AkzoNobel holds virtual wellness festival to support colleagues’ health and wellbeing during lockdown

AkzoNobel has reinforced its commitment to the health and happiness of its colleagues across the UK and Ireland by staging a month-long wellness festival organised by colleagues, for colleagues.

Wellfest ran throughout March, with the aim of supporting teams’ health and wellbeing and keeping individuals, teams and their families connected while they remained under lockdown restrictions.

The free festival consisted of a total of 110 events in seven virtual ‘tents’, with more than 3,000 tickets booked throughout the month.

Highlights included talks from ex-Special Forces soldier Jason Fox, as well as polar adventurer and three-time Guinness World Record holder Victoria Humphries and wellbeing champion Fearne Cotton.

Feedback from across the business has been hugely positive, with Nick Halton saying: “I am loving Wellfest, some great massively engaging sessions”, and Vickie Mather commenting: “Starting your day with some mindfulness gives you a little spring in your step for the rest of the day. Highly recommended.”

Other events included a talk from Prostate Cancer UK, an appearance from adventurer and author Dave Cornthwaite on challenging limiting beliefs and and virtual breakfasts with senior management teams from across the business.

Milly Hutchinson, Head of Communications & Public Affairs UK&I at AkzoNobel, said: “We are committed to ensuring that AkzoNobel is a brilliant place to work. The wellbeing of our colleagues has always been a priority but, over the past year, the need to offer different support as we navigate this challenging period has become increasingly apparent.

“We’re delighted that so many people attended the sessions, and that so many had family members join in the activities and events.

“Wellfest has provided colleagues with a wonderful opportunity to talk to other people in the business that they might not have otherwise had the chance to, which we hope to continue in the future.”

The belief that its people are the most important asset for building a sustainable future is central to AkzoNobel’s People. Planet. Paint. approach.

Steve Hill, Territory Manager at AkzoNobel UK & Ireland, part of AkzoNobel’s internal Thrive team that organised the festival, added: “The responses we’ve had have been heartwarming and it’s great to see so many people inspired by what they’ve heard.

“It’s also very encouraging to hear how attendees plan to implement the tips, exercises and lessons they have learnt through the events into their daily lives.”

Wellfest comes as AkzoNobel has once again been recognised by the Top Employers Institute as a Top Employer in the UK.


Wanderlust: Travelling in pandemic times with Rosenthal & Rosenthal meets Versace

In times when travelling to distant countries can only take place in the mind or virtually, wanderlust is becoming stronger and stronger. The new Rosenthal collections satisfy somewhat the longing for faraway places and explore culinary travelling. Exotic China, idyllic nature in France and flower meadows in the Swiss Alps, expressive colours of Italy and tropical gardens in Bali inspired our designers to create colourful décors by Rosenthal and Rosenthal meets Versace. Ready for our spectacular journey around the world?
Rosenthal Heritage: Turandot/Design: Gianni Cinti

Wanderlust: Travelling in pandemic times with Rosenthal & Rosenthal meets Versace

Inspired by Puccini’s famous opera, the pattern “Turandot” pays homage to eighteenth-century chinoiserie – a source of inspiration also for Rosenthal’s very first projects in the 19th century. Turandot is very enigmatic and full of beauty, building a bridge between East and West, past and present. Gianni Cinti transformed the image of a Chinese lake with bamboo, peony petals, dragonflies and gingko leaves with calligraphic precision on fine porcelain. The pattern seems very evocative and understandable at first sight – but it gets more sophisticated and delicate the longer you look at it.

As the connection between the East and the West is crucial for this collection, Rosenthal added some particularly Chinese dining items to it: rice bowl, porcelain spoon, chopsticks, rectangular dishes and platters as well as a tea box.
Rosenthal Magic Garden/Design: Sacha Walckhoff

Seeds, shoots, flowers: “Magic Garden” is a recurring wonder of nature on your dining table, inspired by plants from the pharmacy garden. The hortus medicus was the inspiration for the highly patterned and vibrantly coloured collection with three independent decors: “Black Seeds”, “Foliage” and “Blossom” symbolise the development stages of a plant: from seeds and seedlings to shoots and flowers.

