THE COTSWOLD CHALLENGE COMES TO SWINDON! - light bulb, pencils, eraser on desk top

Due to popular demand, The Cotswold Challenge competition for teenagers under lockdown is now open to young people in Swindon as THE COTSWOLD CHALLENGE COMES TO SWINDON!

Five business owners, living in and around the Cotswolds, came together during lockdown to try to support local young people who’ve had their examinations cancelled. The contest launched three weeks ago and several students from Swindon have asked to take part. 

“Due to demand, we made the decision to widen the geographical area covered by the competition and now it’s open to any young person living in Swindon who would have been taking GCSEs, A Levels or equivalents this year,” said Fiona Scott, from Swindon, who is one of the team behind the contest. 


We’ve had requests from young people from West Swindon and Central Swindon so we’ve widened the area to a 25 miles radius of Cirencester – deemed to be the centre of the Cotswolds.”

What that means

This means young people from across Swindon can submit an entry for the challenge. It’s divided into three categories:
1. Art & Design
2. Creative Writing
3. Innovation & Entrepreneurial Thinking

There’s a first, second, third and fourth prize in each category of £500, £300, £150, £50 and runners up will get a book token. 

The initiative was first developed to support 16 to 19 year olds (Years 11, 12, 13) to give them something creative to do and offer them the chance to excel, gain a sense of achievement and self-worth. 

 The challenge launched in April and it remains open until 9pm on Monday June 1. 

“We’re particularly interested in getting entries from young people who are enterprising and innovative. They may have an idea for a new product, be a fledgling inventor, have thought of the next best app or have come up with a solution for the good of their community.

These young people may have a great business idea – or simply a great idea which they want to share and perhaps take the next steps to become a reality,” Fiona said. 

The sponsors have already donated the prize money in full.

Winners will also be able to pitch for extra funds to take ‘the next step’ in showcasing their work eg. publishing their poem or short story in a local publication, staging their own art exhibition or taking an idea to an early prototype stage. 

The sponsors for the project include:

The Fred And Marjorie Sainsbury Charitable Trust
Jeevan Thandi of Karhoo
Timothy James & Partners, independent financial advisers 
Jason Houghton, Salperton Park Estate, Cheltenham 
The Fairford & Lechlade Business Club 
Royal Agricultural University, Gloucestershire  
The Paperback Shop, of Fairford
Marion Whittaker 
Author Kevin Wignall
Meg Rivers Bakery, of Shipston On Stour 
Suzannah Harvey, CEO of Cotswold Airport
Kim Harvey of The MadHatter Bookshop, of Burford. 
Nicky Godding, founder of Business & Innovation Magazine
John Biddulph, of Rodmarton Manor
Emma & Jamie Tuck of Bulldog Websites, of Swindon 
Allison Murray of Allison Murray Design, of Eastleach
Barry Jackson, of Aspire Academy
Bettina Harvey of Hector & Queen
Nicky Godding of Business & Innovation magazine


A a team of well-known people, who have themselves achieved success in their own sector or business, will judge the entries. To date 60 young people have submitted entries for consideration.

Details of the competition, the criteria for entry and the briefing pack are all available via the website

Fitness Fanatic Graphic Designer Fundraises

Fitness Fanatic Graphic Designer Fundraises


Latest news from Mike Land, of Nickel Design

Fitness Fanatic Graphic Designer Fundraises. Fitness Fanatic Graphic Designer Supports Swindon Charity. Graphic designer Mike Land is well-known for his nifty artwork. But he’s also been putting his fitness fans through their paces during Covid-19 induced lockdown.

This week he’s been doing his free virtual classes – filmed in his back garden – for Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service. This action is part of the national drive to raise vital charitable funds which would have come from the Virgin Money London Marathon.

The cancelled event, which should have taken place last weekend, is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event. Last year it raised £66.4 million for thousands of charities.

Many of these charities have had to reduce or stop services at a time when vulnerable members of society need them most. What’s more, thousands of staff are now on furlough. Some may simply not survive.

Mike Land - Fitness Fanatic Graphic Designer Fundraises
Mike Land

Apropos domestic violence, it’s estimated that calls across the UK to various relevant support organisations have increased by 700 per cent.

