Wednesday, 29 October 2014


The chief executive of ABF, owners of fast-growing retail chain Primark, has again reiterated his sorrow at the factory fire which claimed the lives of many of those who make the store’s clothes. 

In the company's  annual report, published today, George Weston says: "We were deeply saddened by the events in April 2013 where the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.
“ A Primark supplier occupied the second floor of this eight-storey building which was also the location of a number of other garment manufacturers.
“Our response focused on meeting the immediate needs of the victims and, in parallel, organising long-term compensation.
“We donated food to some 1,300 families shortly after the tragedy, and have since paid short-term financial support of six months’ salary to more than 3,600 workers in the building, irrespective of their employer.
“Primark has committed to provide long-term financial compensation to victims who worked for its supplier, and their dependants."
ABF (formerly known as Associated British Foods) also owns extensive food interests, including British Sugar, but Primark has been its star performer with profits up by a staggering 44 per cent over the past 12 months.
The company recently revealed plans to expand its premises in Freshney Place, Grimsby.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


JOHN Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, has issued a rebuff to the claim by former Chrysalis boss Chris Wright (see previous post) that he declined to sign the Sex Pistols because he would not have felt "comfortable" watching them with his wife and friends.

Lydon claims  it was the band  who turned down the label, not vice versa.

He says Chrysalis was "still entrenched in hippiedom and obviously not the right place for the Sex Pistols."

In the end, the punk rockers, managed by Malcolm Maclaren, signed with Virgin Records


 IT’S all-systems-go for Whitbread, owners of the Premier Inn budget hotel chain which includes one now nearing completion at the south end of Cleethorpes.

The company has this month announced plans to roll out its Premier brand to Germany which is not well-served by low-cost accommodation.

In Frankfurt, Whitbread has already acquired the freehold of a 200-room hotel which it plans to convert and rebrand. If the venture goes well, another half-a-dozen hotels will be opened in other German cities over the next five years.

If it can identify suitable sites, the company is also intent in doubling the number of its London hotel rooms to 18,000 over the same period.

The finishing touches are now being put to the Premier which is expected to open its doors to the first guests this winter - or sooner


Calendar Boy

Monday, 27 October 2014


IN a spectacular career spanning music, entertainment and sport, East Lincolnshire man Chris Wright has made himself a multi-millionaire - and thoroughly enjoyed himself along the way.

He has homes in London and the Cotswolds, a stud of racehorses and much else. But, alas,  there is one thing missing  in his life. . .

It is a schoolboy scrapbook containing newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia from the days when he was an avid follower of Grimsby Town FC (The Mariners).

Bill Carr died in 2010, but Chris hopes that, perhaps forgotten in some cupbopard at Town's Blundell Park ground,
the scrapbook has survived so that, however dog-eared, he could have the opportunity once more to turn its pages and wallow in nostalgia.

Music mogul and Mariners fan - Chris Wright
As a lad, little did Chris know that his love of football would be the stepping stone, many years later, to his becoming chairman and owner of another football club: Queens Park Rangers.

The managers who served under his tenure between 1996 and 2001 were: Ray Wilkins ("someone for whom I have enormous respect"), Stuart Houston ("good bloke"), Ray Harford (now deceased), Gerry Francis ("I still sometimes see him") and Ian Holloway ("not a bad bloke").

But even while at the helm of QPR, he  always made a point of checking every Saturday evening the result of his beloved Mariners.

"My favourite player was the centre forward Ron Rafferty,"he says. "We had a good team which also included John "Jackie" Scott and the speedy winger, Jimmy Fell, who later signed for Everton. 

 "In those days I thought nothing of cycling from my home in Grimoldby, near Louth, along the back roads via Alvingham, Covenham, Fulstow and Tetney to  Blundell Park.

 "Then after  the match I would pedal home again on my trusty racer - a round trip of 35 miles."

Where did he leave his cycle when he arrived for the match. "I just propped it up against a wall,"he says. "In those days, people didn't nick bikes!"

Chris has published a fascinating autobiography  - One Way or Another - which charts his amazing life as co-founder of Chrysalis Records whose roster of artistes  included such hitmakers as Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, The Specials, Sinead O'Connor, Leo Sayer, Billy Idol, Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis and the News, David Gray, Gnarls Barkley and  Blondie.