“Magic Garden” decors build on each other, increasing from pure black and white contrasts to green tones and a comprehensive colour palette. The new table objects bring additional individuality to the laid table and also convince as beautiful individual pieces.
Rosenthal Brillance Fleurs Sauvages/Decorative design: Regula Stüdli

It looks as if the flower children had picked fresh blossoms and grasses and then let them fall, lost in their dreams. With an almost supernatural naturalness, the floral dreams of Swiss designer Regula Stüdli flourish in a surreal garden of the Fleurs Sauvages décor. The fantastic floral arrangements form a delightful contrast to the practical elegance of the Brillance form.

The collection stands not only for a thin porcelain, light weight, high transparency and a warm shine of the surface, but also for its elegant design.
“Palm Leaves” Heritage Edition/Design: Emilio Pucci

Rosenthal captures the spirit of Italian fashion brand Emilio Pucci by introducing in the expressive new vase edition the “Palm Leaves” décor. The Pucci Collection is a tribute to the charismatic Florentine fashion designer who revolutionized the fashion world of the 60s and 70s with colorful, memorable and psychedelic patterns.
Rosenthal meets Versace Jungle Animalier Collection

The fine porcelain collection fuses the iconic Jungle print with animalier patterns and heritage Medusa accents. Drawing inspiration from the legendary design famously reprised on the Versace Spring-Summer 2020 runway and the book “South Beach Stories”, an iconic photographic book by the Versace family, the Jungle Animalier line refreshes tableware in a vivid color palette. Crafted in exceptional quality porcelain, the collection encompasses a range of plates, coffee and tea sets, an array of a vases and decorative home accents.


Thatcham Research Vehicle Damage Assessor apprentices at the cutting edge of blended learning

Thatcham Research is on-boarding 15 learners during a virtual realisation week which began on 29 March.

The new cohort met one another along with their Thatcham Research tutors, trainers, assessors, and safeguarding officer via Microsoft Teams. Online sessions for the Vehicle Damage Assessor (VDA) apprentices will continue through the week, including a virtual tour of Thatcham Research’s state of the art Academy workspaces using ‘mixed reality device’ HoloLens.

Dean Lander, head of repair sector services, Thatcham Research who joined the online session to greet the group on Monday, said: “We are really pleased to welcome our latest VDA apprentices, and to do so using the latest technologies to create a seamless blended learning programme. Lockdown has created huge barriers to apprenticeship development, but we have adapted the delivery of learning to ensure continual supply of the essential skills the repair industry needs.”

The apprentices, from insurers Allianz, LV=, and Hastings Direct, and independent repairers Motofix and S&P Brisley, will attend the Thatcham Research Academy to undertake the physical aspects of their training in a Covid-safe environment from June. This will be combined with digital learning modules accessed via ecademy, Thatcham Research’s online technical awareness programme.

They will learn the manual processes of assessing and costing repair of a vehicle and get to grips with electronic estimating software. In addition, the cohort will develop their knowledge of all vehicle types, from Internal Combustion Engine to electric and hybrid vehicles, along with the latest developments in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.


How to escape a US timeshare

Relinquishing a US timeshare is difficult

Kathie Asaro, a retired sales manager from California, decided she no longer wanted her Rancho Mirage timeshare. It just didn’t fit her lifestyle

Unfortunately her timeshare contract was ‘in perpetuity’ (forever to you and me) .

When Kathie called Rancho Mirage to ask if she could give it back they refused point blank. The timeshare had been paid for years ago, there was no outstanding finance. If it had been a car that she bought and paid for, the garage would have been overjoyed to be gifted it back, so why would a resort not gratefully accept your timeshare back for free?

The difference is that many US timeshare resorts consider their owners to be a vital income source, paying an average $1000 a year in maintenance. In modern times, ‘new owner’ sales have slumped and timeshare resorts are reluctant to let unhappy owners free from their obligation to pay annual fees because it is now their major revenue stream

Kathie Asaro was told matter of factly that she was not going to be released from her commitment, for the rest of her life.

A University of Central Florida (UCF) study showed that 85 percent of timeshare buyers regret their purchase. It doesn’t take long for the salesperson’s patter to be forgotten, and the reality to sink in that the same condos are generally available from regular bookings sites for around the same cost as the members’ maintenance costs.

