Monday 25 October 2010

If you were in central London on Friday....

You may well have seen one or more of the 200 Raggies who were collecting for Breast Cancer Campaign at tube and train stations. The Campaign Megaraid is one of the highlights of Breast Cancer Awareness month and Raggies come from far and wide to take part. It is an interesting logistics operation and our conference room becomes the control room for the day with a spreadsheet projected onto the wall with running totals for each collector.

Most of us also down tools and help out – the more robust ones hiking around with backpacks to unload the buckets and bring them back. The control room takes calls from the Raggies when their buckets become too heavy to hold and someone is despatched to go and empty the bucket and bring the load back to base.

I love counting the money and spend most of Friday and some of Monday operating one of the coin machines counting and bagging the money. I can understand that we end up with a bucket full of foreign coins but what really puzzles me is the coins which are no longer legal tender. One bucket I counted had nine old ten pence pieces – they haven’t been legal tender for some time – is someone walking around with these in their pocket so that they can dump them in a collecting tin one day? There were also defunct foreign coins – German marks and French francs. Why are these in your pocket?

But there were notes as well and even a £50 note which was really exciting: it is such a great day and the Raggies and staff work so hard with little sleep on Thursday and Friday nights. I am afraid I wimped out at about 8.30 on Friday night. We count until all the money is counted because they want to know exactly how much has been raised by each collector, each university and in total – over £56,000 this year – a record.

For the uninitiated, universities have their “Raising and Giving” committees and students who take part are Raggies!

Thanks to all the Raggies and other volunteers, especially the team from Barclays (they normally never see real money.......) and also Pret a Manger for donating sandwiches on Thursday night to feed everyone!

Wednesday 20 October 2010

If it’s October it must be.....

Let’s knock Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As regularly as the month of pink comes around so does the criticism. Less sexy cancers, a rather sickly pink. As my colleagues are sick of hearing me say “if I had a money tree then we wouldn’t need to raise money”. Until that happens we will do whatever it takes within what is acceptable to raise the money. The research won’t happen otherwise – the government isn’t going to fund it.

We absolutely understand that, for some who are going through treatment or have just been diagnosed or lost someone, all this pink stuff can be hard to deal with. On the other hand there are many women who have said to me that it is an opportunity to do something challenging (check out 500 women in muddy Hyde Park doing Pink Aerobics – many of whom have had breast cancer) or something silly to forget the daily grind of chemotherapy with the side-effects it brings; or to remember Mum or sister or colleague and all the time know that the end result is research which might change that picture in the future.

I have never claimed that the cause I espouse is better than any other – each to his own. The huge popularity of BCAM is that so many have been touched by this disease – whether personally or family, friend or colleague and they all appreciate that the money raised is vital.

We took inspiration from the AIDS campaigners of the eighties. All those women who wouldn’t talk about breasts let alone cancer suddenly realised that if people, and very famous people, could talk about contracting AIDS and therefore coming out about their sexuality or intravenous drug use maybe talking about breast cancer wasn’t such a big deal.

I had lots of opportunities in the early 90s to complain about the very high profile that AIDS had where the incidence in this country was very low compared to breast cancer – I didn’t – just watched and learned.

Friday 15 October 2010 I said to the Prime Minister yesterday....

A very exciting and very early visit to Downing Street Thursday morning. If you didn’t already know it October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Prime Minister very kindly invited us to Number 10 Downing Street to have a photograph taken. One of our Board members came along too and we pinned our pink jigsaw pin on the Prime Minister’s lapel and he put some money in our collecting tin. (Real folding money which he took out of his wallet – the reporter outside asked if it was just a piece of paper or real money so I knew you would be interested!)

I believe in the “photo opportunity” trade this is known as a grip and grin! He gripped we grinned and I managed to deliver all our key messages in five minutes.

Then we were on our way – to be followed later in the morning by the Governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger to the uninitiated) who apparently was accompanied by nine minders. Perhaps being Prime Minister isn’t such fun.....

We were also shown the Cabinet Room which seems surprisingly small – no blood on the carpet which you might think would be the case after the last few years in Downing Street - and the pencils needed sharpening.

Now back to work....

Friday 8 October 2010

Worse than waiting for exam results

We are all braced for the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review at the end of the month but we are still in full consultation mode - most of it is now over but the shouting is still going on. More about that later.

We are now in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last Sunday hundreds of women took part in Pink Aerobics in Hyde Park in torrential rain – they are really amazing – pink and mud is the theme for the month!

We are gearing up for our (16th) Pink Ribbon Ball on Saturday night and then it is all hands to the pump for the London mega-raid on Friday 22 October. Our amazing raggies collect all around central London and most of our staff down tools and help on the day. I pull rank and insist on operating one of the coin counting machines (a coveted job) - not that I don’t like receiving big cheques or folding money – but there is something so satisfying hearing all those coins rattle down the chute of the machine. And then there is wear it pink – more about that later....

The week started at the Conservative Party Conference – where there was a subdued (because of the spending cuts looming) buzz. We wait for the result of the Comprehensive Spending Review on October 20 – worse than waiting for exam results. I know I should have blogged like mad about everything that has been happening on the political front but too much and too tired. Please read Simon Denegri’s blog – I did think that all I needed to do was just post up a link to him every morning if you want to know what is happening in the medical research arena – what affects one affects all.

There is no more heavyweight charity in medical research than the Wellcome Trust. They have a very clear voice in the sector. Read the article in the Guardian this morning We won't fill the gaps say firms and charities where Mark Walport, Director of Wellcome, pointed out the risks the government runs if it withdraws funding from university research. Not only will charities be less effective but industry will as well. Breast Cancer Campaign is committed to funding research in the UK – international companies can go anywhere and where the money goes the talent and the employment follows. Be afraid, be very afraid!

And finally...... The Times (which you can’t read online without paying for it) printed a list of the winners of the election for Shadow Cabinet places. You know that women’s liberation has a long way to go when you read about the person who received the most votes –

"Yvette Cooper (232 votes) wife of Ed Balls. One of Party's most popular figures".

Strangely the entry for Ed Balls (who only came third) did NOT say "husband of.....".