Mel sheehy

Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
Melanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as well as a demanding role as an Executive Assistant for Citation Group – all whilst juggling her energetic 9-year-old twin boys.

“…It was really hard dealing with the mum guilt!”

Melanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as well as a demanding role as an Executive Assistant for Citation Group – all whilst juggling her energetic 9-year-old twin boys, Pearse and Beau.Since founding MPAN in 2011, the network has grown tremendously, providing a fun and supportive platform for hundreds of PAs, EAs, VAs and support professionals throughout the Northwest, and through tireless fundraising events, MPAN has raised an incredible £200,000 for The Christie Hospital. Melanie has an unquestionably strong work ethic, and her determination to succeed both in her career and as a mum is nothing short of inspiring. After enduring a long and emotional journey with IVF, to conceive her beloved boys, Mel didn’t find returning to her career easy at all initially as she found herself plagued with mum guilt. But, after making peace with her decision, she now manages the juggle of three job roles, as well as her all important role as Mum. We sat down with Mel at her home during half term and chatted to her to find out how she does it all – we did so amongst the madness of her boys playing with two of our ‘BROOD kids’ who had accompanied us to the shoot, and Mel’s three dogs who also wanted plenty of attention too!

Mel-Sheehy-MCR PA Network
Mel Sheehy Manchester PA
MELANIE SHEEHY IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Let’s start at the beginning, how did your career journey begin? 

“Well, I didn’t go to university, I ended up moving to Greece when I was 18 instead – ‘the university of life’ as I call it. Then after five years of working in Greece I returned home, and I was kind of at a loss as to what I wanted to do. Then I saw that AstraZeneca were looking for temps, so I started with them and ended up staying there for ten years! So that’s how I became a PA. Then after ten years with them, they were looking for people to take voluntary redundancies, and at the time myself and Kev had got married, and I already knew we were not going to be able to have children naturally, so decided to take the redundancy so that I could just take a bit of time out and use the opportunity to focus on IVF as there was no way we were giving up.  It was also a time to work out what I wanted to do. We had already been through treatment a few times before at this point and it hadn’t worked. [She looks at her boys] These two happened on our 8th try! (We went through IVF 8 times in 6 years.) When I left AstraZeneca, I had intended on taking 6 months off, but instead I only ended up taking 4 months, I just needed to do something – I needed to find my purpose.

 

That’s when I started working at the co-op bank, and that’s how I came to meet Amanda (Amanda Hargreaves fellow co-founder of the Manchester PA network). The job I was doing was ok, but I was looking for something more challenging, and it was my line manager at the time that suggested I set up some networking to bring all the PA’s in the co-op together, the majority of them had worked there for over twenty years and some might say in a rut. One of the PAs that worked there suggested I meet Amanda, because she was trying to do something similar within her role. So we met for lunch and  chatting about how we felt there was something missing in Manchester. There was a PA network in London, but not Manchester; so, we thought how hard could it be (little did we know) so we decided to give it a go on our own and that’s how the Manchester PA network was born. To start, the most obvious seemed to hold an event and invite all the PAs we knew between us and go from there.  We approached Hayley Harthern at The Radisson to see if they would host this for us and the rest they say is history. Whilst we were setting up MPAN I decided to leave my job at the co-op bank as I saw an opportunity for maternity cover working as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of LateRooms.com. It was a bit of a risk leaving a permanent position to go and do a temporary role, but it was what I wanted to do and what I had always aspired to do professionally.

Following our first event, we ended up in the Manchester Evening News Business Week – I have no idea how! And I remember sitting at my desk on my first day in my new role at LateRooms and I rang Amanda saying ‘Oh my god, we’re in Business week! It’s real now! We’re really going to have to do this!’ I was so proud of how we had achieved this, just us.  At the time I was still regularly going through rounds of IVF, and thankfully on our 8th  try it worked! So, it wasn’t long after the MPAN was born, that my boys were born too!”

Having Twins must have been both amazing and very tiring! Were you able to take Maternity leave and how did you manage the MPAN after the boys were born?

“Yes, I did. I had originally planned not to go back to work as an EA as we had waited so long to have them but during my Maternity leave, my old boss from LateRooms called me to tell me that he had moved to Wilmslow, with a job a Citation Professional Solutions, and he asked me to come back and work for him. I said no initially, because the boys were only 6 months old, and I knew how demanding the job would be. It had taken us 6 years to have the boys and I think I just really wanted to have that time with them, without having to give any of my focus to a full-time job. So, he proposed that come back in the December (when the boys were a year old.) I discussed it with my husband, and I realised that I did want more, even though we had waited so long for our children I couldn’t just stay at home, I needed for my brain to be active.

During my time off with the boys I never stopped at any point with MPAN though, this was important to me, important to us (Amanda and I).  I remember going to my first event after the boys were born when they were only 5 weeks old and I remember thinking how much I had dropped the ball at that event.  It was a good learning on what life was going to be like as a working mum.  Thankfully the team were understanding and we did agree that we didn’t all need to be at every event. 

The network at this point was growing very quickly so we were working hard in the background organsing the events and making sure we could offer what we said we would as well as achieve our goals of building the best network in the the North West. This wasn’t going to be easy not just because we had so much to achieve but also the guilt started to set in that I couldn’t be as present as I had the boys and then because I wasn’t home.

After I started work at Citation, when the boys were one, I took on the YPO Young Presidents Organisations too, so I have three work roles alongside my role as mum.”

What was the hardest thing about returning to a full-time role once you were a mum?

“It was really hard dealing with the mum guilt. That was the hardest thing. I was constantly thinking ‘what am I missing out on?’ We had a nanny, instead of sending the boys to nursery, because for me that felt like at least they would still be in the home environment and still getting something that I would have offered and when they were poorly there was someone caring for them as I just didn’t know how I would juggle work and sick babies. The nanny would take them out places, but then she was doing things that I would have liked to have done, like taking them to baby clubs, the park and things like that, so that was hard. It was also hard because I thought to myself, maybe I’m just not that good at being at home with them all the time. I felt guilty because we had waited so long, but the more time I spent with them, the less I appreciated it. Returning to work meant that I really cherished the time I did have with them again.  And I remember the first time I had a cup of tea at work and thinking it was so nice to just be able to sit down and drink a hot cup of tea – because I hadn’t had a hot drink in the first year that they were around.

I also found having a male boss or working with people who didn’t have children was hard, as they didn’t really understand what I was going through and what I was feeling; like why I wanted to be at home when they were poorly for example. Don’t get me wrong, work are extremely supportive but you have to be realistic! You can’t take a week off work because you’re children are poorly. So even though I was physically at work, at times I felt I would be a bit absent, as my mind was elsewhere. Sometimes you feel like you’ve got to give that bit more to almost prove yourself, because there are times you can’t make things because you don’t have childcare etc.”

You are obviously a great mum and you’re excelling in your career, which are the areas of your life that you feel you must sacrifice to keep your mum and career ‘balls up in the air’

“I would say my personal life. For example, I have a membership for Hale country club which I keep saying that I’m going to cancel, but then I’m like ‘no I’m in my forties I need to go!’ but I just never make it there. My husband Kev works for himself so we’re lucky that he has the flexibility to do the school pick up so they don’t have to go to after school clubs but when I come in from work he then has to work later to juggle the time he has taken off.  It’s very much teamwork as we both can’t be around all the time.  Your work day finishes and then your mum duties start, I can’t remember what it was like to watch something before 9pm.  I have now gone full time so that really helps as I can do two school pick up’s a week and then I can catch up on work after I get home with them.  I don’t see my friends as much as I would like to, I don’t get to the gym – even though I dislike working out passionately, I still want to have time to go because I need to, to look after myself. I also I miss out on watching them play sports sometimes as they are on so many teams I can’t possibly make it to all their games plus so much more so you do sacrifice a lot as a working mum. And hope they remember that mummy was working and not just absent”

How do you help yourself deal with the rough days that come with being a career parent and how do you cope with the ‘mum guilt’ that comes with it?  

“I think I’ve kind of made peace with it [ the mum guilt] and I’ve almost accepted it now. I would say a flaw in my personality is probably trying to do everything for my family, so even when I’m at home I will put the boys and my husband before me, and it takes a lot for me to go ok I’ve had enough – which I did on Sunday – I was like ‘I’ve had enough you just need to go out and do stuff on your own’ and I think I do need to recognise that sooner. I also think it has got easier as they’ve got older, because they are nine now so at weekends when I’m talking to them, trying to find out what has been going on, what have I missed or wanting to do stuff with them, they will sometimes say, ‘Mummy, I just want to watch my iPad because you don’t let us have it in the week.’” She laughs.

“My precious time with them, and the main thing I always maintain with them is at bedtime; I lie with them and have a chat. It’s my time with them and it’s where I get the most out of them, and it gives me the most joy as a parent when they are talking to me in that way. Sharing their worries and talking about things that have gone on at school. That’s my calm time as well, I suppose because I don’t have much just me time.  I guess that’s mum guilt right there but as I said I’ve made peace with that because we tried so hard to become parents, but I’ve chosen to work and I chose to set up the MPAN, I’ve chosen all of things and if I didn’t want to do it all there is an exit point, but I thrive with being busy.”

Tell us a little bit more about the MPAN. You’ve built an incredible network, and raised an amazing amount of money for Christie’s in the process, haven’t you?

“Yes, we’ve raised over £200,000 now, and a lot of that money was raised in the last couple of years (pre-covid) as we did a LOT of fundraising! We did things like jumping out of planes, abseiling down building, lots and lots of crazy things, but it was a lot of fun. We actually decided to retire the MPAN  just before covid hit as we felt we had reached just under ten years, 800 members and such a huge amount for The Christie, as they say,  leave whilst you’re on a high . Early on in Covid Amanda had a discussion and decided it was time to come back out of retirement, we said do you think we should bring it back; do you think people need it. So, we brought it back and I think we’d had about two or three months off! And we were like we’re back!” She laughs.

“Obviously, we enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we did because we couldn’t let it go. We have had moments where we have thought shall we hand over the baton to someone else, but you can’t, because it’s our baby. It’s everything myself and Amanda wanted, and the awards was one of our goals right from the start, and we reached that goal and held the first awards 4 years after we launched the network. We were originally approached by a recruitment agency to do monthly awards and we said no, we either go big or we go home! This is our goal, and we know we can do this. It was daunting especially when the time came to part ways with the agency, although it was our decision, but we knew we could do this on our own. We’re both quite driven like that, we know what we want, and we do it. It will be so nice to bring the awards back again this year as obviously we lost a couple of years of doing it because of covid.”

How was Covid for you, did you have the juggle of work and home-schooling. 

“I was furloughed for 6 weeks and initially that was quite hard, as no one knew what was going to happen and Kev’s work dried up completely, because he’s a head-hunter, but being the kind of person that I am, I was like no come on we’re going to be alright. So, we tried to just embrace it and see it as a luxury to have time together as a family that we wouldn’t have ordinarily had. We were home schooling and the boys said I was the worst teacher ever, I was too shouty they said – even though after two hours of creative writing with them I thought I had been pretty patient!” She laughs. “But after a while I stopped the home schooling, I just thought it’s not doing anyone any good, because it was so stressful. I thought the boys are going to end up hating me when we could be using the time to have a really nice time together. So, we enjoyed lots of family time. Covid in that way was a blessing. I still had to check in with my team and I held twice weekly zooms with them, and they weren’t in a great place with all the uncertainty over their jobs, and we were doing zoom calls for the MPAN too, as we felt it was important that we kept that network of support going for people. It was tough emotionally at times, because I was trying to reassure others that everything would be ok but really, I didn’t have a clue what would happen, and I was also worried about my job and obviously Kev’s work too.”