Blondie's Debbie Harry - "she had everything" (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
Although the Sex Pistols wanted to sign for the Chrysalis label, he twice turned them down, reasoning that their's was not an act to which he would feel comfortable about taking his wife and friends.  

The Sex Pistols - unsuitable for a family audience! (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

For a different reason, Dire Straits were another big fish that Chrysalis decided not to land. Chris had them checked out by a colleague who came back with the verdict that they were "very good but very, very boring".
Dire Straits went on to enjoy huge success, but, contrary to what was commonly believed, they were not the favourite band of Princess Diana. According to Chris, she preferred Supertramp.

Supertramp - Princess Diana's favourite group (Photo: 21st Century Greenstuff, Wikipedia Commons)

Later, while still under his stewardship,  the company metamorphosed into Stock Exchange-listed  Chrysalis plc which branched out beyond music to  commercial radio (including ownership of Heart FM, LBC and Galaxy), TV production (the detective crime series, Midsomer Murders, was a notable success) and book publishing.

Even though his workload was colossal, it did not prevent him pursuing private interests, including taking over QPR and, soon afterwards, Wasps Rugby Football Club.

 "Looking back,I was mad, wasn't?"he says. "But, as the old saying goes, if you want anything doing, you ask a busy man!"

Chris says his experience at QPR was "one of the biggest disappointments of his life"  (though he enjoyed a 6-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace). Does he now have an overall view on players, managers and agents?

 After reflecting for a few seconds, back came the reply: "Let's just say football is very difficult."

Should an opportunity arise, would he again consider ownership of a different club? This time his response is immediate: "My wife wouldn't let me - she would kill me!"

In his book, which is a fast-paced page-turner from start to finish, there are tales of the many pop stars whose paths crossed with his own, and he also recalls how his habit of smoking three packs of 20 cigarettes a day almost cost him his life at a young age.

Acute poisoning

On one frightening day in
Manhattan, he realised his legs were growing increasingly numb, so he went to a doctor who diagnosed acute nicotine poisoning - such that his heart was experiencing severe problems and the next cigarette could kill him 

After three days sedated by sleeping pills (on medical advice), followed by a period of recuperation in the UK and Bermuda, he recovered, but, since that fateful day in 1970,  he has never smoked again.

"My chain smoking may appear stupid looking back from an informed 21st century standpoint,"he admits. "But, at that time, nobody really had a clue that smoking was bad for you - it was just what everyone did." 

Four years later he almost lost his life again - this time when an IRA car bomb exploded near Selfridges on Oxford Street in London next to where Chrysalis had its offices.

He recalls how he and his secretary, Christine, were "suddenly poleaxed by a ferocious explosion."

He continues: "It felt like someone had hit me on the back of the head with a sledgehammer. 

 "When we came round a few minutes later, we were surrounded by scenes of utter devastation.The building looked like a war zone - every window had been blown out.

"The car that exploded ended up on the roof of an adjacent building!"

 In 2005, Chris was awarded the CBE for services to entertainment, but his visit to Buckingham Palace did not go as planned.

When the Queen asked him what he did, he referred to his involvement with music and the media, then added - hoping to prompt an enthusiastic reply - Chris added:"Like you I am a keen racehorse owner and breeder.

Her Majesty simply commented: "Oh, very varied", before moving on.

Recalls Chris: "I forgot the instruction to step away backwards. I turned around and strode off.

"My meeting with our head of state did not go as hoped or imagined. I feel great embarrassment about it to this day."

In retrospect, what is remarkable is that Chris' own background, though comfortable, was relatively modest with none of the advantages of a public school education or parents with contacts in high places.

       Toiling in the fields

He grew up on the family farm in Grimoldby, and holidays were largely spent toiling in the fields, often in bitter-cold weather.

His father wanted him either to follow in his footsteps, or, failing that, to become a livestock auctioneer, but Chris had a different perspective on his future.

"I took the view that there was a better way of making a living than getting up at 5am in the freezing cold to milk cows and chase sheep that had escaped or spend an hour getting a recalcitrant tractor to work in order to plough fields."

As a pupil at Louth's King Edward VI grammar school, Chris was academically gifted (he can still remember a smattering of Latin) but was no great shakes at either football (he played right half) or music at which he confesses to having had "no ability whatsoever".

To eke out his pocket money, he became the youngest village correspondent on the books of the now-defunct Louth Standard newspaper, earning twopence a word by reporting on  events such as church fetes and harvest festivals taking place in his home  patch around Grimoldby and Manby.

