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Festive glow: Christmas light trails around the UK

The festive period is upon us and Christmas is just a few short sleeps away, so to help get everyone in the mood, here is a selection of the Christmas light trails taking place around the country. Here’s hoping for dry starry nights, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and some wonderful nights out.

Festive glow Christmas lights

Christmas at Stourhead
While other National Trust properties have been putting on Christmas light trails for a few years, this is the first time Stourhead in Wiltshire has done so. Christmas at Stourhead sees a Tunnel of Light with over 100,000 pea-lights, Singing Trees, and glowing blossom and twinkling hedgerows leading visitors on a path towards thousands of illuminated lights on Fibre Optic Lawn. There is also a Laser Garden, and a scented Fire Garden among other attractions, and the chance to enjoy a hot drink and some marshmallows.  Father Christmas is also rumoured to be putting in an appearance.

When: To 30 December
Where: Stourhead, Stourton, Wiltshire
Link: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead/features/christmas-at-stourhead-2019

Blenheim Palace
Treetops will glisten and the Great Lake and the waterfall will shimmer and sparkle at Blenheim Palace this Christmas, while a one-mile glittering path will lead guests through the world-famous Parkland in a magical after dark experience. New for this year too are Sky-Lights, a colourful aerial light show, and The Cascade’s dynamic waterfall. There are also mesmerising and immersive ribbons of light at Vines as well as the quieter glow of flowers along Blenheim’s beautiful Snowdrop Walk.

When: To 5 January
Where: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Link: https://www.blenheimpalace.com/christmas/

Longleat Festival of Light

This winter, Longleat’s annual Festival of Light takes myths and legends from across the world as its theme. The legends on display include St George slaying the dragon, the giant Kraken engulfing a full-sized ship on the lake, the minotaur, King Midas, Medusa and Thor. There is also a life-sized recreation of a palace from the Arabian Nights and in total the festival features more than 3,000 lanterns, using 50,000 LED lights and 30,000 metres of silk.

When: To 5 January
Where: Longleat Safari Park, Warminster, Wiltshire
Link: https://www.longleat.co.uk/festival-of-light

Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas
Westonbirt Arboretum has a new Christmas trail for this year, created by fairies who have been casting their spells over the trees to transform it into an enchanted wood full of woodland characters. There is also the Arboretum’s Christmas village to visit where visitors can create some Christmas arts and crafts, explore the market stalls and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine.

When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 29 November to 22 December
Where: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury
Link: https://www.forestryengland.uk/westonbirt/enchanted-christmas

Christmas at Kew
Christmas at Kew is now in its seventh year, and sees dynamic laser projections illuminate the Temperate House, and a dazzling arch lead to a cascade of glowing silvery shards at the Treetop Walkway. Visitors can also walk amongst immersive vines with changing ribbons of light, and wander beneath the branches illuminated with the glow of Will-o’the Wisp. Holly bushes will also sing, there will be a Tunnel of Light, and the Palm House Pond finale will see jumping jets of light dance across the water to the sound of Christmas classics.

When: To 5th January
Where: Kew Gardens, London
Link: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/christmas

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Julie PentecostFestive glow: Christmas light trails around the UK

Flight Lieutenant Walker: a compelling tale of bravery from the RAF Benevolent Fund

With Remembrance Day taking place last month, we found ourselves in a thoughtful mood and, by way of remembering our lost heroes, taking another look at The RAF Benevolent Fund’s Online Book of Remembrance.

One entry in particular leaped out at us. A lovely and touching tribute to Flight Lieutenant William Louis Buchanan Walker, it is also a compelling slice of history, including as it does, an account of his experiences in the Second World War.

Fl. Lt. William Walker oldest surviving pilot from Battle of Britain

Born in 1913, Flight Lieutenant William Louis Buchanan Walker was 99 when he died, which had made him the oldest surviving pilot from the Battle of Britain.

Starting out as a brewer, Walker joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve on 2 September 1938, undergoing pilot training at RAF Kidlington, Oxford, and called up a year later on 1 September 1939, the day World War II broke out.

