the high radiation fields at nuclear reactors. Brian’s cameras have even been used in the movies. Initially intended for security and policing, he developed the world’s smallest selfcontained camera, and it got picked up for use in films like Das Boot and Out of

72 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

nice and cosy. And that’s exactly the light that gaslighting makes. In the city streets, we’ve had to put up with deep orange sodium, which makes everybody look like an alien, and now we’ve got the over blue-rich LED coming in, which makes everything look horrible, cold and stark. And this gas light, at about 2,000 to 3,000 degrees colour temperature, is very much the lighting that people really, really want.’

Brian comments that even though people don’t realise it when they come here, the work they do is right at the cutting edge, and sometimes beyond it; not always, he adds, an easy place to be. And the focus is, of course, on the environment. ‘I really look upon myself now as a green entrepreneur, because everything we’re doing is in that field. It’s all about saving energy.’ A lot of the work they do is connected to the gas lamps, but there are a number of other projects on the go, including one in Bristol (the CHEESE Project – Cold Homes Energy Efficiency Survey Experts) devoted to thermal image surveying houses for heat loss that is, Brian says, really taking off. They have won a national award for their work and are up for another one shortly. Helping to turn Brian’s ideas into reality in the lab is electronic engineer Julian Salter, who has a background in aircraft warning lights and LED airport displays, and can perform all manner of practical tasks. ‘It’s a great boys’ toys place,’ Brian says, though he adds that they are also


assisted by Lynn Jones, the world’s only qualified female gas lamp maintenance technician. ‘She’s been working with me doing the annual servicing of Malvern lanterns in the autumn period. She goes out in all weathers, up and down ladders galore. It’s difficult to see how we could have got through it without her, the amount of time and effort she put in. She was an English teacher when she started, and she’s got another job as well. We attract interesting characters.’ Among the rooms in Brian’s underground complex, there’s the production area for the gas lamps, where work is being done to return a Georgian square in Clifton back to Victorian lighting and supply a village outside Macclesfield with a restored lantern that will, Brian says, last another century. Maybe it’s because of CS Lewis’s Narnia, but there is something very evocative about these objects. But it’s not just the style of their construction that makes them such a satisfying means of lighting the way. ‘Gas lighting is the best kind of lighting. It’s light from a flame, and we are psychologically adapted through our evolution to associate that sort of campfire light with warmth, security, cooking, and finally, of course, the light with which to see by. That’s why everybody wants soft light in houses, because it sets you up so that when you go to bed, you fall off to sleep all

walk away from it, it gets brighter. Clever stuff. Moreover, this one is powered by electricity and you cannot tell the difference. Even cleverer stuff. Brian has installed five of these in Great Malvern as part of the District Council Route To The Hills project. And, as Brian says, the solutions to our environmental problems need to be clever stuff. ‘If you’re going to sort global warming out, it’s very much about technology. It’s not all about hair shirts and denial.’ And if you can combine the tech with tradition and style, then there’s no earthly reason why our future can’t be a bright one. ›




here and a fly press, a drill press, a lathe, a guillotine and a compressor, and they can do their own surface mount soldering and 3D printing. There’s even, among all the paraphernalia, Brian’s chemistry set from the 1960s. He really does throw nothing away.

We go out into the garden again to see a gas lamp in action, with its soft light and gentle hiss and the ticking as it ignites. This, Brian says, is one of their ELGAR range (Eco Light by Gas And Reflection). It’s not only a handsome piece but, as Brian points out, the construction of its reflector system means that as you



74 |


ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019


mild late January morning at La Petite Gare cafe, over the road from Kidderminster station. A cosy corner table only just vacated by a family party who’d been enjoying a slap-up birthday breakfast: oval platters heaped with bacon, bangers and all the trimmings. A cheery email from Jo, Tom Watson’s secretary: sorry, but he’s running a bit late. A ‘no problem’ reply is sent only minutes before the man arrives and, full of apologies, takes his seat. It’s been said innumerable times, but – blimey – Tom Watson’s trim. Well-nigh as trim as a trout. But it’s not been long, especially with the specs and in a jacket and tie, since he looked like Billy Bunter. Does he mind hearing that he used to resemble the Owl of the Remove? No, he doesn’t, he says. And after an assurance that the comparison won’t be repeated, a crucial question is put: how does he feel? ‘I’m good,’ Tom says. ‘I’m very good. I’m loving it. The diet is going well. I’ve not lost weight recently, but I’m still kind of changing shape. I think I’m putting on a bit more muscle and losing fat. I’m about 102 pounds down on where I was. And I’m fitter. I feel like I’ve got more in the tank.’ WORDS: GERALD HEYS PHOTOS: PIPPA SANDERSON