What strategy’s do you use to keep your mindset strong and stay positive during challenging times like you’ve just described?

“I love music – that is a big DE stressor for me just getting in the car putting on my music and belting out the tunes! I cannot sing I’m completely tone deaf, but I love it and I love listening to classic dance tunes too. Just belting a bit of Adele can make me feel so much better! She laughs. So that is how I destress, but I don’t overthink, and if I do start to over think I’m very strong minded so I will shut that down – I will tell myself no, you know there is no room for that. I’m also extremely positive most of the time. I always say to the boys there is a solution for everything, so there is no point in getting yourself into a hole, because no matter what we’ll find a solution. We can do that together or you’ll do that yourself, but either way we will find one.”

You have such a strong work ethic, both yourself and your husband, is that something you hope will inspire your boys?

“We do drill into the boys you can’t give up; they want to give up on stuff, but we’ll say no you’ve started it, so you have to finish it. For example, they didn’t like doing piano lessons, but we said, ‘Well finish the term and if you still don’t like it, we’ll consider you stopping it, but you can’t just give up halfway through. Because if they did that throughout life then they will never get anywhere – you would just give up on everything. Both Kev and I are very work focused, but equally we are very fun focused too out of work time, but they do see both of us working hard and I think that’s important. I don’t have any shame saying to the boys no you can’t have that because we can’t afford it. I think they need to know that you need to work to save to afford. That’s how I was raised and that’s important to me. My mum was a stay-at-home mum, but when I was 16, she started working and then she worked solidly until she retired in her early 60’s and it was time for her to retire but she had an amazing work ethic which she passed to me`.”

Do you have any tips for other career parents to get as much balance as possible in your life and remain happy whilst juggling it all?

“For me it’s working out your priorities. My priority is having happy children and showing them what life is and showing them as much as we can. It is saying no to things that aren’t within your priorities and making time for the things that are. Like spending time with the kids so I’m happy to sacrifice my social time, gym if it means that I’m doing something that I want to do with them Secondly, I would just say be present when you are doing something, put your phone away and sometimes that can be hard, but it makes a difference. Memories are in your head as well as your phone. We don’t allow phones or iPads when we’re eating together and things like that. Going back to the saying no thing we have started saying no to social events that we used to go to because we felt like we had to as opposed to us wanting to go to them. So that has created a lot more time for us as a family, That was a decision we made around two months ago and it’s quite liberating.”  

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Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Mel sheehy

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Auntie Cath’s Energy boosting flapjacks

Auntie Cath’s Energy boosting flapjacks

This month’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites – Auntie Cath’s energy-boosting flapjacks. They’re super healthy and kids are going to love making them. They’re fab for lunch boxes, and you can freeze them!

Catherine Tyldesley (or Auntie Cath as she’s often known!) is one of the UKs favourite actresses. Making in her mark in the likes of BBC Ones ‘Lilies’ , sitcom ‘Scarborough’, ITVs ‘View Point’ and Ofcourse- the nations favourite‘Coronation Street’.

Catherine has recently finished filming another drama for ITV and was crowned Winner of All Star Musicals 2021. Cath’s other huge passion in life is Food! After study nutrition on maternity leave with her first child- Caths enthusiasm for food grew. Especially nutritious, budget friendly, tasty family meals. We’re thrilled to bits to have Cath join us and share her knowledge and passion! You’re in for a treat with Auntie Caths recipes!

AUNTIE CATH’S EASY ENERGY BOOSTING FLAPJACKS

Ingredients
3 large bananas
175 g dates chopped
180 g oats
75 g butter melted
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 pinch salt

 

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180c/Gas 4
Mash bananas in a bowl (get your hands in there, it’s strangely satisfying)
Stir in everything else, mix it up and let it stand for 15 minutes
In the meantime, grease an 8″ square baking tray
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top
Take out of the oven, let cool and then enjoy a little piece of damn healthy heaven!

 ____________________________________

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Related Articles

Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

read more

Charlie Condou

CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYCharlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist - not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had...

read more

Charlie Condou

Charlie Condou

CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
Charlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist – not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had an overwhelming desire to start a family and create the kind of upbringing that his own lacked. But as a Gay man in the nineties and early noughties, his dream of having a family seemed almost impossible.

“I was always determined that when I had the opportunity to be a parent, I was going to be a really good one.”

Undeterred by the lack options available to him at the time, Charlie kept the faith that one day he would become a father. Thankfully the universe delivered and Charlie, along with his husband of 17 years, Cameron, and their good friend Catherine, embarked on the journey of parenthood together, collectively creating an enviable co-parenting relationship, that has provided a loving and nurturing home for their two children.

We sat down with Charlie on a lovely sunny day in Hyde Park, London, and chatted through what made his desire to have a family so strong, how he managed to find a way to become a dad against all odds and how having kids has impacted his career decisions over the years. Charlie’s passion for his kids and his aspiration to be the best dad possible is both admirable and endearing, and we were enthralled by his incredibly story…

“I’ve wanted to have kids for as long as I can remember. I came from quite a difficult background; my dad was put in prison when I was about 6 months old, and although my mum did an amazing job she was trying to work three jobs and take care of me and my sister – who was around ten years older than me, so it was tough. I think because of this I was always determined that when I had the opportunity to be a parent, I was going to be a really good one. But then when I was 18 years old, I realised I was Gay, and I knew that having a family was going to be a lot more complicated than I thought. I’m friends with Kathy Burke, and I have been since my early twenties, and I can remember chatting to her about it and saying to her, ‘I’m finding it really hard to let go of the idea that I might be a parent, because this is what I’ve always wanted’. And Kathy in her inimitable fashion turned to me and said, ‘Don’t be a c**t, if you wanna be a parent, then be a parent!’ he laughs, “‘Just find a way to do it! Why would you let that get in your way, if it’s something that you really want, then just find a way of doing it!’ And she’s quite uncompromising in that way, and she’s my son’s godparent for that exact reason, as I wanted him to have a bit of that influence. But even though I knew she was right, I still wasn’t sure how I could make it happen, because you couldn’t adopt then as a gay man – certainly not as a single gay man! Surrogacy wasn’t a thing and even if it had, I didn’t have any money then to have gone down that route nor was co-parenting even a word then. So, I thought ‘what do I do?’ And I think for a lot of gay men from my generation, and Cameron’s – who’s ten years older than me, back then if you were gay man who wanted to be a parent, you either got together with a woman and went down that route – that lie – and lived your life that way, or you parked the idea and accepted it just wasn’t going to happen. But for me it was so important that I knew I was going to have to figure it out somehow, so when those kinds of conversations came up, I started saying ‘when I have kids’ instead of ‘if I have kids’. I suppose I did that to adopt the power of positive thinking, although I didn’t think of it that way at the time. So, I started talking to my female friends about it, and a few of them said, ‘Well if you’ve not met anyone by the time you’re forty, then I’ll have a baby with you!’ And being honest, there were varying degrees of seriousness in these conversations. But then I met Catherine and we became close friends; and as the years went on and she got nearer to forty we started to talk about it a lot, she desperately wanted to be a parent too. Then one day she came to me, and she wasn’t with anyone at the time, and she just didn’t want to wait any longer and miss out on the chance of becoming a mum, so she asked me if I wanted to talk about it properly, about the logistics of it all and how it would work for us. At this point I was with Cameron, and I had been for a few years, so that was obviously something I had to consider because there would be the three of us involved in co-parenting; that’s where the inspiration for my column name in The Guardian came from – The Three of Us. Anyway, we talked about it for a long time, probably for much longer than we needed to, because we talked about every eventuality – ‘What if someone moves to Australia’ he jokes “Or ‘What if we fall out’ for example. We were so cautious, because we wanted to get it right – especially coming from a broken home it was very important to me.

What encouraged you to start your popular column ‘The Three of Us’?

“Well, there were several reasons why I wanted to do it; one of the reasons was to show people that parenting is just as relentless, mundane, and hard work for gay people as it is for straight people too. I wanted to show that apart from a few logistical differences, i.e in how you get pregnant, that overall, it’s pretty similar. When I started the column there was no one talking about being a gay parent, so I wanted to show that we can do it and we’re perfectly capable of being parents too. But I also realised that I wanted to make myself accountable. I thought if I write about this publicly and it’s out there, then I can’t get it wrong, I have to get it right, and I realised that came from my fears from coming from a broken home. My dad wasn’t a bad man, but he wasn’t a good father. He wasn’t present and I was determined to be a good dad. I was determined to be present, so I think I wanted to put it out there and talk about my experience in an honest way, so that it gave a certain amount of extra pressure that I wanted. That doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes, because we all make mistakes, it’s impossible not to, you make different mistakes to your parents, but you make your own mistakes and realise that as you go on. There is no such thing as perfection. You can’t ever get it 100% right, but you can do your best.”

CHARLIE CONDEAU
Liz Taylor IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Do you think the fact that you are so conscious about being a present dad, that it has affected your career choices?

“Yes, that was the reason I left Coronation Street. There were a lot of great things about being at Corrie and it was a hard decision to make. I had been deliberating it for months, because in a sense you’ve got job security – you can potentially be there for a long time; you know when you can take your holidays, and all those things. I was giving that role up with essentially nothing to go into, but my children lived in London, and I didn’t want to be so far away from them. I remember the moment that my son, who was about 2 at the time, broke his leg. I got the phone call and all I could think was ‘I should be there’, but I was in Manchester, and I had to film the next day. That night, I had to go back to my flat alone, when all I wanted to do was be with him and I just realised that I couldn’t do it anymore. Of course, any job can take you away from your kids at times but being in Manchester 5 days a week was really tough. I would come home on Friday evening, and I’d have to go back to Manchester again on a Sunday afternoon. It just wasn’t working, so I don’t regret it at all, but it was still a hard decision to make.”

How do you make it work logistically on a weekly basis, have you managed to find a way to do it that suits you all?

“We’re very close with Catherine and we’re very good friends and the way we do it [and the way we’ve always done it] is, they live between the two houses, we have them Monday and Tuesday, Catherine has them Wednesday and Thursday, and then we alternate the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so it’s great and the most we’re ever away from them is 5 days. It also means we get a break, so I can honestly say I’ve never got that point that I just need a break – because I get a break. I know a lot of my peers get to that point, like a lot of people do when they have kids because it’s full on, so we’re very lucky that it works the way it does. It means that when they are there, we’re engaged, we’re our best selves and we’re not exhausted. The other side of it is that the kids get a break from us too, so they really enjoy coming home to us, just as they equally really enjoy going home to their mum. There are three of us, so we literally do have an extra pair of hands, to pick up the slack! It really does work well.”

After Georgia was born you went on to have Hal, was it always your intention to have one than one child together?

“I always say we had Georgia for ourselves, and we had Hal for her. We had done IVF and we had still had an embryo that was frozen, so we kind of thought well why not, lets ‘chuck it in the oven and see what happens’” We all laugh. “But in all seriousness, I think no matter how well you’re doing, parents can drive you mad at times, particularly as you get older, and I think nobody really understands like a sibling. My sister has just passed away, but we were incredibly close and it’s because we were a unit – after our crazy childhood. Even now I see that between my son and my daughter; only the other day my son was in a mood about something, and he wouldn’t talk to me, and he wouldn’t talk to Cameron, and he wouldn’t discuss it with Catherine, he just wouldn’t get into it. So, Georgia said to me, ‘I’ll talk to him’ and within minutes he was sat on her bed letting it out to her. She said to me afterwards, I’ll always tell you what happens, and I said no don’t, tell me if need to know, otherwise you have your relationship with him because that’s really important and I don’t need to know, you can have your private stuff together away from your parents, it’s how it should be. It just made me feel so grateful and relieved, obviously they bicker at times, but just to know that she’s got his back and that he’ll go to her if he needs support just made me think, if I’ve done nothing else, I’ve given them that.”  

