Monday 28 February 2011


Celebrity chef Nigel Smith helped launch the new Volkswagen Passat at Lookers Volkswagen in Darlington, with a lesson in creating fine cuisine.

The 2006 chef of the year entertained over 50 guests as he demonstrated how to cook a delicious main course and mouth-watering dessert.

Guests were able to get a closer look at Nigel’s culinary skills as they watched him make ‘Blade of beef with fresh thyme and rosemary with a garlic and red wine sauce served with fondant potatoes’, followed by a ‘Chocolate and Guinness cake with a passion fruit curd’.

Nigel Smith, patron chef from The Villa Country House Hotel said: “The aim of the demonstration was to give people a few ideas on simple but delicious cooking.

“Sometimes it only takes a few extra options in someone’s culinary skills to make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy diet.”

Lookers Volkswagen’s brand manager, Sheldon Cockburn, said: “The evening was a great success with Nigel entertaining the guests with some superb dishes. He was full of bright ideas for the kitchen, just like the new Passat.”

Also, in attendance was Lookers Volkswagen’s north east franchise director, Simon Horabin. He said: “What a terrific evening it was, with Nigel Smith a credit to his profession in the way he entertained the guests.”

Friday 25 February 2011

Connect PR's week in words!

We’re many things here at Connect PR, but horticultural experts ain’t one of them!

We do prepare, plant and cultivate on a daily basis, but more with a blossoming crop of press cuttings in mind.

There’s no need to genetically engineer results for our clients either. We always find that some tender loving care, hard work and attention to detail does the trick.

You’re probably wondering why are we using this tenuous gardening analogy, when our fingers are more black than green, from thumbing through the national newspapers every day.

Well, for those of you still with us, we thought we’d link our weekly blog back to our poor office tree, which is withered, brittle and barely still with us.

We’ve taken a stand and are embarking on a mission to not only save the specimen, but to give it the best chance of growing and flourishing once more (basically, we’re watering it).

We will keep you updated with the Tree of Salvation’s progress over the next few months (pictured with handsome Ben), but if it gets the same treatment as some of our clients have been of late, then it will be in safe hands!

We are reaping the rewards of our Scouts DIY Activity Badge initiative for WD-40, which is beginning to flourish nicely.

Scout Groups across the UK are telling WD-40 how they have used their DIY and scouting skills to make a difference to their community with the overall winning group receiving £500 to use for equipment, materials or resources for their group.

A bumper harvest of press cuttings have also come in for Uponor, our underfloor heating and plumbing client, courtesy of some more careful preparation in previous weeks.

Underfloor heating systems aren’t just a stylish contemporary asset to a home, but a really cost effective, energy efficient way of keeping comfortable.

The UK’s number one underfloor heating specialist has now gone a step further, introducing a range of air to water heat pumps to its family of products, as it looks to broaden its domestic heating solutions.
Uponor has entered the heat pump market after identifying a high demand for the energy efficient product, which is seen as an ideal accompaniment to its existing underfloor heating and plumbing systems.
So good are Uponor’s heating solutions that we were thinking of implementing one into the Chubb Buildings – until we remembered that our tree might need a bit of time to adjust!
Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Connect PR

Law firm celebrates charity success

Leading Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons is celebrating after raising over £10,000 for a local charity.

The Waterfront-based team of solicitors raised the money across 2010 for its chosen charity Wings – Wombourne Special Needs Support Group.

Wings provides social opportunities for disabled children and their families, running a wide range of evening, weekend and holiday activities.

During the year, the firm held several fund raising events including a quiz and a bike ride (on exercise bikes) from Brierley Hill to Paris, with staff taking on partners. The race had a classic photo-finish, with the staff team just crossing the finish line before the partners.

Sheila Freeman, spokesperson for Wings, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the donation, and I would like to thank Higgs & Sons for all their hard work in raising this money.

“We provide those with special needs with a social group through activities based around drama, music, art and physical exercise – so these funds are vital to allow us to sustain our range of schemes and activities.”

Higgs’ charity work success comes on the back of news that the firm has been short-listed for Law Firm of the Year in the Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards 2011.