The Challenge

As a result of the cancellation of the marathon, many people have, instead, taken on the 2.6 challenge. It involves taking part in any activity. From running 2.6 miles to holding an online workout with 26 friends and donating to charity at the same time.

He said: “In the business community I’m known as a brand strategist – in other words a creative behind a desk. But by night I’m a lycra-clad fitness junkie focused on making the fat cry for those who attend my classes.

“With no London Marathon last weekend, we decided to do our own challenge and raise a few pounds for a local charity in need of support right now. It’s well known that domestic violence increases dramatically during holiday periods. So who knows what lockdown is like for those who are suffering?”

Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service (SWA)

Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service (SWA) is a free and confidential serving Swindon and the surrounding area. It supports victims of domestic violence.

The team also work with young people aged 16-25 years who may be experiencing domestic violence or abuse.

For the love of fitness

Mike is using his love of fitness to look on the bright side of life. Although he has more than 25 years’ experience in brand and graphic design, working with large brands like Texaco, he took the brave move to go self-employed at the beginning of 2020. Only to find himself pushed into lockdown a few weeks later.

During isolation, Mike has been live-streaming his workouts for free. They’ve proved popular.

It’s been fun, I have to admit that standing in front of the camera for the first time, without getting feedback and banter from the group was weird. But, this is week six and I am beginning to get into a flow.

My friends know me, my style of fitness and yes, some say I am a taskmaster, but they’ve returned week after week.”

As part of his 2.6 Challenge. Mike wrote a ‘ bring a bottle’ workout and asked his members to donate £2.62 for SWA. The target was set at £262 and to date he’s raised more than £450.
“I am so proud of my group of fitties and my friends. They enjoy the workouts, post, tag and share them every week. They voted for a refuge charity for the challenge and I am so glad that we’ve reached the target goal in such a short time”.

Mike is a qualified L2 Gym Instructor, kettlebell, suspension training (TRX) and spinning instructor. He now takes pleasure in helping others improve their strength, power, fitness and endurance.

To donate to his cause visit

See more Swindon in business posts on this blog here.

The Swindon Night Shelter in Need

The Swindon Night Shelter in Need

Swindon Night Shelter: supporting the homeless, vulnerable and isolated in Swindon since 2008

Swindon Night Shelter in Need  - screen shot from Swindon night shelter website

Swindon Night Shelter in Need. And what they’re in need of is white goods, food and cash to keep going.  Can you help? Contact details below.

The Swindon Night Shelter in Need - swindon night shelter logo

Contact: 01793 613166

And their web form:

Now, with the COVID 19 pandemic they’ve seen a dramatic change to the way they operate. More people are coming forward as homeless and needing support. 

The vast rise in the need for their services has meant stepping out of the normal model to assist with:

  • Accommodation
  • Home moving and sourcing vital household goods. 

Meanwhile the Night Shelter’s normal work goes on. Offering telephone support to their 150+ guests, giving emotional support. And arranging food deliveries and washing clothes for those without amenities.  

They say …

More people than ever need our help and The Swindon Night Shelter will continue to do everything we can to support them.

The closure of our cafes and shops. And the cancellation or postponement of all their community and fundraising events (including a Charity Ball and the Duck race (set to happen in May) will hit the charity hard.

Becky Davison, Chair of the charity said: “We have never seen anything like the situation we are facing now. We have an urgent need donations of white goods, food and financial blessings. The situation we have right now is ever increasing the demand for our services. As soon as the government lift the lockdown restrictions we can reopen our day and night shelter.

We’re praying and trusting God that we’ll survive as a Charity. We’ve had the huge blessing of a grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation. This will help no-end with this situation.

Other gifts are coming in but everyone is under pressure. Thus we need to plan with care and find other funding streams to help us.

Five Key Components to the charity

  1. a walk-up Night Shelter
  2. A day centre
  3. Community cafes
  4. Social enterprise shop and warehouse
  5. The Hive – where we run our back to work programme and deliver to all the other areas of the ministry.

Then there’s The Hub shop and Cafe and Pop up shops across Wiltshire. In those we work with local schools and churches providing work experience, training and much needed price-reduced goods.

Due to social distancing we’ve had to close all these services – though our team are offering remote support where possible. 

Working across Wiltshire

“Having had to close our social enterprise activities we are now giving away what goods and services we do have that will help those referred to us in financial need across Wiltshire. “Becky explained.