KIDDY BOY Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson talks about kicking the sugar habit, Bewdley civic pride and the rise of the robots WR MAGAZINE WORCESTERSHIRE



102 pounds is over seven stone and not much under the weight of a big bag of coal. Google for some pics of Tom of no more than a handful of months ago and the contrast with the now svelte Member for West Brom East is a jaw-dropper, and has led to compliments from even the most jaundiced of media pundits and inquisitors. But for Tom, a political animal from tip to toe, it’s not enough that only he should see the benefits of a diabetesbusting diet. This, he would argue, matters to everyone.

getting mildly obsessional and buying recipe books and cookbooks from the Victorian era. The Victorian middle classes would have protein and fats for breakfast. They were eating fish, meat, saturated fats and eggs.’ Research shows that a high protein and fat breakfast can be a much more sustaining way to kickstart your day than all that stodge.

‘We live,’ he says, ‘in a sugar economy.’ And kids suffer the most from the surfeit of the stuff with, according to reports, ‘a third of their sugar intake coming from pop and fruit juice.’ To help combat this particular glut, Tom is an active supporter of the Fizz-Free February campaign that Southwark Council began in 2018. ‘Nearly 40 schools in the area I represent have signed up. It’s all about telling kids if you drink a can of coke every day for a month, you’ve eaten the equivalent of a bag of sugar.’ But there’s more: Tom Watson wants a revolution. A breakfast revolution. A turnaround from the cereal-based, refined carbohydrate-heavy start to the day that, he comments, has never served us as well as we fondly imagine. The cereal routine is, he adds, a relatively new social phenomenon. ‘I’ve ended up

Much obliged to Sally Jones, Naomi Veasey and Siobhan Pars at La Petite Gare for bringing the teas and coffees, and for letting us take our pictures. We hope we didn’t disrupt business too much.

Tom is ‘getting a bit obsessional’ with Stanley Baldwin and had with him On England, an anthology of some of his speeches.

Tom’s own breakfast is accompanied by the much-touted bulletproof coffee, which he makes by blending into the drink a dessert- or tablespoonful of butter. Yes, butter. ‘I blend it,’ he stresses. ‘I don’t just put it in. When you blend it, it comes out like milky coffee. It improves my satiety and helps the process of coming off sugar. I thought I was hungry for 30 years, but actually I was a sugar addict. And it got worse. Because when you tip over into diabetes, you cannot stop eating. If a packet of Chocolate Hobnobs were here, I’d end up eating the lot.’ Tom’s experience of diabetes was a typical one, as was his response to it. ‘I was in denial. It was really running away from me. I was losing my attention span in afternoon meetings, nodding off, getting up in the night to go to the loo. My office still put the hard meetings in the morning if they need me to really get something done.’ Putting the sugar talk on hold for a sec, Tom suggests that if he gets boring riding his diabetes hobby horse around, he must be told to give it a rest. He is nevertheless waved on: the issue is a big one and deserves air time and column inches. Besides, the man’s on a roll. Tom cites research data that show that a very high percentage of Type 2 diabetes sufferers ‘can reverse that condition with a process of nutrition and exercise, even though the general view is that it’s irreversible. I’m moderately well informed, but for years I thought I’d got a chronic condition. When I dived into it and read the science and the research myself, I realised there were ways back.’ This discovery was inspired, at least in part, by Michael Mosley’s The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet and its references

