Baba Baboon has welcomed award-winning journalist Adam Gratton and PR expert Jamie Summerfield to their editorial team.

Since 2018, Baba Baboon has been reporting and publishing local news from Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme and has fast become the go-to place to find out what’s going on in and around the area.

This latest move will see major developments in the online news service provided by the Newcastle-under-Lyme company with both Adam and Jamie helping to create a multi-media platform dedicated to local news.

Sonya Farrall, Creative Director at Baba Baboon, said: “We have been capturing the positivity in the lives and communities of the people living in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire since 2018 and this is a priority in how we look to deliver local news.

“However, we want to go further to represent the people and region we are proud to call home. More now than ever the need for local media is paramount in representing day to day happenings and shining a positive light on our communities.

“Therefore I am absolutely delighted Adam and Jamie are joining our Baba Media team – I have known both of them for a long time – and I’m looking forward to working with them on this next exciting Baba chapter.”

Adam, who has also recently worked with Staffordshire University to create community podcast series – Keep Talking About – during lockdown, said: “There is a real change happening in the media, which has gained momentum in the past nine months due to the unprecedented times we are living in. It’s apparent that today’s consumers want their media and news to be more transparent, to the point, accessible in all formats and inclusive of the people and communities they live in, and to feel represented and listened to while showing the positive aspects and good being worked toward, and achieved.
“In the face of such difficult and distressing times shifting the focus to the positive can only help to support the people of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and I’m really excited to be part of the Baba Media team – who will be delivering that daily dose of positivity and championing the voice of our local communities.”

Jamie – who founded the award-winning community news site A Little Bit of Stone, which is now run by someone else, and is also a music artist – will be covering the local music scene. He said: “It’s more important than ever that we shout about the good and the positive in the area. Baba Baboon is a positive platform for all that’s happening in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme and I’m looking forward in helping to put the local music scene in the spotlight via Baba Media.
“Music has always been a hugely important part of the Potteries’ and surrounding areas, cultural life, and I’ll be championing the bands, venues, producers and promoters who are creating a thriving, dynamic scene here.”

Sonya added: “We will be working closely with Adam and Jamie and looking to provide access to video, podcasts, blogs, photos with the ability to access that content through multiple channels. We at Baba aim to make sure the positive accomplishments and journeys of where we live are never missed and most importantly represents the voice of the people who live in the region. Our next chapter is just beginning and our media team will be continuing to grow in the coming months.”

The findings of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) quarterly economic survey for quarter three 2020, published late last week, made sobering reading with nearly half of firms reporting a decrease in sales as they endured a sustained squeeze on cash.

The survey of over 6000 firms from across the UK, including a healthy input from Staffordshire businesses, showed conditions for quarter three have remained weak despite much of the economy reopening.

Not surprisingly, business to consumer firms, including hospitality, fared worst in the wake of redundancy threats and a fall in the availability of disposable income.

Whilst Q3 has seen an improvement compared to the unprecedented percentage of firms reporting decreases in domestic and export sales in Q2, most firms continue to report decreases or no change in sales in Q3.

Cash flow, a key indicator of business health, continued to deteriorate for almost half of firms. In Q3, 21 percent of firms reported an improvement in cash flow, 34 percent reported no change and 45 percent reported a deterioration. Alarm bells rang in the micro firms’ sector with 51 percent reporting a deterioration.

The government’s Winter Economy Plan may provide a short-term shot in the arm, but the BCC is pushing ministers to be on standby with further measures, clearly articulated, to assist those businesses most at risk.

You can read the full QES report here:

Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub are offering grants of up to £1000 to help growth in SMEs.

Typical expenditure would include product and design development, specialist consultancy or consultancy costs to build or improve a website.

The £1000 grants must be matched by £667 of a businesses own funding and you need to have been trading for 12 months with 70 percent of your sales derived from business to busines (B2B) activity.

If you are interested in applying contact Angela Halls:

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Harper Street Project to Proceed

Stoke-on-Trent has had a significant boost as funds are secured by regeneration charity, Re-Form Heritage, to transform Harper Street.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has confirmed additional funding for Harper Street: Engagement in Heritage which means this important project can now proceed. This additional funding means that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is investing over £1.5m into the project.