We work across Wiltshire supporting over 1,000 people who are homeless, vulnerably housed, isolated or in long term poverty and need.”

Dan Read, Swindon Night Shelter’s Operations Manager said “We’ve needed to react fast to the changes and adapt everything we do to continue to support those in need”

Additionally, we’re providing vital practical and emotional support to growing numbers of rough sleepers housed in temporary accommodation, to limit the virus’ spread.

“There is an unprecedented demand on our services, and this will likely increase in the weeks and months to come.”


Thanking everyone for their help, Dan said ‘Many of our night-time volunteers are on furlough from their jobs and so have come to serve with us rather than staying home with their families.

Our courageous volunteers are designated keyworkers under huge pressure. They’re putting their own health on the line to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community.” 

He continued to say, “It’s estimated there are 320,000 homeless people in the UK and 8,000 rough sleepers. There is a higher risk that these individuals will have a health condition which puts them at risk of contracting COVID-19. These are men, women (and in some cases children) with health damaged by trauma, rough sleeping and poverty”.

Even without the threat of a virus, homeless people die on average 30 years sooner than the general population.

Everyone In

Three weeks ago, the government set in motion an ‘Everyone In’ initiative to slow the spread of the virus through this particularly vulnerable group. It aims to offer every homeless person temporary accommodation during the crisis.

The government did acknowledge the challenges faced by charities when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a £750 million fund to support charities through the Covid-19 crisis.

We’ve worked tirelessly with colleagues across the sector and in the local council, to find homeless people and bring them in to empty hotels and other temporary accommodation.

Dan explained the current situation for many they support:  “Now most have temporary shelter in local hotels and B&Bs. Yet many known to us remain in unstable housing and are very much alone, frightened, in poor health and more unsure than ever about what the future holds.“

“They are often staying in one room with no cooking facilities or e fridge to store food and no support networks or family to lean on. These men and women are reliant on our frontline staff, and they’re stretched to the limit, providing emergency support.

Dan explained “For every rough sleeper we help, approximately 20 others are sleeping on sofas, in vehicles, or are insecurely housed.

“Now, as the virus spreads, these arrangements are breaking down. Covid-19 is accelerating financial hardship, relationship breakdown and mental health issues.

And all these factors contribute to homelessness.

A threat of worse to come – but some government help

Reported figures showed another 4% rise in homelessness in the UK at the turn of the year. Our own experience here in Swindon during this pandemic suggests there could be further threat of worse still to come in 2021”.  

The government did acknowledge the challenges faced by charities when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a £750 million fund to support charities through the Covid-19 crisis.

“The fund is of course a welcome announcement, but we also know from experience that it may not go far enough, in reaching all those in need.

The charity sector is reportedly set to lose a staggering £4 billion in 12 weeks.

More people than ever need our help and The Swindon Night Shelter will continue to do everything we can to support them.

Beat the Bug

Beat the Bug

Beat the bug! GP, Dr William Bird is working on the frontline against Covid-19 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. He’s also the founder of the well-known Beat the Street game and advises the UK government and WHO (World Health Organisation) on physical activity.

Now, the team is turning from Beat the Street to Beat the Bug. They’ve a new campaign aimed at encouraging people to stay active and well at this difficult time.

NB: For more on Beat the Street see Beat the Street Gets Swindon Moving.

Dr William Bird plays Beat the Street - beat the bug
Dr William Bird plays Beat the Street

Dr Bird has recorded the video you see below. n it he urges you to stay as fit and active as possible, to strengthen your immune system, thus reducing pressure on the NHS.

Says Dr Bird: ‘My team and I are asking you to do one thing to help yourselves, help Britain and to protect the NHS. And that is to ensure you and your family get up and get active at least twice a day. 

Moving in short bursts is enough to boost your body’s production of Natural Killer Cells. These wonderful little cells work as your body’s natural defence system, killing viruses as they try to enter your body.

To be effective at their job they need you to wake them up on a regular basis with a burst of exercise. That’s why we recommend at least two activity sessions per day to beat the bug.

NB: There’s certainly every opportunity for walking and exploring Swindon as you go. Check out the West Swindon sculpture trail for a start. And have a root through the walks and cycle paths category on the blog.

