Things I learned from trekking in Cambodia

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Lloyds Walk the  Talk team photo

Mark Smith completed this challenge in October.  I was lucky enough to grab some time over  breakfast to talk about the trek itself. Here are some of his most memorable moments and observations:

1.Team spirit really, really works!

The hardest day was day 3 – a 16 mile walk with 1600 foot climb in 40 degree heat and very, very humid. The previous day the local guides had been chopping down the undergrowth to allow the group to get through the thick vegetation.  Sometimes we walked through sand and streams – it’s really tough walking on the sand. The support and encouragement  of the rest of the group was all that kept some people going yet everyone made it safely to the end of the day.


2. Blisters!

No need to say more here – some were so large I was seriously alarmed.


3. The scenery was stunning.

Most of the villages had Buddhist temples and we were able to camp in the shelter of their  pagodas. Because of the remote location, the water supply was often coloured. It was a treat to be able to take a dip in a river on the evening of day three. We didn’t really notice many insects but the size, colour and variety of the dragonflies and butterflies were amazing. Angkor Wat itself was an amazing experience and it is a major site for archaeological discoveries.


4. The Cambodians are incredibly welcoming.

The hospitality of the people was great. The children were on their school holidays, so would greet us as we approached their villages. They were always smiling.  We gave out hundreds of pencils so they could use them in school! One day of the walk it rained so hard everyone had to walk through running water. A local family offered shelter from a thunderstorm  in their house built on stilts. Everyone squeezed into the living room of their two bedroom house and all the mattresses were bundled into the smaller room so that everyone had enough room to sit down. After a couple of hours the storm abated and the walk could continue but everybody  left feeling very grateful for local hospitality.


5. Food is basic but delicious.

The variety of fruit and veg was huge, with most evening meals stews containing either rice or noodles. The local bananas were tiny and their oranges were coloured green.


6. There are no bin collections

This was a sad observation – it’s caused by visiting tourists. Any dropped  litter – mainly plastic water bottles and energy bar wrappers – is swept up by the local villagers, but simply deposited at the boundary between villages as there is no local infrastructure in place to collect or recycle waste.


7. Personal organisation

The challenge of doing this trek as a diabetic is do-able. Blood tests, insulin injections and tablets CAN all be managed in a jungle if you are sufficiently focused and organised!


Chatting to different members of the group revealed a variety of reasons for taking part and many had either suffered themselves from mental illness or seen close family members suffer. The group came from many different functions in the bank and many different pay grades but all were united in their commitment to raising money for this good cause. The 70 people in the two groups raised over 1/2 million pounds for Mental Health UK.









Meet Simon Davies of Spectra group

Spectra group has just been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation for its ‘Slingshot’ communications system. Spectra started when Simon moved into civilian life after 24 years in the army, where he worked in IT and communications in the Royal Signals. The business was initially set up as a one-man band, but now employs 35 people in Kingstone, Herefordshire.

The Queen’s Award is highly contested and is a noteworthy recognition of the outstanding commercial success that Spectra has achieved with their revolutionary system, SlingShot®.

SlingShot is a lightweight device that delivers game-changing capabilities to existing military and civilian radio networks.  When connected to military or commercial UHF/VHF radios, Slingshot extends their range from under 50 miles to potentially 1000s of miles by utilising the commercial satellite network. Versatile enough to be used in aircraft, vehicles, maritime platforms and by individuals on the ground, Spectra is successfully marketing SlingShot internationally for military and non-military use, such as emergency services and disaster-relief, with a capability that has proved to be of critical importance and has undoubtedly contributed to the saving of lives.

Simon has built the company around quality products and services using radio and satellite technology. For their customers in the defence & security or the emergency services, communication is vital – it must work the first time, every time. “Failure is not an option” says Simon.  As the company has grown, having the right calibre people in the business who share this vision of quality has become one of the major challenges for him. “We’re fairly lucky” he says “our staff have stayed around, and one third of them have been here for over 10 years, but we are always on the lookout for good people.

A second challenge is that which comes from working in the defence sector; where politics and defence budgets are closely aligned. Spectra sell to customers all over the globe, but it can occasionally take several years from meeting a new potential customer to getting everything agreed. “Budgeting within these organisations can be done 1, 2 or even 3 years out, so there is a very long lead time before we start to supply them” explains Simon. The reputation of the company is important, as different organisations talk to each other and share information. The company has worked on recruiting proactive distributors, who know individual countries and the business customs, culture and practices they follow, to enable them to supply each new market.

Spectra understand their competitive advantage in their marketplace. “It’s very useful at times to be an SME” says Simon “it means we can be flexible and agile in our approach, in a way that’s not always possible within larger organisations”. A great example of this is their Slingshot system, which took just a week to get to a working prototype stage and was on sale in under 8 months. The beauty of this product is that, although the satellite technology that makes it work is complex, people operating it find it very simple to use in practice. This advantage means the product gets many word of mouth recommendations.

Simon decided to support Mark Mental Health Marathon when his HR manager attended the inspiring Mental Health – Practical help your business seminar at Hereford Cathedral School. “This is an issue we’ll all have to deal with” says Simon “Obviously, as an ex-military man you are very aware of the impact the work in Afghanistan and Iraq had on the mental health of the personnel who served, but this is an issue that is growing in the whole of our society.

The future for Spectra will be to continue to grow organically, as Simon has turned down several offers of acquisition from larger corporations. The need to attend many international trade shows means his diary is always full but Simon relaxes by following horse racing and is comfortable with the balance of work and relaxation he achieves in this beautiful part of Herefordshire.


Marks Mental Health Marathon | Meet Simon Davies of Spectra Group

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Sponsor Spectra group

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

Marks Mental Health Marathon | 2019 Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

As the year draws to a close we’re delighted to welcome you to the 2019 Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints, in the heart of Worcester city centre.

Our friends at All Saints have kindly agreed to host what will be a fabulous event, so come and join us on Tuesday, 10th December to celebrate the festive season, catch up with friends and soak up the traditional candle-lit atmosphere at All Saints Church.

The Carol Service is the final event of 2019 which has seen your kind support help Lloyds Bank raise over £25,000 for Mental Health UK.  Thank you to everyone who has taken part in our awareness seminars, quizzes, art exhibitions and to those who have corporately or personally donated during the year.  Your encouragement has been hugely valued.This is our opportunity to say ‘thank-you’ and to bring together the Worcestershire business community to celebrate all that is good in this marvellous county.

This will be Lloyds Bank’s final 2019 event in support of Mental Health UK, where the huge generosity of the business community has raised over £25,000. Thank you for your
marvellous support! Mindful of the local needs of the county, there will be opportunity to support the Worcester Foodbank at a really important time of the year.

So we can make sure we have enough prosecco, nibbles and mulled-wine for everyone, please let us know how many from your business would like to come along and we’ll see you
there! Please email mark Smith with your business name and the contact email(s) of those attending.


5pm        Doors open, soak up the Christmas atmosphere and enjoy a glass of Prosecco

6pm        Candlelit service with your favourite carols, readings and the All Saints Christmas Choir

7 – 8pm  Christmas nibbles, mulled wine and a chance to chat with friends and business contacts you may not have seen for far too long!

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Rev Dr Rich Johnson|



Meet Darren Burge of Tudor Building Supplies

You often hear MDs of successful companies say, “My door is always open”. For the team at Tudors Building Supplies, that is literally true because the office door is propped, permanently, open and a warm welcome awaits you when you say hello to Darren. In fact, when I visited the builders’ merchant on Burcott Road in Hereford, no fewer than four people had already said hello to me and offered help whilst I was just getting from my car to his office! For me, it sums up Tudors perfectly – these people run a large, complex business on family friendly principles, and they really do know all their customers inside out.

Marks Mental health Marathon | Mark Smith with sponsors at Tudors

The business has grown from the original timber business in 1993, complete with sawmill, when there were 8 people working there. Today they supply ‘bricks and blocks’, roofing, kitchens and bathrooms with a staff of 48 across three sites in Hereford. It’s managed by the ‘gang of four’ (Darren, David Wilkins, Paul Hann and John Davies) all local to the Hereford area, who went through a management buy of out of business in 2008. It was during the buy out that they first worked with Mark Smith at Lloyds Bank and they have valued his advice and support ever since.

The directors, who are all very modest about their business success, attribute it to being a trusted, local Herefordian supplier. They know literally hundreds of their customers, most of them are small and medium sized family builders, always dealing with them on first name terms. A customers’ personal phone call to a director will result in a short conversation to agree the best specification of product followed by a confirmation to ship it to ‘the usual address’ at an agreed time. Despite trading with several thousand customers, a director will have an in-depth knowledge of every one. “It’s not possible for us to be the cheapest supplier for every product, every time” says Darren “so we always offer a fair deal plus great customer service –  something you cannot always get from buying online – and we’ll always get something for a customer if it isn’t in stock. We’re also reasonable about putting things right if necessary, although this is very rarely required “. The team are happy to do a local site visit to help a customer solve particular building challenges and they have expertise in dealing with repairs to many of the heritage buildings around the county. By building long term, trusted advisor status in the trade, the staff have established Tudors at the heart centre of the local Herefordshire community.Marks Mental Health Marathon | Garden landscape at Tudors

I asked what happens if they don’t all agree about a business decision, since the shares in the business are equal, with no-one holding a majority interest. “Real honesty is important” was the answer from Darren “and we usually have a chat over a pint and resolve the issue”. In fact, the only issue that keeps him awake at night is the future for their staff should there be an unexpected downturn in the housing market. As ‘family’, people are the most important factor in running this business.

The business has changed over the years, adding more products and retail showrooms for garden landscaping, kitchens and bathrooms, which means they are also open to the public, but their customer knowledge and great service has remained a constant. Behind the scenes there has been investment in new facilities such as showrooms and improving the layout of the yard, and a state-of-the-art stock and finance IT system has recently been installed.  This helps Tudors remain competitive on prices in a very competitive marketplace.

Marks Mental health marathon | Bathroom at Tudors showroom

It’s not possible to maintain outstanding customer service without the right staff in place and, over the years, Tudors have recruited and retained the best staff at the core of their business. Their management style and training opportunities result in staff staying with the business and gradually assuming greater responsibility and new roles. People that joined as drivers or apprentices are now managers in the sales office or running some of the retail showrooms. Staff stay because of the friendly workplace atmosphere and the approachability of their managers, making the workplace feel like one big family. That real open-door policy means staff can talk to a director, at any time in the working day, simply by popping their head around the door and asking for a few minutes of their time. “In the past we’ve been able to help and support members of the team when they hit a personal issue, whether this is due to physical or mental health, or a family matter” explains Darren “so we think we’re pretty approachable”.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Kitchens at Tudors

Community is very important to Tudors; they are very generous donating both their time and money to local charities. Darren is a big supporter of St Michael’s Hospice and Tudor sponsor their quarterly magazine. Tudors regularly send teams to support many charity golf days or quizzes and there will be a competitive team presence at the Marks Mental Health Hereford quiz night. Often, it’s practical help that’s required rather than donations and the Tudor team are happy to do their bit for a local school fete by donating something for the raffle. These guys are really part of the fabric of Hereford, not simply another large national company.

So, whether you are a trade or DIY customer, you can be sure of getting friendly advice from the guys at Tudors when they ask you “How can I help?”

Thanks to everyone at the Jeremy Houghton fundraiser at Webbs of Wychbold

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton, Louise Webb and Mark Smith

Mark Smith would like to extend a huge thank you to everybody who braved the rain on Thursday evening to attend the Jeremy Houghton art exhibition at Webbs of Wychbold.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Welcome to Webbs!

Guests were welcomed into the fabulous exhibition of art in the marquee with delicious nibbles, wine and local Worcestershire Piston gins, all provided by Webbs. During the evening there was a talk from Jeremy who shared his experiences of being artist in residence for Windsor Castle, doing a sketch for the Queen as a present, and with the RAF centenary commemorations. For the RAF art, he talked about developing a style that was timeless and how he was privileged to meet the four surviving battle of Britain pilots. He spoke about how he was inspired by visiting Africa and how he creates the image of movement for his subjects, including those famous flamingos.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton with Louise Webb

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Helen Hartery-Brown and Mark Smith

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Gill Hutchinson of Aardvark Marketing, Jeremy Houghton and Helen Hartery-Brown of Aitch and Aitch bee events


Marks Mental Health Marathon | Dan Cherry of Lloyds Bank organising the raffle

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton art exhibition at Webbs of Wychbold

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Getting ready to start

Mark is really delighted to announce that the generous contributions from the raffles, silent auction and from artist Jeremy Houghton will take him well over his £25,000 fundraising target!

Mark Smith trek progress

Cambodia  report – day 3

  • The group have finished Day 3! Svay Leu to Kulen Mountain – distance – approx. 24km; 7-8 hrs
  • Kulen Mountain (487m), Cambodia’s sacred mountain. Deeply revered, the local people make pilgrimages to the pagodas and ruins on the mountain top.  The camp overnight is near the falls and the group can bathe in the ‘River of 1000 Lingas’ and admire the elaborate carvings in the riverbed itself.
  • The trek is more remote at this point so we have lost internet connection, so no pictures from today but David Rowsell has been in touch via Satellite phone instead.
  • Very tough day today, still very hot with the added incline has meant the group got back to camp after nightfall. No injuries but lots of aching joints and blisters. The UK doctor is doing a great job of attending to these.
  • People are emotional but in good spirits and supporting each other.
  • High praise for the ground crew, checkpoints, cold water, food and campsites are all excellent and the guides are great.
  • Lots of helpful kit hints and tips passed on to Group 2 from David.
  • Lots of interaction with Cambodian people, chance to give out donations and immerse themselves in the local culture.
  • Rebecca Collins has still yet to be reunited with her bag, this has caused some upset for her because she was told she would have it back asap. There has been some miscommunication from the airline and Global on this. David is managing the situation closely and making sure it’s dealt with urgently and empathetically. I am liaising with Global in the UK to get this resolved in a timely and satisfactory manner.
  • No incidents, accidents or anything to report from the day.


Cambodia report – day 2

  • The group have finished Day 2 happy but tired!
  • The heat and humidity has hit them hard today and the route was shortened by 3km to adjust for flagging energy towards the end of the day
  • See the picture left of the terrain, not easy by any stretch of the imagination!
  • They participated in a traditional Buddhist Water blessing led by the local monks this morning. This proved to be a very special moment of reflection for many of them.
  • Quote from Kimberley Knowles (Bank Of Scotland) ‘I could never put into words how hot it is but there is an amazing sense of teamwork and looking out for each other to make sure we succeed as a team’
  • No incidents, accidents or anything to report from the day.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Walk the Talk Day 2


Cambodia report – day 1

  • Group 1 departed with no incident form Heathrow at 11.25am on Saturday the 5th. Rebecca Collins bag was lost en route (incident report attached). Her bag has been found and will be back with her tomorrow. She has borrowed enough from the group to get her going on the challenge and wore her boots on the plane.
  • First nights’ accommodation in hotel in Siem Reap, no incidents
  • Trek day 1 – Siem Reap to Wat Preash Bat Bum Tham – no incidents, everyone is happy and facilities are far exceeding people’s expectations
  • David Rowsell joined conference call via Sat phone and Wi-Fi comms up and running
  • Marks Mental health Marathon | Cambodia Wat

We’re off! After months of training and Boot camps, Mark Smith joins the rest of the Lloyds bank team on Saturday and below you’ll find photos from the start of their journey from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat.

If you’d like to sponsor Mark, click on this link to his JustGiving page.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Hotel reception Marks Mental Health Marathon | Hotel frontage Marks Mental Health Marathon | Relaxing by the pool.... Marks Mental Health Marathon | park

Marks Mental Health Marathon | In the park

Marks Mental Health Marathon | River scene Marks Mental Health Marathon | Shopping mall Marks Mental Health Marathon | Local streets 1 Marks Mental Health Marathon | Local streets 2 Marks Mental Health Marathon | Local streets 3 Marks Mental Health Marathon | Local streets 4


Thanks to everyone who attended the Mental Health Seminar at Malvern College

A big thank you to everyone who attended, especially our hosts, Malvern College and our speakers David Sculthorpe, from Mental Health UK, Rachel Roberts from Harrison Clarke Rickerbys, Sarah Angus from Malvern College  and Ian Smith of Bishop Fleming.

Gerry Crow from St Mary Stephen’s Hospice was one of the attendees. He said  “Even though I thanked you at the event this morning I just wanted to write to say thank you again for today. Everything seemed to be at just the right level; all the speakers were engaging and I left feeling that it was time extremely well spent. Please pass on my appreciation to everyone that took part in making it such a worthwhile experience.  I know my own perspective on mental health has changed dramatically over the last few years but also know there is still a lot more we all need to do; the seminar was just another piece of the very big puzzle. ”

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Ian Smith Chair of Bishop Fleming

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Sarah Angus of Malvern College

Marks Mental Health marathon | Keith Metcalfe, head at Malvern College

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Mark Smith of Lloyds Bank

The seminar was attended by around 70 local business people and we were delighted to welcome some of the Malvern College sixth form students during the morning. The raffle prizes had a sporting theme, thanks to generous donations of a signed Gloucester team rugby skirt from Gary Jones of Glevum Windows and tickets to watch Worcester Warriors. The raffle raised another £194 towards out total of £25,000.

If you missed the event, there is one more seminar coming up at Ross Park, Ross on Wye on Wednesday, 2nd October at 2pm until 5pm. To book your place email  and put Ross 2nd October in the email.


Jeremy Houghton art exhibition supports Marks Mental Health Marathon

Mark Smith is delighted to announce that renowned local artist Jeremy Houghton will be exhibiting his latest works of art at Webbs of Wychbold on Thursday, 17th October and donating a percentage of his sales to the charity.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 1

“Jeremy and I were friends at school and have known each other for over 30 years” says Ed Webb, “so of course we’re very pleased we can help Mental Health UK by hosting this exciting fundraising event here at Webbs.”   As a large local employer, Webbs takes the mental health of its employees seriously, with a variety of support available for all staff. Webbs have just been recognised with an ’Excellence in Wellbeing Award’ through the Great Places to Work scheme.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 2

Jeremy Houghton is a British painter whose work attempts to capture movement and journeys. With a career marked by contrasting experiences and places (he studied in France and then worked for a number of years in South Africa), as well as a long-standing commitment to the countryside, Houghton’s work spans a broad spectrum – from the arresting drama of dynamic sports to the ever-changing patterns of migrating flamingos.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 3

Since he began to paint full-time in the mid-2000s, Houghton has divided his practice between creating standalone pieces in the studio using reference photographs and sketches and producing work via documentary residences. Over the last ten years he has been invited to detail the life of a number of high-profile communities, from those at Windsor Castle and Highgrove to last year’s Wimbledon championships, and the competitors at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Last year, inspired by the centenary of the RAF he sketched former airmen from WW2. With each of these projects Houghton is interested in getting beyond public perception, documenting instead the everyday scenes that characterise an event or place.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 4

Although Houghton’s focus ranges quite widely, his technique remains a constant. Emphasis on painted shapes of light and space, (or unpainted paper with his watercolours), contrasting against areas of liquid colour enables his subjects to shimmer in the liminal territory between figuration and abstraction. With extraneous detail removed, the paintings are also hard to place, giving them an ahistorical quality that serves to underline their fluidity.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 5.1

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 5.2

Houghton continually explores the potential of negative space to represent light, and often references ma, the concept in Japanese aesthetics that translates roughly as ‘gap’ or ‘pause’, and which in traditional practice helps balance the relationship between different areas of an image. This focus on the space between things lends his paintings, even when they are of something as solid as a horse or a racing boat, a surprising delicacy. Houghton holds his subjects on a very thin, almost invisible line between motion and the ability to transcend time.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 6

Marks Mental Health Marathon was started by Mark Smith of Lloyds bank, who is raising money for Mental Health UK to allow them to support more people going through challenging times with mental health issues. He is organising a series of local seminars for business owners to learn more about the practical steps they can take in their business to support their teams should they encounter someone in need of help.

Marks mental Health Marathon | Jeremy Houghton 12

How can I serve? The Rev Dr Rich Johnson talks about modern ministry and mental health

The parish of All Saints at the heart of Worcester city is one of the oldest in the city.  It now uses two buildings. St Helen’s, a 15th century church building occupies a site used for worship since Roman times. You may have seen the scaffold wrap artwork on the High Street earlier this year, part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project that enabled much needed stonework repairs to be made. All Saints on Deansway is the historic parish church built into the city walls in Norman times.  Worship services are now held in both buildings. Although the buildings are steeped in history, there is absolutely nothing old fashioned about this very modern pastoral team with it’s drive and enthusiasm for creating social support in the community.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Rev Dr Rich Johnson|

The parish of All Saints at the heart of Worcester city is one of the oldest in the city.  It now uses two buildings. St Helen’s, a 15th century church building occupies a site used for worship since Roman times. You may have seen the scaffold wrap artwork on the High Street earlier this year, part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project that enabled much needed stonework repairs to be made. All Saints on Deansway is the historic parish church built into the city walls in Norman times.  Worship services are now held in both buildings. Although the buildings are steeped in history, there is absolutely nothing old fashioned about this very modern pastoral team with it’s drive and enthusiasm for creating social support in the community.

The church is now one of the largest in the Diocese of Worcester, not only with many adults, but welcoming students, teenagers and children into the community. After the second world war many of the houses in the parish were demolished, scattering the previous community of dockers and porcelain workers and their families, so the congregation fell. Today the church, with its own distinctive style of less formal, contemporary worship, has gone from strength to strength.

Rich brings his own leadership style to his role, heading up a team of “brilliant” and committed individuals, whether they are volunteers or staff. He describes his methods as “equip, envision, empower and release”.  He’s currently supporting Mark Smith of Lloyds Bank to give back to the business community as well as raising money for Mental Health UK. Mark has set himself a target for fundraising but also important to him is that business leaders and managers in his area know more about Mental Health issues and have some clear guidance to follow if necessary. It was at one of these seminars for business that I met Rich, who had come to both learn more from the speakers and to support Mark and his project. The seminars address practical steps such as how to spot potential problems in their own teams and how to provide the right supportive working environment to minimise the impact on that individual, their colleagues and their families.

By supporting others, All Saints seeks to serve the Worcester community in so many ways. A key question Rich asks when evaluating how the church is developing is “If we shut down overnight, would the city miss us?”.   Increasingly, the answer is yes.  Rich and his team work with people who have the vision, commitment and passion to succeed and help them with practical support to get projects started and developed. In this way the church set up and now runs the Worcester Foodbank, Worcester Street Pastors, supports homeless people, those fostering and adopting, schools, colleges and individual students with mental health resilience courses. The Foodbank even provides necessities such as school shoes and toys for birthdays and at Christmas to children whose families would otherwise genuinely struggle to get by.

The list of organisations where Rich and his team are known and respected is large and includes the County Council, local schools, Worcester Community Trust, Worcester BID, local business leaders, local MP’s, local police etc. By building networks across these organisations, the church is collaborating with others to help achieve something that is both worthwhile and makes a real difference to local people. Rich sees his role as a trusted partner not only to listen and participate but also to challenge. He talks to me about Desmond Tutu, who said “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Because the Church is uniquely placed to talk with all these organisations, it’s able to bring its in-depth, local knowledge of the causes of the issues that adversely affect individuals and their families in modern life. This understanding allows them to ask the ‘awkward’ or ‘brave’ questions of politicians and civic authorities so that their decision making is better informed.

For so many people in need of social support networks, poor mental health is a common denominator. Rich works hard to listen and understand why so many people, not just our students, teenagers and young people are struggling. It’s clear that social media and the pressure of growing up in the public eye has much to answer for. Rich talks about digital addiction, hyperconsumerism, eating disorders, self-harming issues, anxiety and depression and believes it’s this central issue of defining our identity and who we are for ourselves that is important. We almost need to learn to define ourselves and our worth in society without constant reference to how we appear to others online. He plays a very active role in listening to youngsters, works closely with local schools, colleges and universities and some of his team actively provide support and counselling to help youngsters understand themselves better and be comfortable with their identity.

Striking the right balance between being helpful and being a prophetic challenge can be difficult and it’s possible for the public, outside the church, to dismiss the role of a church because it is often perceived as judgemental or interfering. Rich believes that to help someone you need to be there in the same room and to accept that no-one person or organisation will have all the answers. Their role is to offer some solutions, invite people in and become a part of the answer. For example, by listening to many young people who come to an individual drop in, he can give anonymous feedback to a school leader about issues that could be part of their Personal, Health and Social education (PSE) syllabus. Young people are therefore getting a chance to explore and learn about something that has affected or will affect them or their peers, so they are better prepared for the future. The team also talk to parents, for example by providing workshops helping parents understand how to help their kids navigate the digital world safely or attending a parents evening at a school. It’s exploring and implementing these very practical steps that have transformed this ministry.

“The first step to helping is to be empathetic” says Rich.” Everyone has experienced times when they are stressed, anxious or are feeling low in themselves. It’s when people are put in situations, often beyond their control, that cause a change from occasional worries into something more chronic and serious that they need more specialised help”. Many in society have lost the traditional family support networks, so the Church’s pastoral team need to be listening and thinking, ‘what can we do differently that will improve matters?’ because we are all in this together. By doing this humbly and consistently, over time, we build the credibility and permission to get involved.

This team certainly make a difference to Worcester and their work never stands still. After discussion with Mark Smith, he will be extending a very warm welcome to the business community with a special Carol service on Tuesday, 10th December at 6 o clock in All Saints – we hope to see many readers of this blog join us then.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Rich Johnson of All Saints Worcester

Thank you to teams at the Big Quiz at Hereford Cathedral School

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK

Mark Smith and the Lloyds bank team wish to say “Thank you” to everyone who had fun supporting the Big Quiz evening on Thursday, 12th September at Hereford Cathedral School in aid of Mental Health UK.  The night raised an amazing £4,200  for the charity which will be funding much needed support, advice and information for people affected by mental health conditions.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 2

Quizmasters Richard and Ian challenged the teams on latest news, sports, music so it was a great opportunity to get the ‘little grey cells’ back to work after the holiday season. As ever with these events, some of the teams got very competitive whilst others just enjoyed themselves. The winning team was Dawleys A, from Dawley Services Ltd, who finally came realised their ambition to be first after being quiz night runners up not once but twice before. Andrew Perrett, partner at Gabbs carried off the raffle prize of a night for two at the award-winning Broadway Hotel.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 4

If you missed it, don’t worry, there is a second Big Quiz coming up on 21st November in Pershore. Book at place for your team by emailing and making your £60 donation to the Justgiving site


Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 6

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 7

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 5

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 8


Marks Mental Health Marathon | Big Quiz night on 12th September in aid of Mental Health UK 3