Like so many organisations Bolton Cancer Voices was founded on nothing but a dream, eternal optimism and a wealth of goodwill!

The 'eureka' moment for our Founder - Karen Elliott – came whilst watching a programme in the BBC series 'The Choir' with Gareth Malone. Having a long history of singing, performing and producing on the amateur stage she had a keen appreciation of the power of song, the joy it engenders and the sense of camaraderie that develops within a Choir: this, added to her interest and involvement in a number of cancer focused activities locally and nationally, provided the insight to recognize the potential benefits in starting a dedicated Choir for cancer patients and cancer survivors.

From the outset Karen was clear about the Choir's aims and how these should be achieved: -

  • To establish a community Choir for the benefit of cancer patients and cancer survivors.
  • To provide a positive, motivational and diversionary environment in which members can have fun, enjoy the challenges and exhilaration of performing and have a focus aside from their illness.
  • To provide an informal forum for cancer patients and cancer survivors to meet with others in a similar situation, share experiences as they choose and benefit from mutual support and understanding
  • Aspire to have a positive impact on and enrich the lives of members through our activities.
  • To be a source of inspiration both for members and for others whose lives are touched by cancer.

Having the strategic direction, she then needed to fill in the operational details like a Musical Director, a suitable venue in which to rehearse and the little matter of money – or rather the distinct lack of it!

Finding the right Musical Director would be key: Karen says:

'For me it wasn't just about securing a Musical Director – and that in itself would have been hard enough: it was about finding someone for whom the role was a perfect fit; someone with the right temperament, style and empathy, but most of all – someone who could put up with working alongside me!

Clive RushworthLuckily I knew just the man for the job and had indeed worked with him in the dim and distant past and though our paths hadn't crossed for some twenty years I determined to track him down. Our previous collaboration had been around an annual event called 'Let's Show We Care', which saw 8 local amateur operatic societies from across the region brought together to stage a fundraising concert in Manchester's Palace Theatre / Opera House. Finding myself in need of an overall Musical Director for the concert, a young guy called Clive Rushworth had come highly recommended and as the saying goes – 'the rest is history': the following 3 years saw the event generate a healthy figure for the charity concerned.A change in job on my part resulted in a subsequent divergence of our paths: it must therefore have come as a huge surprise to Clive when even after leaving the area, what do they say – you can run but you can't hide, I managed to track him down and a voice from bygone times again appealed for his help and pleaded poverty!

Clive had been keen to hear my idea and with his customary enthusiasm gave a resounding 'YES'!

Having previously faced the trials and tribulations of working with me I'm amazed, delighted and eternally grateful that Clive was prepared to put up with me yet again!

Just after this fate saw fit to throw us a lifeline to address both of our other most pressing issues: the Friends Meeting House kindly agreed to become our rehearsal venue (in the full knowledge that money was a massive issue) and the then President of Bolton Lions Club bought in to the vision and kindly nominated us to benefit from monies raised during his term of Presidency. I can't begin to tell you the relief that this brought: we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those concerned for putting such faith in us.

Given my determination that the Choir should not levy membership fees to ensure accessibility to all and avoid compounding the situation for anyone who may already be experiencing financial pressures due to the effect of their illness and / or treatment, I knew I would need a 'partner in crime', so to speak, if the Choir was to be financially viable with the necessary funds not only to meet our running costs but ensure we develop, diversify and provide great experiences for our members: thank heavens for Pam!

Pam LiveseyPam Livesey and I had met a few years earlier when she joined a group I then Chaired – Bolton Cancer Patients and Carers Consultative Group, so she was under no illusion about what working with me would entail when approached to take on the role of Treasurer: and I for my part knew there was no better person for the job! We got our heads together and set off in search of potential sources of funding; a mission with no end and plenty of challenges along the way but we have been fortunate to secure the support of some wonderful, charitable and visionary benefactors, who have recognized the worth of Bolton Cancer Voices to those whose lives are touched by cancer: in a world where there are so many worthy causes vying for attention we are privileged and thankful to have received their patronage.'

On the 25th June 2012 Bolton Cancer Voices held their first rehearsal with 16 members – all ladies! It was to be a further 8 weeks before the first of the gentlemen joined our ranks. As continues to be the case, some members had never sung outside of the shower before coming along, others brought with them a wealth of choral experience but, as Clive makes learning easy and fun, no matter what people's level of ability no one feels out of place.

Within mere weeks of forming members took part in their first performance, appearing on the Town Hall steps as part of a massed community Choir to mark the opening of the Bolton 2012 Games with a song entitled 'Chase Down The Sun', which had been specially written for the occasion.

In the remaining months of the year we managed a further 4 performances – at Bolton Hospice, for a private function, carol singing at Asda and entertaining guests at a Christmas party hosted by Bolton Lions Club, a welcome opportunity to let members of the Lions see how much we had achieved in the short period since our inauguration and get a sense of what their kind donation has meant to us. We also held our first Singing Workshop in October, a now established annual event, rehearsing from 5pm - 9pm and taking a well-deserved break to enjoy a buffet tea and catch up with friends in other sections; 'singing for your supper' has never been more aptly interpreted!