The Castle and Ball, now Marlborough’s premier hotel and restaurant, is back in business, re-opening today (Saturday) after a two-month refurbishment costing close to £1 million.
The historic coaching inn that dates back to 1670 now has additional bedrooms to cope with tourism following the controversial sale of the Ivy House Hotel, on the opposite side of the High Street, to Marlborough College.
“We are clearly committed to Marlborough by the fact that is our most expensive refurbishment to date costing close to £1 million,” Gordon England, regional manager for owners Green King/Old English Inns, told Marlborough News Online.
“We are absolutely delighted to be Marlborough’s premier hotel and we are looking forward to a prosperous and exciting future ahead.”
The Castle and Ball, originally called The Antelope at the time of the Spanish Armada, now has a total of 37 bedrooms, two more than before, both fitted with en suite showers instead of baths.
The original 35, some with four-poster beds, have all been upgraded with new decoration and carpets. Some have been upgraded to a higher standard than before offering superior accommodation to some of the 84 people the hotel can accommodate when fully booked.
Only nine bedrooms are currently available, the rest coming on stream during the rest of March with a double room costing £89 a night with a £10 or £20 additional charge being introduced at peak times. This includes a full English breakfast or alternatives.
“We are treating the Castle and Ball as a research and development project by raising its splendid bedrooms to a higher status,” said Mr England, who controls 14 hotels in five counties.
The new general manager in charge of a team of 30 members of staff is Nigel Forrester, who has been recruited from Whitbread Hotels, the biggest chain in the country.
And chef Adam Barrett and his staff have a new kitchen to prepare meals for those attracted by the hotel’s distinctive and newly gilded sign with gold leaf.
Meat-lovers will be facing the chop at a course on how to cook pork at a Marlborough butchers this month.
And to prove it's no flash in the pan, carnivores are also being offered lessons in cooking lamb, beef, game and offal, and rabbit and chicken.
Cookery coach Androulla Derbyshire from Marlborough-based Culinary Capers and master butcher Andy Ayris of Andrew's Butchers in High Street both have a steak in the new venture.
The two met when food-lover Androulla ordered a “large” turkey to feed an extended family of 20 at Christmas.
She ended up with a whopping 38-pounder, which she had to chop up to fit in her not-unsubstantial Aga. But despite the hassle she reckon it was one of the best turkeys she had ever tasted – and her dinner guests agreed.
Androulla set up Culinary Capers with a mission – to teach people that it is as easy to cook from scratch than to buy and warm up ready meals.
“People don't cook because they lack the confidence or think it takes a long time. Neither is true: cooking is easy once you've mastered a few basic skills, whilst cooking a meal from scratch – using fresh ingredients – is often as quick, or quicker, than blasting a ready meal in a microwave; and it's better for you too.”
And Andrew, who opened the butchers – his third in Wiltshire – 18 weeks ago has a mission of his own: to instil in his customers an appreciation of good quality cuts of meat, and a concern for animal welfare.
“All of our animals come to us in fur coats,” said Andy, “and we use every piece – nothing is wasted.”
“There's far more to an animal than the traditional cuts you find in a supermarket. We're seeing a growing trend for cuts like ox cheek and lamb shanks, from which you can create unusual and delicious dishes.”
“The courses will be looking at the different cuts of meat, and how to get the best results from them – from flash frying to slow cooking.”
Androulla and Andy's pork and lamb courses will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, February 22 and 23. The beef course will be served on Wednesday, March 21, with game and offal the following day. Rabbit and chicken will be on the menu on Wednesday, April 25.
Participants will start at 10am with a lesson on butchery. Cookery lessons will follow, and all the dishes cooked during the session will be served up at 1pm.
Nikki and Bob Holman have spotted a hole in Marlborough’s bread supply and they’re going to fill it – there’s nowhere in the town you can regularly buy artisan bread. So from Thursday, February 16 the Food Gallery will be selling a small range of award-winning artisan bread.
It comes from a very special bakery – the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury. The Brothers series of programmes on Channel 4 ended last Wednesday.
Tom Herbert is the baker and his brother Henry is the chef and butcher. It’s been Tom’s aim to do for bread what Rick Stein had done for fish.
Made overnight by what Bob describes as a “team of skilled and charming bakers”, the bread will be delivered daily from the bakery – arriving as the Food Gallery opens. It’s the bakery that makes the bread for the Food Gallery’s made to measure sandwiches.
Amongst the loaves that’ll be on sale will be:
Fig and walnut which is great with just about any cheese. Pain de campagne - a rustic loaf made over two days - it has a crispy crust and goes well with a piping hot bowl of soup. The organic spelt loaf that's won gold medals at the Taste of the West awards - a real wholemeal loaf. Sherston which is probably, says Bob, the best white bread you'll ever taste. And Harvester a granary style loaf that wins accolades as the Food Gallery’s most popular sandwich bread.
