Author Archives: Sean

Commemorating 70 years since Victory in Japan

Saturday 15th August 2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ Day)

COFEPOW - Children of far East Prisoners of War logoThis important anniversary of VJ Day is being marked by national charity COFEPOW, as part of its aim to ensure that World War Two Far East Prisoners of War are never forgotten.


Key events to commemorate Victory in Japan Day

Saturday 15th August 2015

At 2pm, there will be a Service of Remembrance at Lichfield Cathedral to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of VJ Day. There will be an Address by Terry Waite CBE, and the service will be followed by performances from the West Midlands Fellowship Band and the West Midlands Police Choir.

Sunday 16th August 2015

At 12.15pm, there will be a service at the COFEPOW Memorial Building at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire. The service will be conducted by David Childs CBE RN (Rtd) and will be followed by the blessing and re-dedication of the building and the opening of the new FEPOW Remembrance Garden. There will also be a Royal Air Force fly past by a world famous DC-3 Dakota Transport Plane.

Key facts about Victory in Japan

• At 6.10 on the evening of 15th February 1942, Lieutenant General Percival surrenders to the Japanese in Singapore.

• Almost 200,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers became prisoners of war in the Far East.

• Thousands were held in Singapore’s Changi Prison, where many died.

• Thousands more left Singapore on prison ships – “hell ships” – to be used as forced labour in other parts of Asia.

• Nearly 10,000 of these men died building the Burma-Thailand railway.
• Thousands of others died as a result of starvation, barbaric treatment and tropical diseases.

• Civilians fared no better. Tens of thousands were killed by the Japanese.

• The Japanese surrendered on 15th August 1945.

• By then, 50,000 prisoners of war had been killed.

Father and Son cycle across England to commemorate Victory in Japan Day

A father and son cycling duo from Lostock Hall, Preston are cycling across England to raise awareness of the plight of World War Two prisoners of war.

Paul and James Housden cycling for COFEPOW

Paul and James Housden are cycling for COFEPOW

Paul Housden and son James are cycling across Lancashire and Yorkshire from Morecambe to Bridlington to raise funds for national charity, COFEPOW, which is dedicated to keeping alive the memory of prisoners of war held in the Far East in World War Two.

More than 200,000 allied civilians and service personnel were taken prisoner by the Japanese in February 1942. By Victory in Japan Day some 50,000 of these people had died.

Says Paul: “My father was a POW in the Far East and it is so hard to conceive what he and thousands of others went through. COFEPOW exists to ensure this important part of history is kept alive.”

Son James is keen to help raise funds for COFEPOW as away of recognising his grandfather’s contribution: “Having listened to dad talk about some of the things granddad and his fellow captives went through, it’s very important that the coming generations have knowledge of what happened to the forgotten army.”

The ride, which will take two full days of cycling across the Lancashire and Yorkshire dales and moors, and says Paul: “We will face a total climb of 4,222 ft and some 141 miles, but compared to what my Father went through, it is a small effort to pay tribute to him and his fellow POWs.”

If you would like to sponsor Paul and James, please visit and to find out more about Far East Prisoners of War visit

Business with vision for manufacturing in England

Quantock Clothing, a Warwickshire-based business setup in 2014, is seeking to reinvigorate the smart casual menswear market with its vision of sourcing entirely from English manufacturers and promoting the ‘Made in England’ brand.

Grev Lushington - Quantock Clothing

Grev Lushington founder of Quantock Clothing

Speaking as Quantock Clothing launches additional lines to its range, founder Grev Lushington from Rugby, said: “At Quantock Clothing we manufacture all of our products in England and are committed to developing high quality, stylish and desirable ranges that are also accessibly priced. Made in England does not have to mean unaffordable”.

According to Grev, people have a growing desire to understand more about the provenance of their clothing; who makes it, how it is made and under what conditions. “When you look at this, it makes total sense to push a ‘Made in England’ agenda – we do things well in this country and we value our people”, he says.

Add to this an understanding of what is involved in bringing clothing from far afield regions such as the Far East to retail stores in the Western World, and you start to consider the sustainability of the practice currently adopted by many brands. The scale of operations, distances involved and sheer complexity of logistics before anything is even sold, is not always appreciated.

Adds Grev: “We work with high quality manufacturers throughout England and have greatly appreciated their support and dedication to help us bring our vision to life. In addition, we have a strong commitment to provide exemplary levels of service to our customers and believe the future promises to be very exciting, indeed.”

