Clare Associates - Projects

Here you’ll find details of projects that Clare Associates has been working on.

We re-launched our own website in early 2013, and have only included a few of the projects that we have worked on since the company was set up in 2002. We hope this is enough to give you a flavour of our experience. If you’d like to know more about any of our work, please drop us a line – we’re happy to talk about it!

Tavistock College – ‘Getting the Future You Want’

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For sixteen and seventeen year olds about to make some important life decisions, it is very easy to be distracted by all the advice they receive. Much of that advice will be about which degree they should study or which university they should go to. If they’re lucky, they’ll get advice on what careers they should think about.

However, that isn’t all the advice they need. Crucially, nobody ever seems to ask young people about the sort of life they want to lead. It’s all very well going to the right university and getting a high paying job, but what if the lifestyle that goes with that job is one that you end up hating.

As adults, I’m sure we all know people who have the job they always wanted, but hate their lifestyle. Maybe the hours they work are too long for them to see their family. Maybe they have to work in London and spend four hours a day commuting. Maybe the job didn’t turn out to be everything the glossy brochures and websites said it would be. Maybe university was great, but now that student loan looks like it will never be paid off.

I recently ran a session at Tavistock College that helped year 13 students to think through these issues so that they are better equipped to make the right choices.


“Mark Poles ran a highly stimulating, lively and enlightening session on career choices and how to ‘get the future you want’ for our sixth form students.  He started by considering what you want out of life, not just out of a job, and opened students’ eyes to the full range of life factors to consider in making key decisions about your future.  The session was both engaging and amusing, and thought-provoking and pragmatic.  It was praised by students, many of whom remarked that they would re-think some of their plans in light of the presentation.  Mark then ran a smaller, practical session that gave students an opportunity to role play and discuss the reality of applying and interviewing for jobs, and then working in an office, with the inevitable politics that this involves.  Again, the session was appreciated and praised by students for its engaging usefulness.”

– James O’Connell, Assistant Principal


We Love the Tamar Valley – a new Drupal 7 website for Tamar Valley Tourism

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We Love the Tamar Valley is a new website project created for Tamar Valley Tourism, a group that brings together businesses in the Tamar Valley that have an interest in tourism – from holiday cottages, to bed manufacturers, to top hotels, to farmer’s markets. We were delighted to win the contract to produce this site – we have lived and worked in the Tamar Valley for 13 years, and it’s always great to be promoting a product you believe in!


The site was created to replace an older website which had been custom built in php and mySQL. It was a bit difficult to manage, and wasn’t attracting the traffic it needed. We decided to create the new site using the Open Source Drupal 7 content management system as a framework. This approach meant that we could pull together a powerful site with a number of different ways to manage and navigate the content, and do it relatively quickly. The downside was that the content had to be copied over to the new Drupal site, but as all the content needed to be checked and refreshed anyway, and we were keen to add to it, this was one way of ensuring that all of it was looked at.

All of the 200+ member businesses will have their own password-protected access to the site, and there’s also a site administrator who reviews and approves content. This was another reason to go for a Drupal 7 based approach – we were able to build customised login systems and instead of providing a standardised content management interface, we could provide forms with a lot of control over the help text provided and the way each form element worked. This is one disadvantage of the WordPress content management system, much as we love it – it’s relatively difficult to customise the administrative interface, so if that doesn’t fit what you want to do with it, it can be fiddly to provide people with a way to enter information that is clear and easy to use.

Mailchimp is very nifty, but his big brother Mandrill is even better for integrating with websites.

Mailchimp is very nifty, but his big brother Mandrill is even better for integrating with websites.

One task the website has to do is to allow invoices to members to be emailled, managed and reports produced, and we also had to make sure that a weekly email roundup of news from members could be sent. To make sure that emails reached their destinations, we enlisted the help of the brilliant Mailchimp service (highly recommended, and free for low volume use) and also brought in Mailchimp’s big brother Mandrill – a system designed for integration with websites, and for sending personalised, transactional emails, which works really well with Drupal.

Another nifty tool we used was the Open Framework Drupal theme. We chose to base our unique look and feel around a previously developed theme as a framework, because this approach allowed us to quickly develop a very flexible site that was responsive, so it adapts easily to different devices, from mobile phones to laptop computers. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we used the framework and concentrated on customising the design and building content and photography that visitors would find exciting.

The site is not exactly finished – it probably never will be! We don’t believe in finished websites, but in websites that grow organically over time that can adapt to events. We’re pretty clear that the new We Love The Tamar Valley site will be able to do that excellently.

Photo preparation workshop coming up on Tuesday 25th

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Would you like to make your photos look more striking, add text or take out that awkward item that spoils the whole shot? Learn how to use free software on your own computer to give your photos the wow factor at a half-day training workshop from Tamar Valley Tourism.

