INSPIRATIONAL MUM OF TWO, WORLD RENOWNED BECKY ADLINGTON, ON LIFE BUILDING HER BUSINESSES, WHILST JUGGLING HER BROOD!

INSPIRATIONAL MUM OF TWO, WORLD RENOWNED BECKY ADLINGTON, ON LIFE BUILDING HER BUSINESSES, WHILST JUGGLING HER BROOD!

REBECCA ADLINGTON OBE | IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD | INTERVIEW BY LOLO STUBBS | BROOD MAGAZINE ©

“WHY SHOULDN’T I WORK FULL TIME, WHEN I LOVE MY JOB?

Rebecca Adlington OBE is undoubtedly the greatest female swimmer that Great Britain has ever produced, and one of the greatest GB swimmers of all time, not only because she is a multiple Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European medallist but she also broke the World Record in the 800m freestyle in 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing ; a record that was 19 years old, the same age Rebecca was in Beijing. 

Becky’s drive and thirst for success did not diminish when she retired from Swimming, and she is still the same overachiever that she was in the water, having juggled a number of amazing career accolades for a number of years, such as her role as a pundit for BBC Sport, running multi businesses, creating swimwear ranges with Slazenger and work in her role as an ambassador for the Encephalitis Society and as a Patron of Women in Sport charities too; all alongside her biggest and favourite ‘job’ as a mum of two to the adorable 7-year-old Summer and 21 month old Albie. 

Rebecca was recognised for her incredible achievements by the late HRH Queen Elizabeth II when she was awarded an OBE in 2009 and the British public have had ample opportunity to get to know Becky as person rather than ‘just’ as a swimmer, after she has taken part in a variety of well loved prime time TV shows such as I’m a Celebrity, The Jump and Celebrity Masterchef!

We had the pleasure of sitting down with this inspirational mama at one of her thriving swim centres, and we chatted about all things career and kids and found out how Becky manages to make it all work for her and her family! 

Rebecca Adlington on business and babies
© BROOD MAGAZINE. REBECCA ADLINGTON OBE
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INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA ADLINGTON OBE

You have used your unbelievable successes as a professional swimmer to build three incredible businesses that are helping thousands of children throughout the UK learn to swim. Tell us a bit more about those businesses and at what point in those businesses did you become a mum? 

“We have three learn to swim businesses under one umbrella; we have swim!, Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, and we also have Total Swimming Academy’s. Swim! is the business that is growing the most. Swim! is our own building, where we control that customer journey and we can make sure that they have a purpose built venue that is just for kids. Swimstars are set within gyms, so we are effectively in somebody else’s house, we have to be respectful to its other members, and total swimming is in schools, so we use school pools, so that’s the difference between all three. And they are all at different stages, total swimming is the oldest that’s 12 years old, Becky Adlington swim stars is 10 years old and swim! is 5. 

My daughter Summer is 7, and my youngest is only one. He was a complete surprise, myself and my partner weren’t married at the time, we hadn’t even really planned on having children, so it was a bit of a shock but a beautiful one. Albie was a lockdown baby as well, I think most people said you either got divorced or pregnant in lockdown – and we got pregnant!” [She laughs] “Summer was still off school, and I was really freaking out about whether or not Andy would be able to come in with me because of all the restrictions at the time. I had heard so many stories about people having to give birth on their own and I just couldn’t even imagine how that would feel and so I didn’t end up going to the hospital until I was 8cm because I was so paranoid about it. I was like, ‘I’m not going to the hospital yet, because I don’t want to be by myself’. When we got there, they asked Andy to wait outside, but it was for only like 5 minutes because the head was coming out and so then they got Andy straight back in. I was so relieved because I can’t imagine going through labour without that support!” 

Because of the industry of your business, the whole Covid period must have been incredibly difficult and full of challenges that no one could foresee, how did you cope with that alongside having a new baby? 

“It was so horrible, we had shut every area of our business down because obviously pools weren’t allowed to be open. When I look back to the first lockdown we had all taken bets as to how long it would last and nobody said anything past 8 weeks, and then it was like 6 months later and we were still in lockdown. So it was really, really difficult for us, we nearly lost the business, because swimming pools were one of the last things that were opened up. I remember when they opened up pubs but still wouldn’t open pools and I couldn’t believe that the government wasn’t seeing that choosing people’s mental and physical health and learning a life skill such as swimming as more important than some other things. I understand of course that the hospitality industry was important too, I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t open swimming pools when it was scientifically proven that chlorine killed covid within 30 seconds, so if you had it or even if it was on your skin as soon as you were in the water, within 30 seconds any of those germs would have been killed? When they came out I think they should have made more noise about that as it’s so important for people to understand that and understand that was actually one of the safest sports to do during covid. Physiologically, it was really hard as you were open, then closed, then open, then closed again. It was just horrible and it felt like an absolute mindfield for us and all of the team who work with us (and for our customers!) One minute their children could come back to swimming then they had to stop them again, it was so stop and start for the kids and a lot of people lost interest or developed fears. We nearly didn’t survive that.” 

Amongst the struggles that your business was going through and preparing for a new baby, you also had Summer at home, how did you deal with the demands of that and homeschooling?  

“I didn’t really homeschool, I’m not going to lie. Summer was only in year one at the time, so we did things that she wouldn’t normally get to do with me instead, like exercising, for example as normally I would go to the gym and do that whilst she’s at school, so it was the first time she had really seen what exercise was. She learnt what a press up was and what a squat was etc not that she was doing them! She also helped me with washing and household chores and things that are actually fundamental to getting through life. Now I can say Summer, ‘can you turn the oven on to 200 degrees’ and she now knows what that means, and she can chop veg like a master!” [We all laugh] “So there are good things like that that came out of it as I didn’t know that at her age. So I was very relaxed about that in lockdown, my main challenge in the first lockdown was to teach her how to ride a bike – that was the main goal for me and she did it! So I was more than happy with that! I think everyone was under enough pressure without worrying about homeschooling as well.” 

How did you manage to bounce back from the brink of losing your business to now seeing such incredible growth?   

“I think one of the main factors was that parents were desperate to get their children to swimming lessons and back in the pool – so we were really lucky that the demand for our service was there. Also in terms of our swim! centres, so many other pools never reopened as they didn’t survive covid and a lot of councils had shut down their pools, I think it’s something like 160 swimming pools shut down in the UK following all the lockdowns so that’s a huge amount of pools up and down the country that people can no longer go to, so for us to be able to open up new pools in areas where there aren’t any, people are keen to come in and use them because parents just want their children to learn to swim, and it’s been a real pleasure to be able to provide these facilities where communities had lost out on access to pools for their children all together. It’s been a huge relief and a really nice feeling to get back to business properly again. It was a huge challenge to get the funding together after going through such a difficult couple of years, and finding the buildings isn’t easy and going through all of the logistics of setting up a swimming pool isn’t an easy process. But they’re not 25m swimming pools, they are teaching tanks for children so it’s easier than if we were building full leisure centres. We’ve also recently partnered with JD Gyms so to have them as our funding partner and such an established and well respected brand like JD involved, has been an absolute pleasure for us as a business to have that support. When we think that we started out as a little learn to swim programme started by three olympians (Becky’s business partners Adrian Turner and Steve Parry) who love the sport and now we are working with such an industry leader such as JD it’s amazing to think how far we have come!”

Becky Adlington OBE

What do you think is harder – being a parent or running a business?

“I think both definitely come with different challenges! For us as well because we have quite a big age gap between the kids, as there are six years between Summer and Albie, so it was kind of like starting again. When I arrived I realised that I had totally forgotten the newborn stage! Which is mad, but I think your brain does something to remove it otherwise you would never do it again!” [We all laugh!] “I had six months maternity with Albie, which felt quite short really for me and it was hard going back to work, and it was really difficult because when I had Summer I had a lot more time with her and when I did go back to work I only went back part time. So it was hard returning to work after I had Albie and working full time, I suppose I felt guilty because of how I did it with Summer first time around. But then I thought to myself that I think most people do things differently second time around anyway and circumstances change and you have to do what is right for you at that time. I obviously co-parent Summer with her Dad and so we had to find a way to co-parent that suits us all. Whereas now with Albie I’m married and we all live in the same house together so it’s different this time around, as the first time I had a baby it was mainly just me and Summer. But now it’s a totally different dynamic anyway. For instance, when it was just myself and Summer I would put her to bed and then I would just be sat on my own, whereas now when the kids are in bed me and my husband can have that time to have an adult conversation and watch some adult television – I don’t mean it like that! [We all erupt into laughter!] I mean something like Game of Thrones! [We continue laughing] “In all seriousness though, having that adult time is so valuable.”

What do you think you have learnt most from becoming a mother a second time around? 

“I think because I’ve had my second child but also I think because I’m older now I realise that yes, I’m a mother and obviously that’s really important to me but I’m also a wife and I’m also Becky! I have realised that I also have to go with what ‘Becky’ wants to do at times too, because you do have to put yourself first at times as well as your children, your husband, your sisters, your parents and your business partners. I think when you are juggling so many different roles when you are a parent, especially a parent who is working or running a business, that is the hardest thing to manage, all those different aspects and pleasing everyone else but also learning to please yourself too.” 

A lot of working mums suffer from the dreaded ‘Mum Guilt’ and sometimes judgement from others, what has been your experience of this?

 

“Mum guilt is the worst! I always have Mum guilt! It’s weird because my husband doesn’t get it, he’s always saying ‘what are you talking about? You’ve got nothing to feel guilty about!’ Because his point of view he’s with the kids – as my husband doesn’t work he looks after the kids, which has been a hard dynamic anyway as most of the time other men will say to him ‘Oh, you don’t work? You look after the kids?’ I can’t understand why there are still so many men who don’t understand why other dads want to stay at home and lead with the childcare. Like why? It’s like when people say to me, ‘Oh is your husband at home, is he babysitting the children then?’ and it baffles me because I think ‘no, he’s not babysitting them, he’s their Dad!’ They are his children as well? It’s so weird that people still think that way, because why shouldn’t I work full time when I LOVE my job, and when we had Albie and we looked at all the factors for both me and Andy in terms of salary, job satisfaction, happiness etc, Andy said I really want to be at home with the kids, so if my husband is telling me that and I love my job why would we not make that decision? And it works really well for us, and then at weekends Andy takes the time to do his own thing like play football etc and I’ll be with the kids most of the time, and during the week when I come home I cook the tea and sort the kids out. I still organise everything for our family, and every Sunday night I create a planner for our family so we all know what we are doing and I can go to work knowing everything is under control!” [She laughs] “So it’s 100% a team effort! The thing I refuse to negotiate on, the thing that helps me keep that balance of work and parenting, is to make sure I’m always there for bedtime. I want see my kids every day and obviously there are those odd occasions where I’m not if I’m in London or something, but I always make sure I can spend time with them before they go to bed.”

What tips would you give other working parents who are juggling work and bringing up children?

