NW business briefs: Making Rooms; CLEP; Sale Sharks; Everton FC; Network Rail; Manchester University; Joseph Holt

Thomas Macpherson-Pope

A creative technology community space based in Blackburn is celebrating after being awarded a share of £500,000 to help tackle electronic waste and help communities in need get online.

The Making Rooms has received a £55,000 grant from the Time After Time fund, created by Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity, Hubbub, to boost projects that give unwanted tech a second life and support digital inclusion. Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub established the Time After Time fund in 2022 in response to the nation’s growing e-waste problem, with the UK producing more electrical waste per person than any other country in the world, except for Norway.

The organisation was selected as one of eight winners from more than 120 entries by a panel of judges including TV presenter and environmentalist George Clarke, non-profit, Material Focus, digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, plus Hubbub and Virgin Media O2.

The Making Rooms has pioneered a project to collect e-waste laptops from local organisations and train the next generation in digital skills. ‘Repair Space Blackburn’ uses the devices to teach community members and young people repair skills. The refurbished equipment is passed on to digitally excluded young people, who are trained to become digitally literate.

Thomas Macpherson-Pope, Director of The Making Rooms, said: “We saw during the pandemic just how wide the digital divide is between young people in the borough. This funding from Time After Time will allow us to bridge the divide and give excluded young people a solid platform to engage with all the digital skills training opportunities that are available in Blackburn with Darwen. Partnerships like this create a unique opportunity for us to effect change in young people’s lives, whilst reducing and bringing attention to the issues of e-waste.”

Gavin Ellis, Co-founder of Hubbub said: “There is an abundance of smart devices in households and businesses that have a potential to help the estimated 1.5 million households are digitally disconnected get online. These projects will tackle digital exclusion through research, training and the redistribution of devices and continue to raise awareness about the issues of e-waste and digital inclusion. We are thrilled to award this funding and look forward to seeing what these projects achieve.”


David Brass

A Penrith based egg producer says hen welfare and egg laying productivity are benefiting from an innovation grant of £50,000 from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP).

Established in 1997, The Lakes Free Range Egg Company has been supplying eggs to nationally-recognised food service and retail customers, for decades. Its CEO, David Brass, said: “From our earliest days, we have collaborated and invested in research and development to improve the welfare of our birds and those on the now 80 plus farms that produce eggs for us. We currently grade and pack some 1.5 million eggs a day.

“The CLEP grant went towards a total project costing £208,000 to develop an app and associated hardware that will improve data collection on farming production processes. The key development is that the data is live and not self-reported, with 200 streams of data being collected on each farm. The quality of this data means that it can be used for future research into productivity and welfare, too.”

He added: “The project has been the culmination of seven years of working closely with Farm Animal Initiative in Oxford and our farmers across Cumbria, Scotland and other parts of the UK. Collecting data has improved animal welfare, which in turn increases egg-laying. That has increased to more than 350 eggs per bird per flock against an industry average of 330. We are now looking at a research project with Newcastle University focused on the sounds that hens make and what that can tell us.”

The company also received a separate CLEP grant of £25,000 for a battery to store energy from its solar panels, which has made the energy exchange process five per cent more efficient. Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of the Cumbria LEP, said: “It is great to see the difference that the Innovating for Success grant programme has made to David and Helen’s egg business. They are an excellent example of why we launched it; to encourage small and medium sized businesses across Cumbria to invest in either innovating or decarbonising their business.”


Sale Sharks Foundation Day

Rugby Union club Sale Sharks hosted its inaugural Foundation Day last week to spread awareness of its community-led initiatives, raising more than £8,000 in funds to aid the continuation of its huge breadth of programmes.

The Sale Sharks Foundation, the charity arm of the team, celebrates a successful 12 months of its community-led programmes with its first dedicated awareness event, Foundation Day. The event took place at the Salford Community Stadium with a home match taking place later in the day against Leicester Tigers.

As one of the leading community-focused rugby foundations, together with support from partners such as the MBNA Community Investment Programme, the Sale Sharks Foundation has touched the lives of more than 35,000 individuals during the past three years across the North West.

From promoting education and health to fostering inclusivity and unity, the Foundation is committed to using rugby as a vehicle for positive change and making this support more accessible. Abi Dean, CEO of Sale Sharks Foundation, said: “Our Foundation Day is not just about celebrating rugby, it’s about celebrating the impact we’ve had on our community.”

Victoria Dowd, MBNA Community Investment Partnership Manager, said: “The Tackle Together programme has seen an incredibly successful two years, with awareness continuing to grow within the local community and beyond. We’re delighted to be a part of this transformative initiative that has impacted the lives of young people across the region.”


CGI of Everton Way

Everton FC has announced that its Everton Way project at its new Bramley-Moore Dock stadium is to be widened along the entire length of the south stand to allow more fans to cement their place in history at the club’s new ground.