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“- I realised that came from my fears from coming from a broken home.”

Do you think it’s important for children to know that they’re parents aren’t perfect, and to be open with them about that so that they themselves don’t feel the pressure of needing to ‘perfect’?

“Yes, I was talking about this with someone the other day actually, and I’d apologised to the kids after I snapped at them about something, and they were being a bit annoying, but I realised that I didn’t snap at them because of them, I snapped because I felt tired. It wasn’t bad but I just said, ‘I’m really sorry I snapped at you, it wasn’t about you, it was about me’ and I have no issue with saying sorry when I’ve done something wrong. I think it’s important. People often feel like an apology is a sign of weakness, but you should look at it as your owning yourself and your mistakes. It’s also a gift to another person, because if someone apologises to me, and it’s heartfelt and unconditional, then I know I feel good because of that and it’s making your relationship stronger.  So, if I can give that to the kids and teach them that it’s alright to say you’re sorry when you’ve done something wrong, because we all get things wrong. And I don’t want them to think that I’m perfect, because kids can have that perception about their parents, and I think they should know that we all make mistakes.”

 

    

 

How important do think it is to be the best version of yourself, in order to be the best parent?

“I think it’s about making sure you are a solid foundation, because yes, I’ve been through some terrible times in my life, but I have consciously tried to sort my s**t out so that I don’t put that on to them. I had a bit of breakdown after I left Corrie , as I had left for the right reasons but suddenly I had job, no money, and things were tough and I got myself into therapy because I needed to help myself, because it’s very easy to look back and blame the fact that my dad wasn’t around and my mum was working all the time, or whatever it maybe be, but it’s very easy to blame your problems on other people and while that might be the reason for your problems at some point you have to take ownership of that. So, seeing a therapist was brilliant for me and helped me to figure out who I was. I think we take care of our physical selves all the time but so many of us don’t take care of our mental health and wellbeing.”

 

What tips would you give other parents, in particular co-parents?

“I think my advice would be don’t take advice from anyone, find your own way. Everyone thinks that they know the right way how to be a parent, but everyone finds it out for themselves. And from a co-parenting point of view, the most important thing you can do is communicate properly, whether that’s talking about how things will work, logistics, making sure you do it with someone who has the same values and morals, and ideas about bringing up kids.

And also, if something is irritating you, just get it out and just say it. That’s what us three do, don’t get me wrong it’s not easy but then it’s done, and we can deal with it. Because if you don’t speak up, these things just fester and before you know you’re screaming at somebody, about something so small! It’s much better for everyone when you can communicate well, and you move on.” 

CHARLIE CONDEAU CORONATION ST
Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Liz Taylor

Liz Taylor

Liz Taylor © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

The formidable Liz Taylor is a successful CEO, business leader, events guru, speaker, and author, with an incredible career spanning over 35 years.

“- you can never fail at anything you do; you can only learn from it!”

The formidable Liz Taylor is a successful CEO, business leader, events guru, speaker, and author, with an incredible career spanning over 35 years.  As if Liz’s career resume isn’t impressive enough, once you hear how she built her empire whilst raising two daughters as a single mum, her business journey becomes even more inspiring. Through sheer determination, hard work and making the most of every opportunity, Liz has managed to build a widely respected multi-million-pound company, invest in an impressive property portfolio and educate her two daughters privately and through university. We were lucky enough to sit down with Liz and listen to her share her story with us. It’s hard not to feel inspired and motivated after listening to this powerhouse of a single mother.

At the beginning of the interview we explain to Liz that as working parents we want to know how did she do it?!’ She begins by sharing how that is the very question her own daughters have recently asked her, now that they too are experiencing life as a working mum…

“It’s really interesting because my eldest daughter, who’s almost 38 now, has just started working for me and she did her first event this weekend. It was down in London, and I was staying with her on the Friday night. I babysat and I let her run the event. And when she came home at around midnight, she said to me ‘Mum, I don’t know how you ever did it?!’ And I think that was the realisation, she’s got two children herself now, she’s a working mum and she’s juggling all the balls, just like I did. The difference is that she has a husband, and I didn’t.”

 

So, take us back to the start of your career and life as a young mother. How did you end up stepping into the world of events and running a business, and how did you manage that alongside being a mother?

“Goldie was born in 1984 and Katie followed fourteen months later in 1986. I divorced when they were just 2 and 4 and left with nothing other than a deposit for a home.  

Financial circumstances were challenging and having come from a retail background I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I knew that I had to work.

When Katie was born I had just started to tiptoe into the business of events, as a friend of mine was holding a bar mitzvah and she asked me to help her. Whilst I was helping her, she said, ‘Why don’t you do this for a living? You’re so organised’. At that time there were no event organisers in the Northwest and just a couple of competitors in the South. . Marks and Spencer’s had given me the grounding I needed for events, it was a fantastic education from an organisational perspective, and so after organising this bar mitzvah and I saw an opportunity. I followed my gut which has been my mantra since I started.  My first stop was the Midland Hotel, which had been bought out by the Holiday INN . I had come up with a scheme for a friend of mine who had a fashion business and I cold called the hotel to see if they were interested in it. During the course of conversation the sales director said that they wanted to do a Hollywood night to relaunch the hotel. That was it – someone had opened a door and I jumped right in  I put the launch event together, Ainsley Harriet’s dad was a pianist at a place called Bavadage in Manchester – a cross between Louis Armstrong and Sam Cooke and I persuaded him to perform at the event. I filled the pool with balloons, hired Hollywood lookalike and needless to say it was a massive success. As a result, they gave me two more projects and Liz Taylor Associates was formed. Decision made I was of the view that my USP was me. I loved sales, and I understood early on that these hotels would, initially, be my main source of income. Some months later Granada Studios was being developed as an amusement park and venue. With luck on my side I  meet two guys – Paul Danson and Cameron Milne – who were designing it.  They introduced me to the new sales team and as a result I became their  preferred supplier .So, if a company went in to do a motivational event or a gala dinner they were referred to me  for all the services and that was how I knew how to  grow  the business.”

Liz Taylor
Liz Taylor IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

How did you manage the juggle of starting a new career and business with two young children? That must have been really tough at times?

The children were at private school which was funded by an inheritance they had. Circumstances were such that unbeknown to me that fund was no longer available, but I was determined that they would be my priority and fought tooth and nail to keep them in school. So, I employed a young woman from Scotland, who lived with me for ten years as a nanny and for the first five years of paying her wages I was literally still building the business, so it was very ‘hand-to-mouth’. But I just went for it – I worked all hours. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon I used to be distraught because I knew they were coming home from school, and I wasn’t there to meet them. At weekends I used to go out to work too, I worked Saturday nights and Sunday Nights and then my mum would step in, or the nanny would step in, so it was tough. But in retrospect, when I look back, they’ve got an amazing work ethic. They were covering chairs for me as soon as they could hit their teens. !  Then when they were around 14 years old, I sent them to work in a coffee shop in Hale as a Saturday job, because the work ethic to me was massively important. The girls witnessed me working hard, but we were living in a very, very affluent area and the Jewish community is a small community. Ours was always the smallest house, and I was the only working mother, but I always used to say to my girls ‘a big house is not always a happy house’ and that was always reflected in our relationship borne out of love and respect.  Even now I know the relationship that I have with them is much closer and much more special than it would have been had they been brought up in what I would call a ‘normal’ home. I was confident and determined, and every opportunity that had I used. Every spare penny and any time I took dividends I would buy a house. I started with a little terraced house, and I’ve got 14 of them now. I’ve just been very focused. It’s been a rollercoaster on occasion, but I was determined to set an example to both the girls and me.

So, to any working mother I just think ultimately you come out a much better, a stronger person, if you prioritise – and when I say prioritise, I mean you’ve got to prioritise yourself as well. As long as the children are loved and cared for and looked after, you don’t have to be there 24/7. To me 10 minutes reading with a child is worth more than 5 hours at the supermarket or doing other errands with them. It’s the quality time that matters. I was at every parent evening, I was at every school play, and I would tear myself in 10 to be there. I remember I did my first Asian wedding in Newcastle for 1700 people 35 years ago – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! It was a massive, massive event and I remember driving back at three o’clock in the morning, because I wanted them to wake up with me at home. Those are things that you do as a working mum.”

“…You can put me anywhere, I’ve sat next to Prince Andrew at Buckingham palace; I’ve had dinner with Prince Charles, all of them and I’ve never felt intimidated, and I think that has been my biggest strength.””

Did you have any set rituals and times where you would ‘switch off’ and just spend time as family?

“Yes, as my kids were always my priority. I’m not religious but Friday night the sabbath dinner was always something that was very important to me, so my kids were never allowed out on a Friday night. It’s like Sunday dinner, you sit round the table, you talk about the week and sometimes I used to entertain friends, or we’d get asked out, but I was always very, very hands on, and my girls were always with me on a Friday night. They were the things that provided the stability in our home. So as crazy as my schedule would get, I would always have that Friday night with them and unless it was an extremely big deal, I wouldn’t work on a Friday night. Now both my girls are working parents they do the same, they light the candles on the Friday night, they have the chicken soup and the chicken dinner and that for me is the glue.”

 

Aside from being determined to make it for your girls, what do you think is behind your unbelievable focus and drive?   

“Well, I’ve always had the fire in my belly. I was privately educated. My parents separated when I was 17.. I always wanted to do Law – my father was a judge, but that all changed when he left because I went off the rails. I left school flunking my A levels  and I joined M&S as a management trainee, I had always had a Saturday job and I loved selling. I was a hustler!  I always wanted to work, I always had that work ethic independence was and still is key.  What I especially I loved about the events business was that you could use your imagination and take these events beyond their [the clients] wildest dreams. I love the creativity. The magic and the madness.

 You can put me anywhere, I’ve sat next to Prince Andrew at Buckingham palace; I’ve had dinner with Prince Charles, all of them and I’ve never felt intimidated, and I think that has been my biggest strength.”

 

Looking back is there anything that you would change if you could?

“No, I wouldn’t change anything, because I think that you can never fail at anything you do; you can only learn from it. If  it doesn’t quite work out or it’s not what you want it to be, it’s a learning curve. I think the fact that I was single made me much stronger and more successful, because how could I not be? I think the only thing I would change is that I wouldn’t worry as much, because everything will be ok, it’s never not going to work out right in the end.”

 

What advice would you give to any career parent that struggling to juggle everything?

“I think the advice that I would give to anybody who is juggling all balls, when you can’t see the wood for the trees, is trust your gut instinct – always trust your gut instinct. You might make mistakes, but you won’t fail. Following my gut instinct has always done me well.

And I think the biggest part of the struggle is the guilt – you only struggle if you feel guilty. But you can’t feel guilty, you’ve got to just get on with it.”

 

Do you think the pressures we feel and the judgements we worry about as working parents, come from society or from within ourselves?

“Yes, I think the pressure comes from within, we live in an age where particularly with all the magazines and reality programmes and social media, we are all influenced by what we see, what we read, what we think we should be doing, how we think we should look, do we go for plastic surgery etc, we’re all influenced, but as you get older you realise that the only person that can influence you is yourself and what you choose to do with your life is your prerogative. To me as long as you love your kids, as long as you care, and you give your child that sense of security – that every child needs -then you’ve got to do what you can do in order to give them the best that you can, and you can’t be influenced by anybody else.”

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What do wish you would have known then what you know now?