Ian Shovlin, senior partner, Higgs & Sons said: “The partners are all very proud of what the Higgs team has achieved in 2010 and being short-listed for the second year running as a finalist in Law Firm of the Year in the Legal Awards is a fitting recognition of their enthusiasm and hard work. We’re looking forward to the awards ceremony on 24 March 2011.”

Legally bound without even signing on the line

A recent Court of Appeal case highlighting the dangers of businesses and their employees being unaware of contract formation procedures has implications for firms throughout the region says a leading commercial solicitor.

Amy Hylton, a commercial specialist at Higgs & Sons says that the recent case of Immingham Storage Company Limited v Clear Plc brings to light the dangers and high costs of getting the process wrong.

“In this case, the two companies had exchanged a number of emails regarding the storage of certain products,” explains Amy. “The storage company had emailed a quote to the customer containing various details such as the start date for storage, duration and price. The quotation also specified that a ‘formal contract would follow in due course’.

“The customer never signed the formal contract and they did not use the storage space. The storage company argued that a contract had been formed upon signature of the quotation and therefore their invoice for storage services should be paid.”

The Court of Appeal concluded that there was a contract despite no formal agreement being signed because a) the quotation was not expressly made ‘subject to contract’, b) all substantial terms had been agreed in the quotation and c) there was an intention to create legal relations.

Amy explains: “It is vitally important that the people negotiating sales and orders are aware of the vast range of issues that affect contract formation and incorporation of terms.

“It is a common belief that a contract has not been formed until the written agreement is signed. However, in law as this case shows, this is not always the case.”

Amy suggests that a full review of a business’ order and sales process would be a beneficial way of ensuring that the processes being used are not going to trip them up when it comes to contract formation. “A simple check may be all it needs to save a business a lot of money.”

To find out more contact Amy Hylton on 0845 111 5050 or by email at

Thursday 24 February 2011


A Ceredigion children’s charity is now fully mobile thanks to The Big Lottery and Aberystwyth’s Volkswagen Van Centre, Anthony Motors.

RAY Ceredigion is the county’s lead organisation for the Child’s Play Project, a Big Lottery-funded programme that supports after school clubs, holiday play schemes and small communities across Wales.

The charity is using part of its Big Lottery funding to purchase and run two Volkswagen Transporters, taking delivery of them from Anthony Motors last week.
Gill Byrne, RAY Ceredigion’s executive officer, explained how the scheme works. She said: “The Child’s Play Project will deliver a fully funded mobile play project to communities across the county, as well as offering training to support local people to continue giving children opportunities to play and interact with each other in their local communities.

“The vans are a vital part of the programme, enabling our staff to take a range of play equipment out with them and provide assistance to small groups in many rural areas across Ceredigion.

“Over the next four years the vans will visit 48 different community play areas, delivering much needed active outdoor play sessions to hundreds of children in the county.

“We can’t thank The Big Lottery fund and Anthony Motors enough for helping put RAY Ceredigion in a position to deliver these services.

“The Volkswagen vans meet our exact requirements, with the quality and longevity to reach all areas of Ceredigion over the next four years.”

The Big Lottery funding for RAY Ceredigion totals almost £850,000, which will be spent on a team of seven staff, including five play workers, and the running costs of the vans.

Anthony Motors Volkswagen Van Centre’s head of business, Justin Manley, said: “We’re delighted to help, in a small way, the excellent work RAY Ceredigion will provide to the community over the next four years.

“Charities like this deserve support from local businesses to deliver beneficial facilities to Ceredigion’s children.”

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Higgs quartet on the steps to success

Four lawyers from Higgs & Sons’ private client team have all been successful in recent examinations to join a global legal organisation.

Associate Sarah Cairns and solicitor Nick Bennett have both recently passed their final examinations to become full members of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) joining solicitor Verity Kirby who qualified as a full member last year. The department now boasts 16 full STEP members.

Solicitor Sarah Darby has also passed the first of her four STEP exams with a distinction.

STEP is the professional body for the trust and estate profession across the world, providing members with a local, national and international learning and business network.

