wafer thins

TSS Business of the Month for October 2014 is PRESTAT

Halloween choc thins

Figure 1

The sun is appearing lower in the sky and the nights are drawing in and we are full of good feelings for being able to identify Prestat as our Business of the Month for October. Aside from the fact Prestat have their own almost story-book tale behind it; we have arrived at an early in the month conclusion, to feature the business, because there are some special chocolate items available; especially fitting for serving at events and occasions which falls within the autumn season. Namely the Orange and Cardamom Chai wafer thins (see featured pic and Figure 1); the Black Forest Gateau Truffles and the Thundercloud truffle, but more about these and other award winning products at the end.

The company’s background in brief:

  • Past owners (the Dufours) happened to be the French inventors of the first ever chocolate truffle. From 1902 through to the 1950s Antoine Dufour, and later his son, Tony, made and sold high class Prestat Chocolates from central and fashionable London based premises
  • Under the Croft ownership of the business (which lasted over 20 years), Neville Croft acquired many well known and returning customers because of a link he had with high profiled thespians

Purveyors logo

  • Prestat has been the only Purveyors of Chocolates to hold two Royal Warrants
  • Author, Roald Dahl actually mentions Prestat by its very name in one of his books, not Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, but another title called My Uncle Oswald where he talks most definitely of a Prestat truffle.


shop front

No 14 Princes Arcade, London

  • The chocolate business was one of many strands for another of Prestat’s owners, Stanley Cohen. Cohen was the owner of the business from 1980 onward, but other priorities, including his charity work, received the lion’s share of his attentions. Cohen was responsible however, for locating Prestat to the current London Piccadilly premises – 14 Princes Arcade (see above). Prestat remains secure and loyal to its London heritage which dates back to the turn of the last century
Nick Crean and Bill Keeling

Nick Crean and Bill Keeling

  • On the Prestat website Under ‘Our Story‘ in the menu, present co-owner MD Bill Keeling tells of his excitement in discovering a secret room with hidden ‘treasures’ when he and half brother, Nick Crean acquired the business in 1998

HarrodsHarrods concession

Harrods concession

  • Prestat has concessions in Harrods (see above)  as well as Liberty and Selfridges, the brand appears in John Lewis and other high end outlets both in the capital and countrywide, and the whole, extensive Prestat range is available via the website online. Production and Worldwide dispatch is now handled in and straight out of the chocolate kitchens at Park Royal, West London; yet fresh chocolates are still taken down to Princes Arcade on a daily basis. Prestat have been actively selling in the US for over three years


Bill Keeling with Farmers in Ghana

Bill Keeling with Farmers and workers in Ghana

Esoko office

  • The company have a social responsibility policy with a focus on the upkeep of good communication channels, so that Fair Trade farmers in Ghana are better advised in regard to trading matters centred on their raw cacao products. Prestat offers support to an organisation called Esoko who operate a helpline and offer expert advice for Ghanaian farmers


chocolate bars

Figure 2

  • Prestat have always handcrafted all of their own chocolates, these are of the finest quality. The vibe around this artisan brand is that it balances the classical with the more experimental, contemporary approach to the mixes and flavours synonymous to fine chocolate production of late.  A vibrant rebrand in recent years reflects Prestat’s traditional links with the theatre

great taste award

  • The previous award winning Prestat kitchens, have recently received six further Gold Star wins for their six entries submitted to the Great Taste Awards 2014. The six award winning chocolate products include the three mentioned in the first paragraph plus the Knickerbocker Glory Art Deco and the Classic Earl Grey Tea with Twist of Lemon Milk Chocolate bars, pictured with other chocolate bars available (Figure 2), and last, but by no means least, the delicious Red Velvet truffles we at TSS reviewed earlier in the year. Read the review here

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Ravensburger Puzzle Boards – A Blog Feature

tssreviews have put together a number of editorial pieces featuring Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles, but we haven’t, to date, extended our thoughts to include those additional kinds of considerations that one has to factor in before setting about the task of puzzle compiling. This time we are doing.

Whether it is subconsciously, or not, we will firstly be considering a few things: the space available for undertaking this type of hobby pursuit; the comfort and positioning of the person (people) while doing it; and the maneuverability and storage of something that is a largely a Work in Progress until completed.

