The fair trade movement in Britain – why should we care?

Making York a Fair Trade City

york minster

Since 2004 a group of volunteers have been working behind the scenes to maintain York’s status as a fair trade city. They state Fair Trade – as opposed to Fairtrade – because there are many ways in which everyone can support fairly traded goods even when they don’t meet the exacting status of the official Fairtrade movement. With the celebration of International Fair Trade Day in May, Claire Davies met with Helen Harrison and Kathryn Tissiman to discuss their work within the York Fair Trade Forum.

 

Why worry about fair trade?

Read More

Bridget Bernadette Karn – A textile art dream realised

When Bridget Bernadette Karn began exploring felting six years ago she never imagined it was the first step towards exhibiting in the 2016 Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy of Art.

Bridget’s fascination with the arts developed at an early age. However life got in the way as work, family responsibilities and health issues prevented her from following a creative career. Undeterred Bridget continued to study her passion at college, attending summer schools and evening classes whenever possible. Then in 2006 she started an Arts and Crafts Club in her local area.

Bridget Karn in her studio. Photograph by Jo Hughes
Bridget Karn in her studio. Photograph by Jo Hughes

“I wanted somewhere for likeminded people to come together, sharing ideas and skills. Members brought in different crafts for each other to try and one of the ladies suggested felting. I had never tried it before so had a go. Straight away I could see the potential for picture making.”

Bridget continued to experiment with felt picture making until 2012 when a supportive friend saw a picture of sunflowers she had created during her time recovering from an operation. Her friend suggested she show it at the Boston Spa Art Festival.

The experience acted as the starting point for developing her passion for felt picture making into something more than a hobby. Time was something of a premium though as she had a busy life being a full time carer and running another business alongside a part time job. But the death of her Father in 2013 left her exhausted and struggling to cope with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“I realised that the world didn’t stop without me and I needed to take some time to rest and let go of some of my responsibilities.  Making my felt pictures played a large part of my recovery.”

Read More

Three places every foodie should try when visiting Newcastle

I have been making regular trips to Newcastle city centre for around five years now, all part of my post transplant management at the wonderful Freeman Hospital.  After an early start in clinic I’m usually done by lunchtime and have the luxury of an afternoon to trip round my regular haunts before jumping on the train home.

After much research and deliberation (my life is so hard sometimes, not) I thought it was time I put together a blog post sharing some of the venues that have made a visiting Yorkshire gal so welcome. Here are my three ‘must visit’ food and drink venues in the economic centre of the north east of England.

Read More

Owner Profile – Juliet Powell Choice Therapy

Juliet Powell joins me for a cuppa and a birthday treat in Hotel Du Vin to talk life, business and how she is applying her advanced diploma in therapeutic counselling to support the parents of tweens and teens.

Juliet Powell and I enjoying a birthday treat at Hotel Du Vin
Juliet Powell and I enjoying a birthday treat at Hotel Du Vin

If you would like to share your story of self employment please email greedywordsmith.com to arrange a cuppa with Claire.

The setting.

We chose to meet at Hotel Du Vin, York in recognition of our first meeting at the coach led networking group Winning Women. As it was Juliet’s birthday (I don’t have permission to let the cat out of the bag on age) we ordered the affogato and pear and almond tart before settling down for our interview.

Read More

Interview with my local Foodbank

Many look to curb eating or adopt a healthier lifestyle as we head into Spring. But what if you are one of a number of residents who struggle to buy enough food to see you through a week, never mind make choices on whether your minced beef comes from grass fed cattle?

Earlier this year I spoke to Laura Chalmers about how she became York foodbank manager and the help they offer to York residents.

Laura at foodbank

 

In 2010 Laura Chalmers stepped away from a career in childcare to volunteer with Christian Aid. She found her time at the orphanage in South Africa extremely rewarding and volunteered again – this time with TearFund – in Bolivia helping local people tackle issues such as drug abuse and child prostitution. On her return Laura found employment in the local youth hostel and that was when she heard that York foodbank were recruiting their first full time manager.