So, are members stuck forever in an expensive, outmoded holiday system?

Escape is possible

“Ridding yourself of an unwanted timeshare commitment is tough,” explains Andrew Cooper of European Consumer Claims. “But there are ways to do it.”

“The timeshare industry doesn’t actually want unhappy owners. It’s not great for business to have angry or disenchanted members making their voices heard online.”

The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) states that, “we want to ensure that timeshare owners have the option to exit their timeshare in a safe and transparent way”

ARDA’s surveys show the inverse of the UCF study. EG that: 85 percent of all timeshare owners are happy with their purchases.

Andrew Cooper advises that, “anyone among the unhappy 15% (or 85% depending on which report you believe – the Industry report or the UCF report) can either ask their resort to let them go, they can try and sell their timeshare, or they can retain professional help.”

Ask your resort to let you leave

Kathy Asaro phoned Rancho Mirage timeshare every single month, from 2017 onwards asking to be allowed to leave. The resort told her ‘no’ every time. It was repeatedly expounded to Kathy that she was going to be kept as a member for the rest of her life, and she would be liable for the accompanying annual fees.

Kathy insisted that she would never pay her fees again. Why should she? She wasn’t going to use the timeshare. Her idea was that if she didn’t pay the fees, sooner or later Rancho mirage would have to foreclose and incur the cost of a lawyer by doing this. Surely it would be more cost effective for the resort to just take it back for free?

Rancho Mirage told Kathy that her credit rating would be ruined if she went down this path. Kathy stuck to her guns, and eventually the timeshare company backed down. They released Kathy from her contract.

“It is great that Kathy was able to escape her timeshare in this manner,” agrees Cooper. “However this method of escape is not guaranteed. Many resorts will refuse to allow the member to leave, the law is on their side because the contracts are written that way. A less amenable company would pass the unpaid maintenance fees to debt collectors and the member would be facing legal enforcement processes.”

Try to sell your membership

ARDA’s Resort Owners’ Coalition claims they can connect you with a list of licensed real estate brokers who specialize in second hand timeshare sales.

There are also countless websites that offer to sell your timeshares on the second hand market

“Be very careful using these sites,” warns Andrew Cooper. “Most of them are only interested in getting you to pay an upfront fee. In fact the timeshares listed almost never sell. People don’t want them, for the same reason you don’t want yours. The annual fees are a burden, and it’s often possible to stay in the same resorts without paying for a membership.

“The cost of booking is usually around the same as a member would pay in annual fees, so it’s difficult to see any value in buying a timeshare.

“You can see timeshares listed on Ebay for one dollar. People still don’t buy them. The reality is that not only are timeshares difficult to sell, but in fact professional help is usually necessary to relinquish them at all.

“You could get a buyer by advertising, but you would be extremely lucky to do so.”

Get a professional help

Peggy Bendel hired a lawyer when timeshare company wouldn’t let her out of the contract even though she contacted the company within the cooling-off period.

The timeshare company fended Peggy off for 3 months, trying to get her to accept different products, or to downsize. Eventually a her lawyer forced the company to accept Peggy’s cancellation request, although it could take another 10 months for Peggy to get her money back

Andrew Cooper further clarifies, “Peggy’s case should have been straightforward because she was inside the cooling off period. When people want to cancel after that period is when it gets difficult.

“Resorts can’t afford to lose members, for the reasons already stated. Even regular lawyers are no match for the timeshare industry. It takes experience in this specialist area.

Beware of fraudsters

“Be careful who you do retain for this type of work,” warns Cooper. “Sadly a huge amount of the firms claiming they will help you escape your timeshare are fraudsters. They will sign you up and take your money, but then disappear without providing the service.

“If you need advice on this, there are several great independent timeshare consumer associations who are happy to give you free, expert advice.

“Or you can contact a reputable timeshare relinquishment/claims firm like ourselves for a free, no obligation chat”

UK’s largest rail network pledges better assistance for millions across the South East


Engcon expands its North American operations with a new office in Canada

In 2017, Engcon formed and rolled-out its North America company, Engcon North America Inc. with sales offices and warehouses established in Connecticut. Following a steady increase in sales throughout all of North America, Engcon is now taking the next natural step – and starting up operations in Canada.