Some people have space within their homes which can incorporate physical things based around their interests or hobbies, and some will, willingly, give up precious space that is usually dedicated to mealtimes, in favour of the puzzle making, for the length of time required to get it done. Others prefer to use a working base that will transport the puzzle and allow re-positioning of the operation onto the floor, or a different furniture top, or to another room in fact. Finding a piece of board that is workable and large enough to incorporate a completed jigsaw puzzle can prove difficult.
Here are two Ravensburger items that will help to address one or more of the above mentioned considerations.

puzzle companion
The Puzzle Companion
The puzzle companion is a rigid board, but very lightweight – measures 76 x 54cm. Ravensburger puzzles of 1000 standard sized pieces, have a consistent dimension on completion that will fall a few centimetres short of fitting the puzzle companion edge to edge. The working surface is made from flock material so puzzle pieces can adhere to it slightly, and not slip away easily. You can slide and so rotate the board when on a table top to an angle and desired position for any one person at any one time. The board is flat and not bulky, so can be stored behind a cupboard or against a wall when not in use. The Puzzle Companion will make a great gift combination along with any Ravensburger jigsaw puzzle from their vast range.
RRP £19.99
puzzle board
Complete Puzzle Set
This jigsaw has a built in puzzle mat, so a work board or a table top is not a necessary requirement while assembling. The base layer of this jigsaw is the puzzle box itself, simply remove the puzzle box lid and then flatten down the sides of the box’s base. Insert four large corner pieces (supplied) to stabilise and complete the frame to include four right angles. Compile the puzzle on the surface within the frame. The frame will show a continuation of the puzzle’s overall photographic illustration. complete puzzleMoving away, for a moment, from the concept of a puzzle with its own built in base, because with this set you have a further option. By spreading the finished jigsaw with conserver fluid and allowing it to dry, you are ‘fixing’ the pieces so that it can be hung as one piece of framed wall art that will measure 57 x 44cm. Note: The conserver and the picture hangers are included in the box.
Complete Puzzle Set comes in three themes: Ocean/Sea, Beaches, and Landscapes.
RRP 19.99




TSS Business of the month for September 2014 is DENMAN® International Limited

We cannot feature Denman International Limited without mentioning The Denroy Group. This group was formed in 1972 by Max Rainey and remains privately owned by the Rainey family. The group’s main headquarters is based in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. The Denroy Group consists of Denroy Plastics Limited – providers of precision plastic injection mouldings, as well as being the manufacturing arm of the famous DENMAN® range of hairbrushes and combs. Our business of the month Denman International Limited, deals solely with the supply, marketing and sales organisation sectors of the group.

Jack Dean

Jack Dean

DENMAN® is one of the most respected names in hairdressing worldwide. It was the late 1930s when Ulster man, John Denman Dean (known as Jack Dean) pictured above, first patented the classic Denman D3 brush. Back then, this well known brush was made from boar’s bristles and natural rubber, but Dean’s work during WWII brought him into contact with a new polymer at the time; a material that was a versatile and durable synthetic called Nylon.

After the war Dean established Denman Tools Limited and Denman Products Limited in Welwyn Garden City, England. It was only then that Dean was able to turn some of his attentions to commercializing the hairbrush product he had invented some years previous. Dean’s pioneering work, overall, not only with Nylon, but, more generally, polyethylene, was recognized in 1959 when he was awarded the ICI Alkathene Design Trophy.

Dean was lucky to possess dual skills and this reflected in his business accruement. He had proven that he was a quality engineer, but he was also very artistic. He went on to develop a range of new and innovative products across both companies. Denman Tools Ltd continued with the manufacture and supply of plastic mouldings for the plastics industry in general, and, after spending a long time consulting with leading hairdressers of the day, the hairdressing side of business (Denman Products) produced brushes and combs that were largely designed By hairdressers For hairdressers.

Denman 1964

The front & back cover of a Denman catalogue produced in 1964 to illustrate its current product range. Source – Facebook The Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust

Upon his retirement Dean returned to the place of his birth, Cushedall, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It was by pure coincidence it seems, that the two Denman companies were purchased by the Lyndsay & Williams Group who happened to locate Denman to Northern Ireland too.


Pictured is Denroy Group chairman John Rainey MBE Image source: http://www.hji.co.uk/

The name, Rainey is another important name in the history of Denman for the reasons we have already mentioned in the first paragraph. Pictured above is John Rainey chairman of the Denroy Group. This year John was awarded an MBE for outstanding contribution to economic development in Northern Ireland. The Group has provided employment for many people over the years, not just in Northern Ireland, but further afield, as Denman International also operates offices in London and Amsterdam, and has a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Denman Inc., based in Boston, USA.

So you see Jack Dean’s fabulously original hairbrush invention of 1938 was just the start!


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Sam Lee, Rachel and Becky Unthank credit Sarah Mason

A Time and Place: Musical Meditations on the First World War

A Time and Place is a World War One themed live event incorporating uniquely original folk music with both existing and new poetry; so the fantastic storytelling, in other words, is channeled through music and songs. The live projection is the work of Birmingham’s Matt Watkins (Gorillaz – Plastic Beach Tour).