“Due to increasing demand their efforts had grown considerably. Eventually someone was needed to oversee the work, to keep it managed effectively and ensure sustainability. The Trussel Trust recognised that without a full time member of staff there may be no foodbank.”

Laura says that her time volunteering abroad had also brought her to the conclusion that there was a very real problem with poverty in Britain.

“At home the poverty is more hidden with a lot of complex issues and misunderstanding. We have seen a breakdown of community and people are increasingly disconnected from their neighbours. I saw my chance to take a job where I could make a real difference to my own local community.”

Part of her role involves visiting local schools, groups and professional bodies. These visits highlight many of the questions and misconceptions that exist around foodbank and the service they offer. I asked Laura to answer the six most common topics that come for up for discussion whilst she is out and about.

 As the 6th wealthiest country in the world why do we need foodbanks?

“It’s true that there is a great deal of wealth in Britain but it is poorly distributed amongst the general population. There is a huge gulf between the richest and poorest members of society. Here in York the figures are surprising. 25% of children live below the poverty line, a higher percentage than the national average, and men living in the most deprived parts of the city die an average nine years earlier than those in the least deprived areas.”

Foodbanks are just an extension of the welfare state

“Whilst we take referrals from agencies such as social workers and health visitors, foodbank remains independent from the public sector and relies solely on public donations. We work hard not to be seen as a replacement for government provision in terms of assistance. Foodbank offers a safe place for people to access support without fear of judgement. The Trussel Trust looks to be part of the solution not part of the problem. We work in the hope that one day our services will no longer be required.”

People just don’t know how to manage their food budgets properly.

“Foodbank users are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met. Many know exactly how to stretch ingredients but, ultimately, that is not always enough. Without transport it can be difficult to purchase items in bulk or reach cheaper supermarkets; many people are forced to buy food from the nearest store they can access on foot – often the most expensive way of purchasing food.

An additional factor is the number of our visitors who have grown up in care. They’ve had little family stability and not learnt how to run a household in the same way many of us do. As a reaction to this the Trussel Trust has introduced the Eat Well – Spend Less workshops, teaching people how to make nutritious meals on a tiny budget.”

What about those of us who work and still struggle to survive? Why should help only be given to people on benefits?

“The foodbank is open to anyone in need of assistance, regardless of benefit status. Less than half of foodbank recipients are on benefits and often those who are receive ‘top up’ benefits to bolster low wages. Over 50% of individuals living in poverty in the U.K are from working households and many of those helped by foodbanks are in work.”

My neighbour needs your help. Can he drop into our local foodbank tomorrow?

“We cannot dispense a food parcel without a referral from a frontline agency. I suggest your neighbour speaks to his G.P. or makes an appointment with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The largest group of visitors to York foodbank are young men of working age so he is not alone. Health visitors, head teachers and social workers can also provide a referral.”

Why don’t you provide visitors with fresh vegetables rather than packaged food?

“Fresh food is a complex issue and not suitable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is much harder for the foodbank to store without wastage. Additionally, fresh produce is more difficult to prepare if you haven’t been able to pay your fuel bill that week. Never mind ‘heat or eat’ – some can’t afford to do either. This makes preparing a cooked meal extremely difficult.”

I saw someone leaving my local foodbank in a car the other day. Why should we provide someone with food if they can afford to run a car?

“Many foodbank visitors struggle to get to and from a foodbank. Each food parcel provides enough food for three meals a day for three days per person in the household. The average family of four receives far too much food to carry home on foot or public transport. A beneficiary might need to be at work during open hours so a neighbour will pick it up on their behalf; or require help from a community support assistant to due to a disability. Also, there are many reasons why someone may need use of a car and, as I mentioned earlier, it is not our job to pass judgement on such choices.”