Global Voices Unite Amidst Covid-19

Global Voices Unite Amidst Covid-19

Voices from all over the world come together to help people with Covid-19 and Lockdown

1st April 2020

Global Voices unite amidst Covid-19, in the form of a group of people, who want to help each other, during the current Covid-19 pandemic. They’ve joined forces to write and produce a book. And all in the space of a week.

The book, Surviving the Coronavirus Lockdown and Social Isolation is available as an e-book. Any monies raised will go to a mental health charity. All the participants have given their time, knowledge and support free of charge. 

This collaboration includes 65 contributors, all committed to helping people in lockdown. and experiencing social isolation. They come from:

  • China
  • Hungary
  •  Italy, 
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Portugal
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Sweden
  • Thailand
  • and United Kingdom.

How the book is arranged

The articles in the book offer ideas, advice, tips, and experiences that readers can draw from. They’re arranged under the following headings:

  • Conquering social isolation
  • Mastering mind and body, 
  • Understanding COVID-19
  • Community, learning and teaching,
  •  Work and organisations
  •  Personal stories and the future.

Contributors include the thoughts of children, teenagers, business owners, retired people. And also those with no convenient label but yet have something to say that can help others.

Using the hashtag #LetsResetNormal, the intent of this collaboration is:
1.To galvanise the positives and
2. Give people hope, direction and inspiration as we move towards an uncertain future together.

 Nobody knows what the new normal will look like. We hope this is a positive way of bringing these ideas together to influence politicians, business owners, and, most importantly, citizens that good can come from the situation we are in. If we work together.

This is a movement towards radical, positive change.

All have given their time for free. There is no commercial angle to this and the book will be widely available free of charge. And what also makes this project exceptional is its short production time. From conception to publication, the process has taken a mere ten days. That demonstrates the commitment of all involved, to help others.

Where to get it

The book is here (UK) and on the social media accounts/websites of everyone involved.

Global Voices unite amidst Covid-19!

See more Made in Wiltshire posts here.

Swindon Spring Festival Update

Swindon Spring Festival Update


Swindon Spring Festival update. Organisers of the Swindon Spring Festival take seriously the present Coronavirus situation and their responsibilities to festival followers. And, of course, the public at large, and the importance of heeding Government advice.

Swindon Spring Festival Update

In the light of all this, plans for the Festival are proceeding as follows:

We’ll launch the Festival programme, in hardcopy and on our website as planned at midday on Thursday 26th March. But not, as intended, in a theatre, indoors, with food, drink, lots of Festival followers crowded together, and even hugging and kissing one another. No, absolutely not. 

Instead, hot off the press, we’ll launch this year’s Festival programme in the open air, in a field, with a backdrop of birch tree and birdsong, at Lower Shaw Farm.

Festival banners will mark the spot. From there, for two hours, from 12midday to 2pm on Thursday 26th March, you can get a programme, or even a bundle to share with neighbours and friends, from a table in the middle of a field, far from the madding crowd. 

Come one by one, or two by two, keeping far apart, as you like, making the right decisions for your own wellbeing and that of all others. 

That way you can get a festival programme and read about more than twenty books and their authors who are or were due to appear live at the Festival in May.

Live appearances? Probably not?

The likelihood that many of the programmed visitors may now not appear live is a real one. Yet, there are other ways of enjoying the fruits of their labours and those of the festival organisers. As this Swindon spring festival update explains.

Festival followers:  buy or borrow books described in the programme and read them. In particular if you’re in enforced isolation. What better companion, to lift the spirits, than a good book?!

And, in these tricky and troubling times, there is still more good news from the festival.

Watch the Festival website, Facebook, and twitter accounts for details of these virtual Festival events as they emerge.


Twitter: @SwinSpringFest

A new Swindon book

Last but by no means least, the most exciting news, is that on 5th May, the Festival will launch and mark the publication, by a prizewinning author, of a brand new book titled A Saint in Swindon!

It’s brilliant, topical, wise, entertaining, serious, funny, set in Swindon, and a fabulously-good read. 

If anyone needs to know more, at any time, please contact the Festival at or call 01793 771080.

A film of the 2019 Swindon Spring Festival:

Swindon Spring Festival Update

For more posts about arts, culture and heritage go here.