How we ran an event – and almost had to close the doors to newcomers


Kensington and Chelsea LINk ran a fun event designed for cancer patients and by cancer patients.

This was probably the first time such a large event had been organised.  But why did they do this?

Several reasons:

  • Cancer Patients often complain of feeling neglected and abandoned
  • When their ‘treatment assembly line’ finishes, they can find it difficult to tie up all the loose ends, deal with side effects, find where to ask advice about benefits, etc.
  •  Often it can be difficult to difficult to  find information, especially on dealing with side effects, as these may not follow a ‘normal’ pattern
  • There are many services available, but patients don’t know how to get information about them
  • They are told to “ask your GP”, but doctors may not be able to keep up with all the latest information

So Kensington and Chelsea LINk cancer group had the idea of bringing helpful services and products together under one roof, as a Wellbeing Day.  Organised by Ijeoma Igwume, and assisted by  Simmone Hall who MCed the event, it turned out to be so popular that at one time organisers wondered if  ‘Elf ‘n Safety” would make them close the doors because so many were queuing to get in!

This is my unofficial account of how we planned the day, and what happened.  I work on the cancer group, and was delighted to see how an idea mentioned in a committee meeting became a wonderful reality.  This is my slant on the day – NOT an official account.

With many thanks for photos by Barrie Leyshon of Cancer Voices, and others.

End Result

The Event was an incredible success;  many of the visitors asked and emailed to say ‘run it again’.  People were going round with big smiles on their faces.

Speakers such as Mark Davies (who wrote ‘ Saving My A*’) had standing room only for their talks;  the companies who generously provided goodies and took stands were asking “when is the next event?”, and two of them, Urban Retreat at Harrods and The Organic Pharmacy, have already said they are going to carry on offering more services for cancer patients.

Stop PressPaul’s Cancer Support Centre in Battersea has just announced they are planning on running not one but two similar events, copying the format.

So K & C LINk’s trail blazer proved that there is a need to have information available for cancer patients, of the kind that medical staff are often too busy to provide.

The Event must have been interesting.  Having come to open it, the Mayor, Councillor Julie Mills, enjoyed herself so much she came back again in the evening!  This is her on the stage; also in the photo is Paula Murphy (left), in charge of the hard-working LINk team.


Anecdotal evidence showed that about 50% of the visitors were from the BME community – which LINk are keen to contact.

168 visitors filled out a questionnaire  – a very high proportion of those attending

4 major events are planned for cancer patients as a result of being shown what could be achieved

And as an added bonus LINk said that they picked up new members.

So if you want to run your own event go for it – and here’s some background information to help you run a Wellbeing Day


This web page leads you to articles about all the different companies who contributed;  who won top prizes; and background information about the companies that participated:

Please feel free to copy and write to those contributing.  Many of them are only too pleased to help.  They make products that will help cancer survivors, but often the NHS doesn’t have time to try them out, evaluate them and promote.


Patients, members of support groups, nurses, therapists, physios, members of cancer charities, GP surgery staff and doctors


We worked with Macmillan to target the BME community, and in return they gave us generous sponsorship.


Gives a summary of articles about the various companies that generously gave us fantastic amounts of goodies to pop into bags.

Vikki Ullah invited me to lunch afterwards and I had great fun trying on their wigs (cost £100 upwards and they accept NHS vouchers).  During lunch there was  very positive outcome in a long discussion about various initiatives that they already offer, or are hoping to offer to cancer survivors.

A really positive result!



All these were generously covered by a Macmillan grant, which also provided enough funds to enable us to offer refreshments too – most welcome and lots of people commented on this.

If you can’t get sponsorship to pay for food and drink – think local supermarkets.  Firms such as Waitrose and Tesco often have a policy of helping local charities and will donate tea bags, coffee, milk and often eats as well.  Approach the local Store Manager (not the Head Office).

Just don’t forget you will need volunteers to serve, clear up and wash up!


Aim high.  If a venue, hotel or sports centre is opening, ask if you can ‘use’ their space in return for publicity for the new venue.

Football clubs, racecourses, swimming and health centres etc. often have suitable space.

It helps if you are going to invite a personality that will give the venue  media coverage

In the States many cancer hospitals will ‘lend’ their reception space for the day.  Try your local NHS hospital. However, asking for another event, I sent long detailed emails when hospitals asked for them – only to find I didn’t even receive the courtesy of a ‘thanks but no thanks’  reply.