Save

3 things your copywriter needs to know

In that ever elusive quest to attract more customers, many small business owners consider using the services of a  freelance copywriter. But how do you make the most of this important decision to invest?

Here are my three golden rules to create a rewarding copywriting campaign.

Know what you want to achieve

Every marketing step needs focus. No matter what the medium you must be specific about the desired result. Are you launching a new product and want to get people on board? Maybe you need to appeal to a particular type of customer, or persuade website visitors to sign up to your newsletter. Clarity on your aims and objectives will bring you one step closer to success.

 
image

 

Get up close and personal

Do you know what your perfect customer looks like? No marketing campaign will succeed without a clear idea of the needs and desires of your client group. A customer profile can help you identify how to attract those ideal clients and – crucially – who you don’t want to talk to.

image

Clarify your ‘Why’

There are many reasons why we choose to go into business for ourselves. Whilst we all need to turn a profit, there will be many other aspects that keep you going day after day. I love to be part of a thriving local community, am passionate about supporting small business and am thrilled to spend my day telling stories. Let your passion and drive shine through.

Like the sound of The Greedy Wordsmith? Visit the website or ring 07928122079 to find out more about my services and copywriting workshops.

Unchained – Interview with Stephanie Moon

I first met Stephanie Moon at the home of Sue Nelson, owner of Yorkshire Food Finder. We were all participating in an outside broadcast for Radio York and Stephanie was part of an excellent team of chefs demonstrating Christmas dishes live on air. Whilst I have been known to step up and cook at the local York Food Festival, the idea of balancing a number of hot pans whilst simultaneously being interviewed for a live radio broadcast was absolutely terrifying. But that is what Stephanie did, and she seemed to be enjoying every single second of it. Her passion for the ingredients and simple joie de vivre was unmistakable.

Two months later and I find myself in the cafe at Rudding Park, eating perfectly handcut chips and listening to Stephanie explain how she “sort of, just fell into” working with food.

“At first I wanted to be a physiotherapist, or a nanny. Growing up on a farm meant that food was a natural part of my life and I often cooked at home. I could walk the cows in for milking and back then there were wild strawberries growing at the sides of the path. I guess you could say my love of the land started there. I applied to do the YTS (Youth Training Scheme) in a pub, not really knowing if catering would become my career. Before I could start my cookery teacher rang my parents and said that I should be applying for catering college”

Her studies at Craven College culminated in Stephanie winning Student of the Year – soon followed by a position at The Dorchester – and she hasn’t looked back. With a number of awards under her belt she has spent the last seventeen years in the beautiful Regency setting of Rudding Park Hotel, currently in the role of Consultant Chef. Stephanie feels that the key to her longevity is an ability to evolve and grow within the job.

“I’m not as hands on now. That is ok, it’s a natural progression. We have some amazing, talented chefs. They are an excellent team at the Clocktower and Banqueting. When I first started at The Clocktower as head chef the restaurant had around 80 seats. Now they can accomodate 188 people inside and another 98 on the terrace in the summer. ”

Stephanie continues to follow her passion for foraging and Yorkshire produce, sometimes meeting guests to forage on the estates parklands and presenting at events such as The Great Yorkshire Show. But what makes her so loyal to her work at Rudding Park even though she runs a successful consultancy business across Yorkshire?

“We have a team of serious chefs always looking to take their food to the next level. They are constantly striving for innovation. The kitchen garden has 54 raised beds full of ingredients like edible flowers and baby vegetables. Local and seasonal sourcing can sound like a bit of a cliche nowadays but it is still very important and the kitchen garden means that we really can do exactly that. What can I say, it’s a great place to work.”

 

If you would like to read more about Stephanie and her ongoing work with Rudding Park Hotel and numerous events around Yorkshire visit her blog at thewildcooks.co.uk.

 

A Quick Guide to Brand Storytelling

As a brand story copywriter I love hearing the narrative behind you and your business.

Here is my quick guide to brand storytelling and why it should be part of your marketing plan.

image

What do we mean by brand story?

