Wednesday, 19 December 2012

MAKEOVER FOR FISH BROTHERS RENAULT SHOWROOM IN SWINDON




With so many exciting Renault vehicles coming in 2013, the team at Fish Brothers felt that the time was right to invest in ensuring that the showroom looks just as good as the contents.

The dealership on Paddington Drive, Swindon, has invested in an internal transformation to bring it up to the latest corporate standards required by Renault, called Project Air.




The refurbishment includes brand new floor tiles, new separate seating areas for customers and a green and grey colour system to complement Renault’s eco2 signature, which is the label for the brand’s greenest and most economical cars.

The refurbishment at Fish Brothers comes just in time for a series of important model launches in early 2013. Firstly, the all-new Renault Clio goes on sale in January and takes up the baton of Renault’s flagship bestseller which already has clocked up 12 million sales since 1990.


After the Clio, Renault is launching the all-electric ZOE, the most practical and affordable electric car to date.

Alongside these, Renault is introducing the “shockingly affordable” Dacia brand which sees the UK’s best value car, the Sandero supermini go on sale from just £5,995.



Stuart Head, dealer principal at Fish Brothers, said: “We’ve invested in creating a showroom that really complements the exciting models that will grace our dealership in 2013. The New Year is bringing with it some trailblazing products that need to be shown off in the best possible light.

“The new showroom has a comfortable, premium feel to it and will make the customer experience more hi-tech, relaxed and comfortable. We’re very excited about what 2013 has to being and look forward to inviting our loyal customers and new faces down to see us and to have a look round.”





For more details, visit Fish Brothers on Paddington Drive, Swindon ( 01793 645645 ) or click onto www.fish-bros.co.uk



Ends

Dpr20299

Words: 328



1. The Sales Team for Fish Brothers Swindon pictured in the new Renault showroom on Paddington Drive. From left: Jake East-Woods, David Seal, Stuart Head (Dealer Principal) and Jason Derry.

2. The new showroom at Fish Brothers Renault.

3. The new showroom at Fish Brothers Renault.






Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Guardian Travel writing competition

Saturday's Guardian travel section contained the winning entries for their recent travel writing competition

I didn't win (nor didn't expect to!), but thought I'd share my entry here about my experiences on the Saikyo line in Tokyo...



The pictures of white-gloved rail staff pushing commuters onto the packed carriages is a familiar image of Japan, so I am more excited than my fellow passengers at the prospect of being shoved onto the train.

I’m on my way to explore the bustling hub of Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s most thriving centres, on the Saikyo-line train from Ikebukuro.

I’m travelling during the morning to experience the very best of Japanese train travel, but now I’m here with my backpack, I feel slightly guilty at taking up unnecessary space.

Also on the station platform is a group of tiny Japanese schoolgirls dressed as sailors. In the UK, there’s no way they’d be allowed to travel alone, but there’s nothing to fear here.

There are salarymen carrying briefcases, there’s an elderly lady in her kimono and there are impossibly glamorous ladies, flirting with their partners.

As the train pulls in, the doors open and people pour out to the tune of what sounds like a video game jingle. Each station has its own theme tune, so that sleepy commuters snoozing while standing up know where they are.

I somehow end up on the train pushed by the throng, missing the opportunity to be pushed on by JR staff. I appear to be pressed against the opposite doors, and there’s nowhere to put my backpack but held aloft over my head. My left leg is wedged between one of the briefcases I saw earlier and a woman’s hip.

As we reach maximum capacity, my neighbours get closer. I can literally smell the breath of the old lady to my left and assume she had “natto” for breakfast - that’s fermented soy beans, a common way to start the day in Japan.

Just when you think that the next wave of passengers will wait for the following train which is due in less than four minutes, another commuter leaps on theatrically, sometimes backwards so they can prise themselves into the train, using the door for leverage.

The doors repeatedly attempt to close and I pray they don’t accidentally open the ones I’m leaning on. The train sets off with a lurch, and everyone sways in a controlled and gentle way, providing a strange sense of unity at being so close to so many of the city’s office workers at one time. Five minutes later we glide into Shinjuku ready for the next adventure.


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

New Year, new business opportunities, Newbury! The Athena Network in January


The Athena Network kicks off its networking events in January with two sessions for Newbury businesswomen.

The Newbury north event takes place on Wednesday, 9th January at the Donnington Valley Hotel and includes a talk on how to write a press release given by...ahem..me.