76 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

to Roy Taylor’s work at Newcastle University. And Tom’s fired up big time by the prospect of making us all take notice. ‘The reason why I think it’s a mission is that because if there are two million people who could feel as good as I feel now, and get their cognitive functioning back, the productive capacity of the nation could be enhanced.’ Such is the enormity of the problem, Tom argues, that changes needs to be radical not incremental. ‘It’s 10 per cent of the NHS budget. Nearly £10 billion a year. And one in six hospital beds is treating people with Type 2 conditions. We amputate 160 feet and/or toes a week for Type 2 issues.’ Type 2, he adds, relates to other problems, such as metabolic syndrome, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and some researchers are even proposing that some varieties of dementia be classed as Type 3. ‘There are not enough cardiologists in the pipeline to deal with the estimated growth in Type 2. The figure that should leave every health minister sleepless at night is that by 2030, it’s estimated that the bill will be £32 billion, not £10 billion. Politicians are prone to rhetorical devices, but literally there is no way the NHS can cope with this. If we don’t get that figure down, we are going to have people untreated for conditions that could take away their lives. So there’s a crisis out there to be addressed. And I see that as my new mission beyond the one I’ve got as party deputy.’ His persistent but collected demeanour, with the emphasis on facts rather than fancy speechifying, doesn’t come across as preachy. But there are echoes in what Tom says, and how he says it, of Harold Wilson’s axiom that ‘The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.’ This thought takes us back to Tom’s early days in Kidderminster, when Wilson loomed large. ‘We had politics in the family. My mum and dad were Labour Party members. The idea of entering politics as a lifetime vocation was never on the order paper when I was growing up, but – and you


could see this as sad; you could see this as fortuitous – my first general election was actually February 1974. [One of two called that year against a backdrop of the oil crisis, industrial strife, runaway inflation and – surprise, surprise – rows about the Common Market.] I collected polling numbers at Franche School. I remember all the discussions about Harold Wilson and Ted Heath. There’s a

FOR YEARS I THOUGHT I’D GOT A CHRONIC CONDITION. WHEN I DIVED INTO IT AND READ THE SCIENCE AND THE RESEARCH MYSELF, I REALISED THERE WERE WAYS BACK. little bit of cine film of when I’m 6 or 7 folding Labour Party leaflets that I used when I ran for the deputy leadership that infuriated all my opponents.’ Tom has, he says, great memories of Franche Primary, especially Miss Mills, the head teacher. ‘She was like a Girl Guide leader. She’d do loads of outdoor stuff. I remember toasting marshmallows on a fire in Wyre Forest.’ After that, when Tom’s family moved to Hurcott Road, he went to St George’s, then Sladen, where marshmallows were for softies. ‘There were fights in the playground every day – the kids shouting “fight, fight, fight”. It was always Mr Wood and Mr Swan who’d break the fights up. It was classic. I grew up around the Horsefair and St George’s Park. Riding my Raleigh Chopper. Bizarrely, it was a pink one. With five gears. Great memories. Bash Street Kids stuff. Good fun.’

When his mum and dad split up, he moved with Mum to a house on Rosemary Road and started at King Charles I School. ‘I had what I at the time thought was an idyllic adolescence, but I look back now and realise there was a lot going on that I wasn’t really aware of. There’s a brilliant book by Mark Johnson, a Kidderminster lad, called Wasted. Mark is a remarkable human being, and it traces his life story from 7-year-old cider drinker to crack-addicted homeless man in the streets of London in his twenties, to prison, near death, drug rehabilitation and redemption. ‘He now runs a very successful charity supporting prisoners in transition. He became an adviser to Prince Charles and has changed the lives of many people. He courageously came back from what must have been the bleakest adolescence and was a couple of years lower than me in King Charles. His sister was in my year, I played rugby with his brother and I know all of his cousins. There’s a passage in the book where he’s involved in a giant pub fight. Four or five of them went to jail and though he’s changed all their names, I know every one of those characters. This was going on in my idyllic childhood.’

1974 GENERAL ELECTIONS With the country in crisis, PM Ted Heath called an election in February, resulting in a hung parliament and Labour the largest party. Harold Wilson went to the country in October and won, but had a majority of only three. In the 1974 elections, and for the first time since 1945, both Labour and the Conservatives polled under 40 per cent, losing millions of votes, but few seats, to Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals. The following year, Margaret Thatcher ousted Heath as Tory leader and in the referendum promised by Labour’s 1974 manifestoes, the country voted to stay in the European Community, with Labour badly split over the issue.