Hundreds of supporters have joined a waiting list for a planned second phase of the unique paved walkway, made up of engraved granite stones that celebrate Evertonians’ births, marriages, anniversaries and loved ones. The club has now opted to widen the existing walkway to accommodate the huge demand.

This expansion of the original design means that the comprehensive timeline of the club’s rich history, which was included in the original plans, will become a separate feature close to Everton Way, with further details issued on its location in due course.

Everton Way will continue to have the Club’s Giants represented by large granite stones, laid in and among the supporters’ own personalised stones. In addition to having a stone at Everton Stadium – and ahead of installation – supporters will also have the chance to purchase a replica stone.

Presented in an Everton-branded display box, these replica stones offer an additional memento, along with the option of a personalised A4 presentation certificate of authentication.


West Coast main line passengers have been advised to check before they travel ahead of the upcoming spring bank holiday weekend on May 25, which will affect supporters of Manchester City and Manchester United heading to Wembley for the FA Cup final.

More than £24m is being invested over the late May bank holiday weekend to improve journeys on the West Coast main line between London Euston and Scotland. Network Rail engineers will complete important railway upgrades between Saturday 25 and Monday 27 May, which will help to enable smoother and more reliable journeys for passengers and freight services.

Although most of the work has been planned to keep passengers travelling between the North West, Midlands and London Euston moving, there will be changes to some journeys with major upgrades happening in Stafford, Milton Keynes, Crewe and Carlisle.

Between Saturday 25 to Monday 27 May, engineers will complete work to: Continue major drainage and track improvements near Crewe station; complete major track and drainage improvements in Shap, Cumbria where a specialised ‘drain train’ will refurbish more than 2.5km of drainage to reduce flooding incidents on the West Coast main line; replace more than 3.5km of track on the West Coast main line in Stafford and Milton Keynes. On Saturday and Sunday HS2 engineers will be continuing work to prepare for a new 350m viaduct being built over the existing railway in Wendover which will mean changes to journeys between Great Missenden and Aylesbury.

James Dean, passenger director for Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said: “I’d like to thank passengers for their continued patience this month as we continue to invest in improving journeys for passengers and freight services on the West Coast main line between London and Scotland over the late May bank holiday. Train services will be busier than usual over the bank holiday weekend, especially on Saturday 25 May with the FA Cup final taking place in Wembley.”


Laura Nuttall

The University of Manchester’s School of Social Sciences has launched a new scholarship in memory its Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduate Laura Nuttall, who sadly passed away exactly a year ago after a long battle against cancer.

After being diagnosed at the age of 18 with glioblastoma multiforme – the most aggressive form of brain cancer – Laura was given 12 months to live, but after undergoing gruelling treatments including innovative immunotherapy in Germany she was able to restart her studies at Manchester.

Despite travelling back and forth to Germany, undergoing more surgery, working as an ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity and helping out in her community, she showed incredible strength and managed to excel in her studies. As a result, she graduated last summer with enormously proud Mum Nicola, sister Grace and Dad Mark by her side. Sadly, her cancer progressed quickly in late 2022, and she passed away last May at the age of 23.

When accepting an award in 2021, Laura had said “What sort of legacy will I leave if I just focus on myself and not others? The day I was diagnosed with brain cancer, I just thought I’ve got two options… I could say all right, that’s fine, I’m going to sit here and die – or am I going to do something about it and stay positive? And that is what I chose to do.”

In keeping with Laura’s dedication to helping others, and with the collaboration and support of Laura’s family, the School of Social Sciences will award an eligible student from a less privileged background with a physical condition, long term illness or learning difference with a scholarship of £3,000 per year for every year of their degree. Claire Fox, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for the university’s School of Social Sciences, said: “It is truly a privilege to be able to honour Laura’s memory in this way, and the scholarship will go a long way to help future social sciences students achieve their ambitions. It is a fitting tribute to Laura – who worked so hard to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer charities – as well as her family who are continuing this work. I am very grateful for the support of Laura’s family in developing this scholarship.”



It was a case of back to the future when Manchester brewery Joseph Holt invited customers to decide on a new name for its most recently acquired pub.

The 175-year-old brewery held a naming competition after buying Thornberries in Alkrington Green. And the overwhelming response was for the popular venue to revert to its original name of The Roebuck.

Mark Norbury, Joseph Holt Pub Director, said: “When we bought Thornberries we really wanted customers to play a key part in rejuvenating this popular pub and we were inundated with responses. Yet, despite a wide range of suggestions, The Roebuck was the clear winner with so many wanting the pub to go back to its original name.

“Joseph Holt has been in the same family for six generations – and as an independent company we are hugely respectful of heritage and tradition as well as the needs of our customers. With the pub regaining its original name, w’re thrilled the past is being acknowledged in the exciting future of the pub as it undergoes a full refurbishment.”

Following the £1.5m sale and refurbishment, the Roebuck will re-open following a full overhaul inside and out, optimising existing unused space as well as creating a beer garden.