The Newbury south event takes place at the Hilton Hotel with a talk from Ginette Higgs of Lynchpin Accounting on tax efficiency. Both events take place from 12-2pm. For more information, contact Debbie Miles on 07891 503225 or debbie.miles@theathenanetwork.com

The Athena Network - Thatcham meeting in January

Thatcham female entrepreneurs are invited to a talk on “business protection” at the first 2013 meeting of The Athena Network at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday, 15th January.

The networking lunch takes place from 12pm to 2pm with a talk from Caroline Matthews of CSM Financial Solutions on issues such as preparing for a crisis and sickness benefit entitlements.

For more information, contact Debbie Miles on 07891 503225 or debbie.miles@theathenanetwork.com

Monday, 10 December 2012

January's speaker for The Athena Network, Hungerford

As well as the opportunity to network with like-minded women, local businesswomen will be offered tips on personal branding at the next meeting of The Athena Network.

Vikki Champion LMPA, LSWPP of Vie Photography will be offering advice and discussing how to refine and make the most of imagery to ensure it truly reflects your business.

The event takes place from 12pm to 2pm at the Bear Hotel on Friday, 11th January. More information is available from Debbie.miles@theathenanetwork.co.uk

ends



The Perfect Image - 10 Top Tips for ensuring your image fits your brand.

Pictures are a key constituent of your branding and need to be a true and unique reflection of you personally, your profession and your business and can make a huge impact on the way you are perceived.

Vikki will discuss all the elements she thinks about when helping business owners to enhance and maximise their opportunities through inclusion of a good business or social networking portrait online.

AKS Renault in Yeovil - investing in workshop staff




AKS Renault is investing in the future of its workshop by paying for its newest member of staff to undertake an apprenticeship scheme for technicians.



Will Mulder, aged 21, from Yeovil, has started a four-year training programme with the dealership on Addlewell Lane meaning that he’ll benefit from classroom-based instruction at one of Renault’s dedicated centres as well as on-the-job training.

Alongside Will, the workshop has also this month welcomed fully-trained technician Tony Warren, aged 24, who has experience with other manfucturers.



Pictured, from left: new technician Tony Warren; AKS MD Anton K Szulc and apprentice Will Mulder.


Anton Szulc, managing director at AKS Renault, said: “The idea of offering someone an apprenticeship may sound a little old-fashioned, but the Renault training programme is a fantastic opportunity for a young technician and offers an NVQ qualification with solid workshop experience.”

“Staff training has always been a priority at AKS and is essential in ensuring that we offer our customers the very highest standards of customer care. While some businesses might cut back on staff training during tough times, we think that it’s more important than ever to invest in apprenticeships during the current economic climate.

“Will is getting on extremely well so far and the apprenticeship has proved to be very beneficial to him and also to the team here in the workshop. The Renault training course is excellent, giving a thorough training in all the skills required to become a technician working with the Renault brand.”

For more information, visit AKS Renault on Addlewell Lane, Yeovil or call 01935 426048.

Ends
Words: 269
Ref: dpr20296






Another award for the Dacia Duster

The Dacia Duster is the "shockingly affordable" SUV that's coming to the UK in early 2013. Priced from just £8,995, it means you can drive an SUV for the price of some of the extras on a more expensive vehicle!

It's won lots of accolades and praise for its practicality with the most recent one coming from the prestigious Top Gear Magazine:


Here's the release:







The Dacia Duster appears on the UK roads in a month’s time, but the hotly-anticipated SUV just keeps winning accolades – the latest one from Top Gear Magazine who say: “No car in the world offers more freedom for your quid than the Dacia Duster.”

The praise comes from writer Sam Philip who named the “shockingly affordable” Duster their chosen “bargain of the year” after putting the SUV through its paces in the dirt tracks of Peru and the winding roads of the Andes.

After a dizzying trip ascending the narrow, dimly lit Peruvian roads, he says: “All those things that make the Duster so good here make it the perfect cheap car for Britain.

“A bit of extra suspension travel isn’t only useful when you’re tackling an Ande – it provides useful compliance on crumbled tarmac too, absorbing divots and ruts. The trade off – in budget cars, at least – is usually a wallowing sailboat approach to corners. But the Duster is slop-free.”

He adds: “I’m pretty sure it nails the ride-handling balance better than cars at many times its price.

“The Duster doesn’t aspire to budget chic or any such daft notion. It’s simply budget and all the better for it; honest, simple, good enough to make you reassess what you actually need, not want, from a new car.”