The operations in Connecticut have focused on the nine easternmost states in the United States, but thanks to, among other things, trade fairs, social media and customer referrals, orders have come in from all over North America. However, handling all sales and large parts of the tiltrotator installations from the office in Connecticut has brought geographical challenges. That is why Engcon North America is now expanding its operations to establish a new office in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with a French- and English-speaking team.

”It feels really good that we are now taking a clear step into the Canadian market! The base for Engcon North America will remain in Connecticut. But with bilingual staff in place in Montreal, we are building closer relations with the Canadian market in several ways”, says Morten Solgaard, Managing Director at Engcon North America.

Morten will be responsible for the office in Montreal, which will be the twelfth location that has Engcon’s sign on the facade. There are already offices in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United States, Australia and Korea.

”We have good experience of setting up new locations and know that each country has its own challenges with regulations, transport solutions, language and more. The fact that we are now establishing ourselves in Canada will mean many benefits for our customers and for us as a company”, says Morten Solgaard.

Engcon Canada office
Engcon Canada will initially be staffed by site manager Anthony Wolch and a salesperson soon to be recruited. At the field office in Montreal, a spare parts warehouse will also be built for the most common spare parts. If additional parts are needed, they can be sourced from Engcon North America’s warehouse in Connecticut.

”My role will first and foremost be to develop existing customer relationships and to create new ones, as well as expand the network of service partners. Right now, we have three service partners, and there will be more”, says Anthony Wolch.

Anthony’s French background will obviously be to the advantage of the French-speaking part of Canada, but English is also not a problem as he worked at Engcon for many years.

“Engcon is an international company and English is our corporate language, so it feels comfortable for me to speak both French and English”, says Anthony Wolch.

Engcon’s smart solutions provide new opportunities for Canadian contractors
Anthony also believes that Engcon’s automatic quick hitches and tiltrotators, combined with the company’s smart tools, will give Canadian contractors new opportunities for more types of assignments and increased profitability.

“When the contractors discover the benefits of Engcon’s tiltrotators and the automatic quick mounting system with EC-Oil, where the driver can connect hydraulic tools without stepping out of the cab, they will realize that our products will make their business even more profitable,” concludes Anthony Wolch.

Boeing Selects ARTEX Distress Tracking Emergency Locator Transmitter for GADSS Compliance on Commercial Aircraft

ACR Electronics, the leading safety and survival manufacturer, has signed an agreement with The Boeing Company to supply its new distress tracking ARTEX ELT 5000 (DT) with crash survivability, enabling compliance with the new Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) regulations.


Connectors for energy storage

With the new plug-in battery connections, Phoenix Contact is providing a time-saving and safe connection technology for energy storage systems. The range includes connectors for busbar connection and battery pole connectors for applications of up to 1,500 V.

Connectors for energy storage

Connectors for connecting to the busbar simplify the installation of plug-in systems in energy storage systems. The connectors with reverse-polarity protection are plugged onto the rear side of a storage system, eliminating the need for wiring work. The modular design allows different currents, and therefore a wide range of applications.

Cable connectors and device connectors with various connection technologies are available for the battery side. The battery pole connectors can be rotated through 360°, enabling flexible cable lengths. Touch-protected battery poles and mechanical coding ensure safety when connecting battery poles. The audible feedback when connecting ensures that a safe and durable connection has been made.


New community garden opened in Ballystrudder

Village renewal works have completed in Ballystrudder, following an investment of £98K through the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Village Renewal Scheme.

The completion of a new community garden, located beside Willowvale housing development, includes a path network, new boundary fence treatments, landscaping, tree planting and the installation of seating.

MEA LAG Chair, Kelli McRoberts, Joe Gilpin, Chair Islandmagee Community Association and Cllr Gregg McKeen
MEA LAG Chair, Kelli McRoberts, Joe Gilpin, Chair Islandmagee Community Association and Cllr Gregg McKeen

All of this will make the garden visually appealing for people of all ages and abilitiesand it will also provide better access from the neighbouring Willowvale development.

Speaking at the official opening, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “Ballystrudder is the latest village to benefit from 18 village renewal projects across the borough.

