A spectacular aerial photograph of Festival Park has been donated to Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce by professional Drone Pilot, Nigel Woodcock.

Nigel, of The Sky Cam North Staffordshire, teamed up with print, design and signage specialists Graphix to cover a large expanse of wall at Commerce House with the 3,975mm x 2,300mm image.

Nigel said: “The photo clearly shows Commerce House and the expanse of Festival Park. It is fascinating to see how the expanse of office and retail buildings have grown on land that once housed Shelton Bar steelworks.

“The area was reclaimed for the National Garden Festival in the 1980s before being regenerated for offices, shops and entertainment. The drone image clearly shows how successful this regeneration has been with buildings now extending into the Etruria Valley following recent developments close to the A500.”

Nigel was originally going to offer a framed print to Staffordshire Chambers but after telling Steve Ward, Managing Director, of Graphix about the photo, the project grew in size.

Steve said: “I suggested we could work with Nigel to come up with something that would have a real impact. The image has been printed on high-spec vinyl wallpaper with a matt finish to reduce reflection and glare. Our design team ensured the artwork was to scale and it was printed in a series of panels. Our signage team then ensured it was installed effectively, placing each panel in place and cutting to size. The overall effect is stunning and Staffordshire Chambers is thrilled with the result.”

Former RAF Regiment Gunner, Gary Peake, received the Mental Health Star individual award at the Thrive Mental Health Commission Awards, organised by West Midlands Combined Authority.

Gary works for  Acacia Training where he trains staff to become ‘mental health first aiders’ – supporting colleagues and customers with issues affecting their mental health or wellbeing.

He also volunteers with the Scouts, youth organisations and homeless charities, including providing support to ex-services men and women affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. This is a subject very close to his heart, as Gary himself was medically discharged from the Armed Forces in 2015, after a 31-year career as a military parachutist and team medic.

He explains: “Part of my recovery has been finding a purpose to help others to overcome depression, anxiety and PTSD and it’s obviously something I feel very passionate about. Working for a supportive employer like Acacia Training has been a big change for me. There is a lot of demand for the courses I am delivering, with major companies like Vodafone and Dufry getting on board to realise the importance of mental health first aid to their employees’ wellbeing and, in turn, their performance.

We trained over 400 people in the last year and received fantastic feedback. I’m learning to embrace all the positive comments I get from people who have done the course and found it life changing. People learn that there are lots of ways that their colleagues or customers could be struggling, and to notice it and provide support with early intervention. Keeping them at work and performing to the best of their ability can also be part of someones recovery. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. This is what we teach mental health first aiders – and we give them tools to have those difficult conversations with co-workers earlier. It is also paramount to break down the stigmatism surrounding mental illness.”

Gary also volunteers in his own time, talking to homeless people on the streets in Stoke on Trent to get them appropriate support. He credits his voluntary work with The Royal British Legion and the Scouts as a major part of his recovery, along with singing in the Invictus Games Choir. He has performed with the choir on Classic FM and at the Royal Albert Hall.

He adds: “I was really pleased to get this award, I hadn’t even realised that they had read my name out as the winner! It was a great night for me and the team at Acacia Training.”

On 10th July 2019, Staffordshire County Council will be hosting the fifth Annual Dignity Awards at Newcastle-under-Lyme College. This is a wonderful opportunity to recognise and reward those who provide care and support with dignity at the heart of everything that they do, and whose actions make a difference and serve as an example to others throughout the region.

The Awards will recognise those who care as a profession, plus informal and young carers, amongst others.  Carers UK suggest that one in eight adults are informal carers (around 6.5 million people), and over one million people care for more than one person. The Department of Education advises that there are almost 166,000 young carers (aged 5-17) in England alone. It is therefore likely that you and your colleagues will know someone who receives care or who may be an informal carer themselves.

In Staffordshire there are approximately 15,500 people working as professional carers; they work diligently to ensure that care is delivered in a dignified manner to citizens across the county 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Our professional social care workforce continues to provide care in sometimes difficult circumstances, in all kinds of weather and across our urban and countryside areas.