Peter Gosling, head of Higgs’ highly respected private client department, said: “Our congratulations go to Verity, Sarah and Nick for becoming full members of STEP and also to Sarah Darby for achieving a distinction, it’s excellent news for them, the department and our clients.”

Higgs’ private client team, which is one of the largest in the Midlands, acts for many families and trusts across the Midlands and beyond and is based at Higgs’ headquarters at 3 Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill.

To contact Higgs & Sons Private Client department please telephone 0845 111 5050 or email

Picture shows left to right: Nick Bennett, Peter Gosling, Verity Kirby (blonde with glasses), Sarah Darby (higher step) and Sarah Cairns.

Monday 21 February 2011


One of Liverpool’s newest businesses has posted better than expected results for its first month since opening, resulting in a new search for staff.

Liverpool Volkswagen Van Centre’s new van sales were 80 per cent up on target, while service hours were up 25 per cent.

The positive news for the Speke-based dealership, means the company has vacancies to fill.

David Cowan, head of business at the Evans Road site, said: “This is excellent news for the business, given the economic climate and the fact we’re new to the city.

“It shows how the Volkswagen brand provides superb value for money and the staff at the van centre are delivering what customers want.

“We hope this trend continues and look forward to more encouraging results and business throughout 2011.”

The current positions available are sales executives, technicians and drivers. Interested parties should forward CVs to Liverpool Van Centre.

Wednesday 16 February 2011


February 2011


The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy will be whipping up final fever amongst Carlisle United fans next week, when it arrives for a three day visit ahead of the big day on April 3.

The stunning piece of silverware will be weaving its way around three Johnstone’s stockists throughout the course of next week. It will start its journey at Richardson’s on Roper Street on Tuesday February 22 before heading to The Range in Currock Road on Wednesday and finishing at B&M on English Street the following day.

All three outlets have been proud stockists of Johnstone’s Paints for many years and were only too happy to play host. Fans will have the opportunity to have their photos taken with the trophy between the hours of 10am and 4pm and can also enter a number of competitions, including a prize draw to win tickets to the final.

Youngsters between the ages of nine and twelve will also have the chance to enter a competition to take part in an nail biting penalty shoot out competition that will take place against Brentford’s Buzz Bee at half time.

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy’s sponsorship manager Teresa Hardwick said: “Making two consecutive finals is a wonderful achievement and we want to commemorate it by bringing the trophy up to Cumbria for all Carlisle United’s loyal fans to enjoy.

“We made special visits to Carlisle ahead of last season’s final and if the fans show as much passion as they did in 2010, then we will be absolutely delighted.

“Our programme of activities is well under way for the final and our visits to Carlisle will allow us to engage with the fans once again and build some excitement ahead of April 3.”

For more information about the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, visit

Tuesday February 22
10am – 4pm
John Richardson and Son
Roper Street
CA11 8HS

Wednesday February 23
10am – 4pm
The Range
Currock Road

Thursday February 24
10am – 4pm
98-104 English Street


Johnstone’s. Bringing colour to the beautiful game.

Issued on behalf of Johnstone’s by Ben Smallman, Connect PR,  01902 714957

Notes to editor:

About Johnstone’s

The Johnstone’s paint brand is owned by PPG. PPG Architectural Coatings EMEA, Is the second largest supplier of decorative coatings in Europe. With its headquarters based in Pittsburgh, PPG is a global supplier of paints, coatings, chemicals, optical products, speciality materials, glass and fibreglass. The company has more than 150 manufacturing facilities and equity affiliates and operates in more than 60 countries. (symbol: PPG). For more information, visit

Monday 14 February 2011

Is history repeating itself? The importance of prenuptial agreements

A leading West Midlands law firm is urging individuals with assets to enter into prenuptial agreements to protect their wealth before entering into marriage.

The warning from Waterfront-based Higgs & Sons comes after American actor Kelsey Grammer announced plans to enter into his fourth marriage with 29-year-old airhostess Kayte Walsh, without a pre nuptial agreement.

The 55 year old Frasier star and his fiancé have known each other for just over a year, with the engagement being announced just months after his third wife started divorce proceedings. The divorce has recently been finalised.

