Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
Celebrity support and when to say ‘Thinking of You’
Recent EastEnders alumni Danny Dyer was amongst a host of famous faces who took to the pitch at Bracknell Town Football Club’s SB Stadium in Sandhurst. His soap opera co-stars Jake Wood, who played Max Branning, and Matt Lapinskas, who played Anthony Moon, also joined the team.
Also in the squad were singer-songwriter James Arthur and Hollyoaks actor Charlie Wernham, as well as other celebrities from hit TV shows, former contestants from Love Island, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor, as well as sports presenters and internet sensations.
The match was in memory of Ethan Treharne who died from a glioblastoma (GBM) in November 2021, aged 17.
A promising sports star, Ethan played for Sandhurst Town FC boys and girls from the age of four as well as being goalie for Aldershot academy.
Ethan’s mum Nikki said: “We were overwhelmed by the support of people who put their name forward to play in a match to remember our beautiful boy. The whole day was to be a celebration, starting with a memorial walk around Swinley Forest before the football match, which was refereed by Ethan’s old football coach.”
Nikki and Ethan’s dad Justin have already raised more than £10,000 for Brain Tumour Research and next month they will place a tile on the Wall of Hope at our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London.
This high profile support comes at a time when we have been collaborating closely with the production team at Eastenders on the Lola Pearce brain tumour storyline and with actress Danielle Harrold (who plays Lola) who actively supported this football match as well as previously mentioning Brain Tumour Research to her Twitter followers and talking in media interviews about how “ it's been heart-breaking to speak to the families affected by brain tumours and hear their stories."
The coverage this storyline has received demonstrates just how powerful engaging with the world of celebrity can be and the patronage and support of those in the public eye has been something we have been very proud to benefit from over the years.
From the earliest days of Brain Tumour Research Dame Sheila Hancock has been a supporter of ours. When asked by Woman & Home magazine about her support the actor and author said: "I became involved with the charity 20 years ago, after my grandson Jack, then four years old, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was an agonising experience for the family; you feel so powerless and raising awareness was a way to stop the feelings of frustration. My daughter met Sue (Farrington Smith, our Chief executive) and introduced me to her. I’ve seen this group of individuals work so hard to raise funds for research and equipment, growing more and more confident and determined. I’m delighted and privileged to be a tiny part of it.”
Dame Sheila’s support has extended to lab visits, TV appearances and even writing a letter to The Times calling for better Government support for research.
In July 2022 when we announced plans to launch an additional Centre of Excellence where scientists will be focused on helping to find a cure for brain tumoursour celebrity support was very visible with quotes of praise and encouragement .
Celebrity support can take many forms but always increases awareness and visibility and people cannot support a cause unless they know it exists.
Supermodel, actress, entrepreneur and mother Caprice Bourret also has a personal reason for her involvement with Brain Tumour Research - her own shock meningioma diagnosis, and subsequent successful surgical intervention, in Spring 2017.
In March 2018, Caprice was the figurehead for our Wear A Hat Day campaign and she has undertaken, and continues to undertake, numerous media and ambassadorial appearances in support of our work. Hugely motivated to make a difference for those diagnosed with a brain tumour, Caprice has seen our research at first hand and has also made considerable personal investment into funding vital research. In 2022 Caprice made her second visit to our Plymouth centre and has placed tiles on our Wall of Hope as has Debbie McGee who visited our Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) centre.
Debbie’s husband, the renowned television magician Paul Daniels died from a brain tumour and Debbie shared her story exclusively with us in a piece of huge poignancy and warmth.
Danny Clarke was another visitor to our QMUL centre last year and he too supports us for a very personal reason – his sister Margot died due to her brain tumour. There will be news of an exciting new campaign featuring the charismatic TV gardener coming along soon.
For some of our celebrity supporters it is the campaigning side that really motivates them, property expert, businesswoman, TV presenter and writer, Sarah Beeny for example has been to Westminster with us and joined a virtual Westminster event during lockdown and of course singer Tom Parker famously addressed the APPG on Brain Tumours in December 2021 four months before his tragic and untimely death aged 33.
It is the premature death of a friend that motivated Jo Whiley to have half an hour of hat related songs on her show the evening before Wear A Hat Day last year.
The campaign that really engages the celebrities is Wear A Hat Day and the added gold dust comes from the couture milliners we work with. The most celebrated hat designer of the age Philip Treacy OBE became a patron of Brain Tumour Research in 2011. Millinery maestro Stephen Jones OBE eschews Christmas cards choosing instead to donate to us (for Stephen this is personal, he too has a tile on the Wall of Hope at QMUL dedicated to his friend Dizzy Downes). Celebrated milliners inspire our signature broches and this weekend we got some lovely images of sports broadcaster Jacqui Oatley MBE wearing the new brooch for 2023 designed by Misa Harada – the images will be on social media soon, we are just deciding which one is our favourite. Of course, milliners can have celebrity clients or friends who they encourage to get behind Wear A Hat Day like Stephen Fry who for the past two years has kicked off the Twitter activity for Wear A Hat Day.
The nature of celebrity has changed over the past decade though and whilst Dame Sheila and Debbie McGee are national treasures – greatly loved and their support for us hugely impactful - we have new ‘influencers’ who can get our message to millions. Take Kady McDermott who has a moving brain tumour story and also has 1.2 million followers on Instagram all of whom will be aware when she is undertaking some fundraising or awareness raising for us.
Do you know a celebrity who might support our work, or wear a hat or attend our events? We’d love to hear who you know. Celebrity relationships are looked after by my colleague Charlotte and she’s waiting to hear your thoughts, ideas and contacts – you can email her at Charlotte.Barber@braintumourresearch.org
I mentioned Kady McDermott as a social media influencer and someone else with a huge reach who has been supportive has been Lucy Mecklenburgh (1.7 million followers on Instagram). Lucy became involved through knowing Ria Melvin. The truly awful nature of Ria’s disease and her death was deeply felt by members of our team and we remain in touch with the family. They have a fundraising group Raising4Ria. It was Ria’s sister Kaz’s birthday this week. Kaz wrote and delivered the celebration of Ria’s life and it was heartbreakingly obvious to anyone attending that beautiful celebration in August 2021 how close these two young women were. How can someone without the lived experience know how to acknowledge the birthday of someone who has gone through so much? Kaz writes poetry to help her process her emotions and she is kindly letting me share this one written on her birthday. I think the final verse is thoughtful and helpful – I am sure that you’ll agree – thank you Kaz.
‘Happy Birthday’ (again)
‘Happy Birthday’ the messages say,
But will I ever be ‘happy’ on this day,
She’s not here to share it with me,
So there is no way I can be.
It’s another Birthday without her,
25 years of memories pass in a blur,
Full of fun and love, now deep in the past,
Making the emptiness feel so vast.
She always made it so special,
So on this day I am an empty vessel,
I wish the day to be over,
It’s hard to celebrate without her.
To the outside world I am fine,
But to this day I resign,
I am broken, in pain,
Willing the return to ‘normal grief’ again.
Most of the day I am numb inside,
Anger builds then is put aside,
I do typical Birthday things,
Regretting the sadness it brings.
There is a week of prior dread,
The day itself I want to stay in bed,
Then a week of exhausting recovery,
A ‘grief hangover’ my new discovery.
It’s left me thinking, we need new wording,
For someone’s Birthday who’s hurting,
For a day that’s not ‘happy’,
But instead is pretty crappy.
So when you’re writing that card,
Think, will this person find this Birthday hard,
Instead of ‘Happy Birthday’ try ‘Thinking of You’,
It might just help get them through.
Kaz Melvin 31/01/23