“I think being organised is definitely something that I need to be in order to stay sane – I’m a bit like Monica in friends!” [We laugh] “For instance with the planner that I do on a Sunday, I use different coloured pens, and we stick that on the fridge! We have an online diary too and that is also colour coordinated, and I make sure everything goes in that diary. So I am very organised. I think there is so much going on each week that it’s one of those things that really helps us and the kids to have that reference. I think that really helped me with that transition of being back at work, so it eases my anxiety too and gives me that peace of mind that the kids aren’t going to miss anything. It also saves me time as I’m not checking in with Andy every two minutes like I was when I first came back to work! Which obviously caused a bit of friction too with Andy, because I wasn’t used to letting go so I think having that system in place has worked really well for us.” 

You can learn more about Rebecca and her swim! business visit: https://www.swim.co.uk

Rebecca Adlington SWIM!
REBECCA ADLINGTON OBE
© BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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WEBSITE & DESIGN BY ROB STUBBS

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SIMON WOOD’s WEEKEND FAKE-AWAY: Naantastic’ Rarebit with Bombay Taters & Curry Sauces

SIMON WOOD’s WEEKEND FAKE-AWAY: Naantastic’ Rarebit with Bombay Taters & Curry Sauces

SIMON WOOD’S FAKEAWAY
BY SIMON WOOD OF WOOD MANCHESTER AND WoodKraft Cheltenham. IMAGES © TOM PITPIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

There’s no harm in having a little bit of a treat now and then, what’s that saying? ‘Everything in Moderation, including moderation.’

Well, I’m no different and sometimes a take-away is a lovely thing, but sometimes, and we’ve all been there, its not. It’s cold, late, or worse just not very good.

So in this month’s edition of Brood Food I’m going to show you how to make something so simple and so tasty. You’ll question picking up the phone or using that easy-access app again.

After Christmas especially, Take-aways can be expensive so here I’m going to show you how to create a fusion of my two favourite things in the comfort of your own kitchen.

It’s quite simply ‘Naantastic’, a Donkeystone Rarebit filled naan bread loaded with Bombay tater-tots and a cheats curry sauce. This is made entirely from store cupboard ingredients, and I like to use a local brewery’s Ferris Muler Beer to add into my chilli cheese mix

simon woods weekend fake away naantastic rarebit with bombay taters curry sauces

Naantastic’ Rarebit with Bombay Taters & Curry Sauce

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

  • 4 Large Naan
  • Ready-made Curry Sauce (or granules)
  • Deep Fried Chickpeas
  • 2 Tablespoons Aleppo Chilli
  • 1 Jar Curry Sauce 

The Rarebit Mix

  • 1 pack Grated Chilli Cheese
  • 1 pack Grated Cheddar
  • 100g egg yolk
  • 80g Beer
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Method

Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper

The Bombay Taters 

  • Boiled New Potatoes
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 1” Ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 200ml Water
  • 1 tablespoon Curry Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Chilli Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon salt and black pepper
  • 1 Bunch Chopped Coriander
  • 50ml veg Oil.

 

 

SIMON WOOD'S FAKEAWAY
INGREDIENTS FOR FAKEAWAY © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Method

In a large hot frying pan add your oil followed by your onions and cook until softened, add in the chopped garlic, chili and ginger and cook for 1 minute.

 

Next add in your spices and toast them for 2 minutes, stirring throughout and then add in your water followed by the potatoes.

 

Stir regularly adding a little more water if the mix starts to dry out

 

Next wet your naan bread and toast one side under a grill, turn and then add your cheese mixture and place back under the grill allowing the cheese to melt and turn golden.

 

Add your coriander to the potatoes and warm the curry sauce.

 

Top the toasty naan with the potatoes some crunchy chickpeas and sliced red chilli and then Serve with a beer of your choice.

 

All this can be made in less than 15 minutes which gives you plenty of your evening to relax and unwind.

 

@Donkeystonebrewingco @SimonJwoodUK

WoodKraft Cheltenham
Naantastic’ Rarebit with Bombay Taters & Curry Sauce
SIMON WOOD’S FAKEAWAY © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Simon Wood

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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SUPER MUM OF 6 ON TAKING HER BUSINESS FROM HER KITCHEN TABLE TO DRAGON’S DEN

SUPER MUM OF 6 ON TAKING HER BUSINESS FROM HER KITCHEN TABLE TO DRAGON’S DEN

KATE BALL, FOUNDER OF MINI FIRST AID WITH 4 of HER 6 CHILDREN © TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Inspirational Mum of 6, Kate Ball, started her award winning business, Mini First Aid in 2014, right from her kitchen table. She quickly saw the potential for growth and franchised the business a mere year later.  At the time, Kate had two young children, Alfie and Grace, but by 2021 when Kate appeared on the hit BBC series Dragons’ Den, she had 6 children after having two sets of twins! Kate, together with husband and business partner Matt, and four of their six children stepped into the infamous Dragons’ Den, to give an impressive pitch (even with their brood in tow). This resulted in an investment from the hugely successful, multi millionaire Mum of two, Sara Davies MBE!

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Kate at her beautiful family home, and heard all about her inspiring business journey, and the heartbreaking reason behind her drive to educate others about first aid. We also enjoyed one of our most chaotic and fun shoots to date, with Kate and the youngest four of her children – her two sets of twins, four beautiful and lively girls: Emily and Olivia, and Poppy and Amelia! 

Mini First Aid
Kate Ball Mini First Aid with her children
KATE BALL, FOUNDER OF MINI FIRST AID WITH 4 of HER 6 CHILDREN © TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
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Tell us a little bit about your career before starting Mini First AId and at which point in your career did you become a mum?

“I had a big corporate training role for Mars which I loved and when I had my first child, Alfie, I was really lucky to have a year’s maternity leave with full pay! It showed how much they value staff and their families, and that they want you to go back. And it was fantastic, but when you were back at work, you were BACK!  I managed to negotiate flexible working down to four days. However, this effectively meant that I was still doing my 5 day job, but in 4.I know this is a common story for so many women who return to work after having a baby. So it was really hard, but I actually fell pregnant with my second child, Grace, quite quickly (there’s only 20 months between Alfie and Grace). During my maternity leave with Grace, there was a company restructure and my job was going to change. This was going to mean more travel and time away from home. I had two young babies and I just didn’t want to do that on a regular basis. So, I took redundancy and began to look for other opportunities, which led me to some consultancy work around training and HR. But in the back of mind was always this first aid idea niggling at me.”

What inspired you to start a business in first aid and at what point did you decide to dive into the world of entrepreneurship? 

“Educating people about first aid and specifically CPR, has been something I have wanted to do ever since losing my brother, Matt. Matt had a condition called cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that we have seen in the media more recently having affected some footballers. The condition means that damage to the heart builds and then suddenly the person affected goes into cardiac arrest. When you hear about it happening to  footballers, a doctor is present, the defibrillator is there. Thankfully, we have also seen campaigns for defibrillators to be present at all grassroot football games. Unfortunately, my brother was on a beach in Portsmouth when it happened to him. There was no defibrillator and his friends did not know how to do CPR. We don’t hold them responsible in any way, but it’s always in the back of your mind: What if this group of young people knew how to do CPR until the paramedics arrived? 

So your brother Matt is very much your inspiration? 

Absolutely. I’ve always thought: What can I do to help prevent this from happening to other families? I think when somebody dies, some people go straight into activist mode and set up a charity, or start running marathons, but we as a family weren’t really there when it first happened. It was a huge shock and took a long time to get to that point. My brother was only 22 years old when he died and I was only 24, so myself and my parents were just dealing with the fact that he had gone. But it was something that was always in the back of my mind. And then when the moment came, I knew I had the skills to write quality training courses and identified a gap in the market . Accessible first aid courses weren’t readily available in my area, and that is where the germ of an idea came from.

So how did you get started with your own first aid business?

I got myself trained up and one of my mates worked as graphic designer and I paid him with a bottle of red wine to design me a logo ( The Mini First Aid logo). And he did a really thorough job and we still use that logo today! And then I started running Mini First Aid classes for parents and carers, alongside my consultancy work and juggling my two young children. In the beginning, I ran the classes in  my spare time and saw it as me doing something worthwhile, whichs gave me a bit of extra money. It grew from there and now there are over 70 franchises across the UK and we train around a thousand people adults and children every week in basic and lifesaving first aid!”

As it’s a passion project for you as well as a business, what’s the most rewarding thing about running Mini First Aid?

“We get messages from people every week telling us about different first aid situations which have happened to their baby or child, and because they attended a Mini First Aid class, they knew what to do. Often, this has saved their child’s life. We sent out a newsletter last week, about a family who managed to successfully deliver CPR to their baby, and you can’t read to the end without crying. I am not interested in getting any glory for that, but feel passionately about educating people and making a difference.  The fact that we are growing a successful business that we can earn a living from, and that all of our trainers can earn a living from, gives me a massive amount of satisfaction.”

How has your business developed over the years? 

“As well as training adults in first aid for abies and toddlers, we now train school children in first aid. In the last academic year, Mini First Aid trained 80,000 children, which is incredible! I was amazed by that, but my husband Matt – who runs all the commercial side of the business, made a point in stating that there are 6 million primary school children in the UK, so there is still a long way for us to go! [She laughs] But to go from nothing to 80,000 in 7 years, gives us a real sense of achievement! Watch this space as we’re about to introduce a nsew groundbreaking class!”

At what point did your husband come into the business?      

“We had just moved into our new house, done a renovation and we decided to have a third baby. When we started trying, I had a miscarriage. Sadly, it was a missed miscarriage – where you don’t miscarry the baby, so you have to have an operation – which was horrible. We had a lovely midwife who told us that although it hadn’t worked out this time around, if we wanted to get pregnant again,we should go for it. Then when I did fall pregnant, we went for the scan and there were two heartbeats! It was a proper fall off your chair moment. It felt like a gift – like the universe was saying you’ve lost one, so you’re going to have two! So it felt really lovely. And at that point I was ‘Mini First Aid’ completely on my own. I was marketing, PR, finance, website – I was everything! I was managing everything to a point and just about getting away with it, but it was very entry level and I said to Matt: “I can’t do this and have two tiny babies at home – as well as Alfie and Grace.” Matt was running an events company at the time (he’s a professional musician), so completely out of the realms of first aid. But he does know how to run a business and offered to come on board for 6 months, to give me ‘a break’ when the twins arrived. As if!’ [she laughs] Six years later, he is the Operational Director of Mini First Aid. We also have a team of 9 people in our Head Office, who look after our franchises, commercial operations and marketing etc. 

Your business is obviously like your seventh baby – especially because of the personal connection, how do you find having franchises of your business, because it can often be hard to let go and delegate when you are so passionate about your business

“Oh my god yes! It was really hard as I am a bit of a control freak. Even now, if I read something that one of our trainers has written on social media and it isn’t quite the wording I would have used, it can niggle at me. I still have to have a word with myself and say: “Right, come on Kate, it’s still getting the message out there, there’s nothing negative about it and it doesn’t matter if it’s not quite in my style.’ I also have a really good Franchise Manager , Gemma, who is really proactive in making sure everything is delivered on brand, and the style of training is replicated to the same standards throughout the franchises. But you do have to learn to let go, as your business grows or you cannot continue to expand.”

