Bury Road, Old Harlow, CM17 0ED 

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The Victoria Hall Theatre is a special community theatre, set in a beautiful historic building in the heart of Old Harlow. It was built in 1888 and funded by public subscriptions, managed by The Victoria Hall Company. The main hall accommodated 300 people; additional rooms were added upstairs c. 1911. 


In 1920, the hall was purchased by the Parish Council, and with the development of the New Town, was under the ownership of Harlow District Council from 1955-1964. It was sold to Essex County Council in 1964 and run as Mark Hall Youth Centre, with the basement being used as a disco venue. 


In 1995, the Harlow Playhouse temporarily ceased functioning and consequently local amateur theatre companies had nowhere to stage productions. It was suggested that Victoria Hall might be adapted to form a community theatre. 

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With the aid of keen volunteers and a generous donation from Longman Publishers (now Pearson Education) the conversion was begun. The Victoria Hall Performing Arts Association was formed to run the building and subsequently registered as a charity. When Essex County Council decided they wanted to sell the building, the VHPAA set about fundraising in order to raise the money to purchase it – which it did in 2010. 


Many local theatre groups, entertainers and children use the theatre for their productions and all the money is ploughed back into improving the building for the users and audiences. With approximately 24 productions a year, the theatre is almost constantly in use and still run by volunteers. 


If you would like to get involved with volunteering at the theatre, please get in touch via our Facebook page or by emailing: vhpaa.org@gmail.com 




“Dad always had these great stories,’ said Phil, ‘He played bass with all the greats of that period, Vince Hill, Jack Jones, Tommy Cooper, Bruce Forsythe…”

Image result for phil williams musician harlow

t’s fair to say that Phil Williams has spent his whole life in music and the Music Industry. His Dad, Don Williams, was a well-known and respected session musician in the 60s and 70s, constantly gigging and filling Phil’s early life with his music and sense of humour: ‘Dad always had these great stories,’ said Phil, ‘He played bass with all the greats of that period, Vince Hill, Jack Jones, Tommy Cooper, Bruce Forsythe….er, Rolf Harris…’ 


Phil started his own musical career as a freelance bass player in Brighton and he got his first big break being asked to join Kim Wilde on her 1992 World Tour. Shortly after Phil was one of the founding members of  ‘World On Fire’ who were signed to MCA Records. An album of their previously un-released tracks is due out in May 2017.  


Phil was subsequently on the books of ‘Session Connection’, an agency specialising in matching quality musicians to big acts of the day. This led to numerous TV performances, primarily on Top of The Pops  (‘You arrived at stupid-o’clock, stayed for hours and the pay was shocking!’) in the 90s and early 2000s. He also spent the best part of four years touring with Keith Emerson, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame.  

He has worked with loads of acts over the years including Gary Barlow, Rick Astley, ABC, Go West and Limahl (erstwhile of Kajagoogoo). He still tours frequently, predominantly nowadays with Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) with whom he has worked for 25 years. “I’ve always loved touring with Tony,’ says Phil, “when we first met he said to me “the most important thing is we have a laugh and enjoy ourselves……”- perfect!’ 


He also writes and performs with his own group, the gloriously-monikered ‘Faint Signs of Intelligence’, and collaborates with numerous other artists. Phil and his young family moved to Harlow in 2003 after many years in Kent and Sussex. In between touring he teaches both bass and guitar from his home in Old Harlow, where he also has a small recording studio.


If you are interested in recording tracks yourself, or having guitar and bass lessons, why not give Phil a call on 07850 438906. We promise it won’t be boring! LIKE Phil Williams Bass and Guitar Tuition Facebook page.




It was on 25 March 1947 that Harlow was first designated a new town, so 2017 marks Harlow’s 70th birthday. 

“We want ‘Harlow is 70’ to be a celebration of Harlow, its people and its places – and for everyone to take pride in their town. Whether it’s the town’s arts, culture, architecture, community spirit, diversity or thriving business community, we have so much to celebrate in Harlow”, said the Leader of Harlow Council Jon Clempner. 



“It is really important to us that people get involved and are part of the celebrations. We want to work with businesses and local groups to maximise this occasion for Harlow. We are all immensely proud of our town, and this is our year to start shouting about what a great place Harlow is. “Meetings have been held with community and local business representatives with further meetings throughout 2017 to co-ordinate the official ‘Harlow is 70’ celebrations. So far over 100 people or organisations have approached the Council expressing interest in running events or projects, getting involved or supporting the celebrations in some way. The Council has allocated £20,000 to help support local events and projects.” The Council will be giving its own events like the annual Fireworks night a 70th theme. It is also considering organising a town parade in the summer followed by a celebration in the Town Park.