Lauded for its incredible on the road price from just £8,995, the Dacia Duster can also be driven away for a monthly payment of less than £100.*

The Dacia range offers incredible value for everyone and as well as the Duster, the Dacia Sandero supermini and the Dacia Stepway crossover are also priced extremely competitively. The Sandero starts at just £5,995 and the Stepway is available at just £7,995.
All three models benefit from Renault’s safety know-how and have ABS with Emergency Brake Assist, ASR traction control, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), driver, passenger and front side airbags and ISOFIX points in both outer rear seats.

For more information, visit www.dacia.co.uk, or call 0800 991199. Alternatively, check out twitter @daciauk and www.facebook.com/daciauk.

ENDS



* Using Dacia Dimensions with £3,179 deposit, the Duster is available at £99 per month.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

FORTY YEARS AT HARWOODS RENAULT FOR SERVICE MANAGER JOHN

I love writing stories like these! In this day and age it's rare for someone to be employed continuously for 40 years by the same company, but at Harwoods on the Isle of Wight, there are plenty of long-servers.

And how many press releases mention Russ Conway?



Harwoods staff gathered at the Renault dealership this week to celebrate 40 years to the day since their service manager John Constable started working there.









John, aged 62, started in the motor trade straight from school when he began as an apprentice technician at Standard Triumph in Newport.



He completed his five-year apprenticeship at Osborne Garage in East Cowes where he worked with the Fiat brand.


After qualifying, he started at Harwoods Renault on 3rd December 1972, his 22nd birthday. Rising through the ranks, he became a MOT tester and worked with the latest Renault models of the day such as the Renault 4, Renault 5, Renault 6, Renault 8, Renault 10, Renault 16 and the Renault Fuego.



He said: “It was a very exciting time to join the Renault brand. As now, the model range was at the forefront of technological advancement and they were famous for their daring design.



“After working as an MOT tester, I covered holidays, took bookings and worked in accounts and then became the workshop controller before becoming service manager.


“What’s lovely about working here is that it’s a truly family-run business and you build up a friendly relationship with your colleagues and customers. Unlike some other businesses, you’re a name, not a number here, and you really get to know people; there are many customers who have been with us for all the time I’ve been here. I’d say that’s the magic of working at Harwoods.



“The 40 years has gone by very quickly and sometimes I joke that I’m still here on work experience.”




Alongside the local customers, John’s career at the dealership in Lushington has even seen him deal with celebrities, including renowned pianist Russ Conway, actor Deryck Guyler and even actor Arthur Lowe who popped in to hire a Renault in which to explore the isle of Wight.



Stephen Harwood, chairman at Harwoods, said: “These days it’s becoming increasingly rare to be able to mark the 40th anniversary of a staff member, so all of us at Harwoods are delighted to congratulate John and thank him for his contribution and hard work.



“With a huge amount of Renault experience and a knowledge of other makes and models, John is able to provide exceptional customer service. Here’s to many more happy years for him at Harwoods!”



For more information, visit Harwoods on Lushington Hill or call 01983 885500 for more details. Alternatively visit www.harwoodsgroup.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/ HarwoodsSales





Ends

Ref: DPR20287

Words: 427





1. Harwoods Renault service manager John Constable with the team at the dealership.

2. Harwoods Renault service manager John Constable pictured with Harwoods chairman Stephen Harwood.




The Bridge Consultancy

It's not all cars, cars, cars! I wrote an article for a business magazine about a lovely lady who needed a profile piece written. She is exceptionally talented and had so many strings to her bow that was actually quite difficult to write an easy-to-understand profile on her, but here's what I came up with....





Mary Barker is an experienced coach and mentor who recently returned to Basingstoke to offer counselling and training to private individuals and also companies through her firm The Bridge Consultancy.

With significant experience in the fields of education, change management and “lifelong learning”, Mary’s mission is to help people and businesses develop their potential.

Mary started her working life in commerce at the Bank of England, but left to pursue a teaching career. Success in education led onto becoming a careers adviser where she worked with the Hampshire Careers Service, eventually paving the way for her to start her own business, The Bridge Consultancy in 1992.

The name was chosen to reflect the “bridge” between problems and success, and since it was established, has won multiple awards and accolades including the prestigious Business Excellence Chamber of Commerce Best Small Business Award and employs three full-time members of staff.

Having recently moved back to Basingstoke from the Isle of Wight, Mary’s considerable skills and versatility mean that she can lend an empathetic ear to private individuals who need counselling in the relaxed and informal setting of her town centre home or other mutually agreeable locations. She can also offer a bespoke and confidential solution to workplace conflicts.