Photo-editing workshop, Callington, Tuesday 25th February, 10am to 1pm. Courses organised by the Tamar Valley Tourism Association (TAVATA) and presented by Victoria Clare of Clare Associates Ltd.

Photo preparation demonstration

The courses will take place at Langman’s Restaurant in Callington, and there are still spaces available on each. The cost per session is just £35.50 per person.

The content will be:

• Understanding resolution, compression and choosing the right image format.
• Composition & cropping.
• Using unsharp mask, saturation & histogram adjustment to improve the lighting, colour and sharpness of your photos.
• Adding text
• Using black and white, sepia, and other effects.

Important note
The course will use a free editing program suitable for:
a Windows XP, Windows 7, or Windows 8 computer,
a Windows 8 Surface tablet
a Mac with Firefox, Chrome, or Safari 7.
A Chromebook

Your computer will need the Flash plugin. The software will not work on an Ipad or Android tablet. You should bring your computer with you.

To book your place, call Jill Price on 01579 370835, or email Jill at .

Evening Workshop for Parents of Gifted & Talented Children

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Parents want what is best for their children. This is especially true when the child is classed as “gifted” or “talented”. But those parents won’t necessarily know what the top universities look for or what the top employers look for.

I was asked by the Gifted & Talented Coordinator at Community School to present a workshop for the parents of gifted and talented children. I was able to draw on my experience of having studied one of the most prestigious courses at one of the most prestigious colleges at one of the world’s elite universities and having worked in graduate recruitment at one of the world’s top graduate recruiters. I know what it takes to get into a top university and I know what top employers want to see in their candidates.

The workshop included sessions on:

  • Experiences and anecdotes from adults who were gifted or talented – what their parents did to help or hinder their chances at success
  • What to expect if asked to a top university interview and how to prepare
  • What universities look for apart from good grades
  • How to improve the impact your child makes and their skills in interviews
  • Hard truths about the graduate job market
  • How the top graduate recruiters go about attracting candidates and how students should use this information
  • The universities that the top recruiters target
  • The degree subjects that top recruiters want
  • The other characteristics that top recruiters look for
  • Getting the right work experience and why work experience is all about acquiring skills
  • Using social media to be more employable


“Mark’s session was an interesting and informative experience both for parents and for my colleague and I as G&T co-ordinators. He adapted well to our requirements and discussed the session with us beforehand to ensure that it fitted with the school’s practices and philosophies. The session itself was a good mix of reinforcing messages that we already give, but with the added authority of a consultant of Mark’s background, and new insider information drawn from Mark’s personal expertise and experiences from having got into a top university and having worked in graduate recruitment for one of the world’s top recruiters of graduates. Mark had clearly done his research into the experiences of G&T parents and students and gave particularly useful input into what top universities and employers look for”    

– Adam Killeya, Gifted & Talented Coordinator, Community School


“It reassured us that we are giving our child sufficient encouragement to achieve the goals they are setting for themself…(we were) especially encouraged by the comments from the ‘gifted friends and friends of gifted friends’ section, because it highlighted the fact to us, and others we hope, that you do need to be careful and maybe a little more creative in how you ‘push’ your gifted and talented offspring forward into the world.”

– Parents of ‘G&T’ student at




Presentation and Impact Training for Young People

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Making the right first impression is important for pretty much everyone in life. Being able to give effective and compelling formal presentations is important for lots of us. One group of people for whom these skills are particularly vital is 17 and 18 year olds.

Why? Well, think about it. At that age, many people will want to go to university – making the right impression in your interviews is vital, especially if you’re applying to the sort of top university where good grades won’t be enough to get you an offer. Other young people will want to enter the world of work. Again, making the right impression on the people who might give you the job you want is vital.

I find that few schools prepare their students for these challenges. That is where our Presentation and Impact for Students training comes in. We always tailor this training specifically to the audience.

Know what impact you make, what impact you want to make - and narrow the gap.

I ran one such course in Devon in August for a group of five year 13 students. As I always do with this kind of training, I tailored the course to the needs of the participants – two wanted to go to university, two wanted to go into the services and one was going to work for his father’s company. The course covered formal presentation training (including video feedback and peer-to-peer coaching) and interview techniques. I also explained how to understand the impact you make on people you are dealing with, the impact you want to make and how to narrow the gap between the two.

Practise presenting in a constructive atmosphere

This was a one day course, with an informal atmosphere, with pricing set to be very affordable.

I love running courses like this – you get fantastic enthusiasm from the participants and the whole day is fun for everyone involved, as well as being a big confidence boost for young people who need all the confidence they can get to go out and get the jobs and university places they want.

“One aspect of the presentation training day that I especially liked was how personable Mark made it. From the offset he did very well at getting to know all of us in and what made us tick. His flexible structure then allowed him to cater to everyone’s individual needs.”

