Funding, Thank Yous, Festivals and Future Planning – FU Loves Midlands #12

This week, we’ve taken to Zoom to record our lead message, as we prepare for our cities to become partially ‘unlocked’ from Monday.  Take a listen to our message from Kevin FU.

Have a great week, Jon, Kevin and the #FUFighters

Obligatory Bad Joke

How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?

Ten tickles.




As the wheels of industry start to slowly turn again (hallelujah) and businesses begin to return to some kind of normality following the coronavirus crisis, we’d like to introduce you to the Business Gateway Growth Hub.  Some of you may already know them, but for those that don’t, they are a one-stop shop for businesses in Leicester and Leicestershire who are looking for support/ advice/ guidance/ access to grants – but might not know where to turn to first.  Certainly, we at FU have been in that position and have found them super-useful… find out why here and how they can be helping you get back on your feet.


Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership report that the Discretionary Grant Fund, which is being managed by local authorities is now live. The fund has been set up to support small and micro businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes. The grant fund is limited, and each local authority has a set budget allocated to them, so don’t delay.

You may get a grant of £25,000, £10,000, or any amount under £10,000 and it is down to your local authority as to how much you could be eligible for.

To find out more, click on your local authority page and they will have more information. Once you apply, your local authority will run an application process and decide whether they can offer you the grant. You do not have to repay the grant, but it will be taxable. Only businesses that make an overall profit once the grant income is included will be subject to tax.


Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) have  released an emotive video at the culmination of National Volunteers Week to say “Thank You” to all the volunteers who have given their time, not just in the last few weeks, but over the previous months when local communities have needed it the most.

A combination of well-known faces from city and county, including Sir Peter Soulsby and Rupal Rajani – and not forgetting some of the FU team – recite a poem that was specially written for the video by our very own Jonathan Fraser-Urquhart.

Kevin Allen-Khimani, Executive Manager – Public Sector Contracts & Projects at VAL, said: “We are incredibly proud of the work all our volunteers have done over the years, but this year in particular has seen us all face challenges we never thought we would, and so many have relied completely on the support of volunteers to get them through. For National Volunteers Week 2020, we thought it only right to say a special thank you to those who have stepped up and I challenge anyone watching the video not to be wiping away a little tear of pride by the end – I know I certainly was!”

Alongside the estimated 6,000 charities and community groups across Leicester and Leicestershire, the current pandemic has seen an ‘army’ of over 2,500 people sign up to support their local community following VAL’s recent outreach campaign, run in conjunction with Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council.


The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on theatres, but theatres are creative places, so it should come as no surprise that many are already finding ways to diversify their revenue streams, including Coventry’s Belgrade, which has this week launched a new takeaway food and drink service with NHS workers receiving 25% off their bill!

By repurposing the moveable bar used in their immersive Christmas show Club 2B, the Belgrade’s catering team is now able to serve a selection of snacks, cakes and hot and cold drinks from the front of the building, where social distancing markers have been set up to manage queues outside in Belgrade Square, along with a hand-sanitising station.

The Belgrade Theatre is a registered charity (number 219163), which means that all the money it earns is reinvested back into the wide range of work it undertakes – from creating shows and supporting emerging artists to develop their skills, to its youth and community drama groups, and world-famous theatre-in-education work.

The takeaway service is now open from 9am-6pm Monday-Saturday, with a menu including breakfast baps, filled sandwiches, cakes and muffins, kids’ packs, ice cream tubs, crisps, fruit, teas and coffees, soft drinks and even full afternoon teas.


Castle Fine Art is inviting children to channel their inner Jackson Pollock by taking part in its Young Fine Artist in Residence competition.

Since launching in 2017, Castle Fine Art’s Young Fine Artist competition has encouraged creativity amongst communities and schools at its galleries across the UK. This year, the competition has asked young people to get creative at home. Focusing on children of all ages and abilities, the competition tasks budding artists with browsing the gallery’s resident pieces online, before choosing one to recreate. The children are encouraged to experiment with their version and use any medium of their choice.

All submissions will be judged by the Castle Fine Art team, before a first, second and third place are carefully selected and awarded Cass Art vouchers. These can then be uses to purchase a range of wonderful art material to use for their future creations.