                                              “A bit girly”

The Editor thought he showed promise and suggested that he might consider enrolling on a secretarial and shorthand course at a college in Grimsby, but Chris balked because he thought it would seem "a bit girly", not least to his classmates who doubtless would have ribbed him mercilessly.

Other highlights of his schooldays  included playing table  tennis and doing well enough in A-levels to win a place at Manchester University where he was awarded a degree in Politics and Modern History.

He favoured the northern city  because, in the wake of the Munich air disaster not so many years earlier, Manchester United had become everyone's favourite football team, and he liked the idea of watching their home matches every other Saturday.

However, he switched his allegiance to Manchester City because their ground, at the time, was on the edge of Moss Side and closer to the university than United's ground at Old Trafford. 

Importantly, Chris also became social secretary at the students' unions where his various roles included booking bands -  an experience which was to be the springboard for setting up Chrysalis with his friend  Terry Ellis in his bedsitter  when he moved to London after graduating. 

Among his contemporaries at university was Anna Ford, later to became famous as an ITV newsreader, whom he used to drive to clubs where she sat on a stool singing American folk songs to her own guitar accompaniment.
On stag nights, her act would sometimes be staged between strippers, and, understandably, she used to be highly aggrieved that they received a higher fee than her!

Everyone fancied Anna Ford

Chris, who still sometimes sees Anna, says: "She was a very beautiful girl and everyone fancied her.

"Like most  men, I would have loved to have started a relationship with her, but I never got any sign that she was remotely interested, so, to my regret, things between us  remained strictly professional." 

Given his unrivalled knowledge of pop and rock music, which would Chris rate as most important song if ever Kirsty Young invites him to be her guest on BBC Radio 4's  Desert Island Discs programme?

After a few moments' reflection, he replies: "I think it would have to by A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum - that's the one record guaranteed to make me turn up the volume every time I hear it.

"Little did I know that some years after it became a number one hit, I would be managing the band."

After selling Chrysalis to BMG Rights in November, 2010, Chris has still retained a strong interest and involvement in  the media world and he expects to launch a new TV production company before too long.

But he made writing his memoirs one of his top priorities for last year and was delighted first to complete the task, then to see his book snapped up by Omnibus Press - it is available at bookshops, via Amazon and on e-readers such as Kindle.

 "It was hard to get started with the writing, "he says."But once I got into it, things seemed to flow quite well."
Not all the material had made into  the book, which had to be edited from 650 to 430 pages, but, on the plus side, that means there is almost enough content for a follow-up volume perhaps a few years' hence.

Chris write with scholarly affection about his early life, growing up in the Louth area, but he feels there is still a bit more to be said - for instance about his happy times at Blundell Park.

However, there is just one thing . . .can anyone help reunite him, please, with that precious, much-missed scrapbook?


BIRTHPLACE:  Chris  was born in Louth Hospital on September 7, 1944.

FIRST JOBS: As he student, he had temporary jobs as a barman at a Boston hotel, then at a bakery in Lincoln where he worked night shifts.

WIFE'S NAME: Janice, his second wife, is a former air hostess whom he met while on board Concorde.

FAVOURITE RECREATIONS: Playing tennis and watching his racehorses in action.

FAVOURITE FEMALE ARTISTE: Debbie Harry, vocalist with the group, Blondie: "She had everything. She was the forerunner for so many female artistes: Madonna, Lady Gaga and many others in between. None of them can hold a candle to Debbie."

NOTE: This is an edited  version of an  article featured in the Cleethorpes Chronicle earlier this year.


ONE of the most poignant moments in an episode of Dragons' Den earlier this year featured John and Claire Brumby of Grimsby-based Scrubbys Crisps.

Just as dragon Peter Jones looked poised to make an investment, he had an abrupt change of mind.

With an insensitivity bordering on cruelty, he squeezed as much as emotion as he could out of the couple's distress. "You've got a dream, but you're broke," he declared.

John 's dismay was all too apparent, but it was nothing to that of his wife who had to choke back tears as she confessed that this was, indeed, the case

It was a tough moment, but as Claire admitted: "That's reality TV - we knew the risk we were taking."

The couple lefty empty-handed, after 10 hours at the studio plus one hour and 52 minutes in the dragons' glare - of which just 11 minutes was screened.