Brand story is a term used to describe the impression reflected by your business each time someone encounters your brand. This is conveyed through your website, on social media, advertising and even word of mouth.

Why care about your brand story?

Because customers do. Unless you are offering a totally unique product you need to find a way of standing out from the crowd. The old marketing term – ‘People buy people’ – is worth remembering when engaging those ideal clients. We are all more likely to engage with a business if it shares core values similar to our own.

How do you tell your brand story?

1. Tell the truth as you see it. Perhaps you have a policy of local purchasing because you value a small carbon footprint. Do you take part in an apprenticeship scheme because you believe it is important to help young people into employment? Be open about how you do business and why.

2. Don’t be afraid to reflect your personality in your marketing materials. Combining a professional but relaxed style allows you to instill confidence whilst appearing accessible.

3. Show that you understand their priorities and how to make their lives easier. Another old marketing term – talk about benefits not features.

image

What does this mean in practical terms?

There are many ways that you can begin to share your brand story.

1. Review your website. Does it tell your brand story and create a relationship with those people who share your core values?

2. Write a regular blog post. A blog is an excellent way to share meaningful content with customers. It also helps to place you as an expert in your field and can improve Google rankings.

3. Polish your elevator pitch. Does your passion for the work shine through? Networking is an excellent opportunity to speak about the reason you to get up in the morning.

Do you have a top tip for brand storytelling? How do you choose to tell the narrative behind you and your business? Share your handy tips below.

The New Black – Cloth pudding for Robbie Burns

After a break from writing over the Christmas recovery period I return to The New Black thread with a traditional boiled pudding for Burns Night.

I was a latecomer to haggis but always look forward to the end of January and the excuse to taste this Scottish delicacy once again. As a curious food writer, the next question had to be – what else would my Scottish neighbours have eaten as part of this winter festival to celebrate their most beloved poet?

Dessert proved a source of consternation. Many modern day Burns Night menus offer the naughty but nice Cranachan. A delicious combination of fresh cream, oats and whisky it was originally a late summer dish, served after the harvest with seasonal raspberries tossed gently into the mix. It is certainly not a dish suited to traditional winter provisions.

Eventually my research turned up the fantastic clootie (or cloutie) pudding, a combination of dried fruit, spices and suet and so named after the cloth used to wrap the ingredients before wrapping.

clootie

 

I couldn’t lay claim to the recipe that I am going to share with you today. The method and ingredients are simple to apply and the result is a pudding full of warming winter spices and much lighter than you might expect. The real trick is to prepare your clootie so as to create a skin as it cooks and it arrives at the table resembling the haggis itself.  So I purely share the idea and encourage those of you setting upon your own Burns Night supper to consider giving this a try.

Clootie Pudding

From Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best
Serves 12

12 oz sultanas, 12oz plain flour, 6oz suet
1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp mixed spice, 1tsp ginger
1 grated apple, 5oz soft brown sugar
3 tbl treacle, ½ tsp baking powder
1 egg (beaten), milk to mix
A cloth – butter muslin or clean tea towel.

1. Fill a large saucepan or stock pot with boiling water and keep boiling ready for clootie
dumpling.
2. Mix all the dry ingredients and apple together.
3. Add the treacle, egg and milk and mix until you get a thick dough.
4. Scald the cloth in the boiling water, then spread the cloth onto a flat surface.
5. Spread flour over the wet cloth. This creates the skin of the dumpling.
6. Add your dumpling dough to the centre of the cloth. Pull the sides of the cloth together and
wrap the dough into a tight ball with the cloth. Tie the cloth tightly with string keeping the dough
tight within.
7. Add the dumpling to the boiling pot. Ensure the water comes up to the top or over the
dumpling. Boil for 3 ½ hours.
8. Ensure you keep the water on the boil and continue to top up the pot with water.
9. After 3 ½ hours lift out the dumpling from the pot, cut away the string and slowly unpeel the
cloth from the dumpling.
10. Once you’ve peeled away about 6 inches in diameter.
11. Add a plate upside down on top of the dumpling and tip the dumpling onto this plate. Slowly
unpeel the remainder of the cloth. The dumpling will look like a grey spotted brain!
12. Put the dumpling in front of a fire to dry off a little and turn brown.