This week’s Unsung Hero is Ben Knowles of Ben’s Kitchen in Kirby Muxloe who, alongside running a Sunday carvery delivery service, has been making meals for the NHS and delivering them to Leicestershire hospitals. Ben has also been taking shopping orders from the local community for hard to find items before doing each wholesale run; supplying community food boxes and has even reached out to animal charities to offer up veg peelings and surplus stock to help keep animals fed. We love your community spirit!  Note to self: we need to order one of those Sunday roasts!  @1BensKitchen


Hope Against Cancer is doubling the size of their Clinical Trials Facility at Leicester’s Royal Infirmary – and is calling upon the people of Leicestershire and Rutland to help them do it.

Funding research is the only way to beat cancer, and Hope is at the forefront of giving people a better quality of life and a vastly higher chance of surviving the disease. The Hope for Life Appeal is aiming to raise over £1.5 million to totally redevelop and extend the Hope Clinical Trials Facility. Every year, around 5,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Leicestershire. Thanks to organisations like Hope, of this 5,000, more people than ever are surviving. Hope for Life is the next step in making sure the number of people surviving cancer continues to rise.

Hope is calling on people to start fundraising and help them achieve their fundraising target. In the past, local people have organised events, sporting challenges, competitions, bake sales, bike rides and a host of other activities to generate cash for the charity’s life-saving work. Historically, local citizens have always risen to the challenge to ensure Hope Against Cancer delivers its vital research. If you’ve been moved by the charity’s ambition and need to get this done for local cancer patients, you can add your fundraising power to the Hope for Life Appeal by visiting Hope’s social media pages here: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or donate through the Hope for Life Appeal here.


Businesses can now submit applications to run an event as part of the sixth Leicester Business Festival, taking place from 2nd to 13th November. Arrangements are in place to allow the LBF to be completely adaptable this year, depending on the Government guidelines at the time. Events can be purely digital; physical (as is hoped will be possible in November); or a combination, with physical events being live-streamed.

Events can be about anything and can take any form, from a workshop or product demonstration to a seminar or round table debate. You decide, but it must be business focused. The LBF is sure to inject some much-needed positivity to the region and it will be a great way to get your business noticed.
To run an event in the LBF, just hop on to the website and apply by completing the short form, providing details about your event, the date and time and venue.

To find out more, visit the LBF website.


When lockdown forced the young carers of Warwickshire to be supported virtually, the videos and online activities the charity created proved crucial in replacing their usual face-to-face sessions. Now, in honour of Carers Week (8th-14th June), they are extending their invitation to local sportspeople, entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, poets, chefs and more to get involved.

The charity works with young carers, aged 6-25, who care for siblings, parents or grandparents. These youngsters are heavily relied on to help with a disability, substance dependency, mental health condition or terminal illness, which places considerable strain on their own lives.

Pairing online conferencing technology with their new YouTube channel, Warwickshire Young Carers has continued effective group and one-to-one support, encouraging resilience and emotional wellbeing. To find out more about volunteering content for the Warwickshire Young Carers group activities or YouTube channel, contact them via their website


NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group is running a series of drop-in sessions for individuals who may be interested in setting up their own ‘Small Supports’ organisations to care for people with a learning disability and/or autism.

‘Small Supports’ are small, community-focused organisations which offer intensive support that is bespoke to each individual and centred around their needs. This helps the person with a learning disability or autism to have support shaped around them and their life in the community, which could include work, volunteering, having friends and contributing to their community as citizens. People who set up ‘Small Supports’ organisations would be self-employed and would become micro-providers of support for people with a learning disability and/or autism in their local area.

The sessions will be held using Microsoft Teams on: Wednesday 24th June from 15:00 – 16:30 and Friday 26th June from 12:00 – 13:30.


Artreach is looking to commission artists to produce work for the upcoming Journeys Festival, which celebrates the creative talent of exceptional refugee and asylum seeker artists and shares the refugee experience through great art in Leicester.

From 28th September to 18th October, the Festival will bring incredible experiences created by artists with lived experience of seeking sanctuary to audiences in digital spaces. This year’s festival themes are The World we Live In, Creative Responses and Sharing Stories, and Hope and Celebration. New artist commission are for work in any art-form and will be created for digital sharing as part of the festival. The fee for each commission is £1500 and includes production costs.

Find out more about how to apply and eligibility here.



Many of us are now working from home on laptops for longer periods, with less time to socialise with colleagues and all the while juggling work and family life. These all add up to the perfect ingredients for a thumping headache and tired eyes.  But there is help at hand thanks to Nuffield Health’s Dr Rashmi Singh, GP, who takes a specific look at eye strain and headaches and offers some top tips for preventing headaches.

Read them here.


Cultural Quarter Earlies is back, this time online this Saturday from 12-4pm with more FREE family art activities all within a few clicks of each other. Free, drop in and no need to book! It’s probably helpful if children are helped by an adult!