In his intro Mercury prize nominee, Sam Lee – folk artist and singer, explained how he and his project collaborators, while down in South West England, had met with some of those who had been close to people who had passed on their firsthand accounts of their own experiences of World War One. The voice of a woman is heard recalling a conversation she held with an ex WW1 soldier. This recollection inspired the first song that is performed called Bideford Bridge.

I have seen a few fine examples of this kind of insightful approach taken with the transference of thought and the transformation of traditional pre-existing material being fused with new writing, singing and instrument playing, as well as technical input providing stimulus in both an aural and visual sense; but anything I have seen to date, following this kind of vein, has not been anywhere near as movingly beautiful as this work.

The poetry and writing from those war years, by poets Jessie Pope and Seigfried Sassoon for example, and the words Vera Brittain exchanged with her lover Roland Leighton who tragically never lived to read them, is still as raw, but respectively re-encapsulated and re-embodied.

The Unthanks

Rachel & Becky Unthank (The Unthanks)

Sam Lee has a soulful visual persona, and along with his co singers Rachel and Becky Unthank (The Unthanks), delivers gentle, harmonious vocals. Musically speaking the composition is a vital contribution to all that is beholden, as is the performance by the musicians. The words and the message may be sombre but the music is rolling and sometimes repetitive; the backing is “quite restrained and intimate” just as pianist Adrian McNally describes. The visual work does not juxtapose with what is going on particularly, but it definitely enhances nevertheless.

I have only reviewed music a handful of times, and last night was my second visit ever to Birmingham’s Town Hall building. I felt privileged to engage in this experience.

Reviewer, Debra Hall attended a performance of A Time and Place at Town Hall, Birmingham on Wednesday 17 September.

Black and White photography featuring Sam Lee and ‘The Unthanks’ by Sarah Mason


Becky & Rachel Unthank – Voice
Sam Lee – Voice
Adrian McNally – Piano
Nico Brown – Recorder, Mandolin, Concertina, Harmonica, Bodhran
Kath Ord – First Violin
Niopha Keegan – Second Violin
Becca Spencer – Viola
Francesca Ter Berg – Cello
Lizzie Jones – Trumpet
David Belshaw - Euphonium
Matthew Watkins – Visual Design

Propaganda Swing

Stage Review – Propaganda Swing

The curtain is already up at the very start and the scene is a radio station with live band. It is Berlin, 1939.

It is interesting for writer of this new play, Peter Arnott to pinpoint the positioning of Jazz music for those living and working under Third Reich rule at this time. The jazz scene was by now well established worldwide and Europe was no exception. Jazz, however, was of deep set American origin and had been written, toured and performed by black and Jewish people particularly, so this was something that was always going to be conflicting with the racist ideology of the National Socialist Party.

There was little room for sentimentality, in those dark days, when many had to watch their back for fear of recrimination in regard to their positioning in life, and of whom they chose to keep company with; and we are often reminded of this fact in the story line. Another story thread is the fast development of an ‘against all the odds’ love affair between the already married (for convenience rather than love) Lala Anderson (Miranda Wilford), and American broadcaster in Berlin – Billy Constant (Richard Conlon).

People have used various art forms to channel messages since time in memorial, so songs like ‘Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ which features, may seem like an innocent nursery rhyme with a jaunty tune, but was a definite smokescreen to rile and mock Hitler when performed and aired. But if the play is to inform us of anything, it tells us of the conscious decision made NOT to quash this particular music genre altogether by removing it from the airwaves in Germany, and that, instead, it was made to be more acceptable to the German State. So we learn that the State themselves took control and used the music’s popularity and its communication outlets to their own ends, while being particular in ensuring that band leaders and band members fitted a specific demographic profile they set out for themselves.

By the time war was announced, the discrimination of the Jewish people in Germany had been happening for a few years, so there are subjects, within a subject, to base a full length play on. So I was left considering if there is enough said and done within the script itself, and whether enough theatrical strategy has been followed through to do the subject justice.

I am still mulling over these things in my mind the morning after, and, strangely, I find it hard to put my finger on how and why I’m left feeling indifferent about this piece of work.

A good few positives: to be able to acknowledge the versatility of musician and actor, Clara Darcy having seen her in a previous incarnates is one, and to note the expert characterisation of Otto Stenzl by stage actor Chris Andrew Mellon, is another. The Art Deco set design is fantastic with lots of visible evidence of the hard work undertaken in that regard, and lastly, but by no means least, the live band of course, quality-driven, music played by members of a talented cast. Fifteen songs altogether, include Minnie The Moocher and You’re Driving Me Crazy.

