Brave Bold Drama

“I can just remember the shiniest of the white floor and the glow of the white lights and feeling really hugged by it and thinking, ‘this is amazing’ – and that was the real moment of ‘this is what I want to do, this is the world I want to be in”

Gill Simmons, Brave Bold Drama

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Dunleavy Vineyards

“I planted the vineyard, in Chew Valley near a village called Wrington 2008, took me a while to find the right site, then I arranged all the growing and all the planting”

Ingrid Bates, Dunleavy Wines

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The Business of Beautiful Wrapping

“And then whatever frippery there is to go on top, you add to decorate your present!”

Amanda White, Giftfrippery

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Mini First Aid – made easy for all the family

For many mums, when weaning begins, it opens up a whole new world of problems. From ‘will they ever eat from a spoon’ to ‘what if they choke’? It’s one of those more serious aspects that doesn’t dawn on you, until you’re watching your baby get to grips with eating. And it’s typically the point that lots of mums get in contact with Zoe Hunt from Mini First Aid.

Mini First Aid was born in 2014, when mum Kate Ball, wanted to bring a range of classes to parents & grandparents, which were accessible to the whole family & specifically geared up for treating infants and young children. Of course, there are some elements that are universally the same – like how to treat a wound, but the nuts & bolts are aimed at dealing with tots.

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Luke Drew This

“I thought it was an obvious thing to do, to have a child’s drawing, that’s so graphic, so visual, such an impact…..”

Julie Cox, Luke Drew This

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Motherhood Takes Stage


 “I had this very interesting Twitter conversation with somebody, who I thought was a friend, who was just bemoaning screaming brats in a café and came up with this suggestion they should have separate cafes – one for ‘normal people’ and one for those with sproglettes”.

Liz Council, Performance Artist

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DragonBird Theatre Company

DragonBird Theatre – prepare for a land of make believe!

When I was a new mum (all those many moons ago!) and grappling my way round the ‘baby circuit’, I was at a loss some days for what to do. Not because there was a lack of activities in Bristol, almost the complete opposite- I found myself overwhelmed with opportunities. The trouble was, Jemima wasn’t a fan of the car, or pushchairs – so wherever we arrived, she was usually having a meltdown, we were both stressed, hot & sweaty & everything seemed to start on the back foot.

Eventually, I decided it didn’t matter where we went, we were going to arrive in a pickle anyway, so we might as well make it something worth getting in a state over. I plumped for DragonBird Theatre Company, despite it being the other side of town for me, I was drawn to them as it was the first time I’d come across theatre for babies.

I wasn’t let down. In true form, Jemima & I arrived in our usual ‘post meltdown car journey slightly stressed’ fashion, but it was worth the effort. I can still remember it now. The session began with the performers (and brains behind DragonBird Theatre) Lotte Norgaard and Tilly Langdon, walking aroung the space & greeting every one with hand puppets Dragon & Bird, singing their signature ‘hello song’. You get used to ‘hello songs’ at groups, they’re usually nice enough, but sung with a slightly forced smile. This one was far more beautiful, almost folk like & soothing – in fact, almost 3 years on and I can still hum the tune.

They then began a short performance of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – everything larger than life & almost like a real life cartoon in front of your eyes. The children were spellbound. Completely caught up in the moment. The performance itself was only around 15 minutes, so no time for attention spans to wander, before the audience was invited to join the adventure. The room was divided into different areas so the children could experience ‘walking through the squelching mud’ or the ‘swishy swashy grass’, making the whole thing larger than life & completely interactive.

In terms of ‘the baby circuit’ that was some time ago, but the memory stays with me- it completely captivated all the children & gave them that first taste of theatre. Capturing their imagination, from the safety of their parents laps and showing them the power of make believe.