This month’s events include:

LCB Depot

Learn how to draw using scratch with Sean Clark from Interact Digital Arts, part of their digital arts season. Find out more at

Phoenix at Home

Learn how to make your own games at home with Scratch and Phoenix’s fun tutorials

Leicester Print Workshop

Fun printmaking activities to try at home inspired by Rachel Duckhouse’s work in LPW’s current exhibition Layered Space


If you fancy something awesome for dinner, the fabulous Craft Dining is ready for phase 2 of lockdown by launching their new Dine at Home offering.

Created by Chef Andrew Sheridan, who rose to fame on the BBC’s Great British Menu, the newly created menu will be big on creativity and bold in flavour. Enjoy Main Courses such as Ox Cheek Pie with Vegetable Crumble and for dessert, Sticky Toffee Tart with Banana Caramel.

Deliveries are made every Friday with selections made form the weekly menu by Wednesday at 5pm, so you can be feasting for the weekend. A great selection of beers, wines and spirits are also available to purchase, too.  The full menu is at Collection is available and delivery is offered within a 5-mile radius.

Craft Dining is planning to reopen its ICC restaurant in July for Al Fresco dining with a set menu, their classic Afternoon Tea with sparkling wine (£30) or the Cheese & Charcuterie board with a bottle of wine.


The theatre door’s may be shut but The REP is keeping the conversation going offering artists, creators, actors, and audiences across Birmingham, the wider region and nationally, the chance to exchange ideas, discover new skills, be present, ask questions, provide answers, and find out more about The REP.

REPurposed, The REP’s brand-new series of FREE conversations, insights, and masterclasses, will be hosted on Zoom by The REP’s two-time Olivier Award winning Artistic Director, Sean Foley, together with Deputy Artistic Director, Amit Sharma.  From week to week, special guests from the theatre’s group of Associate Artists will also take part, including actress Lorna Laidlaw (Doctors, Coronation Street); award-winning writer and actress Meera Syal; award-winning director and choreographer Drew McOnie and Debbie Isitt, writer and director of the hit films Nativity! and subsequent stage adaptation, which premiered at The REP.

REPurposed will take place on Zoom every Tuesday evening between 5.45pm-7pm.  Each week will focus on a different theme, and participants are invited to sign up to as many as they want. To find out what’s coming up click here.


With more time spent at home than ever before, the under 35s seem to be using it most wisely – building up their skillset to help boost their career prospects during a time of economic uncertainty. New research from flat sharing site SpareRoom has found that 61% of under 35-year-olds have been learning a new skill or trying a new activity during lockdown.

Almost half (43%) of those who are learning or trying something new have devoted their time to educational activities, like a new language, taking an online course or even learning to code. 39% of those under 35 believe their newfound skills will be transferrable to their current jobs, with 89% keen to apply their new ability to life and work outside of lockdown. 21% of those who have learnt or tried something new are even considering a complete career change as a result of the pandemic.


Leicester’s SoundCafe have received a generous donation of £10,000 from Paragon Bank PLC to further support the work of the city centre based charity with people who are homeless, isolated and vulnerable.

SoundCafe normally meets every week in the Grand Hall at St Martins House, next door to Leicester Cathedral, and works with those who are homeless or socially isolated by providing a safe creative space to explore, grow and express their artistic talents. Guests listen to and perform music, sing together, and are encouraged to write poetry, prose and undertake arts and crafts.

Due to Covid-19, SoundCafe is unable to provide the usual invaluable daytime activities and opportunity for support to their guests, but the Paragon donation will enable the charity to plan new ways of delivery for the future as they emerge from the pandemic.


While businesses continue to search for ways to adapt and pivot to their ‘new normal’, social enterprise, Birmingham Enterprise Community (BEC), is rallying to support the budding careers of start-ups and scale-ups in the Midlands. Running its Startup Sprint programme, which equips 10 entrepreneurs with resources, skills, and advice to build their business, BEC has further extended support for underrepresented groups, by offering a number of female founders a free spot on the scheme.

The Female Founder Scholarships have been debuted, following stats from The Alison Rose Review, which revealed that only one in three businesses are established by women and that women are less likely to scale a business and receive equity funding – an already difficult task – than male counterparts – an area that BEC is keen to redress.

