Monthly Archives: October 2019

Practical help for small business in Cumbria

A series of practical workshops to help small businesses identify their next innovation is being staged in Cumbria.

The Coaching for Innovation mini-series has been organised by Cumbria Innovations Platform and The Harrison Network to help business owners identify changing customer needs and to explore how they can meet those needs.

The workshops aim to help find creative solutions, while designing and testing ideas, and will look at the need for continual innovation to keep a business moving forward.

The first workshop (November 14) at the People First Conference Centre in Carlisle will look at the challenges faced by a businesses from the customer’s point of view, and examining the competition. It will be driven by the needs of individual delegates to explore what customers really want, how to overcome barriers to innovation, and if you are focusing in the right area.

The end result will be a “problem statement” to take through into the second workshop (December 12) where ideas to solve problems will be explored and ways of unlocking creativity will be discussed. Each delegate will come away with at least one innovative solution to test out with clients.

The third workshop (January 16) will follow up the process and examine what worked – and what didn’t.

“We want to give small businesses the opportunity to see how they can stay ahead of the competition by continuously innovating,” said Cumbria Innovations Platform project manager Sarah Allison.

“What does innovation mean for your business now? What value does it create? How do you motivate, influence, plan, and communicate your innovation? How do you know it’s working?

“These workshops are designed to create step change in approach to innovation and a network of people with the will, ability and relationships to support one another into the future. In addition to the workshops we will be providing each business with a 1:2:1 coaching session to support them in taking forward their innovation goals.”

Venues for the second and third workshops will be chosen to suit the delegates who attend from the outset of the series.

Cumbria Innovations Platform is open to small and medium sized enterprises based in Cumbria, to facilitate business innovation and commercial success.

Further details and booking form:


Bownessie set to make a new appearance

The brand character based on the Bownessie legend of Windermere is set to make an impact on Chinese visitors to the Lake District.

Marketing graduate Xiaohui He was recruited as an intern by the Cumbria Innovations Platform on a project to research the buying behaviour of international visitors.  Her research will inform innovative product development of the iconic toy created by Bowness businesswoman Naz Craig and the further development of the existing range. It will also help with the company’s marketing strategy.

bownessie in office

Bownessie makes an appearance in the office of Cumbria Innovations

“The aim of hiring a Chinese intern was to use her cultural knowledge to help shape the market research I was conducting to gain a better insight on what the many Chinese tourists do in the Lakes and how Bownessie could reach the Chinese market and improve brand positioning,” said Ms Craig. “The ultimate aim is to collate visitor information to help raise funds to take the Bownessie brand from a pilot phase and use the investment to develop the products, services and new partnerships.   The next phase is to find investors.”

The Bownessie toy, and associated items for children including colouring books and “appearances” at events, was conceived following speculation about a “monster” said by some to be living in the lake. The appearance of a mysterious creature in the water was first reported in the Westmorland Gazette following a sighting by a university lecturer, Steve Burnip. It subsequently featured in an hour-long documentary about lake monsters made by a French Canadian film company.

Sarah and student

Sarah Allison and Xiaohui He

Naz Craig said: “The idea is to build an amphibious character synonymous with the Lake District (akin to Peter Rabbit, but like the Loch Ness monster) and create a range of characterised products based on the unidentifiable creature in the lake.

“We want to develop a ‘Hide and Seek’ theme so that the we can take Bownessie around the Lake District on the basis we are looking for him.”

She added: “There have been several sightings of a mystery monster on Lake Windermere. We want to create the Bownessie brand with a range of products and activities that can be used to introduce people to the beautiful natural environment of the Lake District and show the exciting places and adventures they can have in the area.

“That’s everything including nature walks, cruising in the lake, or even having a Bownessie themed event and then taking home a memento such as a cuddly toy or other merchandise.”

Cumbria Innovations Platform project manager Sarah Allison said that the internship was an excellent example of how graduate students could help small businesses to develop ideas and products. “This was a very specific piece of market research which has enabled the client to address the needs of a target audience.”




Lake District venue for trail run weekend

The team who introduced hundreds of Cumbrian beginners to running have launched a trail-running weekend in the Lakes.

Kendal-based Jogging Pals are organising a weekend of action based at Brathay Hall at the head of Windermere, with the chance to try Pilates, stand up paddle boarding, and perhaps a dip in the lake, as well as trail running.


Wayne Singleton

Named Cumbrian community group of the year in 2017, Jogging Pals organise inclusive events such as the mental health mile in Kendal, and the Torchlight 3k run, as well as one-to-one coaching for every distance from parkruns to multi-day endurance events.

But their biggest impact has been on the lives of hundreds of previously sedentary people who have been encouraged to take up running with their couch-to-5k fitness programmes. Success stories include people who say that their lives have been changed since joining Jogging Pals; one woman completed a mountain ultra race two years after starting running with the group (see  below).

Now they plan to take runners into the heart of the Lake District with a weekend of guided runs ranging from 10 to 20k.

The weekend is aimed at runners with little experience of trail running, or those who don’t want to tackle the trails on their own.

“Our aim is to have social runs where we all enjoy each other’s company and take in the amazing environment of the World Heritage Site that is the English Lake District,” said co-founder Wayne Singleton. “This may mean that, if you’re a faster runner, you’re waiting a bit for others to catch up – but this will offer plenty of opportunity to take some awe inspiring photos. All of our runs will have two leaders, to ensure that we’re kept together, and everyone is supported.”

His colleague Glyn Rose – both are England Athletics coaches – explained: “The important part of what we do is to make sure everyone’s supported, particularly the person at the back of the pack. Our runs are gentle, moving at your pace, stopping often to take in the views, take a few snaps and to re-group.”