Kate Ball and her husband pitching Mini First Aid to BBC Dragon's Den
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE DAILY MAIL | © DAVID VENNI / © BBC, DRAGON’S DEN

What has been the hardest thing that you have encountered since starting your business?

“We had a situation in the very early days where someone picked up what we did and completely copied it! At the time, I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart, because of all of the blood, sweat and tears that goes into starting a new business, and then someone just gave it a slightly different name and ran with it. It’s so hard because from a legal perspective, you can’t really do anything. We’re also teaching first aid, so you don’t want to be aggressive, because you feel like you should be saying: “It’s brilliant that you’re teaching CPR, but I just wish you weren’t doing it in the exact same way as Mini First Aid!’ I remember someone advising me to take it as a compliment. You have to have thick skin and I’m getting better, because we do have competition in the market now, as people have seen we have a good business model.  

How did appearing on Dragon’s Den change things for your company and also for you as a family as you had all six children at that point? 

“It changed things massively for us, and yes, we did have 6 children at that point! When we did our audition for the BBC, they liked our reference to children’s first aid as they thought it would work well on camera rather than demonstrating our first aid kit. So whilst we were going on there to pitch for investment for developing products, producers wanted to showcase the work we do with children. We were actually due to have other children on set with us, but then Covid hit, so they asked us to bring our own children! At first, we considered changing our pitch as there was NO way we were going to take the children on the show. But then we considered what the BBC had said, and decided we just needed to go for it! So we practised at home and even the night before, and we were still panicking that it was going to be a massive mistake. Our first set of twins were only three at the time, and you know what three year olds are like! We also didn’t want our older two to feel any pressure because that’s not fair on them. Mini First Aid is our business and we didn’t want Grace or Alfie to feel nervous, so we kept reassuring them that it was fine, and there was nothing to worry about. Our children did brilliantly and then left the set whilst Matt and I were grilled. The process is gruelling! We were thrilled to get Sara as an investor, one  – because she is a working mum and two –  because she gets us as a couple, as her husband runs her business with her. We felt that she had the right persona and we’ve been proved right. When we walked out and got into the lift we were like ‘YES! We did it! And I just burst into tears!”

What is it like working with Sara Davies and her team?

Sara and her husband, Simon are just the most down to earth, kind and lovely people. And as much as Sara can’t constantly be involved, nothing is too much trouble for her and we actually see her every quarter for half a day, which is great and we’ve done that for the last two years now. 

Sara has been a really good mentor for me. She does Facebook Live on our internal group with our franchises about twice a year, and has been a huge help with the retail side of our business. We had some retailers lined up to stock our first aid kits before the show, but hadn’t committed, and as soon as we started working with Sara and they knew about Dragons’ Den, it was a done deal. Some of them even doubled their orders. Sara opens doors for us in the media too, because she has really good connections which is invaluable!”

How did the children react to the news that you had been successful in the ‘Den’?

“What was lovely was that the children had been taken off and were being looked after. Then the crew brought the children to wait for us at the other side of the lift and told them the news before we arrived, so they literally leapt on us, shouting: “You did it!” So we all went to McDonalds to celebrate as we’d promised this to the children after the pitch. We had totally forgotten that our microphones were still on, so when all the unedited footage was sent to Sara’s team, Simon (Sara’s husband) listened to the audio file. When we met him for the first time he said: ‘We knew you were our kind of people, because you bribe your kids with McDonalds!’ [We all laugh].

What would advise other people who are only at the start of their journey in business, and how do you keep the vision through those blood sweat and tears? 

“One of the things that I would say to anyone starting a business, is to make sure you do your research and know your numbers, so that you can work out from the very beginning whether you can make some money from it. From the start, you need to look at other businesses that you like and see what they are doing well. What is it that they are doing that appeals to their audience? This can help you take the best bits, to help you build your brand. For me it wasn’t all first aid brands, as I wanted to change the way first aid brands were seen and delivered. I looked at baby brands and how accessible they were. This really helped to guide our website designer for example, as I was able to say ‘I love how this looks and can you make this bit look like that?’ So I think looking around for other brands you find aspirational and you can gain inspiration from is really important. 

And I think the final piece of advice I would give, is finding your own balance between work and family. I would never say I’m an expert because sometimes it can be a nightmare, but I really do try to work when I am ‘at work’ and be ‘in the family’ when I’m with the family. Whenever I’ve tried to mix the two, that’s when it’s gone horribly wrong! If I’m sitting with my laptop when the children come home from school, they will just climb all over me and close my laptop and I may as well give up. So sometimes that means that I might be an hour longer at work but when I’m home I can be present. To help me separate that, I used to go out to work even if that meant I went and sat in a coffee shop, but at least that way I wasn’t balancing my laptop on the playdough or getting stressed if someone made a noise whilst I was on the phone! And I know it’s not always that easy as sometimes things happen to throw a curveball when you have a family, or things don’t fit in with when people want you to do stuff. I was recently asked to sdo a radio interview at 7.30am and I had to go into the bathroom and lock the door and just pray that someone didn’t come knocking at the door shouting ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!’ And I felt so stressed. I think sometimes I do things like that to remind myself how stressful it is and how important it is to keep it separate as much as possible!”

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GROWING A BRAND AND A BABY | WITH MASTER DISTILLER AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SPIRIT OF MANCHESTER, SEB HEELEY

GROWING A BRAND AND A BABY | WITH MASTER DISTILLER AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SPIRIT OF MANCHESTER, SEB HEELEY

SEB HEELEY, SPIRIT OF MANCHESTER & ADRIAN ADAIR FOR MORSON. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

In this feature, I catch up with master distiller and co-founder of The Spirit of Manchester, Seb Heeley.

Jen Wiggins and Seb Heeley started distilling gin in the dining room of their Chorlton home, with an initial run of just 100 bottles. The Christmas of 2016 the couple “distilled for 24 hours straight for 11 days to keep up with demand. We slept in two-hour stints at a time.” Fast forward 6 years and Seb and Jen have opened a Manchester city centre cocktail bar and distillery to keep up with huge demand. Their internationally recognised hero product, Manchester Gin, is one of the most awarded gins in the UK, selling over 100,000 bottles per year in the UK alone.

Just like its gin, the brand’s founder Seb is gimmick-free, authentic and future-facing. In the stunning surroundings of their Manchester cocktail bar, Three Little Words, we chat about finding love and a business over a G&T and the challenges of simultaneously nurturing a young business and a young son.

We last met earlier in the year in less relaxed surroundings – on the panel of a North West Insider Business event. You spoke so passionately about your business and I enjoyed hearing about how you and your wife founded Manchester Gin. So let’s start there…

Morson Group
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SEB HEELEY, SPIRIT OF MANCHESTER & ADRIAN ADAIR FOR MORSON. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE
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Manchester Gin

I started the business in 2016 with (my now) wife. But the idea starts way earlier. In February 2013 I was out with two of my friends… it was about half one on a Wednesday morning (yes, a school night!) and my two friends were chatting up two women. Feeling left out, I said I was going to speak to the nearest unattended woman! And there was Jen, sitting 10 feet away from me. I walked up and the first words I ever said to her were “What are you drinking?”, and the first words that she ever said to me were “Gin and tonic.”

Some classic foreshadowing there… it was meant to be!

The conversation turned into a very pretentious chat over who knew the most about gin … “this botanical doesn’t go with that one etc.” … and that started our whole love affair. Fast forward a couple of years to 2015 and we’d decided to open a bar together.

I used to work for a property developer, so the idea was that he’d buy the site (he didn’t know this), redevelop it all, and then I was going to quit and open the bar. In researching the bar, we came across what I would call ‘true small batch gin distillation’ which are tiny stills of around 30 litres. It was the first time I’d ever seen gin being made in a little back room (probably 2m x 2m). And that was our proverbial light bulb moment… we said “We’ve got a free summer, we can give this a go.” It took us 12 months to get all the licenses. When we managed to launch our first gin in 2016 our distillery was actually in our dining room, because we didn’t have a great deal of start-up capital. Our first still, which we call Wendy (who we still use to this day) was installed there, she’s a little 60 litre still which would make 100 bottles of gin.

It’s the perfect origin story – your love of gin meets the love of your life. So what’s it like being a husband and wife team, do you have dedicated roles and responsibilities?

Yeah. I try to do as little as possible!

My wife would say the same and we don’t even work together!

We always say we’re that irritating couple that actually gets on. Working side by side is never a problem and we’ve worked closely for the last seven years, every single day going home, waking up, going to sleep, always together.

As to roles, I try to do one thing once badly and then I don’t get asked again! So accounts I can’t do or anything that involves being precise and accurate, that’s Jen’s skill set. Generally, I’ll do everything that’s outward facing such as distillation, new product development, and running the distillery team.

It’s good to have complementary skill sets, makes for a great team.

Well, we always say that we complement each other. Jen will focus on the minutiae (we always say that she’s the worrier) whereas I’m just left in my little dreamland coming up with various things. And it works really well.

We talk to other people that start businesses and I think unless there are at least two of you in the business, I think it’s incredibly hard to make a real decision. If there are two of you and you make decisions together, learn together and fail together, that’s how you find success.

And of course, you have added pressure of being partners in business and life, plus you have a little boy! So, I’m curious, as business owners and parents, how do you manage a work-life balance?

I don’t think there is one in all honesty. When I was in transition from leaving a job I’d been in for nine/ten years to running my own business I remember going on a 2 week holiday and my old boss said ‘Have a great break.’ I remember saying ‘I’ve got to take the laptop to design Christmas sets’ and he said, ‘Welcome to the business owners club.’ When you start your own business there’s no work-life balance because it is your life, it’s all on you. If the work doesn’t get done, you don’t make any money and you can’t provide for yourself and your family.

Work-life balance is a funny thing – particularly for business owners. It’s quite a polarised term, suggesting that you’re not living when you’re working but if you’re passionate about what you do, you’re engaged in what you do, whether you’re an employee or an owner, you find balance. It’s often about what you feel is acceptable.

I agree, this business is our baby, and we love it. I remember a time a few years ago, I think it was my birthday and we said, listen, we’re going to have a nice lunch and we’re not going to talk about work. We sat at a bar not dissimilar from this one and we were chatting away with the barman and ordering cocktails. That lasted about 4 minutes before we were looking behind the bar saying “I quite like that spirit bottle because of the shape” then an hour passed and all we’d done was talk about work – we’d failed!

But like you say if you are passionate about what you do then there is no work-life because it’s just life and this has been our life for the last seven years now. So, you know, we’re always talking about work, talking about ways of making it better, we don’t stop. On the flip side, because we’re business owners we can take Fridays off, we can spend quality time with our son when he needs it, and we can do the school run – we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Any advice for a couple exploring whether to go into business together or not?