Partner Philip Barnsley, head of Higgs’ family department and chairman of the West Midlands group of Resolution, is surprised at the star's laissez-faire attitude to protecting his remaining wealth given his marriage history: “A pre nuptial agreement could help to ensure that Grammer's remaining wealth is protected.

"This is a classic example of where a pre nuptial agreement should be considered. There is clearly going to be a disparity of wealth between the couple, and the risk is that Grammer could find himself arguing over his remaining assets and incurring further legal costs in the process.

"Whenever the financial position of a couple is unequal, where there are assets to protect, or where there are children whose financial future needs protecting after first (or subsequent) marriages, it is common sense to consider a pre nuptial agreement."

Pre nuptial agreements are used to record what a couple wants to happen with the finances in the event that their marriage breaks down, including provision for children. Philip says: "Pre nuptial agreements are being increasingly entered into in order to protect family wealth, inheritance prospects and as in this case, where there is a disparity in the parties’ wealth. More than ever, people want to protect what assets they have built up during their lifetime."

Over recent years, pre nuptial agreements have become more accepted, and as marriages are generally happening later in life, with more second or subsequent marriages becoming common, individuals are finding that they have wealth to protect.

Philip concluded: “Considering recent case law and the Law Commission consultation paper published on 11 January 2011, Grammer's reluctance to try to protect what assets he may have left is surprising. Pre nuptial agreements are becoming more relevant to more of the marrying population and should be viewed as insurance policies rather than trying to undermine romance. Where a fair agreement can be reached and relied on, pre nuptial agreements can remove the need for court proceedings, and the associated distress of losing wealth."

Interest in pre nuptial agreements is gathering pace in the Midlands. Last week Philip held a seminar for professionals working in finance including accountants, bankers and fund managers. The breakfast event was attended by 80 Midlands professionals and looked at the impact of both pre and post nuptial agreements.

For more information on prenuptial agreements please contact Philip Barnsley at Higgs & Sons on 0845 111 5050.

Friday 11 February 2011

Connect PR's week in words!

It’s been a case of trains, planes and automobiles this week in the wonderful world of Connect PR.

Let’s stay on track by talking trains first. On behalf of Chiltern Railways, we were at Moor Street in Birmingham today with the company’s director Thomas Ableman.

He announced plans to transform travel between Birmingham and London, before unveiling a countdown clock marking 100 days until the Chiltern Mainline begins.

With reporters from a host of media channels eager for more information, we were delighted to be able to assist in such a prestigious project.

With the rail tracks covered, the sky is the limit – quite literally - which is where we bring in the planes part.

Our client Goodyear is reaching for sky with its road safety plans, and has called on its iconic institution of the air to capture everyone’s imagination.

Okay, so it isn’t technically a plane, but the Goodyear Blimp is flying back into view across the UK this year, and we are busy working with the esteemed brand to maximize coverage around it.

The blimp has graced the sky for more than 85 years and has established a reputation for being a ‘guardian angel’ for the company. We’re excited to be involved in a new chapter for the blimp, so forgive us if our heads are in the clouds every now and then.
Now onto those automobiles.

With the HiQ fast fit network and Volkswagen passenger cars as clients, we are always steering their names into a number of high profile publications.
This week has been no different as a Valentine’s Day survey amongst HiQ motorists gave us a number of headlines to work with.

According to our research, men have more love for their cars than they do their partners, who tend to moan a lot more than an everyday engine, apparently.

We were stunned by the results, judging by everyone’s plans here in the office.
Zoe and Becki have bought tastebud tingling meals for their loved ones, while Lucas is going to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant with his partner.

Mind you, Rich did take part in the questionnaire and he’s taking his other half to his local boozer – once he’s watched the Monster Trucks on Eurosport.
Who says romance is dead eh? Have a great weekend!
Connect PR

Thursday 10 February 2011

Connect celebrates two major signings

Connect Group is continuing its talent growth with the appointment of two new world-class creatives.

Stuart Perry joins the Wolverhampton-based integrated agency fresh from 11 years at McCann Erickson, where he worked on accounts including Harley Davidson. He will become a creative director and Connect’s head of design.