This is a self-financing event which relies entirely on business sponsorship. Staffordshire County Council would therefore be extremely grateful if your company would consider sponsoring the Dignity Awards for 2019. This could be one of several things – by providing a prize for the Dignity Award winners, a raffle prize for the day or financial sponsorship to enable the running of the event. The team require funding towards the cost of promoting the event, refreshments and lunch for attendees on the day, trophies, certificates and printing of the programmes. This is very much an opportunity to give something back to those who care for the most vulnerable amongst us.

In return for your kind offer of sponsorship, Staffordshire County Council will ensure your company name and logo are published in the awards programme, and your company details will be carefully placed on display screens during the ceremony. The team would also ensure that you would be referenced in any post-event communications across the region, including local media.

View information about last year’s awards at


Employees at Michelin in Stoke-on-Trent are joining forces to raise funds for their selected 2019 charity partner, the Dougie Mac.

Michelin staff carry out extensive fundraising activities each year and comfortably exceeded the £10,000 target for their 2018 charity partner, the Donna Louise, also based in Stoke-on-Trent.

Now colleagues are gearing up to help the Dougie Mac, with a range of creative ideas being developed to unite fundraising activities across the business.

Donna Adams, Head of Lottery and Fundraising for Dougie Mac, said: “We are delighted that the team at Michelin have selected us as their next charity partner and we look forward to hearing all about the fundraising ventures throughout the coming year.

“It costs over £12million each year to deliver excellent care to over 3,000 people approaching end of life across North Staffordshire.

“We are reliant on the generosity of local people and we are working closely within the business community to build successful partnerships that benefit the business as well as the charity.”

James Alderman, Head of Michelin in the UK, said: “Dougie Mac has cared for people in North Staffordshire for decades, providing exceptional support for people with life-limiting illnesses, their families and their carers.

“Many of our employees have personal experience of the dedication and sensitivity shown by the Dougie Mac team, and this is a chance for all of us at Michelin to help secure funds for a vital cause.

“Michelin employees are already developing fundraising projects, and we know they will have great fun raising a lot of money.”

A partnership between Stoke-on-Trent College and Parogon Group is assisting the company’s ongoing expansion plans, with three new trainee chefs being the first to get on the career ladder following the successful launch of a work experience scheme.

Parogon currently employs around 350 people at popular Staffordshire venues The Wayfarer in Stone, The Orange Tree in Trent Vale, The Swan with Two Necks at Blackbrook, The Seven Stars at Brocton and The Block House in Baldwins Gate, as well as The Boar’s Head in Walgherton, near Nantwich.

Last year, the group announced expansion plans to grow from 350 to 500 staff in 2019 and increase in size by 35%, with the launch of more restaurants in Shropshire and Balterley.

As part of this growth strategy, Parogon has partnered with Stoke-on-Trent College to offer a 12-week work experience programme in order to attract and train the best young talent to become part of their kitchen teams.

The first successful phase has led to three of the college’s level 2 food preparation students securing part-time jobs as trainee chefs with Parogon, which they will carry out alongside their studies.

Jack Wall, 17, from Blythe Bridge, has started a new part-time job as a Commis Chef at Parogon’s Stone venue, The Wayfarer.

Wiktor Pocalun, 18, from Bentilee, and Kyle Johnson-Cooper, 17, from Madeley have both been offered part-time Commis Chef roles at The Orange Tree in Trent Vale.

Katy Chesters, Business Development Associate at Stoke-on-Trent College, comments: “Parogon Group is one of the fastest growing employers in the hospitality sector in Staffordshire, with an outstanding reputation for high quality food and service.

“We are proud to work in partnership with Ben and his team to provide this work experience programme for our catering students, and even prouder that this led directly to commis chef roles at The Wayfarer and The Orange Tree for Jack, Wiktor and Kyle. These are fantastic opportunities which will get their careers off to a great start, combining their new part-time jobs with their catering qualifications at the college.”

She adds: “The Parogon Group is known for high standards. The right team is critically important to the success of the business and that’s why this new partnership helps them attract and retain the next generation of chefs that will be key to their ongoing growth.”

Ben Allison, Operations Support Manager at Parogon Group said: “Our teams put a lot of hard work and dedication into making our business a success and we are able to maintain this by recruiting the right individuals.