Make sure you love each other if you really get on each other’s t*ts, don’t ever do business together. It will test your relationship and you have to fully commit to it. But if you do love each other and you want to spend time together and spend every day talking about it, then go for it. I mean, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. But it’s like having a child, if you’re not completely in love don’t have a child, because that will break your spirit instantly.

Nigel Eastham & Adrian Adiar
SEB HEELEY, CO-FOUNDER AT THE SPIRIT OF MANCHESTER SHOWING ADRIAN ADAIR THEIR DISTILLERY FACTORY. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

And what do you think is the one key ingredient to a successful family business other than love and passion?

Well, our business motto is ‘f*** it’. And as far as we’re concerned, that’s what we live and die by. When Jen first quit her job, it was ‘f*** it’, let’s do it.

What I mean by ‘f*** it’ is, just be bold in what you do. If you really think it’s worthwhile doing it, then do it. But ultimately, if it was easy everyone would do it. When I first started working on the business my friends would say ‘Why would you bother to do this?’ My old boss was the same, when I got my first still got delivered to my office he told me I was an idiot… he took that back 4 months later!

I think this ‘being bold’ rhetoric just says everything about you. When we were on the panel together at that Northwest Insider event your desire to succeed came across so strongly. Do you mind me asking, where does that come from?

Honestly, it’s a desire not to fail. I always wanted to start my own business growing up, conversely, Jen wasn’t that massively enthused about it and it wasn’t a big driver of hers.

I think it just comes from always wanting to do something new. If you discover something you love, why wouldn’t you put your all into it? Why wouldn’t I want to make a whisky next, why wouldn’t I want to build a new distillery? Once you’ve done one thing, it needs to roll onto the next. For us, the development of our brand isn’t a game plan, it’s a natural progression.

That’s so interesting to hear you say that. At Morson, one of our core values is curiosity. We want our people to know that by being curious, and inquisitive you’re making yourself and your business better, and more successful.

Yeah, exactly. You must always be on the lookout for what’s new, and what’s coming. Two years ago, we didn’t have the ambition to go into whisky but in the next six/seven years it’ll probably become the focus of the whole business. So, you’ve just got to roll with what’s moving, what’s changing, and how your passions change and evolve.

So, whisky is firmly in the pipeline?

Well, I always say, and I stand fast in this, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. And I don’t think I’ll ever know. But I love this business, I love making alcohol – the next ten years will revolve around whisky. We call it a super distillery. It’ll be capable of producing half a million bottles of whisky a year. Compared to Scotland, that’s considered very small. So we would be a cottage industry business to Scotch Whisky and but we’ll be in the top three or four producers of English Whisky. So our ten-year goal is to produce one of the world’s best whiskys and grow internationally with that brand.

The still behind us is a thousand-litre still that can make a million bottles of gin. Our 750-litre whisky still can only make 40,000 bottles. So we need a 15,000 square foot space to make the equivalent amount of whisky to gin. So the focus for the next two to three years is to get a new distillery up and running and fire into production because you’ve got to wait at least three years for it to mature into whisky.

Will it be Manchester’s first whisky?

I mean Macclesfield have a whisky and the guys at Forest Gin, but that’s Cheshire, so yeah, Manchester’s first. But also the best, I want to produce the world’s best whisky, you know, just a small feat…

You’ve got guts and ambition. It’s great. Whilst we’re talking about the future, what would you like your son to follow in your footsteps?

You know what, I just want him to do what makes him happy. Jen and I always talk about how amazing it is to see his personality developing and coming through. He’s four now and in reality, the job he’s most likely to do doesn’t even exist right now. When I think when I was a child, social media didn’t exist now I employ three people in our social media team – a job that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

I’d like him to be in control of his own life, which for me meant running my own business when however hard you work is usually a direct correlation to how much you earn. But money is not the be-all and end-all. Genuinely, I would say, as long as he’s happy, that’s the most important thing.

When we were on the panel, you spoke about legacy. The fact that you wanted to create a business that is still going and growing when your son is older. Is that a driving factor?

Yeah, the way we’ve built our brands is for longevity. It comes back to my old days in property. The reason I went into property was to build a building that outlived me. I wanted my children, and my grandchildren to go and see that building, and say “Granddad built it” and it’s the same thing with our brand. I have no interest in him running this business, he has to go and live his own life, as I did. We’ll always have our family name on the back of every bottle we produce and it’ll be something that he (hopefully) is very proud of. But he doesn’t need to run this business if he doesn’t want to.

So as we’re in the festive season, what does Christmas look like in the Heeley-Wiggins household?

Food, food, and more food. I’ve already written the menu. I wrote it probably six weeks ago. I’m obsessed with food. So is my little boy and there’s not much he doesn’t eat. We tried him a couple of years ago with caviar and he enjoyed it but we can’t afford to keep him eating like that!

We usually have six or seven courses from nine to nine, so it’s a 12-hour eating and drinking fest.

And matching cocktails?

Yes, everything is paired with a cocktail. So we’ve got breakfast paired with a breakfast martini. Then prawns in a cream sauce with a French 75 (a cocktail made of gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar), followed by a tomahawk steak and a lovely bottle of wine from where we had our honeymoon in Bordeaux and then cheesecakes, cheeses and hams. Then it’s total regret at about 9:15 pm when you can’t move on the sofa!

It’s really special to see a local couple build something so successful, through pure hard work, dedication and above all love.

Seb and Jen’s passion for their business and brand made me think about a term which describes the polar opposite, one that has made its way into the mainstream this year. First touted on TikTok, back in March, the term ‘Quit Quitting’ has done the rounds with the recruiter and business media, generating plentiful commentary and analysis. Viral videos describe quiet quitting as delivering just what your job description demands and no more. You’re ‘quitting’ the idea of going above and beyond by doing the ‘bare minimum’ – that’s it. Individuals feel disengaged from their roles or they lack the same energy or passion they once had.

Regardless of your employment status – entrepreneur, perm, contract or otherwise – it’s natural to strive for a sense of purpose. People want to understand their role, have a clear career pathway for growth and can see how their skills align with the outcomes that they – and the business they work for – are trying to achieve.

If you’re an employer, we must embrace differences, build digital literacy, re-skill talent, create a culture of ‘we’ not ‘me’ and much more. Together, these solid principles will help to tackle quiet quitting, quiet hiring, great resignation and whatever phrase hits the headlines next. After all, a survey by LinkedIn said that companies with a purposeful mission reap 49% lower attrition rates. And those numbers simply can’t be ignored.

Jen and Seb provide the antidote to quiet quitting, “If you discover something you love, why wouldn’t you put your all into it?” and since 2016 have gone above and beyond to build their business. Their success is a testament to the power of finding purpose.

If you are seeking a new purposeful opportunity or are looking for ways to keep your workforce engaged or attract and retain diverse, multi-generation talent drop me a message at adrain.adair@morson.com

Morson Group - Find your next job
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CONTENT CREATION BY OLI DUNN

CONTENT CREATION BY OLI DUNN

CONTENT CREATION📷

My Perspective On Content Creation by Oli Dunn

I try to create more than I consume, I LOVE the creative process, I love creation of any kind, written, audio, video, painting, photography, the list goes on, it’s expressive, it’s expansive, it’s therapeutic, communication at its best, it’s good for you, in fact I’m addicted to it, as i am writing this I feel a chemical change in my body, excitement in my stomach, my heart beats faster.

Two quotes are coming to my mind as I write this;

“Create more than you consume.”
– Gary Vee.

 

“Do things that make your heart beat faster.”
– Nick Bianchi.

I regularly paraphrase the above. I’ve never linked the two though, until now.
Content creation for me has to be REAL, in the moment, spontaneous, unplanned and unpredictable (like life itself).
But most of all for me at least, it has to be fun, exciting and relatable.

Oliver Dunn
Oliver Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

I’m pretty confident you will already be aware that video is where it’s at, users stay on platforms longer therefore apps like YT, IG, FB generate more dollars from ads the longer people are on their platforms. That said captions and written storytelling are equally important for the very same reason, this can often be undervalued.

My thoughts on Reels/ Shorts are as follows;

A reel is like a good night out, the less planned the better, the impromptu, spontaneous nights are the best right? I think the same applies for shorts. Give people the unexpected, surprise them. Think about where the value is, for example, whether you are a personal brand or a business think in questions, the answer is in the question – literally. If you are asked certain questions, bank and bookmark them, write them down and use them as inspiration and as a theme to create content.

For example, I’ve noted questions people ask me, such as;
How do you temper chocolate?
How do you stay so positive?
How are you so active on social media?
How do you speak in front of camera?

These questions will help you to form a basis for individual pieces of content or even a series of content. Consistency is key, become people’s habit.

Be relatable and authentic. Typically I notice that views are typically higher on shaky POV videos taken on a phone as opposed to a professional camera so don’t overthink it. Use equipment you feel comfortable with, that you can be consistent with. Consistency means you will become someones commodity, if you’re bringing them value, like a coffee in the morning, if users know they can discover fresh, exciting, interesting or entertaining new content from you daily or weekly they will keep coming back for more and you will become part of their routine.

My biggest lesson in social media.

A turning point for me was during lockdown. Generally people do things, people are busy, online and offline, doing, documenting, sharing their own experiences. In other words people are thinking about themselves and their agenda (nothing wrong with that) and not about you and what you’re doing. There’s a lot of noise to cut through. During lockdown a lot of people weren’t really doing anything at all.

I saw this as an opportunity to reach out to people, give them something to do. So I started selling chocolate making kits, this kept me sane, focused, driven and more importantly it gave people something to do at home with their family. This led to me sending out kits for big virtual corporate events around the globe for brands like Paypal, Facebook, Google and Gymshark and subsequently a Guinness World Record for the largest number of people making chocolate together in an online space.

As part of selling the kits initially we needed a call to action.
So Kim and I started a live show on a Saturday morning, called “Saturday Choc Live” inspired by our favourite nostalgic TV shows as kids, such as – Going Live, The Big Breakfast, Blue Peter etc. People could ‘make along’ with us, using the kits and more, singing, dancing, having fun, messing around, giving people lighthearted entertainment with compassion, just what I felt they needed at that time.

PILLAR CONTENT..

Saturday Choc Live and later, my LIVE YouTube weekly “Choc ‘n’ Roll Show gave me the necessary pressure to create new ideas for recipes and quirky creations but most importantly it gave me repurposing GOLD.

The weekly ‘pillar’ content was genuine fun for us, but off the back of it would be short clips, bloopers or reactions which were totally unplanned but when repurposed would showcase what we do, who we are, what we are all about and would often be the videos with the highest views and the most engagement, often more than the show itself. 15 seconds of a one hour show could be a real asset as a piece of content which would lead us to new and exciting places (that’s the fun part for me, you never know who’s watching and what doors can open).
It gave us and our viewers consistency and people knew exactly when and where they could find us and tap into the madness and hopefully take a shot of positivity away with them as well as maybe some chocolatey inspo.