Posted to No. 616 Squadron RAF at RAF Leconfield in East Yorkshire as a pilot officer on probation, he flew the Supermarine Spitfire.

The tribute page takes the reader through comedic as well as plain hair-raising tales of his derring dos during the war – including the day he entered an air battle whilst still in training, only to be told later he’d gone up with his guns empty, and the time, with a bullet in his right ankle, he was forced to bail out of his Spitfire at 20,000 ft, landing in the English Channel and forced to await rescue whilst clinging to a shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands.

It’s stories like this that really bring home the realities of fighting in the First and Second World Wars, leaving us truly in awe, and so very thankful for what people like Walker did for us.

Happily Walker made it through the war safely, and went back to brewing, before turning to poetry in his retirement. One of his poems, ‘Our Wall’, was inscribed on the Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent alongside the 2,937 names of The Few in July 2010 as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations.

Our Wall

Walker’s story is just one of many incredible tales told in the RAF Benevolent Fund’s book. What a wonderful way of paying tribute to some very special people, and of truly engaging supporters with the cause.

You can take a look at the book and read William Walker’s tribute page in its entirety.

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Julie PentecostFlight Lieutenant Walker: a compelling tale of bravery from the RAF Benevolent Fund

A trip down memory lane with the Queen Mary

Once the epitome of luxury transatlantic travel, today the RMS Queen Mary, in all her Art Deco splendour, is still offering guests the finest food, entertainment and accommodation as a hotel, permanently berthed at California’s Long Beach.

So what’s her link to The Online Book Company?

Recently, the authorities in Long Beach who are responsible for RMS Queen Mary decided to pay tribute to her last voyage and all the people who sailed with her, from Captain Treasure Jones, to crew, entertainers, and passengers, through one of our online books.

The Last Great Cruise of RMS Queen Mary

As well as a history of the ship – including her use as a troop ship in WW2, and how she more than once carried London buses over the ocean to their new owners in Long Beach ­­– the book captures many of the wonderful and often quite remarkable stories from her last cruise and paints a very vivid picture of what life on board that majestic ship was like for those who sailed with her.

RMS Queen Mary at sea

One story told by the ship’s librarian Alastair Beers, who was also in charge of the post office tells of the vast quantities of mail people sent from the Queen Mary on that final voyage. The ship had to take on a supply of stamps from each country she made port in, but ran out almost immediately. At Las Palmas for example, the ship took on a supply of 7,000 Brazilian stamps – and sold out in a day.

Others are more serious – the stowaway who was feared to have brought amoebic dysentery or cholera on board with her after she snuck on board at Acapulco – luckily it was no more serious than ‘traveller’s blight’, and the deckhand that went missing following an unwanted advance only to be found hiding once the ship had turned around and spent a good three hours searching for him overboard.

Others are simply touching, such as those people for whom Queen Mary was quite simply a home, like leading fireman Albert Pearce who was on her maiden voyage, spent ten years in the boiler room before a stretch on the Queen Elizabeth before coming back for another 11, and said that when her boilers finally went out, his life would go out with them.

The book itself is embedded into the official Queen Mary website and with the stories also includes some wonderful photos and Pathe-type news clips. There is even a recording from Johnny Mathis and others too who helped mark the end of her golden era of travel.

Do have a look yourself, and if you know anyone who sailed on her, or have a story of someone who did, Queen Mary would be very happy to hear them so do include them in the book.

Contact Us – personal Online Book enquiry form.

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Julie PentecostA trip down memory lane with the Queen Mary

Animal Requiem – Remembering Our Pets

When founder Rachel Fuller lost her much-loved pets, she sought to commemorate the profundity of that loss, and the joy of having animals by her side in life, with another passion she kept: music.

album cover Animal Requiem - Remembering Our Pets

Animal Requiem is the result of her skills as a composer, along with the collaboration and talents of Martin Batchelar, conductor Robert Ziegler, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Choir of London, as well as features from Sir Paul McCartney and Alfie Boe. Animal Requiem has had worldwide acclaim, touring between London to Los Angeles, and has released its album in both the United Kingdom and as of October 2019, it will be available to purchase in the USA.