Alongside Stuart, Dennis Willison joins Connect as another creative director, following 15 years at Saatchi & Saatchi, London. Dennis has worked with many of the greats of advertising including the legendary, late John Webster. Dennis’ name can be found on iconic campaigns including Benson and Hedges, Hamlet, Courage Best, and the NSPCC.

Executive creative director James Sinclair said of the two new appointments: “It’s a great testament to what we’re trying to achieve at Connect that creatives of the calibre of Stuart and Dennis are now joining us.

“Like all great creatives, Dennis finds a way to blend discipline in his strategic thinking with what’s irresistibly engaging in delivery.

“Stuart combines world class design with strong conceptual thinking. In these days of oversupplied markets of me-too products with parity claims, brand personality differentiation has become vital. Stuart will raise the craft levels in the agency while helping to develop our new approach to this brand personality differentiation.”

In addition to Stuart and Dennis, Connect has also retained senior art directors Julian Bird and Richard Parsons. Both have worked with Connect as freelancers in the past.

James Sinclair added: “I’m incredibly proud that we are building an agency that operates quite unlike any other I’ve been involved in. We are actively seeking to cross-fertilise skills across departments and the agency as a whole – blending design, advertising, digital, PR, conceptual thinking and strategic insight in a way I haven't experienced in other agencies.”

Tradesman get £5K boost from Volkswagen

A Newark van centre has presented a £5,000 financial boost to a local tradesman just for taking a test drive.

Kevin Burton, owner of K & B Installations which specialises in fitted kitchen and bathrooms, was awarded the cheque after being entered into a prize draw following the test of the Volkswagen Crafter at Gilder Van Centre, previously Heron Van Centre.

The competition was aimed at giving a financial boost to tradesmen and van drivers’ businesses while also showcasing the benefits, capabilities and versatility of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ largest vehicle, the Crafter.

The self-employed fitter, who has been in business for over 24 years, provides an all-inclusive service as he is a qualified plumber, electrician and plasterer. As an authorised fitter for B&Q, Kevin works within a 50 miles radius of Mansfield and has always enjoyed the independence of working for himself.

Speaking of his win, Kevin said: “I was completely shocked when I was told I had won. Gilder Van Centre had been really helpful when I tested the Crafter which I needed to meet my growing business demand. I filled in the entry form and never gave it a second thought.

“I’m a real advocate of the Volkswagen range, my last vehicle was a Transporter which I found very reliable, and even drove like a car. I simply needed a larger van and, with all of this in mind, the Crafter seemed the ideal choice.

“The money will go towards upgrading my tools as well as investing in new equipment which will help make my job easier.”

Julie Gwilliam, head of business at Gilder Van Centre Newark, said: “We are delighted that one of our customers won this national prize draw.

“It is even more pleasing to know that Kevin has already purchased a new Crafter based on his test drive experience.”

For further information on the Crafter and the other models in the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle range, call Gilder Van Centre Newark on 01636 673 691 or visit

Friday 4 February 2011


A family from Congleton in Cheshire is saddled up and ready to fly out to a Texan ranch holiday after winning a national competition.

Denise Page secured the ‘Wild West’ break for her family after she won a ‘spot the ball’ contest at JJ’s Sensory Play Centre annual charity ball, which was sponsored by Gilbert Lawton Volkswagen in Macclesfield.

The holiday was the main prize of Volkswagen’s national competition to mark the launch of their new Touran and Sharan models.

Denise (below with Gilbert Lawton Volkswagen's brand manager, Nick Ashton) will fly out to Texas in early April with her daughter Francine and partner Guy.

Speaking of her prize, Denise said: “I was a little surprised when I had the call to tell me of my win, as I didn’t really expect all the flights and accommodation to be paid for.

“But once I had confirmation in writing, I was very excited by the choice of holidays on offer and a trip to Texas appealed to all the family – although Francine said she won’t be coming if she has to eat beans around a campfire!”

Nick Ashton, brand manager at Gilbert Lawton Volkswagen, said: “Our congratulations go out to Denise and her family and we hope they enjoy their holiday to Texas.

“We’re also pleased that we’ve helped raise awareness about the work of JJ’s Sensory Play Centre, as we extended an invitation to the charity ball to all of our customers.”