Not only have the BEC team created fully funded spaces on its programme but looked at ways to further nurture the female talent it finds.  Therefore, in addition to the provision already available on the Startup Sprint scheme, the scholars will also receive specialist support and mentoring from hand selected female mentors who have core knowledge in the barriers faced by female founders.
BEC – which has been running since 2018 – hopes that this new initiative will provide a greater chance for women across the region to grow their businesses, as well as begin to close the gender gap in recognition for funding in female-led companies.

The latest intake of entrepreneurs for the Startup Sprint programme is now underway and is open for anyone to apply regardless of gender. Three more places are still available for Female Founders Scholars to enrol. To find out more, visit


Featuring a collection of many West Midlands’ theatre, dance, music, artists and venues, the Midsummer Festival on Saturday 20th June will mark the Summer Solstice with a wide range of live, archived and pre-recorded cultural activity available online, including performances which have never been seen before from companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, ACE Dance and Music and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Midsummer Festival is the first event organised by the WMCRU, which has been created to co-ordinate, develop and deliver an action-orientated response by over 100 arts organisations in the West Midlands to the Covid-19 crisis in the short, medium and long term.

Inspired by annual Midsummer celebrations across the region, the day will feature work influenced by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and will respond more generally to nature with open air events in a wide variety of settings across the region, as well as a series of streamed performances. Find out more at


The lockdown and uncertainty over summer holidays has led to a boom in business for one UK company with Compass Pools reporting a 600% increase in orders for home swimming pools as millions of us prepare to spend our summer holidays in the UK with ‘Swimming pools’ becoming one of the top 10 Googled products in the UK.

Managing Director and pool designer, Alex Kemsley, says the cost to build a basic home pool starts from £60,000 and they can be installed in as little as 17 days, meaning Brits’ desire to own their very own slice of paradise needn’t only be a pipedream on Pinterest.

He said: “We’ve seen a sharp rise in enquiries and orders for home swimming pools as people decide to holiday at home rather than head to the airports. A home pool can give years and years of pleasure and can also add value to a home, so it’s an investment that a growing number of people are choosing to make. We have also had a run of hot weather and that’s helped too!”


Who said lockdown networking can’t be fun?  Not the KuKu boys, Philip and Stephen.  Ordinarily offering ‘real-life’ connection events in luxury venues across Leicestershire, the colourful duo has taken to Zoom to offer their own blend of KuKu zoom networking, every Wednesday from 5pm.   It’s an open invitation, if you fancy giving it a whirl and connecting with new businesses and contacts across the county.  Each cocktail hour is viewed by over 1500 people each week, either as viewers or across the live feed – that’s a lot of new eyes and ears to tell about your business.


As employees return to work, UK businesses are likely to face a backlog of annual leave requests that could cost many thousands of pounds and put further strain on businesses, says Coworking Specialists Instant Offices who have calculated how much it would cost for companies of different sizes to pay staff for a minimum of two weeks of annual leave after lockdown.

Heading into the second half of 2020, the risk of ‘too many’ employees requesting annual leave at the same time will pose a significant challenge for most businesses. For a small company, paying out 10 employees for only half of their annual leave days could set the business back more than £10,000, while an SME of 250 employees faces up to £255,500 in costs.

Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at The Instant Group, says “In addition to the financial challenges, there is a huge wellbeing element here too. The need for a break from work has never been higher. The pressures of Covid-19 on some people are extreme, and protecting mental health is key right now. Taking a break, even if that break is at home under lockdown, is still beneficial, and employers should encourage employees to take their holiday to protect their wellbeing, not just for financial reasons.”


Leicester-based arts and heritage organisation, Serendipity, is hosting a special online event on Monday 22 June to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants.

Professor Stephen Small will deliver a lecture that will contextualise Windrush, explore where we are now and look at the next steps. Born and raised in Liverpool to parents from the Windrush Generation, Small’s talk explores historical contexts, current social and political implications and personal reflections.

Following the talk, a screening of the short documentary film, A Very Brit(ish) Voice, commissioned by Serendipity in 2019, will take place. The film, directed by Jaha Browne, explores the stories of Caribbean people who travelled in the UK between 1948 and 1971 and settled in Leicester.

The Leicester-based contributors include Dennis ‘Sugar’ Christopher, Nelista Cuffy, Elaine Hinds, Robert Lee, Pearl Ricketts, Boston Williams and musician Mellow Baku. The film captures the experiences of the Windrush Generation and that of the present generation in their own words.

You can book your ticket to this online event for just £5 when you go to​. The event takes place on Monday 22 June, exactly 72 years after the Windrush Empire arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, from 6pm.