Bob says: “You'll see the display as soon as you come into the coffee shop. Simply make your selection, slip it into a paper bag, and bring it to the counter to pay.” But he warns that customers should try “not to nibble before you get it home to share with your family and friends.”
Being made redundant, or even the fear of losing one's job, can lead to stress, anxiety or depression. But what about the colleagues left behind after a company has made cuts to its workforce?
According to psychotherapist and counsellor Geoff Miles, employees who don't lose their jobs might be as much in need of therapy as those who do.
Geoff and Helen Payne-Kumar, whose company See For Miles Ltd, have just moved into new premises in Marlborough, say workers who remain at their desks after redundancy are likely to feel anxious about their own job security, stressed because they are picking up the workload of their former co-workers, and even guilty that they held on to their jobs while colleagues were shown the door.
“It's called survivor’s guilt,” says Geoff. “And along with stress, it's a very real problem for employers.”
Over nearly 40 years, Geoff has developed counselling techniques which can be delivered to employees in the workplace, or at a neutral off-site venue, helping them to become more productive.
“Employee stress is the cause of more lost working days than any other work-related illness,” he points out. “Years ago you couldn't get signed off for stress. Now GPs have a better understanding of stress, and are signing workers off; sometimes for long periods of time.”
Geoff has also seen an increase in the numbers of people coming to him for counselling – and says the economic conditions and accompanying financial concerns are a huge contributing factor.
“Most of our work involves individuals who need counselling – where they can identify the cause of their problems and need the tools to help them cope – or psychotherapy, where the root causes of the patient's anxiety is unknown, and has to be identified before the patient can begin to tackle the issues.”
Even children are feeling more pressure. One of See For Miles' most popular courses is delivered in classrooms to students about to sit exams.
“It's a very stressful time,” said Helen. “There's a lot of pressure on young people today.”
“We give them the tools to recognise and deal with pressure, and those skills will be carried with the youngsters throughout their school career and the rest of their lives.”
The new See for Miles offices at Old Hughenden Yard in Marlborough offer a quiet contemplative space for groups, couples and individuals. There's even a video conferencing facility where Geoff can talk to patients via the internet – a service one of See For Miles' clients – who lives in Australia - finds particularly useful.
And the next step for the company is to build a network of consultants who can deliver those courses all over the UK.
For more information log on to www.seeformilesltd.co.uk or call 01672 511043.
Ladies fashion chain Dash is closing its flagship store – in Marlborough High Street – because of a wrangle with the landlord over rent.
The store, which has thrown a closing down sale, is due to close on Friday, March 23. Three members of staff, including the manager, have been made redundant while two other members of staff have been relocated to Swindon.
Dash has traded in Marlborough for over 20 years and, before the closure was announced, the High Street shop was its flagship store.
Manager Lisa Foote, who has worked at the store for over 10 years, said: “People used to come here from quite some distance because we stocked the full range of clothing. A couple of customers used to come twice a year from the Isle of Wight.”
“Our customers were very disappointed when dash announced the closure. There are a lot of unhappy ladies in Marlborough at the moment. One has even written a letter to the MP.”
The manager confirmed the decision was related to the high rents charged by landlords for retail properties in Marlborough.
“The company is in profit,” she said. “The issues were with the landlord. They couldn't agree on the rent.”
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce is due to discuss the matter of retail and office rent at its next meeting in mid-February. Committee members will be deciding whether to write to property agents about their concerns.
Devizes MP Claire Perry has told the House of Commons that unemployment in her constituency is “creeping upwards and long-term unemployment is coming down” - and she claimed that apprenticeships were starting up at “an incredibly rapid rate.”
Speaking in an opposition debate on youth unemployment and bank bonuses, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Rachel Reeves told Mrs Perry that youth unemployment in the Devizes constituency had increased by 36 per cent in the year to December 2011.
As both MPs have, at one time or another, been tipped as potential future leaders of their parties, the exchange had an added edge to it.
In fact the numbers claiming job seekers allowance for more than twelve months have come down when compared to December 2010. But between November and December 2011 they showed a slight rise from 8.9 per cent of claimants in the constituency to 9.1 per cent. The number of new apprenticeships for 2010-2011 are provisional and because of changes to the apprentice programme cannot reliably be compared with earlier years.
It may (so far) be an unusually mild winter, but figures on the economy have a very wintry feel. This week’s announcement showing that Britain’s economy shrank in the last three months of 2011, has led to fresh forecasts of more problems ahead for family budgets, shops and jobs.
The unemployment figures for the Devizes constituency are indeed getting worse. Although the total number of those claiming job seekers allowance was ‘only’ 1,081 last month, that was a 20.5 per cent increase on December 2010.