Speaking last week at a conference and exhibition  organised by  Grimsby Business Hive, Claire confided: "We took an emotional battering - and it was followed by a horrendous two months."

The episode featuring the Brumbys was filmed in April this year and screened in July.

It looked as if the business might  go under . . but, after the darkest hour comes the dawn.

Claire Brumby - she and husband John bounced back

In August, the couple  received the lifeline, they had been seeking - an order to supply 281 branches of Waitrose whose food team were impressed that Scrubbys crisps were  lower-fat than those of competitors, yet also remained full of flavour.

Since then things have got better and better for the Brumbys - especially as they now have crucial financial backing from an investment  fund that specialises in supporting new snack food businesses.

Other retailers such as Lincoln Co-op and even the prestigious Harrod's of Knightsbridge have opened their doors to Scrubbys - prospects have never looked brighter.

During the TV show, another dragon, Duncan Ballantyne, expressed interested in Scrubbys' crisps, and, following their appearance, the couple are  hoping he might yet place a contract with them to supply his chain of gyms.

Earlier in her presentation, Claire revealed that the beginning of the journey for  the Brumbys came with a nine-month spell at Beverley market where they initially  sold vegetable boxes - John comes from a  farming background.

After sounding out the opinions of customers and checking  on what was selling well for fellow- stallholders, they decided to spread their wings.

"The market for healthy snacks was growing, and we were sure there was a gap we could fill," continued Claire."The challenge was to make them low fat, yet retain the taste."

They experimented with various cooking processes including baking and de-hydrating, before settling on vacuum-frying which involves frying at low temperature, then de-oiling.

The name Scrubbys, incidentally, is an amalagamation of scrub (the vegetables are scrubbed) and the last two letters of the couple' surname.

Once they were confident enough of their product, the Brumbys hit the road with their three  children in tow - and a particular maxim at the forefront of their minds : "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!"

"We attended every festival and fair you can think of,"continued Claire. "The kids wore T-shirts publicising the brand. We dragged them here there and everywhere."

Publicity was also crucial. "With no money, we managed to make quite  a lot of noise.

"Through a guerilla marketing approach, we got mentions in the Daily Mail and the influential trade magazine, The Grocer."

But as well as being technically challenging and hugely time-consuming, launching a new brand of crisps is
phenomenally expensive.

Although there was welcome seed funding from organisations such as Grimsby-based e-factor, which does all it can to encourage entrepreneurs, raising capital from other sources was, until recently, problematic.

"It was very difficult, "says Claire. "We had no track record in  food manufacturing and our brand was not yet established."

There were many times when the Brumbys thought their fledgeling business might not survive. and Claire had to take another job to pay the bills.

But they persevered, inspired partly by the famous Churchill saying: "When youre going through hell - keep going!"

What of the future? Every days there are new challenges - but also new opportunities. Scrubbys is definitely on the up.

The Brumbys can see a time not too far off when their millionth bag of crisps comes off the production line.

"We can't wait for the day," chuckled Claire. "I shall enjoy sending it off to Peter Jones!"

Friday, 24 October 2014


COULD expansion be on the cards for a popular Grimsby wine bar and bistro?

Liz Parry of Abby's in Abbeygate gave the question a fairly wide berth when she was quizzed at yesterday's Business Hive Live exhibition and conference conference at The Auditorium.

But  the final slide of her presentation gave a  clue with its cryptic message : "Coming soon to a place near you . . .

Earlier, the businesswoman of the year  provided a whistlestop tour of her life and how Abby's has grown since she took it over with a friend and partner (whom she has since bought out) in April 10 years ago.

Liz grew up at Girlsta in the Shetlands and obviously had a knack for the hospitality and catering industry from an early age because she was appointed supervisor of a local restaurant when she was just 16.

She still recalls how, two years earlier,  the creation of the Sullom Voe oil terminal - the largest in Europe - brought prosperity to the isles.

Energy giants BP only paid one pence for every barrel of oil landed but,  even so, the extent of the operations - millions of barrels -  generated huge wealth.

Liz  is hoping that North East Lincolnshire could benefit similarly in the years to come through the creation of a huge renewables industry.

She  came to Grimsby in 1987 following  her marriage to husband John,who is in the Merchant Navy, and she took a job in sales - which she "thoroughly enjoyed" - with Nunns, the car dealers.

Subsequently, she joined Lloyds TSB, first as a personal account manager, then as a financial consultant.