With working from home becoming permanent rather than temporary for many, it is probably time to invest some time and money in creating a dedicated office space rather than camping out on the kitchen table. Office furniture expert Mark Brown of Lismark Office Furniture offers a few tips on how to create the perfect home office.

Although the longest journey you are currently making may be upstairs, downstairs, to the bottom of your garden or wherever your workspace is located, it is important to replicate the physical separation between your home and work by having a designated workspace in your house. It would also be ideal if you could close the door to your ‘office’ at the end of the working day, so you are not tempted to nip back in just to check your emails.

Office Chair: Find a comfortable chair, that you are happy to sit on for up to 8 hours a day, preferably the office ‘swivel’ type with plenty of simple adjustments, including seat height adjustment to make sure the seat is at a height so that your legs are at 90 degrees and your feet are flat on the floor.

Office Desk: Try to get a designated desk which will make the transition from home to work much easier and will ensure that you are working at the correct height and position, making you feel more professional and in control. It will also mean that you won’t have to pack up every night as your ‘desk’ is going to be used as a dining table. You can simply shut your home office door and walk away until you start work the next morning.

Power: You may need extra power sockets as you will have a pc, printer, phone chargers, fans, etc. Consider a desk mounted power module with a least 2 power sockets for quick and easy access without having to dive beneath your desk and banging your head!

Good lighting: Good lighting is important to avoid eye strain. Consider adding a desk lamp to any existing lighting you have in your home office. Place your monitor or laptop so that there is no glare on the screen from any windows. Most importantly, make sure the lighting is very flattering when you take part in all of the Zoom meetings we are getting used to!

Ventilation: Get those windows open! A stuffy workspace makes you feel lethargic.


Since nationwide school closures were announced in March and with returning to school now looking questionable this side of September, it was with interest that we received the results of this new survey, which reveals all about the lockdown homeschooling experience.

Commissioned by Clarks, the survey found that the most enjoyable subjects for parents to teach are maths (49%), English (43%), history (27%), science (26%), and art (25%). Despite being deemed enjoyable, some of these subjects have also been challenging. Nearly a third of those surveyed said maths has been the most difficult to teach, followed by English (17%), science (15%), foreign languages (12%), history (7%) and I.T. (7%).

Virtual lessons held by celebrities have also been popular – whether it’s P.E. with Joe Wicks or David Attenborough’s geography classes, nearly a quarter (24%) of UK parents cited this as a homeschooling resource. Looking at who is adopting this new format for learning, a quarter of women teaching their kids have claimed to be tuning in, compared to only a fifth of men. It was also found that parents aged 25-34 use them more than any other age group.

Top findings for Leicester include:

People in Leicester are turning to Google for help with maths the most (with an average monthly search volume of 2,210), followed by English (SV 1,870), science (SV 1,810), geography (SV 1,520) and history (SV 510).

In mathematics, the phrase ‘what is a polygon’ has seen an increase of 183% in Google searches since April 2019, with those in Leicester searching for this to help with homeschooling more than any other UK city.

Top findings for Birmingham include:

More than a fifth of parents in Birmingham said they’ll respect and appreciate teachers a lot more since their experience of homeschooling. 28% said their experience has made them realise how much the curriculum has changed since they were at school.

Maths is reported to be the most enjoyable, despite also being the most challenging to teach.
Nearly 10% report experiencing some level of difficulty with finding the information they need to teach their kids at home. UK wide, this increases to 1 in 4 parents whose children are studying GCSEs and A Levels.

45% of Birmingham parents turn to Google for homeschooling help, 43% use BBC Bitesize and similar online education resources, and a third said they contact their children’s teachers directly. Around 18% say they’ve used virtual lessons hosted by celebrities.

Some of the most googled homeschooling questions are What is a verb? and how many bones in the human body. See the full list here:  


Colmore BID has launched a programme of three further events with experts discussing key topics that build into the city’s recovery plan.

The programme kick starts on June 16 with a discussion on leadership. The traditional working environment will undoubtedly have changed for all with more businesses adopting remote working and flexible working hours than ever before, but, as a leader, how do you engage and motivate a team that isn’t in the same room anymore?

Speakers for this panel include Immy Kaur, Co-founder of Impact Hub, Louise Teboul, Operations Director at Common Purpose and Yetunde Dania, Partner at Trowers and Hamlins LLP.

The debate continues on June 23 with a discussion about homelessness with the final event in the series focusing on the city’s transport network on June 30.

Birmingham’s Covid-19 Recovery Plan: Leadership debate takes place on Tuesday 16 June at 11am and will be hosted on Zoom. To register for free click here


Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Charles R. Swindoll

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