Animal Requiem celebrates the love and loss of animals through an album of resonant, carefully composed and arranged, classical music.

All proceeds from donations, as well as album and ticket purchases, go to pet charities and small independently run animal shelters, to continue the pledge to support animal welfare, a value Fuller has sustained since Animal Requiem’s inception. Contributions can be made through ArkAngels on the Animal Requiem site.

The Online Book Company has paired with Animal Requiem to design a space in which people can grieve the loss of a much-loved pet in an online sphere that sympathises, whilst honouring the impact pets have on our lives and the role they play in encouraging our compassion and care.

Animal Requiem online book

The Book of Remembrance has received and published hundreds of memorial entries so far, where individuals express their grief through sharing pictures and exchanging memories of their pets, their quirks and their mannerisms. It is an online entity that has developed a community that takes solace in a reminiscent arena. If you are interested in publishing a memorial to a lost loved pet, you can do so in the Book of Remembrance here.

Animal Requiem is now available to stream on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon MP3, Deezer, and Google Play.

Article written by Lydia Hounat

Contact Us – personal Online Book enquiry form.

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Julie PentecostAnimal Requiem – Remembering Our Pets

Tutankhamun’s treasures pay a final visit to the UK

There can be few finds in history to have captured the imagination more than the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt in 1922.

Discovered in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor by Lord George Carnarvon and Howard Carter, it took Carter six years to excavate the tomb of the boy king – who was crowned at 9 and dead by 19. By the time he had finished, he had uncovered more than 5,000 objects, many of which were made of solid gold, and including Tutankhamun’s incredible death mask.

As well as being famous for the many amazing finds the tomb held of course, it will forever be associated with the curse of the pharaohs, which, it is alleged, means that anyone who disturbs a mummy will suffer the consequences of illness, injury or death.

Bolstering this legend, Carnarvon famously died a few months after the discovery, from an infected mosquito bite, followed by a number of members of the team through various causes. Carter managed to live until 1939 but still died prematurely at the age of 64 from Hodgkin’s disease.

Hopefully the curse doesn’t stretch as far as sightseers. While many of the artifacts are held in Egypt, some have been on a global tour and with 4 November the anniversary of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter’s discovery, the exhibition is coming to London’s Saatchi Gallery.

TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh runs from 2 November until 3 May next year and includes 150 pieces from the tomb. This is three times the quantity seen in previous exhibitions, and more than 60 of these are travelling outside of Egypt for the first time. London is the third stop on the exhibition’s tour, with the show the final chance to see the treasures before they return to Egypt forever for permanent display at the Grand Egyptian Museum when it opens in 2021.

You can find out more and book tickets here: https://tutankhamun-london.com/

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Julie PentecostTutankhamun’s treasures pay a final visit to the UK

Cruelty Free International urges swift government action to protect animals after Brexit

Cruelty Free International works tirelessly to end animal experiments and cruelty worldwide.

With the UK due to leave the EU at the end of this month, one campaign it is currently backing, alongside 40 animal organisations, is #BetterDealForAnimals, which calls on the government to urgently incorporate recognition of animal sentience into law.

Under EU law, the UK has to abide by Article 13 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which obliges full regard to be paid to the sentience of animals when developing and implementing public policy. With Brexit however, this will be lost from UK law.

Following a petition back in March that urged the government to ensure animal sentience continued to be recognised after Brexit, it stated that it was committed to making any necessary changes required to UK law to ensure this was the case when the UK leaves the EU. However, so far it has been slow to act, and without this, after 31 October animals will no longer be legally recognised as sentient beings with no legal requirement for government to pay regard to their needs when formulating and implementing policy.

Cruelty Free International believes that it is essential that government act as soon as possible so that the country does not leave the EU without sentience being part of UK legislation. That legislation should set out the process for how all government departments will assess and report on animal sentience, and how they will handle any associated animal welfare duties in all policy areas covered.

It should also include a power to establish an Animal Welfare Advisory Commission to support government – including individual departments and public bodies – in discharging its duty to animals, providing independent and transparent advice.