78 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

He had, he says, a very close-knit group of friends back then that he still knows well. ‘A lot of them are still in Kiddy. The great sadness I’ve had in the last decade is that I’ve not found as much time as I’d like to be able to come back. But Kidderminster is like a leveller. I come back and it’s like I’m okay. My mum and brother and sister-in-law still live here. I’ve got nephews and nieces here. There was a point when I was only coming back for funerals and weddings and birthdays. But I’m back more often now.’ When he was growing up, politics was a different beast, but not always in the most obvious ways. ‘I think people were more class-conscious, so there was more of a sense of working-class or middle-class identity. And if you look at the psephology of it, class identification with political bias has steadily gone down from the 1960s and is very different today. I think in Wyre Forest, though – and every member of every political party in Wyre Forest will condemn me for saying this – it was a more gentle politics in the 1970s.’ This, he admits, was because most of the time everyone knew that the Tories were going to win. ‘There was a sort of Buddha-like equilibrium. There was no point getting too upset if you lost. Though occasionally that was challenged by campaigning Liberals in

MIKE OBORSKI Mike Oborski (1946–2007) held dual Polish and British nationality and, from 1996, was the honorary Polish consul for the West Midlands. A Hereford and Worcester county councillor and Wyre Forest district councillor, he was in the Liberal Party, then the Liberal Democrats, but later went back to the Liberals. He led the Wyre Forest council for two years, was its chairman three times and prominent in the campaign that led to the election of Dr Richard Taylor as Wyre Forest MP in 2001. There is a Mike Oborski Close in Kidderminster, and Fran is still a Lib Dem councillor.


the form of Fran and Mike Oborski. Mike was the greatest community campaigner I’ve ever met in all my time in politics – and I’ve met some brilliant campaigners. He used to beat Labour candidates regularly in Labour wards and Conservative candidates in Conservative wards, because he understood that you had to listen to voters and respond to their concerns. And you had to report back to them and embed yourself in their daily lives. And he did it quite brilliantly.’

I SPEND A LOT MORE TIME WORRYING ABOUT HOW WE TAME MONOPOLISTIC TECH PLATFORMS THAN ABOUT HOW PHONE-HACKING JOURNALISTS ARE BEING BROUGHT TO JUSTICE. Tom left school at a time when industry in the West Midlands was, he says, suffering because of the measures in Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 budget. ‘The effect of it was to take about a third of our manufacturing base away within a very short period of time. Which was a big deal for everyone in the region, but when you’re a 15-year-old facing leaving school a year later, it’s pretty catastrophic. There were still kids who left school at 16 who didn’t get jobs until they were in their twenties at that time. I think people forget that long-term unemployment was a feature of that 1980s climate. There’s a different problem with our economy now.’ What it meant for Tom back then was that ‘like Dick Whittington’, at just turned 17, he moved down to London to look

for work with his mate Greg. Tom was offered the position of trainee library assistant in the Labour Party library at Walworth Road and Greg got a job making sandwiches at Paddington Station. ‘We lost touch with each other, but I bumped into him a couple of years ago in the street in Soho and he’d just sold his digital publishing company for, by the sounds of it, many millions of pounds – I didn’t get the exact details. He was a very happy dot-com millionaire.’ Tom’s intention was to do a year at Walworth Road, then return home for A-levels at Kidderminster College. ‘But I loved working at the Labour Party so much that I didn’t want to go straight back. So I did three or four years there, followed by a brief interlude that ended in a disastrous nascent career as an advertising guru. And then went to Hull University.’ He adds that though he was only very briefly an account executive at a small Chelsea Harbour advertising agency, he learnt a lot from the experience. ‘It got me really interested in how you craft messages and how you capture the essence of things.’ And it stimulated an interest in the theory and practice of advertising, particularly in the work of David Ogilvy, one of the characters who inspired Netflix’s Mad Men. He didn’t know it at the time, Tom says, but this was to inform his understanding of voters’ views and responses once he entered full-time political life. Though he wasn’t, he says, particularly successful at school, Hull gave him an intellectual curiosity. ‘Taught courses were not really my thing. I found myself going to other people’s lectures. There was a great course in the philosophy department on the philosophy of love, which introduced me to Virginia Woolf for the first time. So it was a journey in life that was very, very important to me. And gave me life experiences that set me in good stead for where I am now.’ Getting involved in student politics was a thing he at first resisted, but not for long. In time, he became president of the students’ union at Hull, the chair