Following her joint purchase of Abby's wine bar, it expanded to become Abby's Wine Bar and Bistro Ltd.

In 2011, Abby's Upstairs was created at a cost of approachig £65,000. This was some 10 times more than her provisional budget but it meant she could cater for receptions, parties and, since last year , civil weddings and partnerships

Liz now heads a team of 18 including five chefs (Andy Rendall, the head chef, has been with her since 2006.)

Her son, Lewis, a Sheffield art graduate, is  events and marketing manager at Abby's. He helps topromote and oversee speciality evenings such as Gin and Jazz nights and Lobster Nights.

Liz emphasised that Abby's prides itself on its food having been grown locally (wherever possible)  and  freshly cooked. The origins of all the meat is traceable.

Liz began her presentation by flying the flag for the Shetlands and she ended it by doing the same for Grimsby.

" It is a great place but its needs to become better at singing its own praises,"she declared.

Liz chats with entrepreneur Levi Roots at an event held in October last year at The Oaklands Hotel on the outskirts of Grimsby



HOW could anyone fail to  be impressed by Angela Smith who used the experience of her fight against illness as a launch-pad for developing a unique Cleethorpes business?

Angela describes losing her hair, as a side effect of  chemotherapy, as “almost as frightening as the cancer that was invading my  body”.

She continues: “My confidence was affected - I felt ugly and vulnerable.”

Angela Smith - inspirational example

 As a mother, hairdresser and also a singer, image was obviously important to Angela, and she felt compelled to search for a wig while she waited for her hair to re-grow.

Though that experience was “traumatic” in itself, it set her on a path to opening a new salon and wig clinic, offering a highly personal service customising wigs and toupees - made from either human or synthetic hair - to meet the needs of clients.

Because hair loss affects more than just the head, Angela also specialises in enhancing eyebrows and eyelashes as well as hair.

Her Positive Image Clinic is based at 243 Grimsby Road, but she took time off to showcase the service she offers with an impressive stand at last month’s Business Hive Live exhibition at Grimsby auditorium.

Angela’s wesbsite is :



A LIFETIME of trust is an absolute must. . .

That natty little rhyme was the springboard for an entertaining presentation by Matthew Storey to the Business Hive Live conference and exhibition

Matthew, of Crofton Myers, used to work in a bank’s call centre, but he now provides a consultancy service, advising businesses on the do’s and dont’s of customer service.

He suggested that too many firms were so intent on pursuing new markets, that they risked overlooking the needs of existing customers.

He pinpointed two particular “own goals” to be avoided at all costs - allowing employees to use the terms “With respect, Sir” or “It’s company policy” as potential put-down responses to dissatisfied customers.

In the first case, the employee is seeking to have the last word, and, in the second, he or she is showing that a firm lacks both flexibility and the readiness to empower its workforce to come up with solutions.

Matthew Storey - plaudits for Branson and Bezos

Sir Richard Branson was praised by Matthew for his success with Virgin Airlines. Although he started with just one plane, he saw off many rivals by dint of excellent customer service.

This commitment to the customer was again in evidence at the end of a London Marathon - sponsored by Virgin – when Sir Richard congratulated participants who completed the course.

For their excellent approach to customer service, Matthew  also pinpointed the John Lewis Partnership and Amazon whose boss, Jeff Bezos even encourages feedback by making available to all and sundry his email number: Jeff@Amazon. com.


THE exhibition at Grimsby Auditorium (October 23) provided a great opportunity for Business Hive members to showcase their products and services. Here are some of those who took stand space and added to the vibrancy of  the event.

Representing health insurance specialists WPA- Sally Harvey and daughter Sophie

 Flying the flag for Wilkin Chapman solicitors - Alison Mitchell and Katie Davies

  Ebony Chapman (left) and Hannah Quayle of Navigo

Up The Gunners! Lisa Smith of Black Fish Print & Clothing

 Dream as if there are no impossibilities - Angie Burnett of Janella Giftware

 Banging the drum for  Europarc Pallets - Chloe Phillips and Olivia Ridlington 

A hive of activity - plenty going on at the auditorium last Thursday

Former psychology student Phillipa Jayne Richardson, from Hull, is now forging herself a successful career in network marketing, fucusing on  Arbonne beauty products

Sarah Clarke, proprietor of  of Graphic and Print, and Lee Shakespeare, sales manager  of Sign of The Times - both based on Cleethorpe Road, Grimsby