Currently, the Quantock Clothing range includes jeans, button down shirts, knitwear, polo shirts, belts and cufflinks all designed and made in England.

The top three hotels in the world

In his latest blog, Sean looks at customer service excellence in the hospitality sector.

Recently,  a discussion in the office turned to the number of hotels we have visited since Ethos public relations was founded in 1998.

Over these 17 years we must have stayed at hundreds of hotels, both for business and pleasure.

We have stayed in budget hotels to get our heads down after a long business meeting; big conference venues in Brussels, Prague, Berlin and Birmingham, to name but a few; small bed and breakfasts with friendly owners, and corporate chains with less than friendly temporary (and overworked) staff.

It didn’t take long before we started comparing the various stays and, rather than focusing on the negatives of any particular stay, we thought about the top three hotels we had stayed at.

Now, the results, which we tweeted recently, are not very scientific. There was not a tick box questionnaire, review website or analysis of value for money, but rather we thought about the best overall experience in a hotel.

Before we repeat the results, it’s true to say that we cannot recall staying in any really awful hotels. It’s true we have experienced bed bugs, bins being emptied at 6am, reservations cock-ups, loud guests and un-adjustable heating/air conditioning but, in general, hotels and their staff are very capable.

Our shortlist of our top three hotels in the world – yes we know that’s terrible PR hype – is: the Gran Melia Victoria in Palma, Mallorca, the Holiday Inn, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire and The Hadley Park Hotel in Wellington, Shropshire.

Hadley Park Hotel

Hadley Park Hotel

In many ways these hotels couldn’t be more different. One looks over the Mediterranean, another the Manchester Ship Canal and the third is surrounded by a business park.



Holiday Inn Ellesmere Port

Holiday Inn Ellesmere Port

But the similarity is in their focus on customer service, or at least as we received it. Public relations, we always tell our clients, is about the way customers and guests perceive you and the experience they receive when interacting with your business.

Gran Melia Victoria

Gran Melia Victoria

In these three hotels we have received customer service that made us feel valued, as though the employees of the hotels really enjoyed our visit. Now of course we know the hospitality industry spends a fortune on guest customer service training and the service we received might be down to that. But somehow, I think it is down to something much more basic. I think these hotels employed nice people. And that is worth so much more than corporate brand, stunning location, posh grub or free wi-fi.

Ellesmere Port sea shanty festival

The fifth national Sea Shanty Festival returns to the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port over the Easter weekend (3-5 April 2015).

Ellesmere Port Sea Shanty FestivalA major sea shanty festival returns to the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port and is expecting to see over 3, 000 visitors come along to three full days of maritime singing. The annual festival is dedicated to keeping the tradition of sea shanties alive, in its spiritual home, Merseyside.

According to Julia Batters of Shanty UK, the Festival has gone from strength to strength over the past five years and is now an important event on the Sea Shanty Calendar. Julia said: “Our Easter Sea Shanty Festival is our way of marking the rich tradition of sea shanties. The festival provides a welcome day out, with plenty for the whole family.

Canal boats at Ellesmere Port - Sea Shanty Festival

Canal boats at Ellesmere Port – Sea Shanty Festival

“The museum is a great backdrop to the festival and during the weekend visitors will be able to hear traditional and modern maritime songs being sung around the museum and on some of the boats.”

Coinciding with the Annual Boat Gathering at the museum, the Shanty UK festival brings together nearly 100 performers in seven different venues within the museum for three exciting days of singing, concerts, boat trips, museum tours, nautical poetry, face painting and much more.

The highlight of the Festival will be two evening concerts taking place within the museum on Friday and Saturday nights, which feature a number of acts from across the UK and Europe.

Hissy Fit at Ellesmere Port Sea Shanty Festival

Hissy Fit in concert at Ellesmere Port Sea Shanty Festival 2014

Entrance to the National Waterways Museum for the Sea Shanty Festival and Annual Boat Gathering costs £6.50 for all three days (10am – 5pm). Tickets for the evening concerts are £11 each night and can be reserved online at

Record year for London Capital Credit Union

London Capital Credit Union logoLondon Capital Credit Union has had a record year, with more and more people turning to them for help with low cost loans and secure savings.

The credit union has seen a 47% increase in membership in the year ending September 2014 to 10, 062 members. It has also seen a 62% increase in loans to members to £5.6 million, but at the same time has seen members’ savings increase by 59% to £6.6 million.