JJ’s Sensory Play Centre, which is located on Snape Road in Macclesfield, is a soft play environment which includes a sensory room. It relies entirely on donations to provide its services.

Their specialist facilities encourage young children, including those with special needs, to play in a safe environment through stimulation and interaction by using multi-sensory equipment.

For more information about JJ’s Sensory Play centre, please visit or call 01625 667872.

Thursday 3 February 2011


Two of the world’s leading darts players have signed major sponsorship deals with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles ahead of the 2011 Premier League.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is stepping up to the oche and backing world number three, James Wade, and the 2011 World Championship semi-finalist, Mark Webster for a period of 12-months. And as fate would have it, the two 27-year olds face each other at the season-opener taking place at London’s O2 Arena next week.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Wade explained: “I’m delighted for both Mark and myself with this double sponsorship. It shows how popular darts is becoming when a major global company invests in the sport.”

“The start of the Premier League couldn’t have worked out better, and I know Mark and I will be doing our best to put on a great show at the O2.”
Currently ranked at number 13 in the world, Webster from Denbigh, North Wales, added: “This is a leading sponsorship deal and means I can concentrate on my goal of reaching world number one. Volkswagen vans have a superb reputation for reliability, strength and success, and these are qualities that I aim to bring to the oche, during the sponsorship and beyond.”

“James and I are good friends, but when we’re on stage we’re best of enemies.”

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ head of marketing, David George, said: “This is a new and exciting arena for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. As an ex-mechanic and plumber respectively, James and Mark are both perfect ambassadors for the brand.

“With significant television and live audiences, darts is a great platform to continue raising awareness of our commercial vehicles brand. Everyone at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will be hoping James or Mark can claim the Premier League and many other trophies in 2011.”

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Uponor Taps into Darts

For more details on Mark Webster's new sponsorship deal, click here:

Uponor Sinks Mark Webster Sponsorship Deal

Fresh on the back of securing a place in the PDC’s Premier League, darts player and professional plumber Mark Webster has also gained a new sponsor.

Underfloor heating and plumbing specialist Uponor has signed a 12 month deal to sponsor the 2008 World Champion including player appearances and shirt sponsorship.
To see what happened when Uponor signed Mark, click here.

In just two years, Mark has climbed the player rankings starting scratch on the PDC Order of Merit and now holds the 13th spot.

The 27 year old from Denbigh, north Wales was named as one of only eight players that will take part in the 2011 Premier League thanks to his recent success in the World Championships, where he knocked out Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor to reach the semi-finals, and the World Cup of Darts where together with fellow Welshman Barry Bates, he reached the final.

Uponor’s applications manager, Richard Haworth, says Mark’s plumbing knowledge makes him the ideal personality to be associated with our brand. He says: “Thanks to its huge TV and live audiences darts provides us with the ideal platform to reach our target audiences and communicate the benefits of Uponor systems and solutions.

“Furthermore, Mark is the perfect player to represent Uponor given that he is a qualified plumber and still carries out commercial heating installations working for an installer in his home town. He can confidently speak with authority on plumbing matters and we’re delighted to have him on board.”

Mark adds: “I’m really pleased that Uponor have chosen to support me. It’s always nice to have the backing of sponsors to spur you on and I’m excited about getting to grips with the product offering and learning about the solutions the company offers its customers.

“Of course I hope my recent run of form continues so that I can get as much exposure for the company as possible.”

Darts commands a huge following with sporting TV viewing figures second only to football. It also has a phenomenal celebrity following with Stephen Fry, Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and Robbie Savage tweeting about matches and has even gained a Royal following with Prince Harry joining live audiences at the Alexandra Palace in January.

Uponor’s sponsorship will commence at the 02 Arena in London when the Premier League gets underway on 10 February.

Uponor is a leading supplier of plumbing and indoor climate systems for the residential and commercial building markets across Europe and North America and a market leader in municipal infrastructure pipe systems in the Nordic countries.

Uponor's key applications include heating and cooling solutions and tap water systems. The Group employs ca 3,300 persons in 30 countries. In 2009, Uponor's net sales totalled 730 million euros. Uponor Corporation is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd., Finland. .