Cruelty Free International is asking supporters to encourage their MPs to urge the government to act now.

It’s an important campaign, and, with no government or lottery funding, the charity relies entirely on donations to continue its work. One way it honours its supporters is with its Book of Remembrance: a tribute to those who have left it a gift in their Will.  You can view it here.

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Julie PentecostCruelty Free International urges swift government action to protect animals after Brexit

Thank you – two little words with big impact

Thank you. Together, they’re two of the most powerful words we have.

And said to supporters, they can have the most wonderful effect, but when is the best time to do it, and how?

Common sense would suggest every time a supporter has done something for you, and of course, thanking someone for their time and money straight after they’ve given it is the right thing to do.

But it doesn’t have to be restricted to this. Throughout the supporter journey there are so many opportunities to say thank you, and to deepen that relationship, such as contacting supporters of an appeal a few weeks or months after their donation with an update on progress so far, thanking people for the length of their support, or on the anniversary of their gift.

It’s certainly worth doing. Last year’s Commission on the Donor Experience report found strong anecdotal evidence that, not only does thanking someone make them feel appreciated and valued, but that going that extra step to provide better quality, more inspiring content can also motivate supporters to become better advocates of the charity, and to give again.

There are lots of tips on how to ensure your thank you messages stick in the supporter’s mind in the report, including using engaging content such as case studies, photos and videos, sending handwritten messages, and picking up the phone, particularly when they have done something significant or unusual.

There are also some brilliant examples. SolarAid, for example, talks about how it always tries to add a personal note or handwritten message, so people really feel they are being thanked personally.

Recently too, the Institute of Fundraising’s Supporter Experience conference saw British Red Cross talk about how staff, including its CEO, took to the phones and thanked over 100,000 supporters personally over just five days.

More publicly, film can be both fun and effective. One video that’s now had over 33,000 views is Charity: Water’s fifth birthday video, which celebrates both its supporters’ achievements and the charity’s own.

West Suffolk Hospital Charity also created a beautiful video in 2015 featuring many of those who had supported them in 2014 and their stories.

Another idea is featuring people’s names in a book. Light Up A Life, which takes place over the festive period each year, sees hospices invite those who have lost loved ones to make a dedication to their memory on a Tree of Lights and a Book of Remembrance, such as this one from Willow Wood Hospice, with the books also providing a nice way to say thank you to supporters.

Social media can also be a good way of sharing impact and thanking supporters, and sector event #YouMadeItHappen is back for a second year this month, on 11 October. It’s a chance for charities to show people what they’ve achieved, thanks to their supporters’ help. NCVO, which is behind the campaign, has some advice on how to take part and some excellent examples of what kind of content works best when using social media to say thank you and show impact.

Lots of food for thought – and thank you for reading!

 

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Julie PentecostThank you – two little words with big impact

October is Free Wills Month

It’s Free Wills Month – the biannual event that brings charities and solicitors together to offer people aged 55 and over the chance to have a simple Will written or updated free of charge.

The last one took place in March and saw charities including Scope, National Trust, Stroke Association and RNLI take part, teaming up with the National Free Wills Network to offer supporters access to participating solicitors.

Even though charities promote it, there is of course no obligation for anyone who takes up the offer to leave a bequest or give a donation. But with 40% of people now saying they would be happy to leave a gift to a charity, promoting Free Wills Month is a great opportunity to raise supporters’ awareness of legacy giving and its value for your organisation.

You can find out more about it on the Free Wills Month site.

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Julie PentecostOctober is Free Wills Month

Thanking supporters of The Injured Jockeys Fund’s Peter O’Sullevan House Project

The Injured Jockeys Fund was founded following two devastating accidents at Aintree Racecourse in the 1960s. Firstly that of jockey Tim Brookshaw, and then four months later Paddy Farrell in the 1964 Grand National, both of which resulted in severe paralysis.

The Fund helps any rider who holds, or has held, a Professional or Amateur licence issued by the British Horseracing Authority, including any spouse, partner, child or dependant they may have. Since it was founded, it has helped over 1,000 jockeys and their families, contributing more than £18 million, and providing support at many levels including physio, strength and conditioning, nutritional advice, sports psychology and general pastoral care.