Harlow the pioneering town 

“In 1947 when Harlow first became a new town, people were given the opportunity to live and work in a bright, vibrant and welcoming place. ‘Harlow is 70’ will celebrate the past but also look ahead to the next 70 years, where history will continue to be made and new opportunities for people created,” Councillor Clempner added. 


“With the progress of Harlow Enterprise Zone, plans for Public Health England’s world class science hub, Garden Town designation, road and infrastructure improvements, including a new M11 motorway junction, there are so many opportunities to work together and create that bright future. “Harlow is a town of many firsts, from Sculpture Town to the birthplace of fibre optic technology, and this pioneering spirit will continue in the next 70 years.” 


Did you know? 

In its 70-year history Harlow has seen some important firsts, here are a few:


  • In 1951, ‘The Lawn’, designed by the town’s master planner Sir Frederick Gibberd, was the first residential housing block of its kind in the UK.



  • In 1966 fibre optic communications, which paved the way for modern technology like broadband Internet, were invented by Sir Charles Kao and George Hockham on the former Nortel site on London Road. That site is now the home of Harlow Enterprise Zone the place where tomorrow’s ideas could be invented which will change people’s lives in the future. 


  • In 2010 Harlow became the first Sculpture Town in the UK and the World with its unique public collection of 79 sculptures including works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Elizabeth Frink and Barbara Hepworth. 


The official symbol of Harlow is 70 


The Harlow 70th logo was a joint collaboration between Harlow College graphic design student Bradley Newson and graphic design tutor Mustafa Sidiki. Both were supported by local graphic design agencies Blue Pig Creative (www.bluepigcreative.co.uk and Hot Mash Creative (www.hot-mash.com) who both gave their time and expertise for free. The logo is being displayed on various buildings around the town and appearing on promotional materials. The variety of colours in the logo represents the celebration’s strapline – history, community and diversity. The green in the 70 is the town’s green open spaces. 


The logo is free for any business to use. To request a copy please drop an e-mail to emailcommunications@harlow.gov.uk. You can stay up to date on the celebrations here: 

FB – @Harlowis70 

TW – @Harlowis70 



If your business would like to get involved or find out more about sponsorship opportunities or if you have an idea about how Harlow can celebrate its 70th, contact Jane Greer, Head of Community Wellbeing at Harlow Council at  jane.greer@harlow.gov.uk<mailto:jane.greer@harlow.gov.uk> or telephone 01279 446406. 




There are very few people on this planet that can make cardboard sound interesting, but Noel Greenwood is one of them.


Noel’s company, GWD Ltd, have been doing ‘incredible things with cardboard’ since 1986, and in that time have established themselves as ‘probably’ the premier presentation packaging company in the UK.


“We started out designing and printing Point of Sale (PoS) material”, says Noel in his office, surrounded by shelves and shelves of incredible boxes in all manner of shapes and designs. “Presentation packaging was something that we developed upon over the years”. 


In the early 90s GWD started getting into the box business manufacturing ballotin and carton style boxes. This proved so successful that very soon they needed a specialist folder/gluer machine, however at 15 metre long, ‘we needed a bigger factory to house it too” says Noel, ‘so we took over the unit next door.” GWD expanded into rigid ‘paper over board’ boxes in 2000, and this has since become the mainstay of the company. 


Now employing approx. 30 people GWD are recognised as leaders in their field. They produce beautiful presentation packaging for florists, chocolatiers, confectioners, and all sorts of corporate clients for promotional and marketing purposes, indeed anyone who wishes to make a statement as to the quality of their wares. There is a psychological element here. A consumer looking upon a stunningly designed and packaged product will be likely to think that if a company cares so  much  and has given so much  thought  to  the presentation of it’s product in strongly suggests that it has given a similar amount of thought to the product itself. It shows a willingness to invest in the customer experience. It  breathes  quality.


Noel’s company have worked with many prestigious clients over the years such as Cornelia James (Glove Makers to HRH the queen), International Award winners Rococo Chocolates, and numerous other auspicious brands and individuals. They have made one off boxes for Elton John and,  last year, designed a ‘one-off’ presentation box for  Taylor’s Bulbs of Holbeach, (who hold The Royal Warrant as Bulb Growers to HRH The Queen) for a presentation to Her Majesty on the occasion of her 90th birthday. 


The skill and aptitude of GWD’s in-house designers and cardboard engineers is very high as the workmanship that goes into these creations can be extremely complex and time-consuming. It is a real ‘craft’ and the Company is a real local success story. 