In total, £2.5m will be invested into the transformation of the long-derelict terrace and a programme of activities delivered with the local community. The National Lottery funding sits alongside a recent grant from Historic England for £245,000 and grants and loans from other bodies including Architectural Heritage Fund, Bernard Sunley Foundation, Charles Hayward Foundation, Denise Coates Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Red Industries Landfill Communities Fund, Stoke-on-Trent City Council Community Investment Fund and Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership Growing Places Fund.

Re-Form Heritage specialises in revitalising communities through the regeneration of their historic buildings. Now Re-Form will be able to undertake the restoration and rejuvenation of the eleven former pottery workers’ houses which make up the Harper Street terrace. The project will create a new heritage attraction focusing on the domestic life of the early 20th century pottery worker, alongside workshop and retail space for seven creative businesses. The terrace will also contain a dedicated store for the Middleport Pottery collection and archive, and a public research room to allow people to study items from the archive, many of which will be digitised for the first time. A modern community centre will also be created, offering community activities and support services via Middleport Matters Community Trust and a Changing Places toilet facility will support visitors with additional needs.

The terrace sits directly in front of Middleport Pottery, the Grade II* listed Victorian pottery, and now popular heritage attraction owned and operated by Re-Form Heritage. The Harper Street scheme adds to the visitor appeal of Middleport Pottery, strengthening the tourism offer in Stoke-on-Trent and
celebrating the craftsmanship and artistry of makers both past and present. There is a strong association between the two sites, with the end-terrace previously being home to the Middleport Pottery Lodge Keeper who was responsible for overseeing access to the pottery. The new heritage attraction will present the Lodge Keeper’s House as it might have been in the 1930s and will be formed in collaboration with residents and volunteers to incorporate stories and memories of life in the Potteries.

Clare Wood, Re-Form Heritage Chief Executive said: “This is a great example of what is made possible by players of the National Lottery. We are extremely grateful for the additional funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the other generous supporters of the scheme. It is a point of real pride to be able to repair and restore this terrific piece of Victorian architecture, whilst also supporting 13 new jobs, collaborating with the community and bringing the collections and stories associated with Harper Street to life. With space for new businesses to flourish, the community to come together and facilities to support an enjoyable day out for those with profound and multiple disabilities, the project is a true blend of the historic and the modern and demonstrates the incredible potential of multi-layered, place-based regeneration.”

Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we are proud to be able to support the renovation project of one of the last remaining undeveloped and now derelict Victorian terraces in the Trent & Mersey Canal Conservation Area. Re-Form Heritage will not only enhance the visitor experience at Middleport Pottery, but also safeguard a piece of social history and bolster commercial opportunities, all of which will come together to aid the wider regeneration of the area.”

Vicki Gwynne, Operations Manager at Middleport Matters Community Trust said: “Middleport Matters is thrilled to be part of this fantastic project in partnership with Re-Form. As well as the project celebrating the history of local families who have worked in the pottery, the new community centre will provide a flexible, purpose built, accessible space the whole community can benefit from.”

Staff in Burton and South Derbyshire College’s (BSDC) Sign and Print Academy used laser cut technology to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in local care homes at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Andy Tipper, Teaching and Learning Technician and Bill Moorley, Course Leader for Art and Design/Product Design created PVC and polypropylene face shields using laser cutting machinery, producing up to 90 shields per day.  It took approximately 40 minutes to cut each sheet which produced 10 headbands. They then had to be separated and cleaned before the PVC visors were hole-punched and assembled to the headbands.

The College’s Sign and Print Academy in partnership with Hardy Signs pooled their expertise in design and high specification printing and 3D rapid prototyping equipment. The Academy, which enhances the College’s graphics and creative curriculum, was launched to help fill the skills gap in the sign making and product design sector.

Over 800 face shields were donated to local care homes and charities between May and July to help them limit the spread of Covid-19. While the shields are not surgical visors, they provided much sought after PPE to staff in care homes with limited supplies.

The College has established links with all of the care homes and charities it donated PPE to as they have previously worked with the College to provide work placement and industry placement opportunities for health and social care students. These included, Castle Court Care Home, Oakland Village and Community Care Centre, Far Fillimore Care Home, Charlotte James Care Home and Bladon House School Children’s Home.