“The main thing I took away from the day was increased confidence to present to an audience. I have, for example, just accepted a Zimbabwe Tourism project which I am going to present to the executives of the leading DMC in South Africa as well as the Zimbabwe tourism Board.”

“The course was one day of intensive training. Mark made us all feel immediately comfortable and welcome, due to the nice surroundings, relaxed atmosphere and several icebreaker activities. The course did not follow a ‘set in stone’ format as Mark changed the structure of the course to tailor it towards each individual so that each participant got the most out of the day. The course provided me with lots of confidence and skills for future presentations and any other professional situation, Mark also helped us iron out any bad habits we may have had. I came away from the course full of confidence and I had a very enjoyable day that was definitely worthwhile.”

For more information on Presentation and Impact Training for Young People, click here.

Writer and Archaeologist Louise Turner: website launch

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As a history fan, I was delighted to be approached by archaeologist and writer Louise Turner, who wanted a new website created to promote her debut novel, Fire & Sword: a story set among the turmoil of late fifteenth century Scotland.

Fire_and_Sword_Novel_Scotland_smAs well as the usual ‘about the author’  and background content, Louise was keen to provide information on all the carefully-researched locations mentioned in the book, some of which are now obscure and hard to find.

We’re still working on developing that part of the project but here you can find maps of Scotland and Renfrewshire with mouse-over contextual links to some of the excellent background information that Louise has brought together.  We’re hoping that this will give the site a little search engine advantage in the local market too.

You can preview chapter 1 of Fire & Sword here

Website revamp for Blackcat Plymouth

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Blackcat Plymouth operate a sameday courier service and also a trailered car transport service – based in Plymouth, they operate across the UK, and need a website to showcase their services.  blackcat

We originally created a website for Blackcat way back in 2006, and although it had been updated several times since then, it was well overdue for an update.

Unusually nowadays, there was no requirement on this website for a content management system: the content was all ready to go and the site would not need any regular updates by the business owner: instead I would be doing them myself. So, I took the opportunity to build this site from scratch, just using a simple text editor to create the code.  This approach meant a very clean, lean presentation – there’s nothing at all in the code that isn’t required for this site.   It makes a nice change from repurposing software built for a range of purposes, which is the kind of job I spend a lot of time on generally.

I wrote the new look and feel in modern HTML 5 code, and added a very simple reviews system using php and Jquery.  This allows people to post a review of the Blackcat service.  The reviews are then held in a queue so that they can be checked for inappropriate content (and any spam we didn’t manage to filter out automatically) and approved by the site owner.

I also added a simple photo gallery to showcase the range of vehicles transported.

And here it is:


New Caribbean Weddings website

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Caribbean Weddings is a new project from Tropic Breeze – a specialist independent Caribbean tour operator.  People who are planning weddings in the Caribbean need different information to customers who are booking family holidays,  so we developed this new website in order to focus on providing all the details needed for this particular market.

This site has a content management system that is integrated with the main Tropic Breeze website, to allow easy control of both sites and their separate content from one central location.

The site was custom-built using responsive design – a system which allows a website to adapt to different devices being used to view it.    On a phone, the page and images resize so that users don’t need to scroll from side to side when viewing the site, and the spacing is wider to make the links easier to tap on.    There’s still some work to be done on improving this as the site is bedded in and tested with real customers, but so far it’s looking promising.



Setting up a new online payment service for an established Bespoke & Military Tailors

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Althougbb1372_lgh we did not design, Clare Associates has been helping this traditional bespoke tailor and military tailoring business look after their website since 2007 – including finishing off and launching their online shop, which sells an enormous range of military badges and buttons, after a previous supplier was unable to complete the work.

Recently, due to changes in the legislation on PCI DSS compliance and improvements in Internet security, Goldings decided to change the online payment provider they were using for ecommerce to Barclaycard.

Clare Associates helped them set up the Barclaycard EPDQ system and created a new online shop management tool to connect to the existing website, Barclaycard, and the Goldings bespoke ecommerce system.

Website design for Launceston literary festival

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7th – 9th June 2013 Festival, CornwallLaunceston’s Charles Causley Festival, held in Launceston, Cornwall, is an important and well-established poetry and literary festival. The festival had an existing website dating back to the previous year, but it had not been updated since then and festival staff and volunteers lacked the time and know-how to turn the existing site into a site that would effectively communicate all the festival has to offer.




Charles Causley by Peter Edwards RESIZED v2Although working to a tight budget, we were able not only to update the site with this year’s guests, but also to overhaul the site’s look-and-feel. The result is a site that is attractive, informative and easy to navigate. We were also able to satisfy the client’s desire for a site that would promote not just the festival and the poetry of Charles Causley, but the town of Launceston itself.