If you would like to get in contact with Noel you can reach him on (01279) 416093 or at the company’s website: www.gwd.ltd.uk 


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What about non-verbal communication?

What does your body language say about you? According to the experts we give our feelings away easily to anyone who cares to look.  If we don’t like someone, we’ll tend to stand or sit with our feet facing away from him or her. If we like do them we will naturally turn our feet, and therefore our bodies to face them.

A real smile, known as ‘The Duchenne Smile’ in scientific circles, includes the whole face, lips, eyes, cheeks and crinkling of the skin. A forced smile uses only the lips.  Next time someone smiles at you, check to see if it’s the full Duchenne, or just a little smirk!

Surprisingly, liars do look people in the eye, so as to appear more trustworthy, open and honest.  They are more likely to scratch their nose, or touch parts of their face however, if they are telling an untruth.  In some cultures eye contact can be seen as disrespectful, and in Japan it isn’t seen as rude to close one’s eyes during a conversation, it shows that you are blocking out all external interference so that you can concentrate on the person who is speaking to you.

So next time you really want to know what someone thinks of you, watch them carefully, is that smile real? Which way are their feet pointing? And what about your own body language? Are you telling your boss that you hate him, the lady in the post office that you fancy her, or your Accountant that you think he’s an idiot?  Be aware of what your body language says about you! 

The world of communication is expanding at an alarming rate. As businessmen and entrepreneurs we need to understand it and utilize it to it’s full effect.  If we were to offer advise in soundbites it would be to remember the basics: 

  • People buy from People – remember the personal touch goes a very long way in business 
  • Pick up the phone occasionally instead of emailing 
  • Visit your clients regularly and communicate face to face 
  • Use YOUR personality to bring your business to life! 


If you would like any help with any of the topics discussed please feel free to contact us at info@magnificentstuff.net 




communication (kəmjuːnɪˈkeɪʃ(ə)n)
noun – the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.
There are three primary reasons why people communicate:
– To make or maintain relationships
– To share or receive information
– To persuade.
“We have 50 staff remotely at our 22 centres. I find WhatsApp a fantastic tool to communicate with them either at individual, centre or staff level! Especially now I’m doing a weekly blog to them all!” – Andy Peasey, Ruggerbugs
“Whenever you’re communicating, remember it’s a combination of:
1. The right message
2. To the right audience
3. At the right time…” – Emma Knewstubb, Magnificent Stuff



Communication has always been rather important to us humans. As we’ve progressed as a species, the levels to which we communicate haven’t dramatically fluctuated…but the methods or means by which we communicate most definitely have.  Fundamentally, human grunts have evolved into speech, and language into the power of print (and the use of emojis! [Symbol]). Today we are literally inundated with media on multiple screens and devices. Combine this with actual human interaction and we’re juggling an incredible influx of communication and information – in both our business and our personal lives! 

Overhead shot of a Macbook keyboard against white marble surface


According to Lifewire.com 205 billion email messages were sent per day in 2016 – meaning almost 2.4 million emails are sent every second and some 74 trillion emails are sent per year. By contrast, the Radicati Group’s estimate for 2009 was 1.4 billion emails sent per day. Making your e-mail stand out from the rest has never been so important.  


Repeating messages and recurring messages can actually work.  We receive a weekly sales email from a supplier, generally at the same time every week. Normally these would be ignored but the recurrence means this supplier is front-of-mind. The content of the emails is generally irrelevant but it’s like walking past the same dry cleaners every day. The time comes when you actually need a dry cleaner, and you naturally go to the one that you’re familiar with. The one you pass daily. 


Having an audience is fundamental. It’s imperative to have some form of data-capture procedure on your website or landing pages, and do collect business cards and LinkedIn with people you meet. Collecting contacts is one thing, but you also need to collate them into an accessible format. Once you have developed a mailing list, recipients will fall into one of the following categories: 


  • Prospects who know very little or nothing about your offering 
  • Prospects you want to engage and build a relationship 
  • Prospects you need to convert and make a sale  
  • Existing Customers – you can upsell/cross-sell to or use as an advocate  


You can then segment your audience and tailor your messages dependent on their need… to educate, inform, inspire or provoke. Larger brands make sure each and every message meets their audience and resonates with them. Think Nectar and Clubcard and the like – their emails are carefully crafted to meet your life stage, purchasing decision or circumstance. 


Most of us though are ‘time poor’ and have financial constraints. So there is another tactic we can take. We can be ourselves. We can make our brand, our service, and our personality come to life through the power of words in emails.  