 

#NaNoWriMo Day 16 – Mindful cookery and a dish to relieve stress

The events in Paris this weekend have rendered me rather mute over the last few days. I wanted to get on to the blog almost immediately, but it seemed a little superficial to be talking about food whilst the people of Paris reeled from the attack.

During this period of reflection I came across a poem on facebook. Written by a lady called Oriah Mountain Dreamer, the first verse reminded me that – rather than being irrelevant – cookery and the sharing of food can in fact be a useful tool in times of distress. I will be discussing my thoughts on this topic at a later date. For now I leave you with Oriah’s beautifully poignant words and a recipe for mindful cookery.

 

For Paris

Today, may we let ordinary things show us
How to make room for heartache and hope
Baking bread
Letting soup simmer all day
Paying attention to the taste of hot sweet tea
Letting the scent of cinnamon slow us down

Let’s make love to this day
In the way we linger and listen to each other
Finding a way to be still for three breaths
Letting our hands come to rest on the table
Sitting in the centre of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”
Softening to the sadness

There is a way to be with anger and fear and grief
A way to hold them with so much tenderness
That terror cannot take root
Let us make a light of that tenderness
Leaning into each other, feeding each other
Creating together a heart that can hold it all

~Oriah House © November 13, 2015

I encourage readers to approach this recipe with the same mindset as you might a meditation. Put aside plenty of time, take your time with each stage. Perhaps put on a cd or tune into your favourite radio show. Breathe deep and slow as you stir, try to remain present with the task in hand. I find cooking in this way incredibly useful for processing the thoughts and worries of my week.

wpid-imag1096.jpg

 

I chose mushrooms for this exercise because they are particularly high in magnesium, a mineral that can help relax tense, stiff muscles and aid relaxation. Some also believe that magnesium can ease insomnia, anxiety and headaches – classic symptoms of stress. (Huffington Post. March 2010) Raw cacoa adds a deep, savoury flavour to mushroom dishes and is also a great source of magnesium. And the dry sherry? Well there has to be a little mischief.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions
  • 600g mushrooms
  • A good splash of dry sherry
  • A handful of red lentils
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable bouillon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon raw cacoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon creme fraiche

wpid-imag1099.jpg

Method

  1. Peel and finely chop both of the onions. Remember, take your time. Pour a little rapeseed oil in the bottom of a large pan and gently sweat the onions until soft and translucent. Stir regularly to prevent them sticking. Slow cooking the onions in this way allows them to develop a mellow flavour and infuses the kitchen with one of the best cooking smells ever discovered.
  2. Tip the diced onion on to a plate and set aside.
  3. Inspect the mushrooms. Brush any soil away with a pastry brush. Chop the mushrooms into bite size pieces.
  4. In small batches, fry the mushrooms until golden brown. Add a little more oil if required. Shake the pan occasionally but don’t stir. Tip each batch onto the plate with your onions and move onto the next one.
  5. Return the fried onions and mushrooms to your pan. Splash in the dry sherry and simmer to reduce.
  6. Toss in the red lentils, vegetable bouillon, paprika, cacao, bay leaf and thyme.
  7. Stir well and pour on the water. Bring to the boil and reduce to simmer. Set your kitchen alarm for 30 minutes. Put the kettle on and put your feet. Stare out of a window. Breathe deeply. Anticipate the flavours of the final dish.
  8. After 30 minutes or so, taste the soup and season with extra salt and pepper if needed. Take off the heat and blend until smooth.
  9. Stir in the creme fraiche beofre serving with crusty wholegrain bread and extra creme fraiche if desired.

 

Save