At The Belgrade Theatre until September 27th – Details here

Reviewer, Debra Hall attended press night at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Tues 16 September. Review also published at Remotegoat stage

Photography by Robert Day


Propaganda Swing - Callum Coates as William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) - Robert Day

Propaganda Swing – Callum Coates as William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw)

Review of Ravensburger Puzzle entitled Peony Cottage (1000 pieces)

Peony Cottage
The Artist

You would be hard pushed to find illustrative work that is any more colourful and ‘busier’ than that by Howard Robinson. Robinson sets about drawing and painting using his masterful 2D skills and then he digitally enhances those designs. It is the one off final print that he produces which forms the original artwork. Robinson then licenses his designs for commercial use. Wildlife is what he depicts mostly. But we’ve all seen his work in some shape or form, whether it on stationery items, posters, greetings cards, tea towels, mugs, or jigsaws; Robinson’s sharp, boldly bright art is in all of our consciousnesses. Take a look at a range of designs by Howard Robinson on Pinterest we think you will see what we mean!

The Theme

British garden birds and insects; full bloomed flowers and fauna, and flower names in Cursive writing frame a large, red brick and tiled cottage, with glass and leaded windows which sits, centrally, within a country garden scene. Scenes like this one have been popular for many, many years on a jigsaw.

The Product

Rectangular in shape, measures: 69.9 x 49.7 cm approx on completion. The picture is a somewhat traditional puzzle pic, so if traditional is the main appeal you will not be disappointed, especially as the jigsaw is so well made and the pieces being so easy to handle.

Suitable from 12 years upwards – Not suitable for children under 36 months (small pieces).
RRP £11.99
What is in the box?
1000 premium pieces plus Artist’s biography and an additional puzzle picture for further referencing.

The Promoting
Peony Cottage is number 8 from a 1000 pieced jigsaw collection called ‘Country Cottage‘ from Ravensburger. Other flower named cottages from the Country Cottage Collection includes Tulip, Foxglove, Rose and Wisteria.

Ravensburger UK

This review will also appear at Ravensburger Puzzle club

Lenny Henry (Adam), Jeffrey Kissoon (Clifton). Larrington Walker (Rudy) and Lorna Gayle (Doreen) Rudy's Rare Records

Stage Review – Rudy’s Rare Records

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Lenny Henry is a treasured and well respected comedian, presenter, impressionist and a critically acclaimed actor. He is the person who is always bold in including racial issues in his comedy. Working behind the scenes alongside his creative collaborators, he has been co-writer of this project designed to bring the already established Rudy’s Rare Records Radio 4 show to the stage.

This production is currently running in The HOUSE at The Rep Birmingham and is a fabulous introduction to the autumn calendar, and a well chosen marker to celebrate one year on from the reopening of the theatre and the iconic library building next to it.

So to fit the occasion aptly, we must first recognize that Henry feels very much at home in Birmingham; although this is his first time at the theatre. This fun show provides a real trip back in time for its Birmingham audience. Throughout the 1970s Jamaican reggae was influencing a new generation; and it was wholly resonating in our UK lives at this time. A new fabric of life from our urban settings was being created; straight out of places like Handsworth … and in his own inimitable style, Henry delivers as Adam. Adam being the middle one of three generations of men from the same family, he is truly feeling the full weight of responsibility for both the elder and the younger member that is either side of him.

The comedy is a little corny, but the top laugh is always achieved because of the timing of the delivery and rhythm of the accents used, and we have wonderful, intelligent contribution from Larrington Walker (Rudy), Jeffrey Kissoon (Clifton) and Lorna Gayle (Doreen) who are playful and funny. These three are defiant and proud and a little mischievous, nevertheless there’s a thread of innocence and vulnerability running through the characterization. All six characters we witness being at odds and ends with themselves over a personal worry; including the youngsters Tasha and Richie, played by Natasha Godfrey and Jovian Wade respectively. In fact many elements are present to demonstrate very well the light and shade of life – and the reggae beat, the rapping, and the soulful sounds played live throughout by a fantastic four piece band, and vocalized and performed by members of the cast is pure icing on the cake.

I love Henry, he always captures a past that falls within living memory and we relate to it, that is why his comedy is so appealing and he never needs much of an excuse to exercise his ability to deliver a tune with his wide ranging vocal, or wiggle in the groove – Don’t ever Stop that messin’ around’ Lenny!

Photography by Robert Day

Review by Debra Hall, who attended Press Night on Tuesday 9th September at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Review also appears at Remotegoat Stage.

Note: Following its premiere in Birmingham Rudy’s Rare Record’s will run at Hackney Empire from 24 Sept – 5 Oct,