Martin Groombridge, Chief Executive of London Capital Credit Union, said: “Our growth means that we are now helping over 10,000 people keep clear of payday lenders and other high interest doorstep lenders. As a member-owned co-operative, we are driven to improve the financial well-being of our members.

“For too long people in our communities have been exploited by money lenders with a focus on profit and greed. Credit unions like London Capital are fighting back by offering fair and affordable loans and savings and we’re pleased to be helping record numbers of people.”

London Capital Credit Union is dedicated to promoting saving and helping people deal with debt. It provides secure savings and low cost loans for anyone living, working or studying in Barnet, Camden, City of London, Hackney, Haringey or Islington. As a locally owned and run co-operative, all the money saved in the credit union stays in the community.

Martin Groombridge said: “We estimate that our members will have saved £6.5 million in interest, charges and fees by switching their borrowing to us from payday lenders and other high interest lenders.”

A loan from a credit union such as London Capital Credit Union will result in lower repayments than from a payday lender or a doorstep loan.

“That’s where people taking our loans in London can really benefit,” explained Martin. “What’s more, our ‘Saver Loans’ are designed to help people get into the savings habit, without racking up high interest charges.”

A typical £1,000 loan from the credit union, paid back over one year, would cost a total of just £67 in interest. This is a tiny fraction of what it would cost to borrow from a payday lender, for instance.

“That extra money stays in the local economy,” says Martin, “which has to be good news for everyone.”

Find out more at



Radio Taxis Credit Union to merge with London Capital

Members of Radio Taxis (London) Credit Union have unanimously voted to merge their credit union with London Capital Credit Union.

London Capital Credit Union logoThe merger will see the formation of an enlarged organisation with some 11, 000 members and £7m of assets.

Speaking about the decision Gordon Brown of Radio Taxis Credit Union said: “There is a greater need than ever for a more ethical source of financial services. People are still paying too much for borrowing and being discouraged from saving. This merger will make a larger and stronger Credit Union that will better serve many more thousands of people in years to come.”

Martin Groombridge, Chief Executive at London Capital Credit Union welcomed the vote. “We are very pleased to be welcoming the members of Radio Taxis Credit Union to London Capital and we are already looking forward to offering their members the full range of our products including our full online service.”

Radio Taxis Credit Union was set up to help London taxi drivers and their families get access to affordable credit and secure savings. Says Martin: “As a member-owned financial co-operative we offer all our members affordable credit and advice to help reduce debts and we welcome the opportunity to offer this to our new members.”

Martin added: “Credit unions across the UK are dedicated to serving the needs of their members and we are proud to be offering an alternative to the High Street banks and rip off rates charged by payday lenders and many other finance providers across London.”

Find out more at

No to HS2

Let no one say I jumped to rash conclusions on HS2.

Ticket office - HS2

HS2 cash might be better spent on other routes

 For the last year or so I have genuinely not been sure if I should say no to HS2 or not. I have been unsure if HS2 is a good or bad idea for the country. I found it very difficult to reconcile the needs for a modern, low carbon means of transport with the unavoidable extra environmental damage. But as the rail route to the South West of England reopened today, it seems to me that we are addressing the wrong transport needs.

I am no Luddite and fully recognise that our current transport infrastructure, not least train lines, would not have existed had it not been for people who doggedly fought in some cases to build their lines. The main motivation back then was profit for all the competing train companies but I am sure it was mixed with excitement for a brand new, shiny technology.

Until recently, I could see plenty of reasons to be both for and against HS2.

Reasons for included:
•    Meeting future capacity
•    Better connections to ‘The North’
•    Business benefits to UK trade

Whilst on the no side the following springs to mind:
•    Loss of habitat
•    Even more energy use to power the trains
•    A focus on London

To some extent the environmental considerations can be reduced by judicious use of tunnelling, avoiding areas of scientific interest and the like, but this island that we share with thousands of other species is already carved up enough by rail, roads and canals.

Just imagine how large species such as deer, wild boar and others are unable to move across this country. Effectively this island is split north and south by the M62 and M4, not to mention by numerous canals. Similarly, it is divided East and West by the almost impenetrable M1 and M6 and the West Coast and East Coast mainlines.

But my last trip to London from Manchester by train made up my mind on HS2. Now I say ‘No to HS2’. On both legs of the journey, I would guess the train was a third to half full and that’s without the four sparsely populated First Class carriages which could have offered extra capacity if needed, and at over £400 return, no wonder they were under-occupied.