“I wish I’d have known that I would be successful, independent, and that I’d be ok. I’ve been through two really tough divorces and some really trying times, I had a breakdown after the last marriage and if I knew then that I would be very successful and so very happy it would have helped me through that. And I don’t just mean from a financial perspective, I mean emotionally, my career and being a mother has fulfilled me and ticked all my boxes. I have a great life and I love it!”

    

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

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Charlie Condou

CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYCharlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist - not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had...

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Michelle Griffith Robinson – Olympian, Speaker & campaigner

Michelle Griffith Robinson – Olympian, Speaker & campaigner

Michelle Griffith Robinson © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Michelle Griffith Robinson – Olympian, speaker and women’s rights ambassador

Don’t watch the person in the next lane, slay in your own lane – because you’re in control of where you’re going!”

Michelle Griffith-Robinson OLY is one of those people who has an incredible presence, and you can literally feel the good vibes radiating from her. She is a strong, independent, and successful woman with a truly motivating story. Michelle is a Life Coach, Ex-Olympian, Personal Trainer, Women’s Aid Ambassador, Diabetes UK Ambassador and Menopause Campaigner – as if that wasn’t enough to juggle, Michelle is also a Mum of three children, Reese, 18, Eden 16, and Elijah 8. We could have listened to Michelle’s inspiring stories and words of wisdom all day. Her thirst for life and desire to succeed are certainly strengths to be admired, but another quality that we took away from our interview with Michelle was her refreshing approach to dealing with the curve balls that life inevitably throws at you, and how she seemingly takes everything in her stride, with her words “they’ll be alright” echoing throughout the interview.

Although Michelle had a successful athletics career, with 15 years at the top of her game, personally she was involved in a couple of toxic relationships before meeting her husband, Matthew, at the Commonwealth Games in 2002, where they were both competing. Just a few months later when they finally got together, Michelle knew Matthew was the man she wanted to have a family with.

Have you always wanted to be a mum?

“I think I’ve always known I wanted children from about the age of 25 but being an athlete, you often think ‘oh is that just a dream, is it pie in the sky’, you know, because you are so dedicated to your craft and your childbearing years in the main are spent competing. I also went through a few difficult relationships in my teenage years and into my early twenties as well, so having children then was not something I even considered. I had made a conscious decision that when I had kids it had to be with the right person. Then I met Matthew, my husband, it was in a dining hall at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and there was around filled a thousand people in the room.  He was representing Wales for Rugby 7’s and I was doing the triple jump for England. I was with my best friend when I spotted him, and I said ‘God that guys good looking. I’ve to go and tell him!’ and my friend said, ‘you can’t go and tell him!’ And said ‘no I’ve got to, I’ve got to go and tell him!’, she laughs. “I said, ‘Hi I’m Michelle’ and he said ‘I know who you are I saw you in newspapers yesterday’ – and I had been re-enacting a series of Gwyneth Paltrow shots, they were quite revealing. And he was a really nice guy. I asked for his number, and he said you’re a lovely girl, but you can’t have my number. But can I have yours as I’m in something [relationship] at the moment.’  So, I thought he was a bit of a cheeky git, but I gave him my number anyway. And that was the July and at the end of October he called me. Three months later! Keeping me on my bloody toes he was! I must say I wasn’t there waiting though don’t worry!” She laughs again, “And as they say the rest is history! We’ve been together for 20 years now, and I often say, ‘God is not sleeping, and God doesn’t give you more than you can bear.’ So, you know it was just about timings, and I’m lucky that I managed to meet my knight in shining armour, and he is you know. I had children very quickly after we got together, it was literally months later that I fell pregnant and we had our first daughter Reese, she was born premature, five weeks early, in September 2003. Having your first child is life changing for anybody, and for me I went from being this athlete that’s sponsored, and where the phone never stopped ringing and always having lots of people around me, to then suddenly after making that transition into parenthood, the phone stopped ringing and I was no longer the nucleus.”

Emma Neville
Michelle Griffith-Robinson © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Emma Neville
Michelle Griffith-Robinson
Michelle Griffith Robinson. IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY for BROOD

So how did you deal with that, both emotionally and financially?

“Fortunately for me I had already set up a PT company in 1999, whilst I was still doing track and field, as I always tell people that in anything you do, most jobs have a shelf life, and you need to make sure that you have something to fall back on. So luckily, I had built a great reputation within that industry too. And I was at an Aids Charity Event in 2001, and I met Mel B (who is now the patron of Women’s Aid and I’m also an ambassador for the charity) and I remember meeting her and in her very Northern Leeds accent she said, ‘I want abs like f**king yours!’ And a couple of weeks later her agent rang and I started to train her, and I did so for two and half years, until she went to America. So obviously aside from the platform I had as an athlete, to train someone that is as high profile as a Spice Girl completely propelled my business and I ended up with a lot of attention in the press. So, it’s about taking those opportunities when they come and doing a good job when you get them. I always say to people ‘Grab your opportunities because those opportunities will only knock once! So, take them and gamble.’”

So, after Reece was born, did you managed to compete again or did becoming a mother mean that part of your career ended?  

“No, after I had Reece, Matt started to train me, along with my coach Frank, and I just missed the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Then I carried on training for another two years and I made it to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. When I look back at that transition of training and competing after becoming a mum, it was hard because I was having to leave Reese to fulfil my dream. And I had to go to Cuba to train – Cubans are excellent triple jumpers. My grandmother was actually Cuban, so it was extra special to get to go and see where my grandmother grew up, but leaving Reese for two weeks felt like 22 years to me! She was only 8 months old at this point, but my husband who is very pragmatic said, ‘if you want to make the Olympic games, why would you not want to go and train with the best in the world? Because if you’re doing it, then DO IT! You’re either in or you’re out.’ And he was right, so I went to Cuba. I left Reese behind, and she didn’t even bat an eyelid when I came back, she just started saying ‘mama, mama’. We all know the juggle is hard, but you’ve got to do it for yourself. Parenting is a struggle, you’re permanently juggling, but it’s been the biggest joy to my life and feel exceptionally blessed to have my three children.”

So now you have three children and various career roles, how do you juggle everything now and how did you adapt over the years?

“I’m a very proud 50-year-old mother of three children. My eldest daughter is 18, our other daughter is 15 and our son, our youngest is 8. And I often look back at times where it’s been a struggle, and I still say it, ‘They’re going to be alright!’ If they stay in your bed until they’re ten, ‘They’re going to be alright!’ If they are still in a nappy by 5, ‘They’re going to be alright!’ Generally, no matter what, they are going to be alright. I think we just put so much pressure on ourselves to ‘Mrs perfect’ or ‘Mr perfect’, but I’ve let that go.

So, when did your athletics career end and your passion for coaching begin?

After I had Reece and I had completed the Commonwealth games in 2006 I retired. I fell pregnant that night in Melbourne. I went onto have Eden and we were living in the middle east at the time, my personal training company was still going strong, and it was around this time that I started mentoring young people, as I had always had a passion for developing the growth of the future. Helping people with their mindset, it’s all very well having all the GCSE and A Levels in the world, but you need to have the skills to manage yourself. At this point joined a company called the Dame Kelly Homes trust, which Kelly founded on the eve of her retiring, and I’m still a mentor for them now, working with 16–25-year-olds. I’ve worked with some really deprived young people, and all some of them really needed was an arm around them and for somebody to say you’re going to be alright, but question them as to why they keep demonstrating the same destructive behaviour time after time? We often forget if we keep doing the same things time after time, why would you expect a different result? You need to switch it up. Change it up. But fear can prevent us from switching things up, people like to stay in their comfort zones.

And it was about 4/5 years after starting that, that I went into Life Coaching. I recognised that through training with PT my clients, I was also coaching them as well. Because when you’re a PT people open up – you here all their shit and then some! So, I enrolled to do a degree in Counselling, Mentoring and Coaching, but then the trust kindly offered to pay for my diplomas in Life coaching, performance coaching and coaching in education, so that’s what I choose to do.”

“I’m big on affirmations. I’ve got things stuck all over the walls, because sometimes you still need those reminders to say I am enough!”

Having had such a successful athletics career, you must have had to develop a very strong mindset yourself, do you think this gave you the perfect foundation to become a Life Coach?  Equally it must help you in your own approach to life and that as a parent too.

“Yes, I always think about the main things that I have learnt through sport and that is you’ve got to have the mindset of a working at a high-performance level every day. You’ve got to know that sometimes you’re going to hit the floor. You’re going to get injured, but what are you going to do? Put the cover over your head and go on a downward spiral or are you going to choose to take the cover off your head, except that you’re injured and find a way to bounce back. And this applies to the curve balls that life throws at you. So, resilience is key. I’ve past that on to my kids and my mother past that onto me. My mum is the most amazing resilient women I know.

Another one I would say is your authentic self. People find out if you’re a fraud, just be you. You can be at peace with yourself when you are your true self. Stop comparing yourself to everybody else. As parents, we do that too much, comparing whose child has done what first – just get rid of all that and focus on what works for you and your circumstances. No one else is in your position or a part of your household. For example, my eldest daughter took the longest to walk in her Montessori group, she was 16 months old before she started walking, and I was begging her to walk because she was the last one, but now she’s forth in the country for triple jump. So, let’s put it into perspective they are going to be alright.

And lastly, I’ve learnt that you need to manage your own expectations – do what works for you. Because the more you keep comparing yourself to others, the more you are going to be unkind to yourself. You’ll end up not feeling good enough – but you are enough – and you need to be able to say I am enough. I can say I’m enough, you know, these 32F saggy boobs are brilliant! They’ve fed my three children! I don’t give a shit about how they compare to other peoples; I’m not interested. But that comes with age.”

You have such a positive outlook; do you do anything to help you maintain that?

“I’m big on affirmations. I’ve got things stuck all over the walls, because sometimes you still need those reminders to say I am enough. I think the best you can do though when you are having ‘one of those days’ is to look at your progression and the trajectory of where you are and where you have come from. Having children, running a business, etc and then when you break it down, you’ll think, bloody hell – I’m proud of me! Just focus on slaying in your lane. Don’t watch the person in the next lane, slay in your lane – because you’re in control of where you’re going!”

 

Are there any standout moments that were particularly challenging in your life, where you have had to implement some life coaching techniques to help you through?

“When I reached 40, I wanted a third baby. I fell pregnant very quickly and unfortunately, I had a miscarriage at about 8/9 weeks. I think that made me more determined, but my husband thought it might have been a sign and seemed reluctant for us to try again. Upon reflection I didn’t really like the responses I was getting from my husband after I miscarried, and I spoke to him at length about it a little while. I didn’t feel he was being very supportive, but when I spoke to him, he explained that he didn’t know how to be supportive, that it was hard to know what to say and he was just so worried about saying then wrong thing. And I took that on board, but I said I still wanted us to try for a third baby. It turned out he was also concerned about me putting myself through that again, especially because I get very sick with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. So, once we had communicated properly it helped us. 5 months later I went to a fertility clinic, because I hadn’t fallen pregnant. And the doctor asked how old I was, and I said I’m forty, that I’d had a miscarriage and I hadn’t fallen pregnant since, and she just said keep trying.  Just keep trying, one day I will bump into you in the supermarket, and you will be pregnant. And believe or not…five months later I bumped into her at the supermarket, and I was pregnant! And September 2013 my son Elijah was born. And I talk about that part of my journey as I know it’s something that can affect a lot of women and it can make you feel like a failure. It can really hard even when you are successful in every way, the one thing you just expect, or assume, that your body will be able to do it’s not doing.

How did bringing a third baby into the family change the dynamics within the family and do you do anything to help to keep the balance in such a hectic household?