I’ve followed DragonBird Theatre ever since and although I can’t make it on a regular basis, I love what they do. Both Lotte and Tilly were drama teachers, before they formed DragonBird Theatre and both felt compelled to work with early years. Both of them have complete for what they do & radiate a real warmth. Their philosophy, is it allows families time to enjoy playing together – to think about nothing else for those 45 minutes and just indulge in the experience.

The sessions are all carefully structured for short attention spans, incorporating all the senses – so they’re engaging from the get-go. They’re aimed from birth – 5 and you can really see it working on every level. In fact, they don’t stop there – coming up they’re performing The Tempest as part of Shakespeare for Babies at The Egg. How’s that for ambitious?

DragonBird Theatre Company was a little chink of sanity & escapism, in the midst of a very full on time for me. To watch little ones get caught up in the fun and spirit of adventure, is a joy for any parent. It’s part of their childhood I want them never to grow out of.

Small Business Saturday At The Treasury

“George, can I ask you a quick question…. What are you doing to help support fellow freelance parents in business?”

 Faye Dicker to the Chancellor, George Osborne

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The Baby Bank

As a mum of two young children, I know the rate of knots that we get through baby & toddler items.

In fact, the smaller the child – the more ‘equipment’ you seem to need. Car seats, baby baths, cots, high chairs – they all come with a price tag & don’t even get me started on clothes. Every 3 months, it feels like a case of out with ‘not so old’ & in with the ‘newer’. But hey, these are growing children & their needs must. While there are some things you can make do with, there are other things, which are a necessity. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how much we’ve splashed out in the last 3 years & I wouldn’t even say we’ve been decadent.

It would seem I’m not alone in my thinking, in fact Eva Fernandes & Becky Gilbert have taken it one step further & together have co-founded Bristol’s first Baby Bank.

The Baby Bank is pretty much as the name suggests, pre loved baby essentials for families in need. Or, in other words, a bank of baby items to see you through your baby’s first 12 months.

Baby Bank preloved toysAs the founder of the popular baby shop Born, on the Gloucester Road & mum of two teenagers, Eva is no stranger to the baby world. She wondered how she could help families in the light of austerity measures and hit on the idea of a Baby Bank. A place where pre loved, but perfectly good items could be donated to families starting out.

Realising she could be onto something, Eva got in touch with the Reused Network, who in turn tweeted out she was looking for storage space to get the scheme started. In the world of social media, meets real life, Becky Gilbert saw the tweet – then by chance bumped into Eva. As a mum of baby & toddler, Becky was keen to pass on her pre loved items to families that needed them. So although the pair of them were coming from slightly different angles, together they were a pair well met.

The Baby Bank preloved baby equipmentThat was in May and it’s incredible to see how between the two co-founders, how far the Baby Bank has come. Already they have nearly outgrown their first storage space, which was given to them by The Big Yellow Storage Space. It’s a clear reflection of how many parents are keen to help & are donating their old items. The question is – how do people qualify to receive items from the Baby Bank?

That side of things relies on referrals from health visitors, children’s centres and other local professionals, who identify the families in need of support. In return, the Baby Bank provides them with a bank of items to get them started. It’s a simple idea, but the implementation of things is the most time consuming part! Just sorting through the donations is time consuming, but already the Baby Bank has attracted a team of 30 volunteers, all working in different capacities to keep the wheels in motion.

The storage unit needs manning & keeping the word out relies on a social media team. You can tell by looking at their Facebook page alone, just how popular the scheme is proving. There are Cake & Donate days being held & grant applications being made. It’s early days – in fact you could say baby steps, but already they’re looking at gaining charitable status and opening other Baby Banks across the country.

Speaking as a parent, there is something about knowing you can pass on your little ones belongings & help another new family, which feels right. Those first few months are hard enough getting started – thank you to Baby Bank Bristol, for making the parenting world

Networking with Freelance Mum

 “It’s given me opportunity to take Mariella with me, every one accepts me and no body judges”

Fellow freelance mum, Michaela Deasy-Smith features in this podcast about Networking with Freelance Mum.

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