“The new garden is a great outdoor space for the local community to enjoy. It will enhance the leisure and recreational offering in the area at a time where the outdoors have become so important for many of us.

“The new community garden is a fine example of village renewal in action and is one example of how the Rural Development Programme is working to leave a lasting legacy within our rural areas. This facility will no doubt serve the local community well for many years to come and I look forward to seeing it being put to good use.”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have been developing the Village Renewal Programme over the past 2 years and 18 villages in total will benefit from £2.5 million of funding.

This project was part funded under Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union.


MEA United launches football blueprint for Mid and East Antrim


MEA United launches football blueprint for Mid and East Antrim Facebook LinkedIn Twitter

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council (MEABC) and local football clubs Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers and Larne FC have launched their ‘blueprint for senior football’ across the borough.

Last year, NIFL clubs Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers and Larne FC joined forces with MEABC to form MEA United, in a joint bid to secure £25million from the Department for Communities for the development of football stadia across the borough.

The announcement follows the most recent virtual meeting held between the three football clubs, key stakeholders and the MEA United elected member working group, which is headed up by MEABC Chief Executive Anne Donaghy OBE and was established to help build upon the momentum that the initiative has gained so far.

Having consulted with key figures in the local community as well as some of the borough’s major business players, the working group has drafted a strategy and action plan that clearly communicates the council’s vision and future direction of football in the community across Mid and East Antrim.

The key objectives within the MEA United strategy include bringing football grounds Inver Park in Larne and Taylor’s Avenue in Carrick up to UEFA Category 3 and IFA Regional Hub status, as well as establishing a coach education programme for all three clubs.

It also covers the key aim of developing a national training centre for girls’ and women’s football at The Ballymena Showgrounds, as well as making the stadium a home venue for senior and under-age international fixtures.

MEABC Chief Executive Anne Donaghy has previously called for the Northern Ireland Executive to take urgent action to tackle years of underinvestment in Irish League grounds, and for Ministers to give a commitment that money will be ring-fenced for safety and improvement works on football stadia.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, praised the ‘collaborative approach’ of Council, clubs and community in creating the MEA United Strategy document. He said:

“Football has a hugely positive knock-on effect in ensuring active and healthy lifestyles as well as enhancing community engagement and participation.

“I am delighted to see the launch of the MEA United Strategy and the joint efforts of Council, Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers FC and Larne FC in working together to secure game changing funding for the future of football in our borough. We are leading the way, through MEA United, for other council areas across Northern Ireland, in championing sport, health and wellbeing for our people.”

Cllr Gregg McKeen, who is a member of the Working Group said:

“We believe that there is a huge opportunity here in Mid and East Antrim to capitalise on this crucial investment which will significantly improve sporting facilities in the borough, bringing them to a higher standard, both in terms of health and safety and overall professionalism within Irish League football.

“The stadia funding will make a huge contribution to both individual and wider community health and wellbeing, and I continue to be extremely encouraged by the ongoing engagement between MEA United, key representatives within the community as well as local business leaders, which is helping to drive this project towards fruition.

“This is a very important document and I thank Council, the clubs, and communities for all their work to date. With our clubs all working together, we have been able to produce a fantastic and exciting vision for moving football to the next level for generations to come.”

Councillor Keith Turner, who sits on the MEA United Elected Member Working Group, emphasised:

“The contribution that football and sport in general makes to our community cannot be underestimated, and to be involved in such a critical and innovative campaign to create healthier futures and opportunities for all is a genuine privilege.”

Councillor Matthew Armstrong added:

“I commend all those, from across Council, clubs, community and business leaders, who have helped us reach this significant milestone in our bid for game changing funding for our local footballing facilities.”

Spokespeople for the three football clubs, John Taggart (Ballymena United), Peter Clarke (Carrick Rangers) and Gareth Clements (Larne FC), also issued the following statement:

“MEA United will continue to drive forward our aims for Mid and East Antrim to become a major footballing hub in Northern Ireland and to champion the inter-connectedness of community and sport throughout our society, now and in the future.

“Through the power of football, we can collectively work towards improved mental health and wellbeing in Mid and East Antrim, and by improving our clubs’ facilities, we can make a huge, long-lasting impact on society generally, as well as helping to bring economic advantage to the area.”