How can I be consistent?

Commitment to a regular slot, live or pre-recorded content is great for consistency, but also great accountability if you let people know when to expect to see your content, this gives you something to focus on and puts some time sensitivity into the equation giving you, hopefully some excitement and the necessary pressure to find new ideas to share.

Think about how you are going to intrigue people, create curiosity, what’s the hook?
Why should they be interested in watching your videos?

For example;
How I made an Easter egg using a balloon?

Show people the true you, the behind-the-scenes. People love realness. Authenticity.
Share your thoughts, your ideas, even your insecurities. You want your followers to trust and relate to you so the more real/ human like you are the better.

I have a theory that people are interested in people, it’s just human nature, I’ve always found I’ve had more engagement on my personal accounts over my business accounts, so my conclusion is that business accounts should have a personality (or personalities) behind them, so they can be more interesting and relatable.

REPURPOSING..

My Great friend Liam Gardner (who produces the Goin’ in deep podcast, which I host with my friend, Ben Eastwood) often, reminds and encourages me to re-purpose clips. For example, if we record a podcast on Zoom, then repurposing a 30 second clip of our conversation can be of high-value, because naturally we will pick a snippet of the most interesting part of the conversation or action which gives people a valuable insight into the dynamic, and hopefully leaves the viewer wanting to consume the long form content. “Repurposing gold” as Mr Gardner would call it.

LEGACY.

This is becoming a much bigger inspiration for my entire content creation than I could have ever imagined. Now that I’m a Daddy I’m thinking more about the bigger picture and leaving a digital legacy for Romy and her children and her children’s children.
Giving future generations an insight into my thoughts, ideas and way of life. Therefore the emphasis is on “documenting” as opposed to just creating. This is where my YouTube channel will really come into its own. History in the making. Storytelling is how history has been made, literally, way back since prehistoric man engraved their stories inside caves. This is even more motivation for me to be the best version of myself so that I can leave a digital legacy and be a positive example for years to come. Paying it forwards.

So in essence, always be YOU, document everything, it might help or inspire just one person, that person might even be you.
Nothing is ever a bad idea, action always wins and everything leads to something.
Document everything, if it’s a good Instagram story it should be a reel and share on YT shorts and TikTok too, no rules approach, just do it.
You should also consume on all platforms so you can create bespoke content on each one, respecting the platforms trends and styles.

You never know who’s attention you might capture, it’s not all about a high number of likes or views, it’s about being authentic and true to yourself, forget the metrics and do it because it means something to you and because you love it! It’s about 1 person that’s all, that 1 person who you could be inspiring, changing their mood or perspective for the better, or someone who might offer you a fantastic opportunity in the future because you resonated with them, grab their attention. Go after it, try not to worry about being judged or other people’s opinions just be YOU and the rest will figure itself out for you.

I’m going to say that one more time for the people at the back, don’t let views, likes, interactions or engagement metrics dictate what you post or don’t post, definitely don’t let those metrics detract you from being your true self, do the opposite and double down on being you, it’s the authenticity people will love. You never know who’s watching and what’s going to pop as a result of your action, I certainly know what will pop if you don’t take that action, nothing!
Keep posting and you only need that one person to notice what you’re doing who can open doors for you and it will be worth it, but more importantly enjoy the ride, you are you, you are unique, embrace that, be proud of it and share it.

And lastly in the words Jay-Z, “remind yourself nobody built like you you design yourself”.

If you enjoyed this read take a screenshot and tag me and @broodmagazine #ContentCreation

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VICTORIA HAYDN ON PHOTOGRAPHING MANCHESTER CITY, MOTHERHOOD AND HER NEW CHAPTER

VICTORIA HAYDN ON PHOTOGRAPHING MANCHESTER CITY, MOTHERHOOD AND HER NEW CHAPTER

© BROOD MAGAZINE. VICTORIA HAYDN AND HER SON, CHARLES

“After photographing Man City for the last ten years, I’m ready to capture the beautiful journey of motherhood

Talented mum of one, Victoria Haydn, has made waves over the last decade as Senior Photographer for Manchester City and one of only a handful of women photographers in the Premier League. After spending the last ten years capturing some of the most incredible moments in both the club and footballing history, now that Victoria has welcomed her adorable son Charles to brood, she has decided to hand over her reigns at Man City, embark on a new venture and step into the world of entrepreneurship.

Victoria’s photos have been published all over the world. From snapping photos of the team on the Great Wall of China to capturing Manchester City Women lift their first ever trophy, Victoria has lived every football-fans’ dream. Victoria even travelled and captured Manchester City in their first ever Champions League final in Portugal in 2021, while five-months pregnant. But since experiencing first-hand, the amazing the transition into motherhood, Victoria has decided to dedicate her craft to empowering women and mothers, by telling their stories through photography.

Victoria is an incredibly warm person, so it’s easy to see how she can get people to shine in front of the camera. We had the pleasure of chatting to Victoria about everything from her decision to step away from a role that she has had so much success and joy from; to how she has found returning to work and Charles starting childcare, to her aspirations for her new business.

Victoria Haydn
© BROOD MAGAZINE. VICTORIA HAYDN AND HER SON, CHARLES

How have you found returning to work and starting Charles at Nursery? 

“I was an emotional wreck when he first started nursery, because up until that point I knew exactly what he did during every second of the day. We didn’t have any babysitters or family looking after him for the first nine months, so I knew everything from every nappy change to every time he sneezed. To suddenly just drop him off at nursery for four days a week was a massive shift! I found it really hard. Although it was difficult for me, it was the best thing for him and he absolutely loves it. He waves me off every day as he joins his friends and teachers. I watch him growing and learning and I know he’s loving this chapter for himself. He’s doing so well, and I’m so proud of him”

Have you felt pressured to make the most of your time whilst he’s nursery because it’s been so hard to leave him?

“Yes, I have felt like there is a huge weight on my shoulders, and a feeling of anxiety. A part of me wanted to drop him off so that I could go out and make an income and get my business off the ground. I felt that for us to have a really good future I needed to start my business right away. So as soon as I would drop him off at nursery, I would be in the head space of ‘work, work, work’. But I would also feel guilty about not being with him. You go through so many mixed emotions. You want to spend time with your child, but you also have a responsibility as mum, a wife, and a homeowner to work too. He’s been in nursery for around three months, and I still have that worry of trying to do everything possible for the business whilst he’s there. There is so much to do when you’re running a business, you’ve got marketing, accounts, creative shoots, editing and there are so many different things going on, so it’s been quite hard to adapt to.”

How have you found stepping away from your role as senior photographer at Manchester City after that has played such a big part in your life and career?

“I absolutely love watching the matches at home in the warmth with Charles, but I’ll miss the nights at the Etihad Stadium soaking up the atmosphere and photographing all the special moments. I’ve had the chance to photograph history unfold for the last ten years, which is genuinely one of my greatest career achievements and I’m so proud of that. On the other hand, I now have the opportunity to photograph on the days and times that work for me and my family. I get to choose whether I work on the weekends and can allow myself time to set up for beautiful shoots with my wonderful clients.

During the summer my husband (who also works for Man City) was in the USA for 10 days during their preseason tour, and I would have been there ordinarily. If I’m completely honest we hadn’t really considered that side of things. So that was a bit of shock when it dawned on us – ‘What would we do with Charles for 10 days?’ So that played a big part in my decision. After photographing ManCity for the last ten years, I’m ready to capture the beautiful journey of motherhood. I’m going to miss the world of football and the fast-paced lifestyle brings, but equally I’m so passionate and excited about my new business which has made my decision easier.”

What are you most looking forward to about your new business? 

“I’m excited about my whole new adventure, but I suppose after photographing men for ten years, I’m looking forward to photographing women. I’m passionate about getting mums in front of the camera and telling their story. I feel like that’s my greater purpose. I have a platform to highlight how amazing mums are. I want to give them photographs to be proud of. They can be photographed at 30 weeks pregnant during this beautiful transition where they are about to become a mother, and then they can come back into the studio with their beautiful babies. I get to capture these precious moments for them, and I love that. Since becoming a mum myself, I know we have a habit of always being behind the camera, taking the photos – I’m on a mission to change this. I have spent 10 years capturing the everyday moments of Premier League heroes I’m now my mission is to capture the heroic moments of everyday super mums. Mums are strong, independent, fierce women and I can’t wait to photograph them every day.

Do have any tips to any other new parents, in particular those who are returning to work?

“Everyone says enjoy your sleep while you can, but it doesn’t really sink in until it happens and then you’re like ‘Oh my god I’ve not slept for nine months!” [We all laugh] “But you just seem to manage somehow. I look at parents in a completely new light now, I just think that they are superheroes! How they just crack on with things is amazing, because now I know what they are going through and how tough it can be.

I have lived and breathed sports photography for over 10 years, so I only know going at 100mph. When Charles came it completely changed everything, it forced me to slow down a bit. Balancing work and being a mum has been a challenge but I’m constantly learning and evolving. Working helps me to remember ‘Oh, I am still me!’ and I think that’s so important.”

If you want to be photographed and step into your power, then you can arrange your own photoshoot with Victoria at www.victoriahaydn.com and see her portfolio on Instagram @victoriahaydnportraits.

Victoria Haydn
VICTORIA HAYDN © WITH MANCHESTER CITY MANAGER PEP GUARDIOLA FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER | IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE ©. | INTERVIEW BY LOLO STUBBS

“I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.

Parents to four children under six years old, Kelvin and Liz Fletcher, are a humble yet extremely impressive couple, and their incredible appetite to create a full and vibrant life for themselves and their children is truly inspiring! Both Kelvin 38, and Liz are well known for their careers as actors, with Kelvin in particular becoming a household name through his 20 years on one of Britain’s best loved soaps – Emmerdale. But the careers that they are most recognised for are not what defines this enterprising couple as they recently added the role of ‘Farmers’ to their impressive CV’s. In their early years as a couple, Liz enjoyed a successful career as a fashion buyer but then decided to leave behind that career and return to drama school. They had only lived together for a few short months, before Liz was given the exciting opportunity to attend a Drama school in London, and despite the distance this would put between them (as Kelvin was at the peak of his career in Emmerdale at the time) he insisted that Liz go on to pursue her dreams; showing how supportive and encouraging they have always been of each other’s dreams. 

Pre-covid Kelvin and Liz were all set to embark on a new life in America, but when covid put the brakes on that dream they decided to set out to undertake a new adventure in the countryside when they bought a 120-acre farm. At the time they were a family of 4, before quickly becoming a family of six when their gorgeous twin boys, Maximus and Mateusz joined their brood. As if juggling four young children and running a working farm wasn’t enough, both Kelvin and Liz have continued with their acting careers, and they have just released their very own book – ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ a follow-on from their successful TV series. 