One event that had a profound effect on Tom was the death of Labour leader John Smith. ‘I was with John the night before with a couple of other people. . . . Absolutely loved and missed. I almost feel like John Smith is with me a lot of the time. I think about how things would have panned out with him and how he would address situations now.’ John Smith’s death was followed by the election of Tony Blair as leader in 1994, with Tom playing a role in that and in the organisation of the 1997 Labour landslide, which gave him, he says, ‘a deep grounding in the mechanics of elections, as well as how political ideas are formed, and how you hold national conversations around those ideas.’ In 2001, he was selected to stand as MP for West Bromwich East, and won. He found himself in government in 2003 but, despite being considered a Tony Blair loyalist, was one of those who urged Blair to go in 2006 and, as a result, had to tender his own resignation. However, when Gordon Brown became PM, Tom returned to government. But most commentators would probably say that it wasn’t there that he really made his mark. The phone-hacking scandal, and the extent to which Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation allegedly meddled in the policies of governments of all stripes, occupied almost all of Tom’s time for years and became the cause of immense personal anxiety. Much of it now seems like a distant memory, and the issue of the role of the press in society appears to have been, for the moment, put on the back-burner. Tom says he thinks that the days of ‘industrial-scale criminality’ in the news rooms of tabloid newspapers of just over a decade ago are now over. There is still, however, plenty of legal fallout. ‘What’s not particularly in the news is that there are many, many civil cases going on, so you’ve got a whole series of

80 |

Once resembling the Owl of the Remove, Tom Watson has lost more than seven stone in weight.

Image: Chris McAndrew. Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

of the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS) and the Labour Party’s National Development Officer for Youth. ‘That led to a whole series of events in life. It changed my direction, really.’

civil litigants that are settling cases with the Mirror Group. We’re now on the third wave of civil cases against The Sun. In the previous two waves, every case has been settled for extraordinary sums of money – many hundreds of thousands of pounds.’ The phone-hacking business is something that he would, though, like to put behind him. ‘If I’ve even been close to a breakdown, it was at that time. I was in total fear. Fear of utter desolation. I’ve subsequently got to know the guy, but they [News International] hired a covert surveillance specialist, an ex-Met police guy to follow me around, a guy called Derek Webb. Derek, when they closed the News of the World, was very aggrieved, because he says they didn’t honour his contracts properly. And, believe it or not, I got him legal advice from a trade union.’ It’s a puzzle, Tom says, how such weird and ironic things happen. In the world of the media, especially electronic media, things have, of course, moved on. And at breakneck speed. ‘The newspaper groups argue that the economic context has changed. They say the disruptive force of the Internet has weakened their reach and power, and that the threat to pluralism and democracy has come from the monopolistic behaviour of tech platforms. And I think their argument is correct.

‘I spend a lot more time worrying about how we tame monopolistic tech platforms than about how phonehacking journalists are being brought to justice. Now that I’m the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I’m formally responsible for policy that at every other point has been a backbench pursuit. So now I’ve to shape a broader policy for when the next election is, if we win. I’ve called for a regulator for social media platforms. ‘Even Rupert Murdoch understood his obligation to come and answer to Parliament eventually, uncomfortable though it was. But Mark Zuckerberg, in the face of the data breach at Cambridge Analytica, has steadfastly refused to travel to Britain to answer to Parliament. And when I talk to his representatives in the UK, they even suggested to me that it wasn’t his priority to address the British Parliament. And this company makes a billion and a half quid a year in the UK. . . . If we ever end up in government, our policy focus will definitely be on these new threats to pluralism and democracy.’ Tom has always been much preoccupied with the impact of technology on our lives. At a Fabian Society conference earlier in the year, he offered his thoughts on where he thinks things are going in this regard once Brexit is out of the way. ‘What are the issues facing the workforce and communities of the future? The big thing for me is artificial intelligence (AI).’ This makes him think about how things have changed in Kidderminster since the 1980s, when he left for London and there were thousands of people working in the carpet industry. Tom speculates that he’d be surprised if there were as many as 250 today, and they, he thinks, are more likely to be selling carpets rather than making them. ‘That first wave of globalisation definitely floated the economic ship. There was great prosperity for the country as a whole, but certain industrial sectors

