In Our Own Words
Angela Rowe – Community Fundraising Manager
One of the (many) lovely parts of my job is working with staff and patients who want to raise funds for the charity. It shows what a great, special place Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital is and how amazing the people who work and are treated there are. I was very excited when I first met with Leaf, Brigitte and Barrington and heard about the plans for the gig. I love how the evening will not only raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis but also raise awareness of the condition itself and what CF patients have to go through. The evening is going to be wonderful – a great venue, with fantastic acts. I’m particularly excited about hearing Leaf sing live – her voice is beautiful with an amazing tone to it. Couple that with her songwriting and Leaf Petrides is a name that you’ll be hearing a lot about in the future.
Brigitte Schwarting – Nordoff Robbins Music Therapist
As a Nordoff Robbins music therapist I am always keeping my ears open for people for whom music has played an important role in dealing with life’s challenges.
I also look for opportunities to get music going anywhere, hence the endeavour to sing with my colleagues from the hospital school, my base of work at the Children’s hospital.
When Barrington, Leaf, her mother, Steff from the Anchor and Angela from Charities and I met at the Charities Office to discuss the idea of the fundraising event at the Anchor Coffee House I began to get a sense of the incredible power that this venture had. Leaf was telling us about her experiences on the ward as a patient with Cystic Fibrosis since childhood; her mother mentioned a detail, which was so incredible that I knew we were right to fundraise to make patient’s experiences on the Cystic Fibrosis ward better. She said that the breathing masks provided by the NHS were so uncomfortable and that she had to go out and buy the better quality ones for Leaf. The reality of the condition became almost tangible and there were tears in the room.
The loose connections of the people in the room originating from our previous collaboration on the ‘Christmas Carols on the Roof’ in 2015 firmed up into a proper plan and working agenda to make ‘Bring in the love for Cystic Fibrosis’ a success.
Barrington Powell – Entertainer : Therapeutic and Specialised Play
The older I get the more I realise the importance of stories. Tales based on truth from your past, which seem to hold a special place in your heart, and so…
…Once upon a time, there was an old Victorian hospital with large wards that sprawled out like a monolith to the past. This building was built on Empire red brick and was complete with one long dingy central corridor, which seemed to stretch on for a mile long. This place was called “Booth Hall Children’s Hospital” on the outskirts of Manchester. My weekly task was to perform magic tricks and squeak noses in an attempt to make parents, patients and staff laugh! The official title was “Clown Doctor” and it was and still is the best job in the world. I have ditched the red nose, for a dickie bow and on many occasions I am often seen wearing a formal suit and no tie (infection control) but always there remains an element of the Shakespearian jester within every step that I take. Creating laughter, especially when it can offer hope in difficult and dark times is a magical privilege that I do not take for granted and the sound of a child laughing or a parent creased up in stitches is still one of the most beautiful sounds you can hear.
Every week I ascended a staircase, which would lead to the Cystic Fibrosis ward. This condition would mean that patients could not mix with other patients and so the ward was isolated. Every week without fail, peering patiently from her cubicle window would be little Alethea, who was only four at the time. She had big eyes, like one of those Disney Pixar animations and a mop of curly brown hair which you wanted to ruffle; Alethea would hang onto my every word, cling onto my tail coat and would often demand magic tricks and would make me laugh, rather than the other way round! Soon the laughter would trickle down the corridor and chaos would occur and the joy would spread.
Years pass. The old hospital is no more. The old building has been demolished to make way for luxury new homes. Some memories fade. Some don’t and remain etched in your heart! And whilst a kettle is being boiled blissfully unaware of the stories that happened on their estate a new hospital had been built on the other side of Manchester, which is now the largest Children’s Hospital in Europe.
I was asked to run my own programme on the wards, which now has become “Orly’s Magic”, and on one of my first visits in this new role I saw that little four year old again who had now grown into a remarkable young lady and who now had had a double lung transplant and who I soon realised was gifted at playing the guitar. She kindly performed at two concerts which we were holding at the Children’s Hospital and at a Christmas show in 2014 she played her own tune, which made me realise just how talented Leaf was. You could hear a pin drop. Cystic Fibrosis aside and with the gift of new lungs, this girl could sing from the heart.
At this time, when I returned to the role of entertainer under the auspicious role of Therapeutic and Specialised Play, a tiny coffee shop called “The Anchor” had just opened. Although the job of creating laughter is wonderful and joyful, at times it can be unbelievably heart breaking and there is moments of sadness and sorrow, when quiet reflection is needed. This little coffee shop has on many occasions, given me respite and hope in these times. It has become a real anchor; and so it seemed the ideal place for an idea to naturally brew, it was the ideal location to create a cabaret night for Cystic Fibrosis along with my friend and colleague the wonderful and talented Brigitte Schwarting from Nordoff-Robbins School of music therapy…
…& so we asked Leaf, and the rest is no longer history but the future , and there is a song of hope that is to be sung.
All proceeds (apart from….grrrrr…..booking fees) goes to the hospital and the Cystic Fibrosis ward and I am very proud to be able to once again be part of this magical journey. There have been times that both Leaf and her mother have managed to make me literally cry with laughter. There have also been moments of unbelievable sadness and recent loss, which is painful. I know that those patients shall never be forgotten! I guess that is why “Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital” is a special place, and I guess that is why we do what we do.
…& so I raise my coffee cup to the unbelievable Charities Department, the Therapeutic and Specialised Play department, the brilliant Brigitte and the excellent Education department, the incredible Brian from Medical illustrations (who loathes superlatives) and all the amazing Anchor staff and all those involved including Leaf and her family and David Hackney at Digital Cortex, Philip Bond, PQ printers at Southport, and the professional entertainment talents of Heather Bird and Belinda who perform a mean tango so I’m told and anyone else I may have forgotten whom have given their creative talents to make this a rather special and magical evening. You are in for a treat!
To all them and to you all I can say is spread the word and