Rachel Reeves had rounded down the percentage of claimants aged twenty-four and under in the Devizes constituency – the actual figure in December 2011 was 36.7 per cent up on the previous year.
Devizes’ position in the league table of constituencies has worsened considerably. In December 2010 it was at 502 out of 533 English constituencies – just 31 places from being the constituency with the least unemployment. With the November figures Devizes had slipped to 483rd place and in the most recent figures – issued this month – it’s 475thplace. A year-on-year drop of twenty-seven places.
The official, headline-grabbing unemployment figures hide the fact that of the 29,120,000 people in employment in Britain, 7,860,000 are in part-time work. And that figure rose over the last quarter by another 75,000. Twenty-seven per cent of those in employment are now part-time workers.
Many of those will, of course, work part-time by choice. But these figures themselves hide some very part-time work indeed.
Recently a case came to light of a young man who signed a “zero hours contract” to work for a high street retailer. This means he has been called in during a week for as little as one four hour shift – earning him £15 before tax. In the official figures he counts as an employed person.
His employer told him that if he looked for other work to increase his weekly earnings, he would be dismissed. And 2012 is the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth.
Marlborough's business community will be celebrating the Queen's diamond jubilee and Olympics with a fund-raising ball at the Town Hall.
The event will be held on Saturday, May 19. Ticket prices have yet to be determined.
The event will raise money for Chamber activities, and an auction will benefit a local charity. A dance band will be hired for the event.
Marlborough's heavily-promoted Late Night Shopping events were under-supported by the town's traders, leading to disappointment for shoppers.
Reporting on the fortunes of Marlborough over the Christmas period to his committee, Chamber of Commerce president Paul Shimell, who owns the Specsavers franchise in High Street, said it was too early to establish Christmas trading figures for the town.
However, the feedback from the shoppers was that not enough traders had kept their doors open on Thursday nights during the run-up to Christmas, despite 30 shops signing up to the initiative.
The news was a particular disappointment for the Chamber of Commerce committee, who had paid hundreds of pounds to advertise the event in the local press and supported the distribution of 5,000 leaflets.
The Late Night Shopping season had also been promoted by a £3,000 Heart Radio advertising campaign – funded by a consortium of shops led by jeweller David Dudley – where listeners were promised the opportunity to Park for Free, Shop 'Til 8 Every Thursday.
“People knew it was happening,” said Mr Shimell. “More shops needed to be open.”
The Late Night Shopping campaign got off to a good start on Thursday, November 24 when the Christmas lights were switched on. Particularly busy was Father Christmas, who opened his grotto at the Town Hall, above the We Love Marlborough Art Market.
Next year's Christmas Lights switch-on will be on Thursday, November 29.
Prime minister David Cameron has announced a new Co-operatives Bill, which will make it easier for people to set up and manage co-operative businesses - like Marlborough News Online.
The announcement was welcomed by Co-operative Futures, the business development consultancy which helps people in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and the West Midlands form their own co-operative enterprises, and supported the Marlborough News Online team in setting up one of the UK's only co-operatively-owned newspapers.
In a speech in London on what Mr Cameron dubbed Popular Capitalism, the prime minister said the the government wanted to encourage different business models, where employees had a greater stake in the success of their companies.
"It is a basic truth that if people have a stake in business, they will support its growth and share in its success," he said.
Mr Cameron said the new bill will consolidate and simplify the current 'outdated' legislation governing co-operatives and mutuals – which he called a "vital branch of popular capitalism," – into a single statute, which will be put before parliament before the next election.
“There are over 12 million co-op members in the UK. That’s more people than there are shareholders in the economy,” said the prime minister.
“But right now there are too many barriers in the way… so today I can announce they will all be brought together and simplified in a new Co-operatives Bill that will be put before parliament.”
Jo White executive director of Co-operative Futures said. “We are delighted to see the coalition government taking this step.”
“Co-operatives are a tried and tested business model which operate across many sectors of the economy and this will be a much needed boost to them.”
“In the UK co-operatives employ over 235,000 people and have a turnover of more than £33 billion a year, and over the last five years we have seen a significant rise in the number of people seeking advice from Co-operative Futures on how to set up a co-operative.”
Last year Co-operative Futures helped a record 17 co-operatives get off the ground in sectors like community energy, care of older people and those with disabilities, and community shops.
For more information about starting or growing a co-operative, visit www.futures.coop or call 0845 456 2506. To find out why the directors of Marlborough News Online decided to adopt the co-operative business model, click on About Us.
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce members are being urged to take part in an online survey, which will guide economic strategy in the county.
The Wiltshire Strategic Economic Partnership (WSEP) Vision is to support the development of the Wiltshire economy.