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Front Cover of Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER
Buy Fletchers on the Farm

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher on Careers, Parenthood and life on the farm.

We had the pleasure of seeing Liz and Kelvin, their gorgeous baby boys and their adorable cavapoochon Ginger at their wonderful family home and amongst lots of giggles, we delved into what drives them, their plans for the future, and how they manage their daily juggle of having of 4 kids and a farm! Even though managing all that they do is clearly not for the faint hearted, the endearing way they talk about their family life would be enough to tempt anyone who has a sense of adventure to don a pair of wellies and get stuck into life on a farm! 

“If you know you’re capable of it, then go for it!”

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Life on the Farm
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE

So firstly, was life like pre-kids? 

Kelvin – “Happy, wasn’t it?” [he turns to Liz and they both start laughing]

Liz – “Yes, relaxed!” 

Kelvin – “I was in really good shape, I ate really well, did what I wanted, when I wanted! Loads of Holidays..!” 

Liz – “Aww. What-a-life!” [continued laughing]

Kelvin – “We was looking at pictures the other night from before we had the kids and you look different pre kids, young and full faced! 

Liz – “We looked well slept – well rested!”

We can definitely relate to that! So at what point in your relationship did you decide to take the plunge and start a family together?

Liz – “We had been together for nearly ten years, and my dad said Kelvin was ‘freewheeling’” [Liz erupts into laughter!] “I had secretly called him up and said ‘Dad, what do you think about Kelvin?’ and as he’s quite traditional he replied with – ‘I think he’s freewheeling!’. So, I told Kelvin, my dad think’s you’re freewheeling – we’re not married, we’re not engaged, we’ve been together all this time. And I’d started thinking about it because we were coming up to our thirties, I wanted kids – although Kelvin didn’t think I was very maternal!” 

Kelvin – “That was the reason I was freewheeling! I used to think, Liz is great but she’s just not into kids and I want loads of kids – I wanted a big family. So, I just thought I don’t know if she’s going to be my wife because she doesn’t like kids!” [We all laugh]

Liz – “Yet, at the same time I’m thinking I want kids”

Kelvin – “We should have probably talked about it!”  

Well, yes especially after 10 years! [We all laugh again] So, how did you finally broach the subject then? 

Liz – “Well, I just said one day, ‘If you’re thinking of having kids, and you want this to go further, I just need to let you know I’m not going to have kids unless I’m married…so there you go! I’ll give you until the end of the year!” [she laughs] “So, I left him with that information, and this was the beginning of the year and then it took him until November – he left me hanging until NOVEMBER – and then he proposed!”

Kelvin – “Yes, 28th November!”  

Liz – “I had no idea it was going to happen, and he took me away for this amazing weekend in Anglesey. He’d done a full on reccy before he proposed, there was certainly a lot of effort involved. He’d designed the ring and everything!”

Kelvin – “The ring you don’t wear?” 

Liz can’t contain her laughter – “I know! I don’t even wear it! Well, I’m a farmer now I can’t wear it!”

“Yes, she literally keeps in a mug over there! It’s worth more than the kitchen and it’s sat in a mug over there!” [We are all in fits of giggles at this point] 

Liz – “And then from a year to the day later, we got married!”

Kelvin – “And then almost 9 months later, Marnie was born! And then suddenly that’s when things changed, and your life becomes so different.”

In what way did you feel the changes? 

Liz – “Well, a month before I gave birth, you left Emmerdale didn’t you?”

Kelvin – “Yes, I had been working my two-year notice, as I knew I wanted to leave. And I left really happy as I had a job for 20 years that I loved, but I was ready for a new challenge. I was 32 years old, and I wanted to figure out my next move. I did question if I even wanted to act anymore, as from being 6-7 years old it was all I had ever done and I suppose I wanted to know, ‘Could I do anything else?’ So that was a big transition anyway, as well as becoming a father for the first time. But that helped me too. As obviously becoming a parent is amazing, but also because I suppose it’s like when sportsmen retire sometimes, they can lose all sense of who they are. Who am I? What am I? And I think after 20 years of working that could have happened to me, but that void was quickly filled by having our daughter. So, I didn’t have time to start worrying as to whether I had done the right thing or not, so in that way the timing was really good.”

Liz – “I had started doing voiceovers at this point, so it worked well for me too, as I could do the odd job but most of the time I could be at home with the baby. I was also teaching dance at a little school down the road a couple of hours a week too”

Kelvin – “I took six months off from Acting but I was doing other bits in the background, figuring out what to do next so I never really stopped completely.”

Kelvin – “I guess first and foremost we’re actors, that’s what we are. But you’re somewhat at the mercy of other people’s decisions, so to fill that void and take some control back, we did it with a baby, with Marnie, and then we had a few more children and now we’ve become farmers. And that’s our attempt to create some continuity and consistency through family and our work life, and to make this our little world. And I think it’s healthy for us to have that. I’ve seen so many actors when things are not going their way and it’s all they know, it’s all they are, that it then consumes them in such a way that they can become resentful of themselves and the industry, and it’s understandable that people can find themselves in that position, but I will never allow any skill set, any job, any career to define me. To be the whole me. Because there is much more to life. And it’s easier said than done when you’ve got to put food on the table but I’m never going to allow anything like that to take my happiness.”

What’s the biggest positives of having the farm, for your family life? 

Kelvin – “I think one of the positives is the variety it gives us. For me I personally seek variety and I think that is key. I think that’s healthy, it’s not for everyone but it’s certainly right for us. And I’d like to think that’s something we’ll pass onto the kids. And Liz shares those views as well. It gives us new scope; fresh ideas and it expands your imagination. I also think it makes you more accepting of different people and different situations, and I think it makes you more rounded as a person, which is important.” 

Was the farm always a dream of yours? 

Kelvin – “No, I just woke up one morning and thought let’s get a farm!” 

Liz – “Yes, this was typical Kelvin! We were supposed to be in America! We were sorting a visa out to move to America, and we were 18 months into that process but then the pandemic happened, and all visa’s got stopped. But that had been our mission, and Kelvin had said ‘Well, we’ll just wait for covid to go and we’ll start it back up.’ Little did I know that Kelvin being Kelvin, was like ‘Right well that’s done – what’s next?’” [she laughs] “Then the next minute he’s on a train, he’s on right move sees this place and he say’s ‘Right Liz, how do you fancy going looking at a farm tomorrow?’ I was like ‘Whaaattt!’ [she continues laughing] “And because I can’t say no to anything, I just said ‘Ok, go on then!’ (It was kind of through gritted teeth because I was thinking farming?!”)

Kelvin -“But it wasn’t to farm originally, it was just to live here. I just wanted a different set up for us. Whether that was on a beach in California, or we even looked at New York, and central London, but I just wanted to change things up. Going back to that again – yes, as actors we want to act, and I love the hustle, but we’ve got a life together as parents and as individuals and there’s just so much more to life than just your career. So, I was just like lets just have a change of scenery, because I didn’t want to us to find ourselves in our fifties or sixties and think we’ve never had an adventure, so I just thought let’s bloody do it! And we looked at everything from Castles in Scotland, honestly as random as that, and I’m that kind of person where if I want to do something it will happen – it’s as simple as that! It can be scary and it’s not always that easy, but I think making decisions like that can give you a rebirth. It’s a new chapter and you’re creating memories and having new experiences. It could be the wrong decision; you could drop a bollock and think ‘Ah we shouldn’t have done that.’ But you can always go back.”

Liz – “Although it might seem we do things completely off the cuff, everything we thought about we researched, and we made sure it was possible. We didn’t just move to a farm with no thought behind it.” 

Kelvin – “Yes, I’m sucker for detail!”

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Is that something that you want the kids to take on board?

Kelvin – “Yes, for me that sense of adventure. If Marnie is 18 years old and she says ‘Dad, I want to go and live in America for three years’ it would kill me, but I absolutely would encourage that. But I would also encourage anything they want to do. She might want to stay here and work on the farm, but whatever they want to do but I just want them to have that sense that anything is possible. If you fancy it, you only live once go for it!”  

Since moving to the farm you have gone from having two children to four with the arrival of the twins, how have you found that transition?

Kelvin – “Hard work! It’s hard for me but it’s even harder for Liz!” 

Liz – “Well, every time I have a baby Kelvin gets a job working away! So, I’m not having anymore babies now then he might not get a job away again!” [They start laughing]

Kelvin – “I’ve only had three jobs! Three pregnancies, three jobs!” [He declares, laughing]

Liz – “Just being told we were having twins was an absolute shock. I was filled with worry. I just kept thinking ‘Oh my god two babies, how am I going to do it with the other two?’ because two weeks after they came along Kelvin had to go working away in London. So, I had two new-borns, it was the school holidays, Kelvin was working away – it just all came at once! But do you know what, we got through it, and I always just think – I’m here, we’re in it, I can’t sit here and moan about it, I’ve got to get through it. Obviously, there are days where it was horrendous, I felt like I didn’t know what was happening – I even fell asleep stood up once! But we got through it and now it’s not that bad, plus now Kelvins home again it can only get easier!”

Kelvin – “It is mad, but it’s a good crack, isn’t it? We’ll look back at this and think God we were crazy. 9 out of ten people will think I wouldn’t be doing that – they’re mad.”

Liz – “Yeah, I’ve got friends who say to me. I’m having a breakdown just listening to this story Liz! Because we live in the moment and if someone said, ‘Can you be in London tomorrow?’, we’d be like ‘Ok, yes no problem!’. We’d make it happen, whereas some of my mates are like ‘Nooo, I’d need a full two weeks of organising everything!’

You recently recorded ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ how did that come about?

Kelvin – “I was developing shows with the BBC, and this was just an off-topic conversation, and I told them what we had been up to, (moving to the farm) and I said, ‘I’ve got an idea for a TV show’ and then suddenly that process started. So that in turn gave us more of an appetite to live off the land, to grow our own food and get an understanding of animals and where your food comes from and the more, we delved into that, the more we just found it fascinating. Then we started to look at how we could commercialise it and look at the farming industry in detail. And it is an industry that everyone tells you not to get into, as there isn’t any money in it, but after looking at it we wanted to take on that challenge, because we thought it was something we could do.”

Liz – “Oh if you tell Kelvin he can’t do something, then instantly he’s going to find a way to do it!” 

Kelvin – “We want to build something here and we’re 18 months into that, and although we’re on a long journey, the aim is to make this an enterprise; something for our children, and for their future. We’re mainly a livestock farm so we’ve got sheep, pigs, chickens, we’ve got horses in the stables. We’re looking at going into cattle but as anyone in farming will tell you, livestock farming can only pay you so much really and that’s dictated on the ground you’ve got. We’ve got a 120-acre site so there’s instant limitations there, but you can diversify.”