“The work placement scheme with Stoke-on-Trent College is a valuable opportunity to provide potential recruits with some insight into the life of a professional chef, the high standards we expect and how it feels to be part of our team.”

He adds: “We are always looking for the right personalities, so small things such as displaying their passion for food with a smile when describing favourite meals and ingredients, led me to offer the new roles to Kyle, Jack and Wiktor.”

For the students, it’s been a very positive experience. Wiktor comments: “I was made to feel very welcome by the staff at The Orange Tree and I really feel part of the family.  I have loved cooking new dishes and trying new foods, and I have even cooked some of the dishes at home for my family.”

Jack says: “My confidence in cooking has grown and I’d recommend this work experience programme to other students. I have enjoyed working in such a busy and fast paced restaurant.

Kyle concludes: “My knowledge of ingredients and cooking methods has expanded, and I really enjoy working at The Orange Tree. It’s been great to take this knowledge back to college and share with classmates.”


ExtraMile Communications has completed a £60,000 expansion into new Staffordshire headquarters, as well as creating four new jobs and launching an office in London’s Monument area.

The Staffordshire agency, which specialises in multilingual website development and search marketing, has relocated from its previous headquarters in Eccleshall to a new 3,000 sq ft office in nearby Stone.

The company’s ongoing expansion follows a 93% increase in turnover in the last three years, thanks to growth in business from existing clients and new contract wins for web and SEO projects.

The company now employs a team of 22 working between the Staffordshire HQ and a new central London office. Recently created roles include a PR manager, sales executive, creative designer and SEO executive.

The team has also unveiled a rebrand and a new website as part of the expansion.

Gabrielle Hadley, Managing Director at ExtraMile Communications, comments: “Our new office enables us to continue to grow. We have plans to increase our staff from 22 to 35 over the next 3 years and of course to take on more national and international clients through our London office, which services our growing client base in the south.

“The team has recently been announced as a finalist in the UK Search Awards based on the results they have achieved for clients over the last 12 to 18 months. We have experienced a high growth in demand for these services, where we have delivered a sizeable return on investment across all client accounts.”

Commenting on the move to the new headquarters, Gabrielle says: “We have been extremely grateful to receive match funding towards the new offices through the Business Growth Programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Birmingham City Council. It is this investment which should help us to continue our growth, continue new digital marketing jobs well into the future.”


Staffordshire and Cheshire hair salon owners will have the chance to attend an inspiring free masterclass and meet and greet event with Lee Stafford at Stoke-on-Trent College’s Cauldon Campus on Monday, 11th February, from 6pm to 8.30pm.

During the evening, Lee will be demonstrating the ‘long graduation’ – a simple and effective technique to layer long hair which he describes as ‘a real winner in the salon’. Lee will also be answering questions about his journey from the launch of his first salon, to creating his popular product range, appearing on TV and opening his education academy.

The event will also showcase the training and support on offer to local salons from the new Lee Stafford Hair Academy at Stoke-on-Trent College, where teaching staff have undertaken training on all the latest cutting, colouring and styling techniques from Lee and his team. Salon owners can also find out about new, fully funded business training workshops available for salons, including GDPR, social media, online marketing and PR.

Lee said: “Hairdressing is a huge industry. Figures from the National Hairdressing Federation show that more than 42,000 businesses employ around 260,000 people in hairdressing, barbering and beauty. What’s more, we contribute an estimated £7.5 billion a year to the UK economy. It’s a competitive industry and its important that training is kept up to date and that new recruits coming into salons have the right skills.” *

He adds: “This event is a celebration of all the great businesses in the area and all the talent that is being developed. It’s a great opportunity for business owners and salon managers to find out more about the expertise on offer at the college. I think employers who come along will be blown away by the standard of the college trainers who are all passionately committed to making sure the students are the most employable stylists and colourists in the area.”

Jo Sale, Team Leader for Hair, Beauty, Hospitality and Catering at Stoke-on-Trent College added: “Our partnership with Lee Stafford brings fantastic opportunities to local hair business owners who want to recruit or train the best staff, or keep up their own CPD. Our students are enjoying learning techniques from a multi-award-winning hairdresser and businessman.