It organises its work through a family of delivery sub-groups for Wiltshire:
- Invest in Wiltshire Inward investment, business location, planning
- Work Wiltshire Education, skills, jobs, apprenticeships
- Visit Wiltshire Tourism
- Connecting Wiltshire Infrastructure, road, rail, freight and broadband
- Buy Wiltshire Support local business, public tender information, local sources, business events.
Chairman Paul Johnson said: “Understanding the needs of businesses and the issues that affect the local business community are critical if we are to achieve our vision, and businesses can tell us about their needs by completing the survey."
The seven-step survey, which includes questions on topics as diverse as internet access, energy prices, access to business advice, skills and training , and transport and infrastructure can be found at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/businessperce
The issue will be discussed at the Chamber's monthly committee meeting on Wednesday.
The publication of her first book is a dream-come-true for business guru Lynne Copp – literally.
And the book – the idea for which came to the author in a dream – scooped Burbage resident Lynne a national award... even before it was published.
Business self-development guide Dancing ’Round the Handbags' was published last Thursday (January 5) and already comes with plaudits attached – it scooped Lynne the coveted title of Best Unpublished Author (non-fiction) at the Brit Writers' Awards 2011.
Lynne's book was selected from 72,000 entries in the prestigious competition, which was held at London's Madame Tussauds in London last October.
“I was speaking at a conference in Rome, and had to jet back early to attend this fabulous Oscars-style event,” said Lynne, who runs The Worklife Company, providing leadership development training to major corporations including Google, IBM and Hewlett Packard.
“When my husband Kevin and I were placed at a table near the back, I gave up hope of getting a prize. But as the winners were revealed, and authors started making their way to the stage from the tables around me, I realised I was still in with a shot.”
“Evidently, the finalists had been given a long 'walk of fame' for filming purposes, and putting the winners at the back made it easier for Sky TV to grab us for interviews.”
The idea for Dancing ’Round the Handbags came to Lynne - who lives in Burbage, near Marlborough – during a dream back in 1994, while she was working in a management position at Hewlett Packard in Bristol.
“I woke up with a 'wow!' feeling and scribbled 'Dancing Round the Handbags' on a bedside notepad,” said Lynne.
A spooky coincidence then convinced her the book had to be written. “I got into the office that morning and bumped into a lady who held a very senior position within the company. I told her about my book idea, and she asked 'It's not called Dancing ’Round the Handbags, is it?'”
“She told me that the night before she'd had a dream in which she was asked to contribute to a book called Dancing ’Round the Handbags, and that she should do because it would be important to women in business.”
Although the concept was born 18 year ago, it was only in 2009 that Lynne felt she had the right credentials to write the book. “I've come through the school of hard knocks,” she says. “Sixteen years of my life and the work that I have done, provided all the research I needed.”
Dancing ’Round the Handbags is about the challenges thrown at working women – juggling work multiple roles like wife, daughter, friend, colleague, employer or mother.
Dancing ’Round the Handbags is a self-development book, series of workshops and one-to-one coaching aimed at hard-working women. Using the metaphor of the ‘handbag’ and the ‘dance’, it supports women to create clarity about personal direction whilst maintaining balance between work and life.
The handbag is a metaphor for the career woman, and the items inside the handbag represent different aspects of the businesswoman's life: the lipstick is the mask worn to put on a brave face; the mirror is the way women see themselves; the purse is the heart of the bag, representing the woman's right to chose a better job or relationship.
Although a work of non-fiction, the book also contains a fictional thread.
“As women, we are conditioned from a young age by fairytales to expect a handsome prince to come along and makes things better,” says Lynne.
“My fairytale features a businesswoman called Karen who meets a fairy godmother of sorts – her future self.”
“Future Karen represents the best woman Karen can be. As the book progresses, Karen and her future self become more and more alike, until by the final chapter the fairy godmother disappears altogether – Karen has become the woman she wants to be.”
The book promises to remove women from the dance floor of life, where they are dancing to the music of others, open up and explore the handbag that is them, and return them to a new dance floor, where they can dance to their own tune with a de-cluttered, re-packed and renewed handbag.
Dancing ’Round the Handbags is available in paperback or Kindle versions from Amazon, where it peaked at Number 2 in the Assertiveness category of Business Books section. An iBooks version for Apple users is expected through iTunes soon.
Meanwhile Lynne will be signing copies in Bath – not at a bookshop but a classy shoes and handbag shop LK Bennett – on Thursday, February 16.
And having spent 18 years on her first book, Lynne is cracking on with the second.
She has interviewed over 400 women nationally and internationally for a book about 'lipstick leadership', exploring the ways in which women lead and how businesses need to adapt to accommodate the needs of female employees, who now make up 56 percent of graduate entrants, but who are grossly under-represented in the upper echelons of the business world.
For more information log on to www.dancingroundthehandbags.com
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