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

‘Even the most conservative estimates say that nine million jobs will be replaced by automated systems by 2030. But there are more dystopian predictions than that. The Bank of America, in a report that’s probably about four years old now, predicted that, in a similar time frame, 50 per cent of manufacturing jobs that are currently done by humans will be done by automated systems. If AI and robotic systems are going to have that impact, Britain had better be a leader in those areas.’ Tom emphasises that the changes we can expect are not going to be like they were in the past: for the last 300 years, he says, technological advances have mainly affected jobs done by hand. ‘This next wave will affect jobs that are done by cognitive reasoning. Already Google Deepmind is scanning retinas in a hospital in west London with greater predictive modelling than the very best ophthalmic consultants in the country. There was an estimate that nine out of 10 paralegals will be made redundant, as machine learning systems can draw up contracts and do your conveyancing. ‘There’s even an algorithm for writing sports reports. The so-called middle-class professions that my careers teacher might have told me to get into when I was at King Charles, they’re in jeopardy as well. It’s going to be a very huge culture change for every family in Britain.’ Technological progress can, Tom says, be slowed down a little, but not stopped. However, there are, he adds, jobs that robots simply can’t do: those that require creative reasoning, collaborative working and caring. ‘So what does that mean? It seems to me that we could as a nation decide we want to revere our care workers and recognise the skills of caring that they


have, and give them proper career paths and training and good pay, so care work becomes an aspiration rather that a low-paid job you do to help the family budget. We can do that, but we need to plan for it. And we need to lead it.’ And leadership, and therefore deputy leadership, matters. Tom’s already spoken of his admiration for Harold Wilson and John Smith, and is a big fan of Ernie Bevin, the poor Somerset boy who became a founder and general secretary of what was then the biggest

EVEN THE MOST CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATES SAY THAT NINE MILLION JOBS WILL BE REPLACED BY AUTOMATED SYSTEMS BY 2030. BUT THERE ARE MORE DYSTOPIAN PREDICTIONS THAN THAT. trade union in the world (the TGWU) and, after playing a crucial role in Churchill’s wartime cabinet, Attlee’s Foreign Secretary. But there’s another old politician for whom Tom has been cultivating a liking. And a clue to his identity is under our very noses. On the table between us, by Tom’s headphones (he loves his music, from the John Wilson Orchestra to Led Zep) is a solid-looking old hardback book: an anthology of some of the speeches and contributions of Stanley Baldwin. Tom confesses that he’s ‘getting a bit obsessional’ about Honest Stan. He’s currently reading a speech Baldwin

made when he became rector of Edinburgh University. ‘He talks a lot about trust. He quotes Browning and Byron – all the greats – on the use of language and the meaning of words, and I’m drawing on it. I’m giving a lecture to the Advertising Association next week, where I want to talk about trust in general, and how they have a responsibility to portray the products they sell in an honest way. So there’s going to be a lot of Baldwin in next week’s presentation.’ Tom attended the unveiling of Baldwin’s statue in Bewdley, and reckons that the Bewdley Civic Society was so pleased he went that they asked him to join. So he did, and went along to their Christmas dinner. ‘They are just the most wonderful organisation. They’re in the absolute weave of Bewdley’s community and it’s very sustaining. I’m really proud of what they do. It’s a non-partisan, non-party space where people of all politics can meet, with virtue at the heart of what they do. And it’s fabulous. Bewdley’s obviously very well led and run as a society, a kind of exemplar. I’m hoping to learn from them. There are ways maybe that government can help encourage that kind of civic pride a little bit more.’ Before we finish, and because of his own involvement, it would be remiss not to ask Tom to say something about Holocaust Memorial Day, which comes up the Sunday after our conversation. What are his thoughts? ‘I’m very closely associated with the Holocaust Educational Trust, who breathe life into these services. In an increasingly divided and polarised world, understanding that period of political history and what humanity can do to itself is really important, and Sunday’s a time to reflect. And, of course, in my own party, we’ve been affected by antiSemitism. It’s really important that our political leaders express solidarity at this time. It greatly pains me that the shadow of anti-Semitism has been cast over British politics as it is today.’ ›




were hit and we’ve lost out in our region.’ This, he adds, has had a big effect on manufacturing. ‘But what worries me deeply is the next wave of disruptive force: AI.’ The effect of this, Tom says, is going to make globalisation look like an economic blip.

82 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019




84 |

ISSUE 14 | SPRING 2019

Profile for WR Magazine

WR magazine Spring 2019