Andy Tipper, Teaching and Learning Technician at Burton and South Derbyshire College said: “We were delighted to be able to use our equipment and know-how to produce PPE equipment for care homes when they needed it most. These are unprecedented times with high demand for face shields for all front line health and social care workers. The visors we donated have assisted key workers with the important job of supporting and protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Nicola Yeomans, Registered Care Home Manager at Far Fillimore Care Home said: “We would like to thank the staff at Burton and South Derbyshire College for thinking of us and providing essential protective wear that will help to keep our residents and care team safe.”c

It is now undisputed fact that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is here with infections, hospital cases and deaths all rising steadily.

Thankfully, the doomsday scenario of cases doubling every week, put forward last week by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Valance, is not materialising yet but we know how quickly the situation can change. We are just at the start of the autumn and winter period when respiratory viruses circulate more, and the situation could easily unravel.

The UK, like other countries, is in a much stronger position than we were when we walked blind into the first wave. Better treatments are in place, social distancing has become routine and – despite the problems – there is much more testing available. The odds are certainly stacked in our favour more than they were six months ago.

It is in all our hands now to make sure we do not need to move to full lockdown and inflict more damage on our already fragile economy. Allowing employees the choice to work at home where possible, adhering to social distancing and sticking to a meticulous hygiene regime are easy steps for all businesses to enact to prevent a second national lockdown.

Finance concerns continue to be the number one issue for most firms. With this in mind, we are holding a webinar on Thursday 8 October with three Chamber members who are all experts in their field. The presenters are Rachel Buxton from Thompson Wright Accountants, Jed Eatough from LSGK Accountants and Matt Fludgate from Gatewood Commercial Finance.

Rachel, Jed, and Matt are all members of the Staffordshire Moorlands Chamber local area board and are all committed to sharing best practice and advice to benefit the local economy.

The webinar is a chance for a discussion around finance, funding, accountancy, and tax issues and gives you the opportunity to ask our experts questions online or privately.

Book your place online:

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Frozen fees to help members

The board of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce has given the green light to a freezing of its subscription fees.

Chambers CEO Sara Williams said: “The next few years are going to be incredibly challenging as business absorbs the full effect of the coronavirus pandemic. The board were unanimous in the decision to cap a membership fee increase until 2022 as a small gesture to help mitigate the financial pressure that many businesses face.

“As a business support organisation, we have never been busier than we were during lockdown, supporting businesses from sole traders up to the largest local employers with the challenges that the pandemic presented daily.

“Our services include business mentoring, legal and HR advice, funding and finance and international trade and we back this with a huge programme of webinars, online forums and networking groups.

“We have an amazing range of knowledge and experience through our members, volunteer mentors and staff and this has been our strength in dealing with the pandemic and its effects to date.

“We are all in this together and our aim is to make sure we all get through this together.”

Staffordshire-based specialist shipping company Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd. have successfully beached their unique heavy lift ro/ro barge Terra Marique on Traeth y Graig Ddu (Black Rock Sands beach) Morfa Bychan in North West Wales.

The 80m x 16.5m barge, which is flat bottomed and specifically designed to take the ground, was delivering a 128te electricity transformer loaded in Rotterdam and destined for National Grid’s substation at Trawsfynydd.

The whole beach landing operation took under 12 hours with the Terra Marique manoeuvring onto the beach under her own power at high water, and then as the tide receded the final 200 metres of the 330-metre aluminium trackway was laid. Once all the trackway was laid it was ramp down and the 128te transformer, loaded on to a 10-axle trailer, was then driven carefully off the barge along the trackway and up the beach; with the Terra Marique refloating and departing on the next high tide.

Working for Mammoet UK, who in turn were contracted to Siemens Energy, Robert Wynn & Sons had identified the opportunity of using the beach once it became clear that local stakeholders including National Grid were keen to avoid the disruption that would have been caused through the use of Porthmadog Harbour, the traditional port for access to Trawsfynydd power station and substation. The beach landing was long in the planning with a requirement to obtain a Marine Licence and ecological consents from Natural Resources Wales, along with permissions from beach owners the Crown Estate and Gwynedd Council.

Robert Wynn & Sons General Manager Andy Manners coordinated the beach landing and commented: “While the Terra Marique is purpose built for such operations, and having carried out similar operations in Hampshire and Pembrokeshire in the last 18 months, working in such a sensitive environment there is always detailed planning and collective working required to
successfully carry out such a challenging operation. The beach was left as we found it, and all involved worked tirelessly to ensure the successful delivery of the transformer.