“He’s an exceptional gift. He’s thoroughly loved by everyone, and his two sisters just adore him. He fit’s in perfectly. But one thing I noticed with the third baby I was like you know what this boy has got to get on with it. Life is not always ideal and perfect, and on busy days if he has to have a McDonalds, or a sandwich and a bag of crisps in the car – he’ll be alright. So, you need to recognise that, but you also need those moments of calmness where you can put things in place that look and feel magical. So, Wednesdays and Sundays are our days where have our family time. Where we sit down and talk, without phones, without interruptions, just us having fun together and being present with each other. And that’s something that I would recommend to everyone people, to find somewhere within your routine for that quality time with your immediate family. Because before you look around your kids are off to university etc, so you want to hold on to those magical moments and create lasting memories.”

Does that help getting through those fast-paced days where you are busy juggling everything and you might not feel like the best parent in the world?

“Absolutely! And I actually think that it enhances us as a family. People always say you guys are so good as a family and we are. We’ve been very strict with the kids learning and education, we make sure they do sport and music. We’ve given them the opportunities to flourish, and then what path they choose to go down is down to them. But they can’t look back and say well my parents didn’t give me this. Bearing in mind I came from a broken home, my dad was a plumber at Wembley stadium, my mum was a nurse. And I was a latch key kid, I feel bad as my older brother was kind of lumped with me, so when he wanted to go play football, he couldn’t he had to look after me. Whereas when I wanted to go to the track and train, I was able to do that. But those opportunities to train didn’t come from my parents – this is something that I say, you need to call on those around you. You have call on your friends, your neighbours, your teachers etc and don’t be afraid to do so. You need to learn to ask, ‘Can you please take my son to football, and I’ll return the favour.’ Once you create that community feel – because we’re all in this together, we’re all struggling and juggling – then there’s no shame in it. Once you realise you don’t have to try and do it all on your own and that barrier comes down, then you relax.

I’m away now for 3 days and there’s food in the fridge, there’s food in the freezer and I said to my eldest daughter who is now driving I said, ‘Reese if they need anything would you mind popping out.’ And she said ‘of course, but they’ll be fine.’

Do you think it’s important that we all accept that we can’t do it all ‘perfectly’ all the time?

“Yes, you have to think to yourself who needs to be where, at what time, and if someone has to miss swimming, they have to miss swimming – they’re going to be alright! When we relax and let that go and stop trying to be the perfect person, because there are no perfect people. I’m the imperfect perfect mother, I drop the ball plenty of times, but other times I lift the ball and I carry it brilliantly. You’ve got take the rough with the smooth. Sometimes we are very critical on ourselves as parents, and I think as long as we are role modelling the correct behaviour and attitudes towards our children – we’re doing alright. I think it’s more important than ever to teach it to our children, that perfection doesn’t exist, especially with all the extra pressure they have now from social media etc. ‘I can’t that picture because this doesn’t look right or that doesn’t look right’ they say to me, Mummy you can’t go on Insta looking like that, and I say why? Because we need to normalise being real.”

Do you have any tips for other parents that are struggling with ‘the juggle’?

“Vulnerability, Authenticity, and transparency – VAT I call it. Show them those three things and they’ll be alright. Don’t try and be something you’re not and recognise that we are all just doing our best. We are all WIPS – Work in Progress.”

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Emma Neville

Emma Neville

Emma Neville and her two daughters she shares with football legend Gary Neville © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Philanthropist, qualified counsellor, wife, and doting Mum of two

“the first big thing that I did for them was a fundraiser which was 3 days, 3 countries and 3 mountains, I was quite nervous going as it was with a group of ladies that I didn’t know bar two of them, but collectively, we raised £178,000 ”

Philanthropist, qualified counsellor and doting Mum of two, Emma Neville, has always kept herself out of the public eye despite her husband, Gary Neville’s, extremely high profile and widely documented career; meaning that a lot of Emma’s personal achievements and her incredible dedication to support so many charities have gone under the radar. Emma is exceptionally modest about her charity work and what she has achieved already in her career as a counsellor. It’s a journey that she embarked on around five years ago; after spending many years embracing her role as a full-time mum and taking the lead with the family’s home life to counterbalance Gary’s demanding career schedule. But as the girls got older Emma realised, she wanted to do something for herself, consequently pushing herself out of her comfort zone and pursuing a lifelong ambition of becoming a qualified counsellor. Emma also accelerated her contributions to several charities through volunteer work, rather than ‘just’ making monetary donations. Emma volunteers for many charities including Destination Florida, Bury Cancer Support Centre, Girls Out Loud, Child Bereavement UK and she is very passionate about enhancing the amazing work that these charities already do, as well as helping to raise awareness for them. 

When you meet Emma, you can instantly see why she is so well suited to her chosen career path, as her warm and endearing nature shines through. It was an absolute pleasure to chat to Emma and listen to how she has carved out her new career path, whilst making a difference to so many people’s lives, and to hear how she balances that alongside her role as Mum. We chatted away to Emma before the girls, Molly 13, and Sophie 12, returned home from school and joined us for our photo shoot; that we managed to squeeze in between school finishing, teatime, and netball practise!

So, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about what you have been up to since embarking on your new career.

“I qualified as a person-centred counsellor in 2019 – I never thought I would actually finish it as lockdown came along and it was really difficult as I’m very much a classroom learner and without the classroom, I didn’t think I would have been capable of doing it on my own. But I got there, and I passed, and I was really proud of my little self! I gain my 100-hour client learning at two placements; one was at the Simeon centre, and one was at the Bury Cancer Support Centre. They were two very different organisational structures, I enjoyed both ways of how the client process worked. After my placement finished at Bury Cancer Support Centre, they asked me if I would like to stay on and continue in the role, and I was so happy that they had asked me as it was such a special place that I accepted straight away!

Emma Neville
Emma Neville and her two daughters © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Emma Neville
Emma Neville. IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY for BROOD

I’ve completed numerous other courses since looking into different modalities, such as transactional analysis, working with children and adolescent counselling course and trauma and PTSD. It is really important to me that I make sure I’ve learnt as many skills as I possibly can, so that I can offer people the best support possible.”

What made you enter the world of counselling, to take the first step and start the course?     

“Well, I had always wanted to do it, I remember contemplating it when was working at wholesale jewellers in my twenties, and I was obviously quite young then though so I’m really glad that I didn’t do it at that point in my life, as I feel like the life experiences I have had since have actually helped me become a better counsellor. So, even though it is something I’ve always wanted to do, I feel like I’ve done it at the right time in my life.

It was actually through working with a charity that I decided to take the plunge and start the course. I was at a ladies lunch at the Hilton in Manchester and Gary Barlow was speaking as an ambassador for Child Bereavement UK and I got chatting to Liz Taylor, who had put on the event, and I asked who the CEO was, and Liz introduced me to Anne Chalmers. I had a really good chat with Ann, and she gave me her card. I left the event with an overpowering urge to be involved with them somehow, I wanted to help them to do more; hearing all the stories and watching the videos had really touched me. But I didn’t want to just make a pledge and give money though, I wanted to do more than that, I wanted become hands on with the charity. So started doing some volunteer work for them on their family support programmes, which run from a centre in Widnes. I would do one weekend on and one weekend off there. We would read bereavement books with the children and do various craft activities with them and talk about the special person that they had lost. These children would have lost their Mum, or their dad, or their brother, or their sister. People used to say to me ‘How can you do that it must be really depressing?’, but for me those Saturdays were my favourite Saturdays out of the month. I would leave there feeling so privileged that these amazing children had let me into their lives. And as the weeks went on, it was just so wonderful to see the children’s personalities grow and develop, and to watch all the friendships form between the children. They were making friends with other children that they could relate to, as they had all shared similar experiences. So, it was through doing that volunteer work that gave me the push to become a qualified counsellor.”

 

Destination Florida Charity

“…I explained some of the children that I’m working with have lost their mummy’s and daddy’s, or brother’s or sister’s, so I was needed there to help those children.”

So how long had you been doing volunteer work before you decided to enrol onto the Counselling course?

“I did it that for a year and I did some training with them whilst I was there, and then I just thought right it’s time for me to take the next step and I enrolled on a part time course, at night school for my Level 2 qualification. I hadn’t studied for a long time, so it was a big thing for me to go back into the classroom. Then I progressed onto my Level 3 and then Level 4 – which is a two-year course with 100 hours placement. So, it took me three and half years in total to become fully qualified.”

 

During those three and half years of studies and placements, how did that impact your mum role and how did you find the juggle?

“I did feel guilty doing the work on the Saturday at times, because obviously the girls are at school all week, but I looked forward to sharing how my Saturday had gone with them once I got home. I’ve always been open with them as well and explained that some of the children that I’m working with have lost their mummy’s and daddy’s, or brother’s or sister’s, so I was needed there to help those children.”

Are the girls proud of you now that they are that bit older, and they can understand more about what you do and what you have achieved?

“I think so!” she laughs, “They’ll often ask me what I’ve done that day – sometimes they’re not listening to me (she laughs) but other times they really do take an interest and they’ll ask about the books that I’m reading etc. When I’m putting on a charity event though I like to try and get them involved, so I will ask them to come up with ideas for fundraising etc. I actually did a placement at a hospice in Radcliffe, and they did a stall and was selling toys to try and raise money for the hospice. I think it’s really important to get them involved and I hope that they themselves will go along the path of getting involved with doing some aspect of charity work too.”

 

Did you feel like you had to wait until the girls were a bit older in order to start your education and career?

“I definitely wanted to be with the girls when they were younger and be that mum that can do every school pick up, but as they started to get a bit older, even from the age of about 7, they would start taken themselves off to do things for themselves and it just felt like it was the right time as a whole for us all. In hindsight I think I would have liked to have started this journey earlier. But I suppose everything happens at the right time in the end, and I still had and do get, those feelings of mum guilt, even though I know that they are fine. I would have struggled to have started my studies now as they have so many activities and commitments after school, but back then they had only just started playing netball, so it wasn’t too intense at that point trying to manage everything. I am also not very good at delegating and that came from my own feelings of wanting to do everything for them, so I’m lucky that the career I have chosen actually fit’s in really well for us a whole, as it’s quite flexible, so I’m lucky that it didn’t add too much pressure. It was very important to me when I started it that I could schedule it into my family life without it affecting it too much.”

 

Has having a career helped you to find your own identity outside of the parent role?

“Yes, definitely. I felt a change around the time I was thirty-five and I really felt that I needed to do some for myself and to see what I could achieve in my own right. I realised that I do want to feel important and valued as a person, and not ‘just’ as a mum. When I only had that mum role, I would drop them off at school, come home do the housework, get the shopping in etc and before I knew it was time to pick them back up again, and I can remember thinking the days just go so fast, ‘how do people do it?’. So, I always really admired working parents. I think because Gary’s work life has always been so full on, I never know his schedule and when I do it changes that much, that was why I never really pushed myself because I felt like I had to fit around that and take the lead with the girls. And I know Gary would have supported me if I would have wanted to do something back then, but I felt like it was the right role for me at that time. When I started my course and I was one of the older ones on the course and I had a lot of self-doubt, where I questioned whether I was capable or not, but I really felt it was really important to keep going and push myself. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew if I would have just given up that I would have been so angry with myself, that no matter how much I was struggling and doubting my capabilities, I made sure I turned up to every class and got through it.”

 

 

Obviously, Gary has very high profile and has had a very successful career, so you didn’t necessarily need to build a career of your own from a financial point of view, so your driving force has been to help a number of charities elevate their services, raise awareness and funds. Tell us a little bit more about that.  