 The growth of digital marketing has seen the decline of more traditional methods. This does not mean that this medium has become invalid, quite the opposite. The dearth of direct mail (particularly in marketing terms) now works better than ever before because it ‘cuts through’. We no longer get hundreds of letters through the post, so when it does arrive it is no longer received with the same hostility or disregard as it once was. Recent studies have shown that people feel valued when receiving direct mail and there are numerous articles available showing it’s efficiency when used alongside other methods as part of a concerted campaign.  

If you consider using direct mail it’s always best to talk to an expert in the field, such as Chamber member Lyn Reed at Best Mailing Services UK.



The way people do business is changing.

Young people working and socializing at a busy coffee shop


The latest figures available (at least available to us) suggested that there are no less than 2,550 VAT registered businesses in the Harlow area. We would assume, although the stats aren’t available, that there must be at least that number of businesses again that are not registered for VAT. Regardless of the exact figure, it’s clear that there are a huge number of micro, small or medium-sized enterprises within this small area of West Essex. 


It’s forecasted that around 600,000 new businesses will have been started in the UK in 2016. Given that some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in this country can run a business with nothing more than a smartphone it’s not surprising that so many new businesses no longer require premises at all.  The overheads associated with owning or renting office space can be crippling, and nowadays being available only between 9-5, 5 days a week is becoming less and less acceptable. The flexible working trend has rocketed.  


The way people do business is changing dramatically as is their expectation to be able to work more flexibly creating a healthier work/life balance. With so much data sat in the cloud nowadays, there has been a distinct shift in the number of homeworkers in the UK. In all big cities, especially overseas, there is a wide choice of different co-working spaces to subscribe to on a PAYG basis or as a more permanent solution. This allows for any size of business to have a dedicated office space that can be used flexibly, suiting their needs. Such spaces also drive collaboration and networking. 


In Harlow today there are a few options but we need more, and we believe that the free beer, creative hubs, tech start-ups sharing ideas and free, open networking and training sessions so many of the co-working spaces in other areas offer are beginning.   


To have a business address and sit in a vibrant and buzzing atmosphere, sharing ideas and collaborating with other like-minded entrepreneurs is invaluable and as an established business looking to upscale, a shared workspace offers resources, cost savings and multiple opportunities to help grow. More and more empty desks and office spaces are adopting the Air BnB model of being rented ad hoc.  

Several people fist bumping over a busy workspace


If you have a spare desk in your office space and want to potentially generate a bit of an income from it as well as encourage entrepreneurship and networking with other businesses or if you’d like to do a spot of ‘Hotdesking’ it could be well worth having a look at some of these Air BnB style setups (loads of them are London based but it’s a trend that is spreading fast!) 











There is, of course, the local library which has wi-fi and encourages footfall from those who are ‘working from home’. 


Craig Fordham


“With my qualification, I took up a teaching role at Harlow College, and my career just grew from there.”

“I used to spend all my wages from labouring on developing film” 


Craig Fordham has lived in Harlow since he was nine. Not knowing what he wanted to be when he grew up he discovered a passion for photography after buying an Olympus Trip when he left school – but like so many other people he had no idea how to turn his hobby into a career. Whilst working his way through various jobs, including working on building sites a childhood friend, who was also a budding model asked Craig to shoot his portfolio for him.

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The images were taken in the portfolio and presented to influential 80’s stylist Ray Petri, Stylist Ray Petri was behind the disruptive and radical movement that transformed and disrupted fashion in the 80’s. He has been described as inventing the ‘Stylist’ with models in Dr Marten boots and Armani suit jackets. Neneh Cherry, Culture Club and Soul II Soul took Buffalo to the mass-market main stage. Petri was clearly impressed and asked who took the pictures..


 “Just a mate of mine took them, he’s a builder.” “No, he’s not. He’s a photographer.” – Ray Petri 


Overwhelmed after hearing this Craig decided this was just the motivation he needed and determined, he set out on his career path. Trying to break into photography via assistant roles Craig realised that he lacked the experience and technical ability he really needed, so he took himself back to college at the age of 28, taking an HND and PQE in photography.


“With my qualification, I took up a teaching role at Harlow College, and my career just grew from there.” 


His first major commission was with ‘19’ Magazine and from there his career snowballed with impressive editorial, advertising and commercial jobs. Over the years Craig has travelled the world working with brands such as The White Company, Burberry Lacoste, Lyle & Scott and reams of newsstand publications including Vogue, Red, Marie Claire, Elle, The Times and The Telegraph.


“Looking back, I guess I was lucky in the first place, having such a photogenic friend!” Craig now works as a freelancer and in addition to shoot management and art direction, Craig runs the http://www.theidlepicturelibrary.com and can be contacted via http://craigfordhamphotographer.com 

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