With a long list of qualifications and considerable skills, she has experience in helping people with every kind of problem, ranging from post-traumatic stress to suicide awareness and career changes.

The Bridge Consultancy can help with a huge range of employment issues from work-life balance to long-term sickness and dealing with stress. Mary and her colleagues pride themselves on listening without prejudice and complete confidentiality.

She explains: “We provide a flexible menu of services to provide individuals, companies and staff with the support needed for personal, professional and business development, be it face-to-face or even by email, Skype or phone. We listen to what you want to achieve and help you focus on those goals, both short and long term. Feedback from clients after working with us, indicates better well-being, more motivation and employee engagement, higher productivity, improved relationships and the implementation of new ideas.

“Whatever it is that you need, it’s worth contacting us to see if we can help!”
For more information, please contact The Bridge Consultancy at www.thebridgeconsultancy.co.uk
ends

Monday, 3 December 2012

CLIMATE FRIENDLY GROUPS IN BRADFORD ON AVON DELIVER THANKS TO PLATINUM RENAULT

Here's my latest story on electric vehicles- it's about two environmental groups who are speading the word on the Kangoo Van Z.E and have been lent one by Platinum Renault in Trowbridge.








Platinum Renault in Trowbridge is teaming up with two local groups in the run-up to Christmas to prove to the people of Bradford of Avon that electric motoring could be the answer to their poor air quality.

Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon is a local group working towards making Bradford on Avon carbon neutral by 2050. They are working in partnership with Zero Carbon World, a group that works to establish an open network of charging points for electric vehicles.

As the foremost supplier of electric vehicles in the area, Trowbridge-based Platinum Renault was approached and invited to lend the groups a 100% electric Kangoo Van Z.E throughout December.

The van is the first from Renault’s electric range and is becoming a familiar sight on the region’s roads. It will be used by the two charities over the four Christmas shopping weekends and means local residents will be offered the opportunity to have their festive shopping delivered for free on those weekends without producing tailpipe emissions.

Claire Ellis from Platinum Renault, said: “The Kangoo Van Z.E. has the same payload as the traditional Kangoo, yet offers a silent driving experience, combined with the usual comfort and practicality. It’s attracted orders from large companies and local authorities, and is perfect for anyone wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. It could not be more suitable for towns such as Bradford on Avon.”

Shay Parsons, spokeswoman for Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon, said: “We want to show that electric vehicles are available now. Platinum Renault Trowbridge has offered to lend us a Kangoo Van Z.E. for December, and our volunteers will be offering a free shopping delivery service to residents. We hope that if people see the van around town they will realise the benefits, and it will demystify electric driving.

“Bradford on Avon has a history of poor air quality due to traffic. The streets are very narrow and have high-sided buildings, but because we have one of the few river crossings in the area, traffic has to come through town. Traffic noise and pollution consistently attract the highest number of complaints from residents.

“It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to move or reduce the traffic in the short term. But we can help change some of it to electric, zero-emission vehicles. We are a perfect candidate for these. Awareness of electric vehicles is low and we want Bradford on Avon to be an exemplar town for electric vehicle use and we have several projects planned over the next year.”

For more information, visit Platinum Renault in Trowbridge (01225 759525) or click onto www.platinumrenault.co.uk or www.climatefriendlybradfordonavon.co.uk or www.zerocarbonworld.org.

For more information on Christmas in Bradford on Avon in December and the town’s range of activities, which are set to include a Santa Trail, Santa Sundays, Christmas Chalets for independent traders and Santa’s Grotto, visit www.bradfordonavon.co.uk/whatson.



ENDS

Dpr20288

Words: 509



1. Platinum Renault lends a fully-electric Kangoo Van Z.E. to climate change groups. Back L to R Richard Craft (Climate Friendly), Martin Wood (Climate Friendly), Shay Parsons (Climate Friendly), Claire Ellis (Platinum) & Kevin Sharpe (Zero Carbon World).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mark Thomas - Walking the wall interview

I thought I'd put some of my old bits and pieces on my blog and the first port of call has to be the fabulous Mark Thomas. Not only is he a brilliant comedian and a trail-blazing political campaigner, he's also a top bloke and I've been lucky enough to meet him a few times.

I didn't meet him on this occasion, but with many, many thanks for the lovely Catriona being busy, I got to interview Mark on the phone ahead of his visit to Newbury...