Liz – “It’s given us a lot of purpose really, because now we’ll do the school run and then we come back, and we get stuck into all the jobs that need doing on the farm. And even at weekends, Marnie and Milo are coming to that age where they really understand it and they want to get involved too, especially Marnie. And Milo isn’t as dangerous now, as when we first moved here, he was only two, so we had to run round trying to stop him licking everything!” [she laughs] “It’s been amazing really; they’ve seen lambing season recently and I get a lot of joy seeing them get involved in it. Also no day is the same which is great.”

Kelvin – “It is full on, and it can be stressful but it’s good fun too. And whether it ends up just being a chapter of our lives or something long term, who knows, but while we’re in it we’re putting everything we can into it, and we’re excited to see where it goes. But I feel it’s the happiest and most settled we’ve ever been.”

What tips would you give to other parents who are looking to change course and take the leap into something new?

Kelvin – “If you think you can do it and if you know you are capable of it, then go for it! For me that’s what I do and if I come up short, then I come up short and I can live with that, but you’ve got to give things a go. I’m used to no one else believing in me. We can come up with a plan, and there might only be me and Liz that believe in it and that’s it – maybe our parents or our agent too, whoever it might be, but you’ve got to have that mentality where you have to think ‘Well if I think it can work, then that’s all the validation I need and if that’s different to other people and what they’re doing then so be it!’ However, you do have to put the work in, some people might have the dream, but they’re not prepared to put the work in, so you’ve got to have a good understanding of yourself and having a frank chat with yourself. You need to ask yourself, ‘What are my skills? What am I really prepared to do? That’s what I do, and I know my limitations so I don’t take on tasks where I don’t think I can do it”

Do you have a structured process to achieve your goals? 

Kelvin – “Yes, I always have a clear list of goals which I want to achieve. For example there are three/four things that I want to achieve by the end of this year and I’d say 50% are completely on our terms, and the other 50% need things to happen elsewhere to, so there’s a little bit of jeopardy there. For those goals I will do everything I can to get it as far as I can and that last part has got to come from somewhere else in order for it to succeed. Whereas the things that are 100% on us we will get them done. We have some longer-term goals too, so we have 3–6-month plans and then we have a 2–3-year plan too and we just work towards it.”

Liz – “Me and Kelvin work well together because if you’ve got a plan and it doesn’t go right that can really throw Kelvin, whereas I can help us to adapt. It’s great to have the goals and you need them, but there are always hiccups along the way and you have to find a way to adjust.”

Kelvin – “Yes, and sometimes those things can be out of your control, like market change in a business etc and you’ve failed. You take a knock, but I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.”  

If you want to read more about Kelvin and Liz’s incredible journey, then you can buy their new book ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ at all high street bookstores or click here to purchase  

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

Rob Stubbs

WEBSITE & DESIGN BY ROB STUBBS

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THE POWER OF MANIFESTATION BY OLI DUNN

THE POWER OF MANIFESTATION BY OLI DUNN

Oli Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

“You can do whatever you want to!”

The Power Of Manifestation…. ✏️

This is a topic I get VERY excited when talking about, I LOVE talking about manifestation, especially when I’m feeling aligned and in full attraction mode. If this all sounds a bit strange to you, stick with it, it should make sense by the end.

So many things have happened “for” me in my life that I now have a section in the notes on my phone lovingly called “coincidences” with a hint of friendly sarcasm or irony that is.
I believe there’s no such thing as a coincidence, by the way maybe there is but I believe there’s another type which we might sometimes mistake as a coincidence when in actual fact we talked such a circumstance, thing or event into our reality, willed it into our existence, made it happen, tuned into its frequency and sucked it right in, like a tractor beam (if your a Dumb and Dumber fan you’ll know the sound!).😜

Before I go any further I just want to be clear about something, what I write about in my Brood magazine column is purely my perspective, the way I see it, my take and I appreciate that these things are all subjective. I would never claim that my version is the correct or exact way, it’s just my way, based on my learnings and experiences and it’s a pleasure to share my thoughts with you. I hope it provides an interesting read and perhaps even conjures up some new and exciting thoughts and ideas for you which may be interesting for you too, if it does I would love to hear from you!

Oliver Dunn
Oliver Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

On we go…

It might seem unusual to have a note section in my phone called “Coincidences” which cheekily means Manifestations. The reason I have this is mainly to remind myself that through my life I’m proving this theory to be not just working but worthy of sharing with others as part of my narrative. As I’ve said before, what actually matters to me in life more than anything else, (the bigger picture) is that I want to show others that anything is possible in life, one little or big, or plain crazy manifestation at a time.

You can do whatever you want to. 💭

Fun little task, finish this sentence, “if I could do or be whoever I wanted to be, it would be this (blank) and my life would look like this (blank).

Back to my point;

I know what you’re thinking, come on then give us an example of a manifestation. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Well okay here’s a couple from most recent memory.

Manifestations for me are anything from life long ambitions to the most random small ‘wants’.

I will give you an example of each.

I think the random small ones are more fun, playful and manifest quicker because there’s absolutely no resistance to them and for me it’s the universe confirming to me that I’m aligned and everything is working out, not happening to me but for me.

About a year ago I said to Kim, “I really wish McDonalds did clothing, it would just be so cool”, I don’t know how this came to mind but I was fixated on it and getting excited about it, imagining it and how it would look, but no matter how hard I Googled I couldn’t find it, because it didn’t exist. FFWD a year and it was my birthday (13th August if you want to add to your calendar 😜) a great friend of ours gave me a birthday present, it was a bright blue McDonalds shirt, designed with their signature red packet French Fries all over it.
The point of this is that our friend was able to get this shirt after doing some work with McDonalds and this exclusive merch wasn’t available for sale to the public, coincidence?

This leads me on to a very different but equally exciting manifestation in my life which has come around in the last 18 months.

Some manifestations do require action or more specifically inspired action (I’ll save that for another time) but I believe the importance of the action is as key to showing the world you are worthy of what you want to attract (and are ready to receive) as the actual work itself.

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up when I was 10 years old I would have probably told you I wanted to be a radio or TV presenter, a more confident version of myself who could entertain and have fun, be myself and meet interesting people out in the big wide world. There was a notion or a feeling that this wasn’t “realistic” that I should probably focus on a trade, a career, something more achievable or within reach, I got into the family business, I have no regrets doing that, I loved it and still do now. Curiously though I firmly believe I planted a seed deep within myself that I was on a journey to become a presenter. FFWD to 38 year old me (this one took a little longer to manifest) and I’m hosting live shows for Disney on TikTok with Zavvi at THG Studios, a place which I’ve regularly driven past and thought to myself “I would love to look around in there, or better still do some presenting in there one day.”
There’s a longer story as to how I got this opportunity but I’ll share that with you another time, perhaps through a video on my YT channel.
I’ve been on a journey in the last 18 months into presenting live shopping shows, that journey has been complex, satisfying and interesting to me in how its played out. More importantly doing these shows really fulfils my childhood ambition to be a presenter.
It’s powerful for me that I’m able to present live shows outside of my chocolate world (which I love and will always be a part of me).
I’m excited to grow as both Oli The Choc and as Oli The Presenter too with more live shows in the pipeline, I’m feeling very grateful for these opportunities.

A little gratitude in the last paragraph there, never goes a miss and goes a long way.
I believe gratitude to be a powerful element of manifesting what you want in life.

If I could give you some advise on manifestation, here it is, set your intentions when you are aligned, when your heart is beating faster, you are buzzing, excited, feeling like the best version of yourself.
Have fun with it, be unrealistic, your manifestations don’t have to make sense to you or others but follow whatever the inspiration is from within and don’t be afraid to dream big or dream silly. Often for me it’s the funny, silly things that manifest, because there’s no resistance to it, almost no expectation either.

I’m very intentional about my thoughts, words and actions. This year I’ve become more aligned and more in tune with who I am and who I want to be, more worthy and ready to receive the life I want. I’m very responsible for my own energy and for the energy I attract, for what I listen to and am influenced by. Becoming a Dad has been the making of me in respect of knowing myself and loving myself more.

Some advise to myself on this which you can take from if you wish, when you are feeling aligned make your intentions clear to yourself, write them down, visualise and get excited about what you are going to manifest. Be excited about the future because you can create the life you want, your own reality, your version of life. For me time writing in solitude early morning, when on a train or a plane, by the ocean or simply talking to myself in the car are all powerful spaces for me to practice the above.

Now walk tall, remind yourself of your strengths, step into your power and go manifest yourself the life you want! 💥

Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris
Photography by Tom Pitfield
Rob Stubbs
Digital Editor: Rob Stubbs

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Helen Skelton on her career, motherhood and changing the narrative

Helen Skelton on her career, motherhood and changing the narrative

© BROOD MAGAZINE. HELEN SKELTON AND TWO OF HER CHILDREN

“…things happen in life and then you get put on a different path

Inspirational Mum of three, Helen Skelton, is one of Britain’s best-loved Television presenters. Helen started her presenting career at Newsround before landing a dream role at Blue Peter, where she completed numerous extreme challenges for charity. Incredibly Helen has kayaked over 2,000 miles along the Amazon River, and cycled 500 miles to the South Pole, both for Sport Relief. Her amazing career has included many highlights including meeting the iconic late Queen Elizabeth II. Not one to shy away from a challenge, this year she is taking on what will probably be her hardest yet, as she joins BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Class of 2022; whilst juggling life as a single mum, looking after her 3 young children, Ernie, Louis and Elsie.

The stunning Countryfile presenter kindly took time out from her summer holiday in the Lake District to chat to us about her career, motherhood, and changing the narrative as she embraces the new journey she has found herself on, since announcing her sadness at her marriage ending, only a few months after her youngest child Elsie was born.

Helen Skelton Interview with Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. HELEN SKELTON AND TWO OF HER THREE CHILDREN

“…I’m on a journey right now!

What was your career like before kids?

I was working as a journalist; I was originally working in PR, but I hated it and knew that I wanted to be a journalist… so I ended up at Newsround which was great – I loved it! Then I got offered Blue Peter, but I actually said no to Blue Peter at first because I was enjoying Newsround so much. But my boss at Newsround said to me ‘you can’t not do Blue Peter’. So, I took it, and it was the best gig of my life! It was so amazing, one week you would be going to Malta to ballroom dance, the week after you would be flying with the red arrows and the week after going to meet the queen! We would go away for 7 weeks for the summer going from one country to the next… it was just incredible! After doing so many amazing things, that I didn’t think I could top, such as going to the south pole, north pole and the amazon doing the expeditions, I decided it was time to leave. So, I then went back into sport and started working at BT Sport.

How do you find managing your career alongside motherhood?

I had Ernie in 2015, and since then, it’s always been about taking on work that fits around the kids. I still worked after I had Ernie, like the sport presenting – which was good because it was an intense week and then you’d be off again. That’s why I do less Countryfile, as much as I love Countryfile and I’m really good friends with everyone at the show, but the reason I don’t do it as often is because you have to be away Wednesday and Thursday nights, it’s the other end of the country and it just doesn’t fit with me having little kids. But the other farming show [Channel 5’s On the Farm] that I do is live, so you’re on at 8 o clock at night and you’re off at 10. So I go, get my tea made for me, have my face painted, do my work and then I’m back home.