The Peter O'Sullevan House

It provides much of this support through its three rehabilitation and fitness centres. The most recent, Peter O’Sullevan House in Newmarket, Suffolk, opened on 12 August this year and, located next to the British Racing School, and will offer state-of-the-art facilities including physio treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy pool, and a gym.

hydrotherpy pool

To raise the sizeable amount needed to develop Peter O’Sullevan House, named after the well-known ‘Voice of Racing’ commentator, the charity launched a successful fundraising campaign, and to show its gratitude to its supporters and benefactors, recently launched an Online Book listing each one.

As well as donors’ names, the book also explains the Fund’s history, and contains information on the project. Pictures include one of the centre, as well as of a sculpture created by artist Tom Hill from 800 horseshoes, each one holding the name of a member of the public who donated £100 or more.

Tom Hill horseshoe sculpture

You can take a look at the book here.

Contact Us – personal Online Book enquiry form.

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Julie PentecostThanking supporters of The Injured Jockeys Fund’s Peter O’Sullevan House Project

A gloriumptious glimp at Roald Dahl

The holidays are over, the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping – but nicely timed to provide some much-needed cheer at this time of the year is Roald Dahl Day.

Celebrated globally, Roald Dahl Day takes place each year on 13 September – the author’s birthday. It’s an excuse to have a phizz-whizzing time, to gobblefunk with words and eat some scrumdiddlyumptious food – but preferably not to partake in any whizzpopping if you please…

Roald Dahl books

In honour of the event, here are some of our favourite facts about Roald Dahl as well as a few tips for Roald Dahl themed things to do and places to visit.

5 interesting facts you might not know about Roald Dahl:

• As a boy at Repton, he and fellow pupils trialed chocolate bars for Cadbury.
• In WW2, not only was Roald a fighter pilot, but he was also a spy.
• He wrote over 30 books and invented 250 words.
• When Roald Dahl died, he was buried with some of his favourite things, including chocolate, and a power drill.
• He wrote in a shed for four hours a day. Always by hand and never with a typewriter.

Places to visit & things to do:

Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire is where Dahl lived in his later years, in a cottage he bought with his wife Patricia Neal. The house is now privately owned but it’s possible to visit the church where Dahl is buried: St Peter and St Paul’s Church.

The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre is also in Great Missenden and well worth a visit. It has three galleries as well as Roald’s Writing Hut, and runs a range of activities throughout the year. It is also gearing up for 13 September: this year Roald Dahl Day celebrations will include storytelling, talks, trails and craft activities with a James and the Giant Peach twist, and the chance to help the museum’s create a giant peach of a mosaic using over 24,000 toy bricks.

Fancy an autumn break? Travel to Tenby where you can stay in The Cabin, where every room has a sea view and Dahl spent every Easter when he was young before the outbreak of WW2. It even has a blue plaque to say so.

This year’s Roald Dahl Day celebrates Matilda. The show based on the book, Matilda the Musical has just finished a UK and Ireland tour but is still on stage at London’s Cambridge Theatre. Go, and then upload a picture of yourself in the famous Matilda pose to the Global Pose Map.

Dahlicious Dress Up Day is a fundraising event for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. It’s aimed at schools, which can take part by asking children (and adults) to donate £1 each to come in dressed as a Roald Dahl character on 13 September (or another suitable day).

Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl go hand in hand, and in London, the House of Illustration has a permanent Quentin Blake space, which gives a glimpse of the illustrator’s working world. Until the end of December it’s showing a range of recent publications, upcoming books, large-scale personal works and preparatory drawings for public art commissions. This includes his illustrations for John Ruskin’s only children’s book The King of the Golden River, and murals created for Sheffield Children’s hospital.

And finally, for more ideas to entertain the kids, check out the Roald Dahl site where there are a number of fun suggestions including a downloadable Roald Dahl Day 2019 party pack full of activities.

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Julie PentecostA gloriumptious glimp at Roald Dahl