“When I started volunteering with Child Bereavement UK the first big thing that I did for them was a fundraiser which was 3 days, 3 countries and 3 mountains, I was quite nervous going as it was with a group of ladies that I didn’t know bar two of them, but collectively, we raised £178,000 and it felt incredible to give back and I felt really proud. Then a few months later I connected with Mike Hymanson (Chair of Trustees) from Destination Florida (A Children’s Charity that takes children with life-limiting conditions away for a once in a lifetime magical holiday) I knew Mike through friends, and after we chatted, he asked me to go on the fundraising board for them and I said yes. When I started on the board, initially it was very much about how I could encourage the connections I had to contribute and pledge money and that alone just didn’t feel like enough, I wanted to do more. So, I started to thrive when I was able to tap into my creative side and come up with ideas. So, I’ve worked with them for two years now, helping them organise events and fundraisers. I’m really looking forward to going on a trip with them to Disney in 2023.

Emma conscientiously checks back to her notes at this point to make sure that she includes all the charities that are close to her heart. We’re very impressed with how organised she is, (it’s not often BROOD interviews are organised!) and she jokes that Gary always says, ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!’ so she has done what he’s always telling her to do!

“So, then I heard about another charity – Girls out loud (a social enterprise designed to empower girls to channel their potential and make better life choices), so I joined their big sister programme and that was life changing for me! It was working with year 9 girls, going into to schools to see them for an hour, outside of the classroom. They would give you a structure, but you could choose how you approached each week yourself, as it always depended on how open the girls would be with you, because some days they wouldn’t want to talk, so you couldn’t just pull this worksheet out and start trying to go through that with them. It was amazing to meet my ‘little sister’. She was such an open and honest girl, and she was trying to build her confidence. We would talk a lot about resilience, and we made mood boards, vision boards and mantra jars, things like that. The hour would fly by, and I always wanted to give more time. I did that for 12 months.  I really enjoyed the programme and I found it really interesting to see just how much social media influences their lives. I absolutely love that charity and I can’t wait to do more with them.”

Do you think having teenage daughters of your own helped prepare you for that role?

“Because I know that I’m a bit of a rescuer I was conscious not to take on that mothering role, and I definitely didn’t want to talk at my ‘little sister’ because I’m the ‘big sister’ and I’m meant to know more. But it wasn’t like that at all, it was a two-way street, I learnt a lot from her about life as a teenager at school and what they do after school. It did make me feel relieved that it wasn’t me at school! It also made me realise that I might need to give the girls some slack sometimes, as it’s a lot to deal with being at school. Working with Girls Out Loud gave me an insight into life at high school and what children go through, so that’s something I will be mindful of when it comes to the girls. We did a study around screen time and there was one girl had been on her phone for 16 hours and that just blew my mind! I couldn’t understand how that was even possible? But she explained that she was up until 2am most nights on her phone. It was eye opening to see just how much social media influenced their lives.

I remember one of them saying when she discussed not taking her phone with her when she went out, she said, ‘I was just able to ugly laugh without my friends taking a picture of me’ This was a 14-year-old girl! It’s just frightening to think they have to think like that because everything is documented and before you know it someone has posted your picture on social media whether you like it or not.”    

 

What advice would you give to the BROOD readers who are parents of teenagers?

“I would say just listen to them and try and just keep conversations going. I know that can sometimes be difficult, but just asking how they are is a good start. I also think a big thing for us, as parents, to make sure we own up to our own mistakes and learn to say sorry, because when we’re in the heat of the moment and we’re stressing at them and complaining, sometimes just saying ‘I’m really sorry about this morning, I wasn’t in a good place, and I was rushing and I shouldn’t have stressed at you’ that can make a big difference. Sometimes we put a lot on them, especially when I think about the morning chaos and when parents get stressed, it makes you wonder does your child leave the house or the car and take that stress and negativity into their school day?  So, I think holding your hands up and owning your mistakes is very important. Children can read you; they know when you’re not yourself, so being open with them can put their mind at ease that it’s not on them. Just letting them know that we’re not perfect either. That it is ok to not be ok.”

 

Have you had any ‘BROOD moments’ since embarking on your career, where something has happened with the kids, and it just turns chaotic, and you end up plagued with the dreaded mum guilt?

“There are loads of things that have happened!” she laughs, “but there was one time that stands out, right at the beginning of my starting this journey and it was when I went on the charity hike for three days. Basically, Sophie had an ingrowing toenail, and it was something I had meant to get looked at, but I didn’t get chance to before I went away and then whilst I was there Gary sent me a picture and half her toe had gone blue! I’d just climbed a mountain; I had another one to climb the next day and the day after that and I remember thinking ‘Oh my god! What am I going to do!’ I felt terrible, and then Gary rang me – not in the best of moods!” she laughs, “and he said, ‘I thought you’d dealt with this!’” We all laugh at this point, understanding this exchange between parents all too well. “We had the normal exchange that we have, and I said to him ‘well you’re a parent too, so you’ll have to deal with it’. But then I got off the phone, I went into this room, and I just cried my eyes out, I felt terrible for not being there and I just felt like I needed to get home. I was imaging the worst and I just felt so bad, but this lady really helped me to calm down and she was from the medical profession, and she was like ‘ring Gary, tell him to draw a line on her toe and as long as the blue doesn’t go below this line it will be fine’. So, I rang Gary to ask him to do that so I could have piece of mind, and he had already spoken to a doctor that had said it was going to be fine, which was huge relief, because when I first spoke to him it felt like it was the end of the world, like she was going to end up having to have her toe amputated and it was all my fault!”

So, what are your plans in terms of your own personal development and within your career?

“Well, the Bury Cancer Support centre has been open for nearly 20 years now, so they are doing a big fundraiser for their anniversary next year, so I will be helping with that, which I’m really looking forward to. I will also continue to volunteer with them because they really are an amazing charity. It is a cause that is close to my heart, and the work they do is just invaluable. I will also continue my work on the fundraising board with Destination Florida, and I’m looking forward to working with Girls Out Loud again.

For me personally, I just want to keep looking out for different charities that I can volunteer for and help with. I want to continue working with teenagers and get more involved in a teenage charity, as it really feels like that is the right fit for me and somewhere I can help to make a real difference. Working with teenagers can be challenging, but it’s a challenge that’s worthwhile.

I will continue to keep doing courses that are going to add to my skill set, so that I can continue to keep improving my skills as a counsellor. I’m currently doing a menopause coaching certificate and I’m hoping this will help many ladies and clients that I have and it’s a subject that I’m really passionate about.

I have achieved certificates in Holistic therapies, such as reflexology, Indian head massage and Hopi ear candles over the years and I’m really interested in these therapies so I will also further my skills in this area, as I feel it goes hand in hand with counselling and client wellbeing. My love of learning has definitely come back, and I just love learning new things.”

 

 

 

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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ONE OF MY FAVOURITE PIECES OF ADVICE FOR CREATIVE PRODUCTIVITY IS, “IF YOUR MIND IS EMPTY READ, IF YOUR MIND IS FULL WRITE.” 

KNOWING WHEN TO REST AND WHEN TO ACT THROUGHOUT THE DIFFERENT CYCLES OF THE MONTH AND SEASONS HAS CREATED MORE JOY AND CONNECTION WITHIN MYSELF, MY RELATIONSHIPS AND BUSINESS.

HERE ARE FOUR WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR SELF AWARENESS AND TRANSFORM YOUR HABITS OF STRESS INTO A STRONG SELF-CARE PRACTICE

Mentally

Ever felt like your brain to mouth co-ordination has disappeared? Then you know what it’s like to need mental rest, especially leading up to your time of the month or before launching a big work project.

You may realise you’ve been distracting yourself more by scrolling or sending a barely comprehensible voice note. Perhaps you notice your thoughts starting to turn negative, judging everything you do, or sabotaging and procrastination kicks in.  

The next time you need a mental break, turn off your screens and take a few moments to ground yourself outside, get your feet on the earth and take some deep breaths. I’ve found that creating a 10-30minute morning practice of meditation, gentle movement and writing down 5 things I’m grateful for really helps to set me up for the day.

Physically 

Physical burnout and overwhelm can feel like walking through quicksand. When we ignore the warning signs of overwhelm, the body and nervous system can become overly sensitive to loud noises and all you want is your bed, not the greatest when you have a business to run and little ones needing your attention.

The most healing form of physical rest is sleep and I love bedtime rituals, consider going to bed 30 minutes earlier, or taking a hot bath with lavender and magnesium salts. 

Catching up on physical rest can also mean stepping away from your desk regularly and taking deep breaths during the workday, eating a balanced died or perhaps booking in a restorative yoga class to give your body some time to stretch. Knowing what your body needs during the different hormonal stages of the month may help you to feel more refreshed and energised, for those family gatherings and work projects.

Spiritually

Sometimes it can feel like we are doing things alone. So, for me, spiritual rest & reset can look like finding people who are in my tribe — I enjoy attending women’s circles, safe spaces where I know I will be held, looked after and nourished at a soul level.

For you, social rest might mean catching up with a friend who knows you inside and out. Or perhaps it’s just taking a night off from socialising and reconnecting with yourself in a way that feels good.

At times we just need to remember the things that brought us joy as a child, like painting, riding horses, smelling a flower, eating a strawberry. Come back to the things that feel like home.

Emotionally

Think of how you feel after a you’ve over given and put everyone else’s needs before your own — after a while you may begin to feel resentful, exhausted, and confused as to why you have less patience to engage with family and more easily frustrated. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the signals from your emotional body and have awareness of when you tank is almost full.

A favourite tool of mine when I find myself spiralling is to put a timer on and tip out how you’re feeling. This can look like journaling or speaking to someone who is available and capable of validating and listening to your needs.

That could mean scheduling regular therapy sessions or finding people with whom you can be authentically yourself with and perhaps offer you a hug.

If you enjoyed reading this post, then do join me for a FREE monthly Ask Ashleigh New Moon Ceremony in which I share more self awareness techniques and spiritual insight. Link can be found on my Instagram bio.