“All students at Stoke on Trent College develop the very best technical skills, make strong professional contacts in the industry and learn from experienced business people in their chosen career.”

Stoke-on-Trent College provides level 2 and level 3 hairdressing qualifications, including apprenticeships. It is also introducing a new range of fully funded training workshops available to help salon owners grow their business.

The event on 11th February is free to attend and is open to any hair salon owners or hairdressing industry professionals. Advanced booking is essential – please call Stoke on Trent College B2B team on 01782 603603 or email by 7th February to book a place.


Mitten Clarke had announced the appointment of James Beardmore as Director, who joined the firm in early February 2019.  James is a lawyer by qualification having worked at Knights Solicitors until 2014 when he moved to Butters John Bee as Director until January 2019.

Mandy Mitten, Managing Director at Mitten Clarke, said: “We know James is a great fit for us, having worked with him for the last eight years.  As a Lawyer and Director of a different professional services firm he will bring new skills to Mitten Clarke and we’re delighted to have him on board. ”

His role will be strategic, initially focusing on systems and technology then leading on the company’s expansion plans with new service lines.

James said: “Mitten Clarke is a business I’ve worked closely with and always held in the highest regard for its forward-thinking approach and positive culture. To now be joining the team is an absolute delight and a hugely exciting opportunity.”


Football officials have won support from a firm of chartered accountants as they kick off a scheme to upgrade facilities at the club.

Newcastle Town FC is NOW backed by Barringtons Chartered Accountants for a fourth year as part of its commitment to football in the community.

Manager Robin van der Laan, who formerly played for Port Vale and Derby County, said: “This year has seen big changes at Newcastle. There’s a new chairman, backroom staff and philosophy of developing talented youngsters from our local area.

“In the summer we re-branded as the Red Industries Stadium after teaming up with a local waste management company. We also had to carry out major pitch improvements after the hot weather left it parched. The grass needed a lot of work but is now greatly improved. Next we will be refurbishing the changing facilities which are original and need to be brought into the 21st century.”

The club, founded as a Sunday League in 1964, is now semi-professional with 28 teams from the FIRST down to under 7’s.

Director, Gavin Appleby, said: “The club costs around a quarter of a million pounds to run every year and without the support of businesses like Barringtons we would not be able to survive in such a difficult economic situation.”

Barringtons, based in Newcastle, supports the club with its payroll and tax returns.

Managing Director, Phil Wood, said: “Football bonds a community and we like to give back to the towns where we have offices and employ from the area.

“As a local man, I’m particularly proud of our association with Newcastle Town. The club has strong roots in the community and encourages youngsters to get out and kick a ball while enjoying friendship and the camaraderie of being part of a team.”

Barringtons, based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, also supports Nantwich Town FC and Market Drayton Town FC.

An emphasis on service standards and customer focus has seen Adept Vehicle Management gain independent ISO 9001 certification.

The North Staffordshire based business fleet specialists have tested their service standards against criteria including relationship management, commitment to continual improvement and leadership.

“ISO is an independent qualification that fits our company ethos of aspiring to continually improve service standards,” said Adept Director Mark Pedley. “We win business based on a reputation for high quality customer service and we wanted to test our standards against the ISO “evaluation. The process was led by our Account Manager Heather Butlin who worked with locally based business standards specialists Eaglet over several weeks.”

Wayne Pearce of Eaglet Business Systems said: “We are delighted to have been able to help Adept in gaining certification to ISO9001 and are delighted to be able to continue to support them going forward with the continued successful management of the standard with ISOAIMS ™.  We know that the further commercial opportunities and the cost and efficiency saving opportunities will enable Adept to flourish and expand in the future and we are proud to be able to support them in that journey”.

Adept have pioneered unique levels of customer service with companies requiring a vehicle fleet. They have developed a system to embed a manager into the client’s team ensuring their specific service needs are met and this is complimented by Adept’s bespoke Fleet Check and Tracker systems which ensures standards of all cars and vans are constantly high and monitors metrics such as safety and fuel efficiency.