I think because I’m freelance and self-employed, I feel lucky in that it can be intense at work so you’re ticking your career box and doing your thing there, but then the week after, you can potentially be off for three weeks so then you’re being a full-time mummy again. So, I feel lucky that I get my foot in both camps. I’d like to think that I’ve got a bit more empathy for my friends who work full time and for those who don’t work.

What is your experience with Mum Guilt?

Every mum I know at some point or another feels ‘Mum guilt.’ They feel guilty if they work too much, or they feel guilty that they don’t work enough, the whole thing is a juggle. My mum was lucky, we grew up on this farm, so she didn’t work and that’s the dream for some, but life’s different now. And I don’t think anyone should look at other people’s situations and make assumptions, because I’ve done it myself where I’ve thought ‘gosh she work’s a lot! She must hardly ever see her kids?’ But then I stop myself because I think, you know what, we’ve all got to buy food! That whole thing of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is so true. I don’t think you can ever say which is the right way to do it, because everyone’s kids and everyone’s situation is different, you can only do what’s right for you and not compare yourself. But it can be hard not to do that because of social media.

You have to remember social media is a superficial top layer of people’s lives, although it’s hard to remember that at times, is important to remind yourself of that. But no one is made of metal but equally every situation is different.

Mine are terrible sleepers, they both like to sleep in my bed which isn’t good, but then other people will be like ‘well that isn’t good?’ Rather than ‘oh that’s nice because they’ll be 18 soon!’ [she laughs] – but it’s survival! I got my eldest to sleep in his own bed the other night and he was negotiating a deal and said he would for £20! I was like – ‘I can’t give you £20 a night!’ – No wonder I’ve had to go back to work! [she jokes.]

Helen Skelton
Helen Skelton © BROOD MAGAZINE

“…it’s always been about taking on work that fits around the kids.”

What was the biggest adaptations that you have made to your life since your children have come along.

Work and travel, I think. I took Louis with me to the world diving championships in Budapest when he was 6 weeks old, I say to him now, you actully saw Tom Daly win his second world title and it just goes [gestures] straight over his head so I don’t even think the biggest adaptations came in when they were babies. I think the bigger adaptions come in when they start school, as obviously they’ve got be somewhere 9-3 so you’re on their schedule then. I notice a lot of my friends who have toddlers will say ‘shall we meet for brunch on Saturday’ [for example], and I’m like, ‘No, sorry I can’t, I’ve got a 15-minute gap between swimming and play dates and it does not include any kind of brunch situation!’ [laughing] I think when you’ve got little kids they will go where you want, you can pop them in the pushchair and bring them along with you, but bigger kids don’t always want to.

Having more than one kid is big change, because you can only split yourself so many ways. Having Elsie though has actually made the boys nicer! They are so sweet with her. I do say to them, ‘you’re so nice with Elsie can you just be a little bit nicer to each other!’ (Because they do fight as siblings close in age do.) So, I love seeing that kindness in them, it melts my heart.

Your next challenge is Strictly Come Dancing! How are you feeling about tackling that alongside your life as a mum?

Part of me thinks it’s bad timing and the other part of me thinks it is good timing. Elsie is only little so she’s not crawling around yet, so she’s little enough to be quite placid and sleep a lot. I think sometimes it’s easy to overthink these things, but when I was asked, it was like ‘You know what, yes! Let’s do it!’ – I’m excited too because I think it looks fun! I love taking on new challenges and putting myself under pressure and having my mind consumed in that way, so that’s another reason I wanted to do it. It’s weird because I have been asked to do things like this before and I’ve always said no because of the kids, but now I’m doing it when I’ve got a nine-month-old as well, but the kids are in school, so in my head I’m thinking that I’m going to train while they’re in school and Elsie is young enough for it to not be on her radar or affect her. But then again, this could well turn out to be the most stupid decision I’ve made in my entire life – but let’s hope it’s not! [she laughs]

I think sometimes, especially in this career you can overthink things and try and plan but sometimes you’ve just got to go with what comes along. Very few people are in the position that they don’t have to work, and this is a job that will be fun and a distraction and all consuming and something positive for me, the kids, my parents, and my friends. That was another reason that I wanted to do it. To do something positive and change the narrative, I guess.

Also, you spend your life telling your kids, ‘Do what makes you happy’, ‘Go after whatever you want’ ‘Dream Big’ so you have to lead by example.

I think no matter what you do and what you plan, things happen in life and then you get put on a different path, so sometimes there is no point putting down a roadmap.

What tips would you give other working parents?

Oh, I’ve got loads of tips – I’m on a journey at the moment. Firstly, lower the standards! I think unfollow people who don’t have a similar life to you. For example, if you’re a working mum, don’t follow a mum who doesn’t work, follow someone who is doing the juggle. Or if you don’t work, follow someone who doesn’t work, because I think you if you compare apples to pears yours will never be as good. I’ve been given lots of tips myself lately, including find companies that will deliver healthy meals – like meals on wheels but for parents. Then that takes the pressure off grabbing something naff for yourself, you can get them pre ordered just a couple of times a week and the whole family has got a healthy home cooked meal. Just make life easier for yourself. Another one is, have a notepad by the bed because every has them things where they wake up in the night where they are like ‘oh s&*t they need a yellow t-shirt for tomorrow’. I also think delegate stuff in your life that you don’t need to do yourself. Like I hate cleaning, so I got a cleaner. I felt really bad about it at first, I felt really middle-class, and I would tidy up before they came, but then the lady said to me ‘why are you doing that, you are paying me to do this?’ Oh, and don’t buy clothes that you need to iron! Again, why are you doing that to yourself. And finally, I have a present cupboard because there is always a party that you have forgotten, or you haven’t got time to go to B&M before you go. And a distraction box is always good too when you’ve got multiple children.

What do you mean by a distraction box?

Well, I would always keep a little box on the side, I’ve done this from Louis being born. I will put a couple of snacks in that he would like, a couple of books, or some little cheap toys in there. So then if you’re feeding or changing the baby and your older one wants you too and you can say ‘Go and get something from your box!’ I think that’s it!

Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Dining Table Date Night – Ox Cheek Tagliatelle with Simon Wood

Dining Table Date Night – Ox Cheek Tagliatelle with Simon Wood

SIMON WOOD COOKS Ox Cheek Tagliatelle
| SIMON WOOD OF WOOD MANCHESTER AND WoodKraft Cheltenham. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

“POUR YOURSELF A GLASS OF SOMETHING YOU ENJOY, POP ON YOUR FAVOURITE MUSIC TO UNWIND TO AND START TO COOK…”

Welcome back to Brood food, Last time around I spoke about food and families which are two topics in which everyone claims some expertise, and rightly so. Families are made up of people who eat food. Both families and food contribute to a person’s physical and social well-being throughout life and are the foundation of many memories, both good and sometime not.

Tonight I’m going to focus on a Date night dinner, a tasty, easy to prepare dinner that you and yours can enjoy at a time that suits you. I’m a firm believer in a bowl of wine and a glass of pasta and this dish is as simple as that. There’s some time and love put in to some delicious meaty Ox Cheeks which slowly sit and fall apart in a splendid tomato sauce. This produces a sensational Ragu fit for any table

Here is how it is done, first things first, pour yourself a glass of something you enjoy, pop on your favourite music to unwind to and start to cook. You will need a frying pan, two large saucepans a chopping board, grater and a sharp knife.

Ox Cheek Tagliatelle

Ingredients:

  • ½ Tube of Tomato Purée 
  • 8 balls of Dried Tagliatelle 
  • 2 Large Ox Cheeks
  • 4 Cloves of Fresh Garlic, Grated
  • 1 Large onion, diced 
  • 1 Teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 table spoon Aleppo Chilli
  • 2 bottles of passata
  • 8 really fresh large tomatoes 
  • A small bunch of basil 
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

 

Method 

  • Turn a medium size frying pan on to a high heat, coat your ox cheeks oil and season with salt and pepper, Place the Ox Cheeks in the frying pan, and cook until golden brown. Set them aside and let them rest, take care to retain any juices.
  • Next Peel, and then dice your onion, add it in to one of your large sauce pans, on a low heat, and stir frequently
  • Now peel two cloves of garlic and grate finely. Add to the saucepan and stir before adding in the tomato purée and cooking for 5 minutes or so. 
  • Chop your tomatoes, the riper they are the better the sauce, add them to the saucepan and cook before adding in the passata and the cheeks along with any juices
  • Add a little Salt, Pepper, oregano and the Aleppo Chilli and cook for 4/5 hours on a ow heat (You can use a slow cooker if you like)
  • Once the meat is softened use two forks or the back of a large spoon to flake it into the rich red sauce.
  • Now it’s time to cook the pasta, in another large saucepan bring some water to the boil and add the pasta, cook until al dente before removing and adding into the pasta ragu sauce, finish the cooking of the pasta in here to allow the pasta to absorb the flavour of the sauce
  • Serve in a bowl, top with a some fresh basil and some freshly grated Parmesan 

 

We mentioned earlier about the bowl of wine and glass of pasta and today I am going to go for this delight a lovely Red wine Gaja Sito Moresco*

 

As an Italian wine producer, there is possibly no one more iconic than Gaja.

Established back in 1859 by Giovanni Gaja, the Gaja family had moved from Spain to Italy towards the end of the 17th century.

 

They first started making wines to be sold from their family tavern, by the end of the 19th Century they were supplying their wines to the Italian army.

 

As their name grew, so to did their wines. Angelo Gaja took over the business in 1970 and today Gaja has 101 hectares of vineyards divided into 32 separate plots and produces around 30,000 cases of wine a year. Gaja produces world-class wines that sell for world-class prices.

 

Sito Moresco is a blend of Nebbiolo, barbera, merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 12 months in oak creating a pale ruby hue with otes of red and black berries, sour cherries a Smokey finish with a hint of green pepper spice.

 

All that said to simply put it. It is delicious and works incredibly with this dish.

 

If you like the idea of having 55 wines by the glass to choose from then why not call in to WOOD Manchester to try them, or you can even pair them with Cheese and enjoy 5 glasses of wine and 5 cheeses in Homage at WOOD Manchester. Drink only is available from 8pm Wednesday to Saturday and pared with Cheese Wednesday to Saturday evenings or lunches Friday and Saturday.

 

As always, thanks for reading and if you have any recipe suggestions or questions please do send them to me at @SimonJWoodUK or simon@woodmanchester.com

 

 

 

Thanks, Simon

 

Simon is Chef Patron or WOOD Manchester on First Street Manchester and WOODKRAFT ‘The Artisan Eatery’ on Regent Street in Cheltenham.

 

Ox Cheek Tagliatelle
Ox Cheek Tagliatelle | SIMON WOOD © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
WoodKraft Cheltenham
Ox Cheek Tagliatelle | SIMON WOOD © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
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