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Date Posted: 18-07-2017

Born out of nothing but a dream, eternal optimism and a wealth of goodwill, Bolton Cancer Voices launched in June 2012 and has just celebrated their 5th Birthday with a rousing gala concert ‘Melodies Of Stage & Screen’, in the Victoria Hall, featuring special guests Salford Symphony Orchestra, Affetside Choir and Bolton born actor, Nicholas Gleaves.

The North West’s first dedicated Choir for cancer patients and cancer survivors started with just 16 members and has grown to over forty. From their first appearance just weeks after forming, as part of a massed Choir launching the start of the Bolton 2012 Games, they have never looked back and have eagerly embraced a myriad of fun, challenging and inspirational opportunities. Amongst the notable highlights, their annual ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ concerts, back this year – Saturday 2nd December; appearing at the Christmas Celebration of Greater Manchester Police in Manchester Cathedral; recording their first CD in Studios where stars like One Direction and New Order had reputedly sung before them and being featured on BBC North West Tonight.

They are now looking to recruit many more members to share the next chapter in their story and the countless good times to come. The Choir’s only membership criterion is that you must have received a cancer diagnosis at some point in your life. The Choir has no geographical restrictions, as long as people can travel to Bolton for rehearsals: there are no auditions to worry about and you don’t need to be able to read music. As continues to be the case, some members have never sung outside the privacy of their shower before joining, whilst others have a wealth of choral experience: but Musical Director, Clive Rushworth, makes learning easy and fun, so no one need feel out of place.

Organizers have tried to ensure that the Choir is accessible to all by offering membership free of charge, to avoid putting additional burden on people at a time when their illness may already be causing financial hardship and worry.

Founder and Chair Karen Elliott said: –
‘At the time I started the Choir, there was little by way of local support in Bolton for cancer patients and virtually nothing for cancer survivors. I didn’t want to go down the traditional route of a support group but rather look to introduce a supportive element in to something fun, positive, inspirational and motivational.

Singing had been part of my own life forever, so I appreciated the power of song, the joy it engenders and sense of camaraderie that develops when you’re a part of a Choir: this added to my interest and involvement in a number of other cancer related activities provided the insight to recognize the potential benefit in starting a dedicated Choir for cancer patients and cancer survivors.

We have half an hour before the start of rehearsal when members can have a brew and a natter; this might be cancer related or just an opportunity to catch up with someone in a different section of the Choir to themselves: but it offers a forum to talk to others in a similar situation, for anyone who wants it. Some choose to leave cancer at the door and have an hour and a half when their head is filled with something other than illness, treatment and the endless appointments that follow with a cancer diagnosis: whilst some find reassurance in knowing there is always someone around who will listen, talk with them, share their experience and truly empathize with the physical, mental, social and emotional challenges that can be part of a cancer journey. Others may not wish to revisit that time in their life, which they may now be many years on from: we all have our own ways of dealing with things, so everyone can use the Choir in whatever way is right for them.

Whilst cancer brings us together, it does not define us nor is it permitted to get in the way of our dreams and aspirations.

We come together to share our love of music, to have fun, lots of laughs and entertain others. We’re a community Choir like any other with a full programme of appearances and activities: we just have a unique membership criterion!

No one knows better than our members that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be life changing: but being part of Bolton Cancer Voices can be life affirming. Our members seize the day, live life to the full and savour the many joys life has to offer no matter what their story.’

The Choir has a further two appearances over the coming months: to express their thanks to Macmillan Cancer Support for their fundamental help in realizing the Bolton Macmillan Cancer Information & Support Service, which operates from Giles House – Chorley New Road, Bolton One and the Royal Bolton Hospital, they are holding a Macmillan Coffee Morning in the Victoria Hall on Saturday 9th September, 10am – 12 noon, when they and their guests will be providing entertainment and staff from the Service will be available to answer questions, provide information and signpost people, as appropriate. Following which, on Saturday 7th October, they will be at Ramsbottom Music Festival’s Silver Jubilee Concert – Bolton Road Methodist Church, Bolton Road, Bury. With another return to the Victoria Hall at the beginning of December for their fourth ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ concert, when they will again be joined by the Greater Manchester Police Band, no doubt Christmas will be starting early for the Choir’s enthusiastic members!

Bolton Cancer Voices rehearse on Monday evenings, 7-30pm – 9pm, at the Friends Meeting House, Silverwell Street, Bolton. For enquiries about membership contact Karen on 01204 595562 / 07773 164235.