The train was comfortable and got me city centre to city centre in a fraction over two hours. Obviously, a quicker journey would be nice, but not at the huge environmental and landscape cost that HS2 would demand in order that we could save perhaps half an hour on the journey.

At a time when the debate about global warming and flooding has never been more topical, it seems to me we need to be rethinking our approach to business. Surely, we shouldn’t be shaving off minutes on already fairly quick journeys, but perhaps the estimated £100 billion budget for HS2 could be better spent on re-engineering our economy so people don’t all need to travel in peak hours.

But please don’t think that I am against all high speed rail. I am certainly FOR increasing speeds on existing tracks and I’d even suggest that I’d support HS2 if it were designed to connect two parts of the country that are currently poorly served by transport connections. Certainly, a Penzance – Glasgow service would sound attractive, helping Cornish regeneration and better rail infrastructure.

In the final analysis, my views will not have much sway in this particular debate and I am open minded enough to reconsider – so if you want to let me know why I should reconsider, please do!

Farewell Nelson Mandela

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Flag of Soth Africa

By Flag design by Frederick Brownell, image by Wikimedia Commons users [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The sad news about Nelson Mandela has refreshed many memories for me that go back more than three decades.

I am not writing this as someone who knew Nelson Mandela of course, although I was at a lunch with him that Leeds Co-operative sponsored in 2001. Nelson Mandela was in Leeds to accept the honour of becoming an Honorary Freeman of the City of Leeds and thousands gathered in Nelson Mandela Gardens to welcome him to the city.

For that crowd, and millions of other people like me, Nelson Mandela was a beacon that shone across the world and proved that life can change for oppressed peoples.

But we should all remember that change for the black people of South Africa did not come quickly or without individual human sacrifice. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for some 27 years and many of his ANC comrades were killed, including Steve Biko.

I remember being in Germany in 1988 and watching the Anti-Apartheid Movement concert from Wembley that celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday. The song ‘Biko’ by Peter Gabriel was one I would listen to for years afterwards. And more or less at the same time I read the book ‘Biko’ by South African journalist Donald Woods – in German.

Before going to Germany I had attended many anti-apartheid marches in London and elsewhere and spent many hours in Trafalgar Square outside South Africa House, long before it became fashionable to do so.

Nelson Mandela was only one person and he will be sorely missed, but his enduring legacy will be as a symbol that the world and its peoples can change.

The younger generation in the West have grown up in a world where, although racism still exists and is as pernicious as ever, there is no longer a state like South Africa that discriminates against its own black majority.

There is still much to do to ensure that all people can live in peace and be free of discrimination because of the colour of their skin.

Thanks to Nelson Mandela we know the colour of a person’s skin shouldn’t matter.

Farewell Nelson.

Buy British, I would if I could

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Jeans with a hole in themI try to buy British whenever possible. Not because I am excessively patriotic or xenophobic, but simply because it seems to me buying locally produced goods must be better for the economy.

Recent news that the economy might be slowly recovering on the back of a consumer boom would be so much better, surely, if it was on the back of a consumer boom in British goods.

Last week in London, I searched out a shop selling British made jeans. All well and good, except they didn’t have my size nor is there currently any stock to be had by ordering online. Can’t fault them for that, hopefully they will soon have produced new stock and I can then get hold of a pair. I am getting too old for the holes-in-jeans look!

Trying another shop that proudly refers to ‘London’ on its label, the shop assistant pointed out one pair of jeans that was ‘made in the UK’ while another pair, somewhat cheaper, was ‘made in their Chinese factory’. But once again my size wasn’t available. This turned out to be a close shave though, as when I spoke to their head office to see if my size was available online, the previous information was corrected to say that both styles were produced in China. Can’t buy British there then.

Obviously, any company is entitled to make its products wherever it likes, but I do wish that brands that proclaim their ‘Britishness’ could at least make it clear where their products are made. A bit more staff training might not go amiss. And if more people take the trouble to ask where products come from, manufacturers will hopefully provide more information.

I suppose I will have to wait to get my hands on a new pair of jeans made in Britain and, in the meantime, my money is burning a hole in my pocket – to join the other holes – rather than helping the economy.

UPDATE: Since posting this blog, I managed to get a pair of jeans when I next went to the shop. And more recently, a new brand of English menswear has hit the scene. Take a look at I’ve not tried them yet, but great to see them!