The running routes will take in lakeside paths, open hillside and woodland, accessed from the weekend base at Brathay Hall. Guests will be met at Oxenholme station, and the deal includes breakfast, dinner and packed lunches. There will also be an evening programme of running films and talks.

“We have seen how the lives of our Jogging Pals members have been changed by taking up running, and we felt the time was right to add something more sociable into the mix, along with the chance to experience the best trail routes that the Lake District has to offer,” said Wayne.

“We hope to offer further dates later next year, and possibly an overseas running holiday to Romania.”

The first weekend event is May 1-3, and details and further details can be found here


Penny’s story

Penny Pullinger has no doubt that joining Jogging Pals changed her life. The former CEO of Age UK in South Lakeland, Penny was encouraged to take up running after the death of her husband.

penny pullinger

“I still had professional confidence, but in the rest of my life, I had lost it all,” says Penny, who now lives near Norwich. “My son, who is a runner, came to visit and was concerned for me. He took me along to the parkrun at Fell Foot and from there I met people who were members of Jogging Pals.”

Penny says that at first she was much slower than everyone else. “But they were all so supportive, and I’ve made lifelong friends.”

She’s also moved on from the 5k distance, competing in trail races and three half marathons, the most recent one just the day before her 60th birthday. Now she has plans to enter a full marathon.

“I’ve gone from someone who didn’t run at all to this. I might not be built for speed, but this is me now. It has changed my life.”


Debra’s story

Penny’s story is echoed by 40 year old accountant Debra Jones. She started on a couch to 5k training programme solo via her phone, but when she joined Jogging Pals, she was motivated more – and met a group of people who are now her best friends.


“I was petrified at first but soon realised it was much more enjoyable running with other people,” she says.

“I’m not sporty, but I knew I had to get fitter.”

She graduated to Jogging Pals’ group running 10k and then 20k, took part in trail races, and has run two half-marathons. “It’s so inclusive, the way that old and young, fast and slow, are all welcome. I feel regenerated and happy when I’ve been running with the group.”

Debra took part in the Torchlight 3k event running with her disabled daughter Hannah in a buggy. “That was hard, but a great sense of achievement.”


Francesca’s story

Perhaps the most remarkable of all Jogging Pals’ “graduation” success stories is that of Francesca Higgins, from Kendal. Francesca, 51, only started running after being registered partially sighted five years ago. She joined the Jogging Pals 5k to 10k group after being persuaded to tackle a New Year’s Day run following a night of partying.


She has now just completed one of the UK’s toughest ultra distance races, the Lakes in Day, a 50 mile run from Caldbeck to Cartmel taking in some of the Lake District’s highest mountain ridges.

“It was brutal,” admits Francesca, who works for the Outward Bound Trust. “It was my first ultra race. I set off in the summer on a 55k trail race but didn’t finish.

“I would never have got running without the Jogging Pals. They are such a good social group.”

She decided to raise money for the Henshaws charity. “I decided to run Lakes in a Day as a challenge that would stretch me to the very edge of my abilities and beyond. Henshaws is a charity which has supported me throughout my experience of sight loss by encouraging me to believe that most of what I want to do is still possible. They’re great enablers, and it’s important that the continue this important work with other people learning to live with sight-loss.”


You can contribute to her cause here:




New film festival for the Lake District

One of the north’s leading independent cinemas has joined forces with the spirit of William Wordsworth to bring a new film festival to the Lake District next month.

The Inward Eye festival will be staged at Zeffirellis in Ambleside, with a series of 26 feature films – shorts, new releases and classic movies to be shown over a long weekend.

The festival has been organised by Zeffirellis MD Dorothy Smith along with film producer Charlotte Wontner of Hopscotch films who is a member of the Wordsworth family – owners of Rydal Mount, the home of Britain’s favourite poet.

The idea came originally from the actor Brian Cox who visited Rydal Mount three years ago when his film The Carer, produced by Wontner, was given a special screening at Zeffirellis. Cox was so impressed with the award-winning cinema that he offered to be patron of a festival there.

Cox copy

Dorothy Smith, Brian Cox and Charlotte Wontner

The festival’s title comes from the lines in Wordsworth’s most famous poem, Daffodils

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils

“The daffodils are nowhere to be seen at this time of the year but their presence is always with us thanks to Wordsworth, and we wanted to reflect this in our festival,” said Dorothy Smith. “With a nod towards the local artistry of Wordsworth’s works, Inward Eye’s carefully selected films will cover themes of, Love and War, Youth and Fear, and Time and Landscape.”

While some of the films have a nature theme or local location, the festival is aiming to attract a wide audience with an eclectic range of titles. The range from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet to the Syrian war drama For Sama, and includes the cult favourite Withnail and I which was premiered at Zeffirellis when it was released back in 1987.

Documentaries include Harry Birrell’s Films of Love and War; the most awarded film from this year’s Sundance Festival, Honeyland; and Paul Wright’s Arcadia, a provocative and poetic new film exploring our relationship with the land.

Charlotte Wontner said: “Launching a film festival is like starting an epic journey. We are thrilled to be taking our first Inward Eye steps with the incredible team at Zeffirellis. We have a festival packed with new discoveries and literary and cinematic beauty that will excite and inspire our festival audience. We would love Inward Eye to become an annual event for film fanatics and emerging film talent from near and far.”

The festival runs from November 7 – 9 and full details, and booking, can be found here

Zeffirellis has been showing films in Ambleside for almost 40 years, now operating five cinema screens across three town centre sites, along with two vegetarian restaurants, a daytime café, a jazz bar which bring live music to the venue each week, a town centre guest house, and a country guest house a few miles out of town.

Rydal Mount, outside Ambleside, was the home of William Wordsworth for most of his life and from there he published his definitive version of Daffodils. The house is open to the public and will be the focus of celebrations next year to mark the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth.