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A Macmillan Bake Sale

A Macmillan Bake Sale

A Macmillan bake sale in the office was a huge deal for me to organise as the newest member of Focus! I knew that I wanted it to be building wide to be able to fundraise as much as possible but I had no idea if I'd be allowed or how a bake sale would go down in the building.

I got it organised with the office manager and then popped a message around the team to let them know my plan and in true Focus fashion they all rallied around and offered to bake some goodies and spend their pennies at the sale.

Monday night baking

Monday night baking turned into very late night baking, after I'd declared enough was enough when fantastically simple recipe of three ingredients including eggs - ended up catapulting across the kitchen. Luckily the majority of my mixture remained completely unscathed. The rest of my kitchen however was plastered in egg and chunks of cottage cheese, including myself. I cleaned up the mess and waited for the mini savory muffins to bake, swearing that this was a bad idea!

Tuesday night baking 

Determined to finish day two's baking on a high, I hopped back into the kitchen and started with rolling out the cookie dough I'd prepared the night before. The team started sending through photos of their baked goodies, spurring me on throughout the evening. The cookies were baked, the cupcakes came out well and the flapjacks were looking good. With just decorating and topping to do I was feeling positive. As I began piping the chocolate fudge icing onto the cupcakes I couldn't believe how well everything was going, then I had a sudden realisation.

Yes, all the baking was done but how was I supposed to transport it all to the office the next morning!?

I started rambling through my tupperware cupboard pulling out every viable tub and container I could find. Those, plus, a huge amount of greaseproof paper and tin foil saw me packaging my baked goodies ready for their journey on the train with me in the morning!

The big day!

Coming into the office, carrying my height in baked goods, was a challenge but seeing that the team had their contributions to the sale in hand made my morning. We had choc chip cookies from Frances, brownies from Dan, cupcakes from Annette, Shaun the sheep and cookie monster cupcakes from Jordana and Simon had sent a lovely cookies and cream cake to add to the collection too, it was a fantastic spread and a great display of teamwork.

Cookie monster and shaun the sheep cupcakes

As 11 o'clock approached the team and I took everything downstairs to the communal area to set up. 11 o'clock hadn't even swung by before people started arriving, we didn't even have time to grab a pre-sale set up photo. It was great - for the first 45 minutes people kept flooding in and we raised over £75 in that short amount of time - incredible. As the turn out slowed down I set up an honesty box as my replacement, it was after all, a working day.




3 tiers of lovely bake sale cakes

Later, in the afternoon, I went down to check progress. After a slow lunchtime, I brought the rest of the sale up to our floor making the last of our baked goodies a little more exclusive for the final hours. It was definitely the right thing to do, as the cakes began to fly again as everyone on the floor seemingly emerged for their midafternoon coffee, realising they could also do with a sweet snack.

We started the day with 3 tables full of various baked goods and finished with just one box. When all the goodies were we finished on a whopping total of £154.07, I couldn't have been happier - what an event - what a great example of teamwork.

Steph Liddington

Created on Thursday August 15 2019 12:00 PM

Tags: macmillancancersupport fundraising officefun adayatfocus bakesale

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Hex colour codes explained the quick way

Hex colour codes explained the quick way

When I tell people I’m a graphic designer the most common response is an enthusiastic “So you design logos and stuff?” - always the logos, what’s up with that? Much less interest in the digital solutions provided with websites and apps but at least they’re excited about my job.

It beats the common assumption many make: that I can fix computers. You should see the disappointment on people’s faces when I can’t tell them why their laptop won’t turn on. Umm… is it charged? Yes? Then I’m all out of ideas.

Similarly, as the designer at focus, I felt like a bit of a let-down when I could only loosely answer a question from a curious colleague: “How do you think they decide on the hex colour codes?”

Turns out staring at someone blankly then googling the answer is a conversation killer. But now I’m armed with that knowledge should someone ask me again. What’s that you say? How do they decide on the hex colour codes? Allow me to explain as quickly and clearly as possible. I hope you’re sitting comfortably, this might be a bumpy ride…


So what is a hex colour?

Hex is short for hexadecimal. You might recognise these, #0000FF for example represents a shade of red. There are sixteen possible characters, these are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E and F.

Each of the characters represent an integer (a number that is not  fraction) from zero to fifteen. Here’s how we go about converting integers in to hexadecimals.

As an example we’ll convert the number 255 to a hexadecimal. To do this we first divide 255 by 16 (the number of available characters). The result is 15 with a remainder of 15. If you look at the chart above 15 is F.

We put aside the remainder figure (15) for a moment and divide the resulting 15 by 16 which is 0 with a remainder of 15. We already know 15 translates to F.

So now we have nothing left to divide, these figures we’ve been putting aside go together in reverse order (please don’t ask why, I’m not sure either of us could handle the answer to this too) and you get FF.


What is RGB?

To help you understand the rest I’ll have to briefly summarise RGB value. At this point I have to hope you’re even still with me but for those of you who are, I promise we’re getting somewhere with this!

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. The RGB value of that same red used in the hex example above would look like this: rgb (255, 0, 0) the first number represents red, the second green, and yep you guessed it the third, blue. The values range between 0 and 255.

Simply put, the hex code is created by applying the swanky little mathematical method I just explained to you, to each individual RGB property.  R = 255 which we now know translates to hexadecimal as #FF. You’d then do the same calculation for green (G) which is zero so presented in two figures is 00, value of B is also zero, so that’s 00. Giving us hex colour #FF0000 which is the exact same red as rgb (255, 0, 0).


Stop the clock!

How did I do? If you have any questions about this article you’re not the only one, I mean, please feel free to get in touch.


Jordana Jeffrey

Created on Wednesday August 07 2019 08:00 AM

Tags: webdesign design

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Market Responsibly

Market Responsibly

When the moon is in the seventh house and enough calendar weeks have passed, you will receive a certain type of email. We all will.

“It’s payday! Treat yourself!” 

“It’s a Payday Party"

“Payday is here!”

“Your wallet will thank you”

“Go all out this payday”

“The only thing better than payday: Sale”

“What are you doing spending your hard-earned money on food and shelter? Spend it all! Here. Now”

I may have made that last one up - the rest are very real - but are they responsible?

To market, to market

Email marketing can be great. It can be used to spread the word about a product, a service, a movement or even an idea. The question is not whether we should all be using the power of email to shout about the great things we’ve been working on, we most certainly should - the question is "are we doing so responsibly?"

Modern advertising dates back to the 19th century and now we may laugh at the old newspaper ads that bluntly told readers they were frail, stupid, smelly and useless but this new product or service would change all of that. In this, the 21st century, we like to think that we’ve moved past the bullish world of ‘Buy my product, or else’ marketing, especially as we have so much choice now. We’re not restricted to one brand of soap, one broadband provider, one estate agent - we have options. 

Burning a hole in your pocket

So a lot of B2C marketing has changed tack. Now that a department store may not be the only place locally that you could purchase a new t-shirt and they can’t claim that it’s the best t-shirt you’ll ever own, there’s an ongoing trend of ‘why not?’ You just got paid, you may have some disposable income, why not buy this t-shirt from this department store?

One may argue that the customer doesn’t have to sign up for the emails and they certainly don’t have to buy the product but is it right that every time pay day rolls around, we should be inundated with messages that amount to ‘I know you have money, send it our way’? 

Vote with your £

Many people have a limited budget each month and they are voting with every pound they spend. Each email is a rallying cry of ‘vote for me!’ Throw in a limited time offer and many are powerless to resist, but is that good for the company? The customer may have money now but what about when they don’t? Will they stay loyal to a brand when they purchased purely for the sake of it?

Can a company truly say that it has faith in its product if it markets not on the strengths of that product but on the customer’s access to funds? 

Is it fair to ask someone to buy from you purely because they can?

Playing to strengths 

If marketing focuses on the strengths of what they are selling first then the customer can properly weigh it up against other options. If you’re offering something and you’ve clearly demonstrated why it’s great and your direct competitor's only message is ’Spend it here!’ Then you’ve offered the more compelling argument. 

Hopefully then we’ll arrive at a place where we all shout about the merit of our products and services, not merely that we know the customer has money. 



Frances Smolinski

Created on Wednesday July 31 2019 08:00 AM


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Dyslexia friendly websites, are you thinking of the 10%?

Dyslexia friendly websites, are you thinking of the 10%?

Lately I have been thinking, if 10% (6.68 million) of the UK population are dyslexic why is making a website dyslexia friendly not as important as providing a site in different languages?

Dyslexia awareness has come a long way since I was a child, I remember being told “you’re just a bit stupid” when I struggled in school, as society’s awareness increases,  I can see that those days are far behind us. Dyslexia affects a persons ability to learn, read, and spell, but it’s not related to intelligence, and charities such as, backed by Richard Branson, have done a great job at promoting and changing public perception.

What’s the problem?
One of the most common traits of people with dyslexia is difficulty reading. Dyslexics read at an average of 50 - 150 words per a minute, the average reading speed of a non-dyslexic is 250 words per minute. There are interactive examples, such as Dan Britton’s typeface that let you experience what reading is like for someone with dyslexia. 

Whether you have an Ecommerce site or a wiki, you want everybody to find it easy to read the content you provide.

What can be done? A few simple steps:
Research from Dyslexia Help has found that there are certain font types that have an impact on reading speeds for people with dyslexia. A font has been specially developed called ‘OpenDyslexic’ to give optimum reading speed. Although this is down to the preference of the user, some of the best fonts for an increase in reading speed are Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana, CMU, Sans Serif, Monospaced, and Roman Font.

When it comes to colour, contrast is an important factor for a dyslexic. Generally, people with dyslexia find it difficult to read with high contrast levels and read faster when contrast levels are lower. The standard black text on a white background is not beneficial to people with dyslexia as it can appear too dazzling. Off-whites and pastel colours are generally a good alternative to white and offer a lower contrast.

Icons / Pictures
The phrase; ”a picture paints a thousand words” can most definitely be applied to a dyslexia friendly website. Pictures and icons are a dyslexic's best friend, if you can you use an icon in place of text then this can drastically reduce the time that a dyslexic user spends trying to work out what it is on the page.

In school exams dyslexics are given 25% extra time. Therefore it’s good practice to apply the same rule to moving elements on your site, such as carousels, so that they have time to read and process the content.

These are just some small, simple changes - but there is far more that can be done, just check out the British Dyslexia Association for a full style guide.


Dan Stephenson

Created on Thursday July 04 2019 12:05 PM

Tags: website accessibility disability content contentstrategy screenreader webdesign

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Your web presence - are you doing enough?

Do more. Mac on desk workspace

What is web presence?

Web presence in a nutshell is all things digital that represent and showcase your business or organisation and brand online.

This can include your website, targeted email campaigns, regular e-newsletters, digital branding; where areas of your branding is adapted for web use, this should match any physical or offline branding but be optimised for web use such as colours, logo size and quality or fonts. Web presence also includes the following:

·Social media, the use of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or online networking through LinkedIn to build reach.

·Content; On page, regular blog posts or videos.

·Organic Search on and off site, or PPC campaigns through Google or even Facebook depending upon your audience.

Importance of an online presence

Why is this so important? Well, your web presence is your voice before a prospect gets to talk to you, it is your virtual shop window. It creates a platform for businesses and organisations to strengthen their brand and entice prospects.

A professional looking site has the potential to level the playing field between the smaller and larger businesses.

Your web presence is where you can raise your creditability, show your expertise within your industry and increase the trust and authority you hold over any niche services.

I hear a lot of people say that they gain their new business through referrals. Well that may well be true, but that referral will more than likely check the website to ensure they do in fact offer what the referred person needs. For example, when someone recommends a restaurant or hotel you most likely check it out on TripAdvisor and go through their website too. If they didn't have a website or had no offsite reviews or social media presence at all would you trust that referral? Probably not, you would click else where just as this prospect would.

Your website needs to showcase your brand, who you work with, what you do and how you do it and the other avenues of your web presence should align to this too. This in turn will aid the sustainability and growth of the business.

B2B customers get up to 70% of the way through the buying journey before they're ready to talk to anyone about making a purchase and the average paying customer will have had 7 touch points before converting. These touch points can vary in platform hence why the web presence is so important. They may read a leaflet, see a post on Facebook, follow you on other social media channels, sign up to a newsletter, visit a shop and have numerous visits to the website, all before making a purchase or signing up for a service. For 81% of people looking to make a purchase they will look to the internet, if you aren't there then that potential customer will find someone who is.

To stay ahead of the game with this trend you need to show up in the initial research phase which will most likely include a Google search and looking through the first few organic rankings. You should also have a fast loading, easy to use, responsive website that has https on any data gathering pages at the very least. Having reviews or case studies available to users and relevant, engaging content can also be a real game changer in conversion rates for you.

Working on digital content

Doing enough?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether you are doing enough with your web presence. No one expects a business or organisation to necessarily be covering every point that's been mentioned within this post. Generally speaking, to get going you need a good website that is built professionally so that it can achieve what you want it to, is fully responsive and secure (https) that is then filled with engaging, relevant content.

Having a blog as part of your website is a great way to keep people coming back as you can let them know when new content has arrived. You can use a blog to promote certain products and services or tell customers and prospects what the company has been up to! As part of this content (including blogging) there should be potential to cover some on site SEO (search engine optimisation) this can be done by creating on page quality content that covers services, products or information that you want to rank for. The rest of this can be done with the set-up of your site or through most CMS (content management systems) post going live.

It is also best to set up a Google my business profile and ensure all the details match those of your website. Finally having some sort of social media presence is becoming more and more important and relevant. Rather than trying to cover every platform choose one or two that seem good for your audience and master them through regular posting of great content and sharing of other relevant content that you may come across. Remember you can do PPC campaigns on social so when you feel confident and have some budget for extra marketing they can be a great area to expand into.

Talk to us more about your web presence and how you're doing by emailing: or and we'll organise a call.

Being Content with Content

Being Content with Content

You’ve built the website, the client loves it and the early stages of testing are looking promising, there’s just one problem – you don’t have any real content.

The word ‘content’ can be daunting and overarching. There’s an entire website/app/platform and somebody needs to fill it with engaging, witty, relevant words and images that will bring users from far and wide. No pressure then.

What is content?

Content can be used as a catchall term but at its core it is information – pages, events, blogs, videos, illustrations, graphs, photos can all be described as ‘content’.

Without it, most websites would be a series of shapes and colours that didn’t communicate anything.

Staring into the abyss

Timing is crucial. Get the content as early as you can. If the site is replacing an old one and the client already has content, fantastic, ask them to send it to you as soon as they can. This is mutually beneficial as it can be used to influence the design and they can see it in situ to get a feel for how the finished site will look.

Whether you have content already, or you’re starting from scratch, the first step to dealing with the content behemoth is to break it down. Break it into small, manageable steps and then break it down again. Figure out what type of information you need for each page type, and what format it needs to be in. Then make a list of the minimum amount of content you need to launch.

For instance, if your new website has events, news and cms pages you may need a minimum of 3 upcoming events, 3 news stories and 17 specific pages of information.


Bridging the divide

Now that you know what you need, you need to know who is responsible for creating it. If you’re working from the ground up, you may need to assign content. Perhaps you, as the digital agency will be writing some of the support documents, such as a list of cookies used and the client is doing the rest? Maybe the client has the words but they need some help with the images? Maybe they have it all in hand.

Figure out what is being created, or sourced by who and keep track as your content folder starts to fill.

Writer’s Block

You may be met with resistance ‘I’m not a writer’, ‘I don’t know what I want to say’, ‘There’s too much to do in the time frame’. If you’ve worked out the minimum amount of content you need and who’s creating it, all that’s left is to know what you want to communicate and who you want to communicate it to.

If you have a page of fact sheets, maybe a bulleted list of links is the way to go? If you’re reporting on a recent workshop, perhaps a captioned video with a small amount of text underneath.

Being content

The most important thing is to factor it in. It’s all too easy to spend hours building a beautiful backend, throw yourself into absolutely nailing the CSS and then discover that there’s nothing to fill the page but 3 stock images and some well-placed lorem ipsum.

Don’t be complacent about content – you want users to come to your website for the content and stay for the excellent UI.

Frances Smolinski

Created on Wednesday June 26 2019 08:00 AM

Tags: website web-design content contentstrategy

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We love our customers :)

We love our customers :)

Recently some of the Focus team attended an event where we spoke about the work we do and the way do it.

It made me realise that one of the most rewarding elements of my role is our ongoing customer relationships. We've worked with many of our customers for several years, and developed trusted and enjoyable relationships with their teams. Because of this, we keep in regular contact, and review their Website or App progress, report on and explain Analytics, gain yours - and your end-user's - feedback, and hold consultation sessions to ensure regular and angling improvement and development. It's this deep understanding and commitment that means we continually improve and enhance our digital solutions for you, because we understand your needs, objectives and KPIs. We also understand digital - so it really is a winning combination :-)

I talked honesty and passionately about this at the event - and it wasn’t hard because it’s completely true. How lucky am I to have a job that I genuinely enjoy and that sincerely matters to me - and to work with such an engaged and enthusiastic team.

Annette Ryske

Created on Thursday June 20 2019 12:17 PM

Tags: clientservices

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18th Century Mathematician Helps Us Check An Algorithm

18th Century Mathematician Helps Us Check An Algorithm

The other day, I was discussing with one of the developers here at Focus how to approach a problem whereby we’d send off a message to a third party software service, and we wanted to know when they’d processed our message.

The problem was: we didn’t know exactly how long it would take - perhaps it would be a few seconds, perhaps a minute or more - but it seemed unlikely (from our testing) to take more than a few minutes.

We could have checked to see if they were finished every second, but that seemed a little too often - but we did want to know fairly quickly, so we didn’t want to wait minutes before checking.

We decided on a solution of a simple “backing-off” algorithm - we’d check, wait 1 second, check, wait 2 seconds, check, wait 3 seconds, check, and so on.

This means that if the process does take a while, we get gradually more relaxed about checking again as time goes on; after the 30th check, we wait 30 seconds before checking again.

(Significantly more advanced approaches may be used for this kind of algorithm, but this simple approach seemed good enough here.)

However, I thought we should sanity check ourselves - if we allowed, say, 50 of these checks, how long are we waiting at a maximum? A few minutes? An hour? Several hours? More? How can we tell?

Carl Friedrich Gauss

Gauss was an 18th Century mathematician who made a large number of contributions to many fields in maths and science, and demonstrated his skills from an early age.

There is an anecdote, which may or may not be true, but remains a good story, that whilst at primary school, his teacher asked him (perhaps to “keep him quiet” for a while!) to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100.

His teacher, we can assume, thought it would take him quite some time  to add 1 plus 2 (3), plus 3 (6), plus 4 (10), plus 5 (15), plus 6 (21) ... and so on - and of course the additions would get harder as you went onwards.

The teacher was therefore rather surprised when Gauss gave the correct answer - 5,050 - within just a few seconds.

Gauss had realised that, if you imagine the sequence of numbers in a line, the first and last numbers - 1 and 100 - when added, would produce 101. Imagine, then, the next pair inwards - 2 and 99 - they also add up to 101. So does the next pair - 3 and 98 - 4 and 97 - 5 and 96 - and so on.

In effect, you’re adding 50 pairs of numbers, all of which add up to 101.

50 times 101 is 5,050, as a primary school child can indeed tell you. (A theory I’ve tested successfully on my youngest primary school child!)

Back to our algorithm

Our problem is, of course, the same - we’re adding 1 second + 2 seconds + 3 seconds and so on, up to 50.

So, we have 25 pairs of numbers, each adding up to 51.

25 times 51 = 1,275 seconds, which equals just over 21 minutes.

This seems to fit our requirements well - 20 minutes is a fair amount of time to wait - if the third party service isn’t complete by then, it seems reasonable to assume it’s failed, and we can take the appropriate steps to follow-up manually.

Thanks, Carl

Whether or not the anecdote is true, exaggerated or apocryphal, it’s a lovely example of how a little clever thinking can make what seems like a slow manual process (adding 1, plus 2, plus 3, plus 4, plus 5 .. and so on ...) into a fairly straightforward calculation.

If you’d like the team here at This is Focus to see if we can find any clever solutions to your manual business processes, please do get in touch with us!

(Image from Wikipedia, in the public domain.)

Neil Smith

Created on Tuesday June 18 2019 09:35 AM

Tags: programming

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There are 3 responses to design - yes, no and WOW!

There are 3 responses to design - yes, no and WOW!

“Create a professional logo in minutes with our free logo maker!” - Stop where you are!... now back away slowly before the ‘free’ logo wrecker maker lures you in and costs you money and your credibility.

I can’t deny they can be pretty fun to play with but your organisation or cause is not a game. A logo is one of the most important branding investments a business can make. It defines you. It’s the key to creating a powerful brand.

If you’re thinking big the goal is of course instant recognition without the need to see the name. As a graphic designer Apple’s apple with a bite taken out of it fills me with a joy I ought to be embarrassed to admit (fortunately for this blog I have no shame).

Multinational companies can spend millions on their logos. BP spent £136m on its sunflower design they’ve had almost 20 years of use out of. Longevity in logo design is key. Other big firms with a logo made up simply of their name written in stylised text can spend hundreds of thousands on a new font, or different colour. I’m not suggesting you need to spend obscene amounts of money for a logo to be successful but it does need thought, it needs meaning then it will serve its purpose.

Find a good creative team that’s in it for the right reasons and before you know it you’ll be looking down your nose at the Starbucks mermaid and still have the money to buy a Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato.

If you’re looking to create a brand or rebrand an existing one, keep in mind a good logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical, graphic and simple in form. Here are a few principles to follow throughout the process. Make sure it is: 

  • Simple - simplicity is versatile and sits clearly on promotional material of all sizes, it’s easily recognised and memorable
  • Memorable - distinct, clear, unique logos will provoke immediate association and be remembered for years
  • Timeless - avoid elements that date i.e. a computer icon. Trends change, consider whether it will be effective in 5+ years
  • Versatile - Does it work in black and white? Scaled up or down your logo should still be effective, picture it on a pen and a billboard
  • Appropriate - Who will see it? Is it appropriate for it’s intended audience? You may consider a funky font for young people but ensure it’s not condescending 

Your logo is how people recognise you, it helps express how you're different from others - warmer, greener, stronger, and so on. People need a visual to help build the impression you want to create.

As Milton Glaser, designer of the I ❤ NY logo, once said “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW!” aim for wow with a creative team that understands you and what you want to achieve, and they’ll help you do just that. If you think focus can help you achieve your digital goals, why not start the process and get in touch?

Jordana Jeffrey

Created on Wednesday June 05 2019 10:53 AM


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Welcome Stephanie!

Hi I’m Stephanie, or Steph, the new Account Manager here at Focus. I’ve just about finished setting my new laptop up (I’m the only one in the office to choose Windows over a MacBook!), I’ve sorted my desk out how I like it and am done with all the various downloading, signing up and signing in that needs to be done. I’ve read all those first day documents and have started looking at some of our clients and the work we do with them.

I’m so excited to get stuck in and start helping our local authority clients. No doubt a few of you will hear from me soon or see me in various project meetings as I’m sure I’ll be out and about visiting on a regular basis.

Before starting at Focus HQ I had been doing Account management and new business sales for a digital agency that specialises in accountants for 5 years so I’m all too familiar with the importance of a digital presence and how it can help a business or organisation grow whether in revenue or the special message they want to purvey to their users.

Outside of this new adventure I am a mum of two and family is everything to me. I’m a huge foodie, carbs and cheese are my biggest downfall and I love a good film or boxset (I have no idea what to do with myself now Game of Thrones is over!). I also try to keep fit, I enjoy running and have recently signed up for my 2nd full Tough Mudder to raise money for Macmillan cancer support, a charity super close to my heart.

Steph Liddington

Created on Monday June 03 2019 08:55 AM


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