You might also like to join my wonderful Facebook community at  https://www.facebook.com/groups/612248250194973

Written by Ashleigh Guthrie

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SUMMER SEASONAL FOODS

I don’t know about you guys but I’m so ready for the summer! With the change in season happening this month, it got me thinking about seasonal foods. There are many benefits to choosing foods that are in season…

  • Becoming at one with nature! It gives us the chance to reconnect with nature’s cycles, the natural passing of time and the delicious and diverse foods that’s our seasonal climate provides.
  • It makes economic sense! Seasonal foods tend to be cheaper as they grow in abundance and have less distance to travel – this, therefore, reduces the energy and CO2 emissions needed to grow and transport the foods and supports our local economies and communities.
  • Mother Nature’s medicine! Seasonal eating works in sync with our bodies and what we require to eat at certain times of the year. The foods that grow in abundance at these times are more nutritionally specific. This ensures we are supported as much as possible through our 4 different seasons.
  • I have put together a list of my top seasonal fruits and vegetables for summer, along with their nutritional and medicinal benefits. Try to incorporate these into your daily diet as much as possible; to help you feel your best throughout this new season.
  • Blackcurrants – Helps regulate blood pressure, protect the brain against neurological damage associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, contain 3x as much vitamin C than oranges and combined with its high amount of antioxidants, help boost immunity, and promotes eye health.
  • Blueberries – Slows the growth of prostate cancer, helps maintain a healthy gut due to containing antibacterial compounds, helps prevent cognitive decline and eye health.
  • Cherries – Specifically Montmorency cherries – bright red in colour – the most medicinal of all cherries, are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, help promote sleep and increase insulin production.
  • Gooseberries – Specifically Indian gooseberries – Are high in antioxidants and vitamins, especially vitamin C, helping to boost immunity, support memory and brain health, protect eye health and aids digestion.
  • Raspberries – Minimise the absorption of fat, helps regulate metabolism, tone the uterus and are cancer-protective.
  • Rhubarb – actually a vegetable not a fruit; helps strengthen bones, protects against neurological damage linked to Alzheimer’s, helps lower cholesterol, is a good source of fibre and vitamin C and helps protect eye health.  
  • Strawberries – Helps maintain optimal heart health by preventing blood vessel damage, helps soothe stomach upsets and aids digestion through its fibre content and contains anti-cancer properties.
  • Asparagus – Helps to support the gut, removes energy-draining toxins, helps strengthen the immune system, has a purifying effect on the skin and helps keep blood vessels supple.
  • Artichoke – An absolute fav of mine and here’s why – It is among the top 10 highest antioxidant-rich foods, high in dietary fibre, eases digestion (particularly helpful in people with IBS), aids detoxification, helps balance blood sugar levels and reduces cholesterol.
  • Aubergine – Opt for the purple variety as they contain fibre that benefits digestion, beneficial amount of antioxidants which help to balance blood sugar levels and prevent cell damage.
  • Beetroot – Contains phytochemicals which have a liver cleansing action, improve blood’s oxygen uptake, strengthens the heart, and contains a B vitamin that supports heart health.
  • Bell Peppers – Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, especially vitamin C, they help support eye health, protect against neurological damage, and promote heart health and contain anti-cancer properties.
  • Broad Beans – Rich in isoflavones which are plant hormones with heart-protective and anti-cancer properties.
  • Broccoli – Another fav of mine and one of the veggies I make sure my kids have daily! It helps strengthen the immune system, contains vitamin C which promotes collagen synthesis, promotes prostate health, helps protect eye health, and is an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which helps DNA repair in cells and is believed to block the growth of cancer cells.
  • Cabbage – Specifically red cabbage as it contains 2-8 times more vitamin C than other cabbages, but all brassica cabbages help to heal ulcers, support healthy liver function and fight free-radical damage to skin.
  • Carrots – Rich in beta-carotene (needed by the body to make vitamin A), aid digestion, helps weight control, promote healthy skin and nails and helps maintain good eyesight.
  • Chilli – Helps remove toxins from the body, clear congestion, helps with weight management by reducing appetite and cravings, helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Courgette – Aids water balance, low in calories, cleansing, help reduce an enlarged prostate, lowers cholesterol and stroke risk and supports efficient metabolism.
  • Fennel – Helps soothe stomach cramps, encourages healthy digestion, helps with hormone regulation through its oestrogenic qualities and helps relieve water retention.
  • Garlic – Another daily must have for me, due to its antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds, its ability to help strengthen the immune system, remove toxins and pollutants, containing anti-cancer substances and being a natural anti-coagulant.
  • Jersey Royal New Potatoes – Anti-inflammatory, helps lower blood pressure, a natural sedative, a good source of vitamin C, potassium, fibre, and B vitamins. Try to eat with the skin on as much as possible to increase fibre. 
  • Lambs Lettuce – Similar looking to spinach, it’s rich in beta-carotene (see ‘carrots’ above), supports a healthy immune system, promotes good skin and eye health and helps strengthen bones.
  • Pak Choi – Part of the cabbage family (as above), containing powerful antioxidants contributing to protecting cells from free-radical damage.
  • Peas – Specifically garden but including sugar snap and mange-tout – Rich in vitamins and minerals, their insoluble fibre content helps maintain digestive health, boost energy, fight infection, and promotes healthy sperm.
  • Radish – Supports healthy liver function, helps with detoxification, lowers blood pressure, fights hypertension and clears congestion.
  • Spinach – Helps strengthen bones, supports eye health, fights inflammation, helps prevent atherosclerosis and contains anti-cancer properties.
  • Spring Onions – Contains immune-boosting sulphur compounds, helps lower cholesterol, and feeds the good gut bacteria.
  • Tomatoes – Red tomatoes contain all four carotenoids, unlike the green and yellow variety; but all help to remove toxins from the body, boost immunity, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. 
  • Watercress – Promotes clear skin, can help reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum and bladder, aids optimal digestion, maintains water balance and help fight colds and flu.

Here’s an easy and as always, healthy recipe that includes some of the foods listed above. Why not give it a try and take to one of the many BBQs you’ll be attending over the summer?!

Jersey Royal New Potato Salad with Pesto, Peas and Broccoli
Nutritionist Kate Devine

Jersey Royal New Potato Salad with Pesto, Peas and Broccoli

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1Kg Jersey Royal new potatoes, chopped in half
  • 2 heaped tbsp mayonnaise/vegan mayonnaise if required 
  • 400g broccoli florets, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 300g frozen garden peas 
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste

Pesto Ingredients:

  • 1 cup/30g fresh basil 
  • 1/3 cup/45g pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast/vegan parmesan if required
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup/60ml olive oil

Method:

  1. Cut the potatoes in half so that they are roughly the same size
  2. Place in a pan of salted boiling water for 20-25 mins until soft – poke one with a fork and if it slides off they are cooked
  3. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, make the pesto…
  4. Add the pesto ingredients above, except the olive oil, to a food processor. Blend until the pine nuts are broken down and the basil is chopped
  5. Continue blending and slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture until it is smooth and turns into pesto consistency
  6. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them under cold water to cool them down
  7. Bring a pan of boiling, salted water back to the boil. Add the peas and broccoli and let simmer for 6 mins or until the broccoli turns a bright shade of green. Drain and leave to one side to cool
  8. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the pesto, mayonnaise, lemon zest, peas and broccoli and generous amounts of cracked black pepper. Use a large spoon, gently coat all the ingredients with the sauce and sprinkle a few pine nuts to finish.
  9. Serve and enjoy! You can keep this in the fridge in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

Don’t forget to share your creations with us here at BROOD by tagging us on Instagram @broodmagazine @the.devine.life

written BY KATE DEVINE

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Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

read more

Charlie Condou

CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYCharlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist - not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had...

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Inspirational mum in business and events guru, Laura Wolfe

Inspirational mum in business and events guru, Laura Wolfe

Laura Wolfe © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Inspirational mum in business, and events guru, Laura Wolfe, is unsurprisingly one of the most well-respected women in her industry. Alongside her flourishing career, Laura, is also a doting mum of two boys, aged 11 and 16 – and one very cute cavapoo, Teddy!

“I always say ‘the juggle-struggle is real’ – and it absolutely is!”

With a long-established career in events – particularly renowned within the footballing industry, Laura is also the driving force behind the NWFA (Northwest Football Awards). She took on the prestigious awards over 10 years ago – back when she was just a fan, but this didn’t deter Laura from her vision and desire to carve out a successful career path in a field that she loved. It’s no surprise that Laura is now working with Women in Football, who champion female talent in a bid to bring about change in attitudes to women working in the industry.

Laura’s story is a compelling one filled with incredible highs and devastating lows. Personally, she has gone through the heartbreak of a divorce and the loss of her dad, and it was only just over 5 years ago when Laura lost everything as her business went into insolvency. Consequently hitting rock bottom. Plagued with overwhelming mum guilt and consumed by the excruciating feelings of failure, Laura initially wanted to hide away, bury her ambitions, and get a job working in a supermarket. But then, with the support of her incredible family; her mother, her brother, her sister, and her partner – who have supported her no matter what; Laura courageously coached herself back into a stronger mindset, and she inspirationally jumped back into the world of business! And thank goodness she did, as it was only two years later that she embarked on an 18-month journey, that would become the highlight of her entire career. That career highlight being that Laura was appointed to manage Manchester City’s captain Vincent Kompany’s testimonial season; seeing her work alongside Vincent Kompany himself, and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, to raise over £850,000 for a homeless charity. The fact that Laura is a lifelong City fan meant that this amazing opportunity had added meaning to her.

As a loving mum and daughter (as Laura also helps to look after her mother) and several formidable business ventures, it’s no surprise that Laura’s schedule is jam-packed. So, we asked the question so many people want to ask – how does she do it?

“I literally get to a Friday night, and I don’t understand where the week has gone!” she laughs.

We all know how hard it can be to achieve that ‘work life balance’ when you are running a business and juggling life as a parent, do you allow yourself any ‘me time’ and how do you fit that into your hectic schedule?

“I love going to the gym. The gym for me is my time – my hour. And to fit that in I have to do the 6am/7am class. It’s not always possible, like recently I’ve been too tired to get up and do it. But I do try to incorporate it into my routine as much as possible. Last week for example, I was in London on the Tuesday, my partner Daniel was away on the Wednesday in Newcastle, the kids were at their dad’s and the dog has gone to his doggy hotel – which sounds ridiculous, but because we’re all away and out, we just know he’ll have a lovely time there with all the other dogs and that’s obviously an extra weight off your mind. So, it was just me and I could have slept until 8am, but instead I got up to do my gym class. I could have used that time to catch up on my sleep, but I just know on the days that I do go to the gym; I feel much better than the days I don’t. Without a doubt. And I love it! It’s changed my life – so for me it’s a massive thing. And most of the time it’s doable until it’s half term or other school holidays, or my mum needs something, or my kids need something – then something’s got to give and usually it’s your ‘me time’!

“I always say ’the juggle struggle is real’ – and it absolutely is!”

Laura WOLFE IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD

With such a hectic schedule how do you manage to fit in your ‘mum jobs’ alongside the demands of your business? 

“My children are split between me and their father. They are with me for 8 nights and then with him for 6 nights. It’s not my choice, but it’s what you have to do, because their dad loves them too, there’s no doubt about it. But I’m still their mum whether they are with me or not, and the organisational side of things still falls to me. I’m naturally a control freak and it took me a long time to let that go, but I still need to make sure everything is done and that everything is in place so that they can do what they need to. So, whether they are with me or not they will still ring me, and you still have those ‘mum jobs’ to do. I’m so lucky my partner Daniel is brilliant. He will take my youngest to football on a Saturday and Sunday. He loves that, he played a lot himself when he was younger. So, he’s brilliant, but of course it’s still challengingly. I can be in London at an event, like I was on Tuesday. My eldest calls me and he’s stressing about something – which is fine because I’m his Mum and he needs me – so obviously I have to take that time out to sort things out things like that. The kids always come first. No matter how busy I am, there are moments I don’t want to miss because they are important moments, and they need their mum there.”

Laura Wolfe and MCFC player Vincent Kompany
Laura WOLFE with x-MCFC PLAYER vincent kompany, TAKEN FROM LAURA’S INSTAGRAM account

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You have an extra role to juggle in looking after your mum, how do you manage to fit that into your busy schedule.

“Mum is 84, she’s fantastic, she’s been there supporting me all my life. So now it’s my turn. My father passed away in 2015. My brother lives in America and my sister lives in Israel. We’re a really close family, but geographically we are massively dispersed, so the day-to-day falls to me. So, during Covid again, it was down to me to look after my mum – we live 5 doors down from her – which has brilliant benefits; she’s got an incredible relationship with my children, well all of her grandchildren really, but obviously with us being so close by, she does a lot with my kids and sometimes I couldn’t manage without her support too. But mum can get herself in a bit of mess with things like her phone etc and she needs me to go and help her, which I had to do yesterday and before you know it, it’s two hours out of your working day.