Multi award-winning comedian and activist Mark Thomas is back in Newbury this week with a show called ‘Extreme Rambling-Walking the Wall. For Fun’ about the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine.


It’s not the most obvious source of material for a comedy show but despite the subject matter, the audience can always be assured that Mark will find humour where lesser comedians fear to tread, as evidenced by his previous shows and books on the international arms trade, MPs’ expenses, civil liberties and tax havens, all of which have been rendered alarmingly funny.


His new show tells of his 750km walk from where the 8ft high fence starts at Bisan (although he argues that as you can’t buy anything like it in B&Q, it’s not really a fence) down to where it ends, as yet unfinished, at Beit Yatir.


As I speak to Mark on a rare day off during his intensive touring schedule, he’s ‘relaxing’ by preparing for a benefit gig in aid of the Fire Brigades Union.


A hugely popular and recognisable political comedian, Mark’s last visit to Newbury’s Corn Exchange saw a sell-out crowd contribute new laws for consideration for ‘The People’s Manifesto’. Memorably, the winning policy was that people with OCD should be put in charge of cleaning the country’s hospitals.


He remembers the policy and the stack of correspondence from people with OCD that followed and adds: “Newbury is a sweet old place and the Corn Exchange is a great little venue. Arts centres in towns outside London, but within commutable distance of London, can be undervalued by local people, but they’re amazing places with genuinely challenging and interesting performances and are treasure troves for comedians like me.”


Therefore, the venue is perfect for Mark’s performance. “It’s an unusual show. I love doing it and sometimes I look at the early days of my stand up career and wonder how I got here! It’s story-telling really – it’s one foot in stand up and one in theatre.”


In an evening of huge laughs but also sad truths, between which Mark can fluctuate in a heartbeat, (I’m a bully, aren’t I?” he laughs), Mark gives a gripping insight into what life is like for the 250,000 people who live in the West Bank, having met schoolchildren, Israeli soldiers, a diplomat from the British Consulate, farmers, locals and also, rather pleasingly, activists dressed as clowns, on his nine-week journey.


Walking is, he says, the best way to experience a country and its people, adding that despite its reputation as one of the most controversial parts of the world, the landscape is incredibly beautiful.


“I was inspired to do it out of sheer curiosity and also a love of rambling. I guess part of the charm also was that no one else was going to do something like this and that always appeals to me. I love that reaction from people; ‘you did what?!”


“You get to know about a place far more by walking and you really get to see the place. Driving through or being on a tour, you get a resemblance, but this is life lived on the ground.


“There are hundreds of tours here; religious tours, UN tours and so on, but they’re all propaganda really. Walking along the wall gives you independence and a sense of freedom. The scenery is spectacular, you know what it’s like when you live somewhere urban and you see hills as invitations to walk. It’s funny – I said that in Cambridge and then had to describe what hills were like to them....”


Whether you think the wall represents a barrier to protect Israelis from suicide bomb attacks, or that it’s there as a ‘land grab’ to annexe the West Bank; whatever side of the fence you’re on, pardon the pun, it’s Mark’s description of the effect on normal people’s day-to-day life, such as workers who have to wait at the checkpoint at 2am in order to join the queue at 6am before starting their working day at 8am, that are startling.


“The show is driven by people and their stories and I’m lucky that I can share these with people who will pay to hear them. Life is short so I try to inform and give as much information as possible –stories are so important as they change lives and the way we look at things.


“And the things that they live with can be dangerous at times. Sometimes you find yourself sitting with a group of Palestinian activists and think to yourself that you could be facing a weekend in jail. Running away from tear gas was another thing we encountered for the first time, but we were surrounded by people who have learned to cope.”


His nationwide tour goes on until the end of September and there’s a film and book on the way, before the possibility of extending the tour to Europe and even the US.


And what then?


“Some serious sleep!”


Ends
Words: 831


First published in the Newbury Weekly News on 7th April 2011 along with this message with Mark when the gig was cancelled:


To the staff and people who were coming to see the Extreme Rambling show; I am extremely sorry I have had to cancel the show on the 7th at Swindon and 8th at Newbury. I have gone down with a throat infection and currently sound like Barry White with asthma. It is impossible to do the show in the state I am in, so I hope you will be able to bear with me and make it to the rescheduled dates. I know some of you will have baby sitters organised, dates lined up and a whole host of travel arrangements in play and I do know how annoying it is to cancel at this late stage. Sorry. I will make it up by bringing chocolates for everyone on the rescheduled date. Love