I grew up in a Jewish household with a mum who gave everything to her family – and I mean everything! Before my mum had me, my parents lived in Maidstone, and she was about to be made Mayor of Maidstone. She was a woman in her twenties, with all these men in a room smoking and she was sat there looking glamourous – and this was in the days where women didn’t do that! But then Dad’s job brought them up here and since then she gave her life to family and the community. She’s got an MBE for her services to the community. So, she’s a force. At 84, she’s still a total inspiration and as involved as ever, which is just amazing!”

And you’re also a mum to a gorgeous little cavapoo, Teddy, which is obviously another responsibility that you have to manage. Tell us a bit more about Teddy and how you make that work. 

“Our puppy Teddy is a lockdown down puppy. We love him, he’s like another baby to me. I would have wanted another baby – as I’m one of three and we’re so close – but it just wasn’t to be for me, as my life went in another direction. So, we love our pup, but because he was a lockdown puppy, he’s not good on his own. So, obviously we have to factor him into our schedule too. We’ve organised it really well now, he goes to doggy day care, and he absolutely loves it! It’s like playgroup he’s got a ball pit, slide paddling pool – I mean it sounds ridiculous, but he loves it so we know he’s happy when he’s there.”

Obviously, the events industry was hit incredibly hard through covid, that must have been tough, and you would have obviously had the boys the home-school too. So how did lockdown impact you professionally and as a parent?   

“Lockdown was an absolute nightmare! I mean for all parents it was just so hard. My eldest was 14 at the time and he slept all day and gamed all night. He only really came out of his room to eat and grunt something, but I just went with it because I had to. He couldn’t swim or do any of the things he would normally be doing, so it was awful and it was hard emotionally. My youngest needed home schooling and at the start school didn’t actually give them that much to do and he is so ridiculously conscientious that he would get it all done straight away. And as you said my businesses then was events and football – there were no events and no football. I remember the day they said it was all happening and we had to shut the office, we thought we would all be back in three weeks. We were really busy at the time, we were gearing up to do the PFA Awards etc and obviously none of those events went ahead and lockdown went on much longer than we all anticipated. I was running – a lot – but also eating – a lot! I was baking bread – in fact my youngest will say mum you never bake bread anymore! And I’m like ‘When am I meant to fit baking bread in now?’ (she laughs)

But as time went on and I realised that this wasn’t going away quickly, I set up my concierge business – looking after footballers primarily. Like helping them find a place to live if they’re moving from overseas, or to help them find a school etc. So that was great because that kept me busy setting that up. Then I’m really friendly with Brian Horton, ex-football manager and brilliant guy and he had written a book and I said to him ‘Who is doing the media for you book? I don’t do PR, but do you want me to help you?’ He said yes, will you speak to the publisher. Which I did, and I did the media for the book for him – just because I wanted to – and it went brilliantly, and the publisher asked me how much I charged! I didn’t know what to say as I’d never really done it before. But that was October 2020 and now we’re in May 2022 and I have provided the media relations for all of those books. (Points to an array of books displayed with pride in her office) I generally do the personality led books and so it’s great to work with so many inspiring sports personalities.

Then in February 2021 Women In Football got in touch and asked if I would meet with them as their head of events was really unwell with covid. It went really well and I’m still working for them now and we’re doing some really great and exciting things.

As much as covid was incredibly hard, it gave me was a chance to rethink things and look at things differently, and without that happening I would never have done the media side, or the Women in Football and I love it, and I’m good at it!

And of course, fast forward to now and the events industry is booming again. A lot of people have left the industry too and so there aren’t as many companies or freelancers around, so its crazy busy at the minute. But I’m not complaining as I’ve been on the other side where I lost everything! I’ve made some bad choices, put the wrong people around me, thought I knew how to do it and listened to people I shouldn’t have, and I lost everything!”

That must have been extremely hard. Do you think that’s almost part of the process though, to be successful? To make the mistakes, to endure the struggles and then grow through them.

“Well, I feel I have a lot of catching up to do because my divorce took its toll on me, I lost my dad, and having kids is really difficult. And when things are going well it’s great, but without going into it too much, like all kids, my kids have had their issues, and as a parent you find yourself dealing with those too, both emotionally. And sometimes that has been really hard and heart-breaking. Kids can say things they don’t mean because they’re hurting and you just want to make it all better for them, and sometimes you can’t.

At the end of 2017 when everything went, I was made bankrupt and my business went into insolvency and there were lots of different reasons for that and I remember sitting at Oddfellows in the park in Cheadle, with my brother who over from the US and Daniel, my partner. And I said to them I’m going to go and work in Marks & Spencer, and I was serious and do you know my reason for that was that they give you 20% discount on the food! And Daniel was so angry, to hear me be so defeatist like that, but my brother said just let her go through it. I just thought I can never show my face in Manchester again! No-one will ever want to work with me again! It was just horrible. I was let down by some people, but ultimately, I take responsibility for what happened. And then I ended up starting up another business, but it was completely different to the business I had before in that it was me front and centre, it reflected me and that’s what people wanted and always had, but I had tried to make the other business into something it was never going to be.”

It’s very inspiring that you went back into the world of business despite going through that and it obviously takes a lot of strength, how difficult was it to get back out there and start over again?

“I had a really lucky break in 2019, it was Vincent Kompany’s testimonial season at Manchester City and he came to the NWFA to present an award to Brian Kidd with Gary Neville and I met his business partner and the guy that manages him and I got on really well with them an then after we had had a coffee they gave me the gig to run his testimonial season so I worked with him for 18 months. And as a city fan that is like your ultimate dream, like I can’t even tell you what that meant, it was incredible. And when it was over, I was kind of like what do I do now? And he said good things will come to you, just trust the process.

Then when I started working with him the trolls came out and I remember sitting at my desk and Amy, a colleague and friend who had been with me throughout it all said ‘Laura don’t look at Twitter, don’t look at it!’ and obviously I did and it was just disgusting, the things they were saying about me, about my mum, there was antisemitic stuff, there was stuff about what happened with my old business and there was stuff about my partner and this was all because I was working with Vincent Kompany and Andy Burnham – because we were raising money for the homeless. And it was just horrific and because I wasn’t expecting it, it really knocked me. Honestly?  It made me not want to be here anymore.  It’s tough to admit that, but it’s true.  And I remember Andy Burnham rang me and said I signed up for this, this is part of my job, but you didn’t, the only reason they are doing this is because you are actually doing something positive. I know its horrible but just keep doing what you’re doing. And Vinny’s team were like, we’ve got you, if it carries on, we’ll sort it but for now let’s just ignore it. And when I started working with them, I had told them everything, so they knew everything, you know ‘This has happened to me, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, this is what happened, and it was a part of my life.’ They didn’t care, in fact they already knew about everything anyway, but the fact that I told them without them asking me, I think that showed them that I’m ok, you know. So that was extremely tough, and I blocked my account for ages and was then like sod it! And I got to the point where I though ‘I actually don’t care’ It’s actually something that we’re trying to stop through Women in Football, because unfortunately it’s something that is prevalent for women in football. I just don’t understand why, but it happens.”

Obviously 10 years ago in Football you didn’t see many women involved in football, have you had to fight even harder to carve out your career because of that?

Oh yes! Most men have probably never been asked to explain the offside rule, but I have many, many, times! We were talking about this at an event the other night and we all agreed that you don’t have to know everything, because men don’t know everything either. And I don’t know everything, and I didn’t know everything ten years ago, but I never pretended to know everything. But when you’re going into a room full of men and who already have preconceptions about you, it can be intimidating. Even going back to when I moved to Manchester, and I went to work at the Institute of Directors, I was the youngest and only female regional director they had, and that there had ever been before! I remember thinking to myself we’ve got to change this. I’ve seen some awful stuff over the years and heard some awful stories, I’m fortunate to not have experienced it too myself but it definitely something that happens. We have come a long way, although there is still a lot further to go. I’m a firm believer in women supporting other women to pave the way forward.”

What advice would you give other mums who are also striving to achieve success in their careers?

“I think you always strive for more. You always think that you’re not doing well. You always think that you could have done something better. I have the worst imposter syndrome. But I think firstly, you can’t regret anything – and that’s something I’ve had to really work on – learning not to regret things, because it nearly finished me! Secondly, know that you’re not on your own. The more you can open up and talk about things the better. I used to have this outward facing thing, particularly on social media, that everything is brilliant, everything is fantastic. Always saying, I’m fine to anyone who asked. So, no one ever knew that underneath my world was crumbling and falling apart. That I was losing everything. That I felt like the worst mum in the world, because I just couldn’t be there for my kids in the way that I wanted to be because I wasn’t emotionally strong enough, and I didn’t ask for help. But everybody struggles. Everybody fails. I failed very dramatically and very publicly.  Get yourself a girl gang of cheerleaders too.  Everybody needs their girl gang.  Mine is ace!

And thirdly be kind to yourself, I am not kind to myself – I need to listen to my own advice on this one. I’m always telling myself I should be doing better; I should be doing more. And it’s constant and I’m always on the go until I remind myself that’s not sustainable and I’m a human being, and that something has got to give. Oh, and learn to say no as well – it’s ok to say no. You can’t be the best friend in the world, the best mum in the world, the best partner in the world, the best person in the gym, the best businessperson etc… I can’t do it! Nobody can and you just need to remember that.”

 

Laura Wolfe

FOLLOW LAURA’S JOURNEY:

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

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CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYCharlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist - not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had...

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Auntie Cath cooks shredded chicken thai salad

Auntie Cath cooks shredded chicken thai salad

Catherine Tyldesley (or Auntie Cath as she’s often known!) is one of the UKs favourite actresses. Making in her mark in the likes of BBC Ones ‘Lilies’ , sitcom ‘Scarborough’, ITVs ‘View Point’ and Ofcourse- the nations favourite‘Coronation Street’.
Catherine has recently finished filming another drama for ITV and was crowned Winner of All Star Musicals 2021. Cath’s other huge passion in life is Food! After study nutrition on maternity leave with her first child- Caths enthusiasm for food grew. Especially nutritious, budget friendly, tasty family meals. We’re thrilled to bits to have Cath join us and share her knowledge and passion! You’re in for a treat with Auntie Caths recipes!

Shredded Chicken Thai Salad

(Or you can use baked miso tofu if you’re veggie/vegan)

Ingredients
3-4 chicken breasts, cooked then shredded
4 tbsp sesame seeds – toasted
2 courgettes- spiralized
1 cup mange tout – raw
4 spring onions – sliced
1/2 iceberg lettuce – finely chopped
Handful fresh coriander – roughly chopped

The Dressing:
4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp of soy sauce/tamari
1tbsp honey
Juice of one lime

Toss all salad ingredients together in a bowl.
Whizz up dressing. Pour dressing over salad and sprinkle with extra sesame seeds.

Catherine Tyldesley (or Auntie Cath as she’s often known!) is one of the UKs favourite actresses. Making in her mark in the likes of BBC Ones ‘Lilies’ , sitcom ‘Scarborough’, ITVs ‘View Point’ and Ofcourse- the nations favourite‘Coronation Street’.
Catherine has recently finished filming another drama for ITV and was crowned Winner of All Star Musicals 2021. Cath’s other huge passion in life is Food! After study nutrition on maternity leave with her first child- Caths enthusiasm for food grew. Especially nutritious, budget friendly, tasty family meals. We’re thrilled to bits to have Cath join us and share her knowledge and passion! You’re in for a treat with Auntie Caths recipes!

 KEEP UP TO DATE WITH BROOD:

* indicates required
Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Brood Magazine:
You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.
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Related Articles

Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

read more

Charlie Condou

CHARLIE CONDEAU © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYCharlie Condou is a successful British Actor, Columnist and LGBTQ+ Rights Activist - not forgetting his most important role – a doting dad of two, to Georgia, 12, and Hal, 9. For as long as Charlie can remember, he always had...

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