We found that Macmillan had funds to sponsor events particularly targeted at the BME community;  this was a natural for any major city such as London – so thanks to a generous grant we were able to provide door prizes, refreshments etc. for free, and didn’t have to charge stand holders.


Since Macmillan had provided sponsorship, we didn’t have to charge companies to take part.  So instead firms such as Flexitol and Synergy were incredibly generous, and provided boxes of samples for our Goody Bags instead.  We also had representatives from Age UK, Citizens Advice Bureau and local Advice charity Nucleus, Royal Marsden Hospital, Paul’s Cancer Support Centre, Cancer Charities, Krish Shastri whose stand provided information about travel insurance (another very popular stand), Macmillan, Europa Donna, Organic Pharmacy,  etc.

Particular care was given to providing information to help the BME community;  this is a major concern in this part of London.  Talking to a BME leader, she said that although the Macmillan questionnaire said that 12% were from this sector,  anecdotal evidence suggested we got nearer 50% attendance, but many might not have had time to fill in forms.


I used to run events for the Lifeboats with John Sainsbury (now Lord).  One could see he was going to go far because he got on with the work.  Two of his favourite maxims were

“the best committee is a committee of two – with one person ill”. 

And “if you have a committee, get them decide on the important issues, like the colour of the tickets;   leaving your committee of two to work out the rest of the details without discussion“.

But, we were agreed that you need a committee – a big one – if you have to sell tickets.  Luckily for us, Macmillan gave a grant which enabled us to run the event and not charge visitors.

So Ijeoma Igwana and myself communicating by email, was incredibly effective.   Aided by some special help from Gaenor Holland-Williams, who was brilliant at getting the very popular stands offering benefits advice, such as Age UK, Nucleus, etc.


This can vary: your local cancer centre might be very supportive but not have anyone to spare to help you;  another group will go out of its way to be supportive.  So, realising that these Centres were over-stretched, we asked them to distribute invitation flyers, and had one centre present which has several BME groups in its membership.


We had a separate room with a platform, ideal for various speakers.  We asked representatives of cancer charities and the Prostate Cancer session was full.  Mark Davies spoke, and promoted his book.  Local hospital provided a dietician/nutritionist whose talk was tremendously popular.  Another speaker talked about how to handle the new benefits claims, etc.  Organic Pharmacy had a very popular session;  you will probably find major pharmacy chains such as Boots or Lloyds would be happy to provide speakers.

And the session with a local dance group entertaining was tremendously popular;  just make sure the singing and dancing are contained, as otherwise those in main hall trying to talk to stall holders can’t hear themselves think!

Only time there were spare seats was in-between speakers


This corner was very popular.  Local Spas will often provide mini-massages, make-overs, manicures etc. in return for the publicity they gain.  Make sure it is as quiet as possible, and away from main crowd.


It is vitally important that guests get something, even if just a cup of tea.  You may be obliged to make use of the Venue’s catering company, in which case see if you can get a supplier to sponsor refreshments.

If you are allowed to supply catering, don’t forget you will need people to do serving, washing-up, clearing etc. People will volunteer, but you need plenty!

If you want supplies, local branches of Supermarkets such as Tescos and Waitrose have a policy of helping local charities.

If you need to contact a company, go on the Internet, find out who is their PR company – and approach them. The PR company has to provide exposure, so will love the chance of saying XXX number of people will be present and persuading the company on your behalf that it would be a good idea to donate what you need.  This can often get a better result than you approaching the company direct, unless you are friendly with one of their major executives – or you happen to work for them.

If providing food, remember some will be vegetarians, or have had cancer;  we were offered curries, but had to turn these down as patients often can’t take highly spiced food.  Bland is best!  And ensure food and contents are labelled clearly.


Difficult to get the actual bags;  I had been promised these by a PR company, but they lost their Over-the-counter medicines account just before the event, so didn’t have any to give us.  So it was a mad scramble at the end.

But – filling these was no problem.  Companies were incredibly generous.  See  for ideas.

Often it is better to approach the PR agency handling a company’s press, rather than approaching the company direct.  You find out who they are by looking on their website under Press or Media mention.

If you offer any products make sure they aren’t likely to cause controversy.  We handed out cans of a new beverage,  but I made sure this didn’t contain ‘E’ numbers and was ‘pure’.  Same thing with over-the-counter remedies;  Rohto provided samples of eye drops that help with ‘dry eye’, but I checked with an Opthalmogist who often recommends this product.


One set back was caused by Trend-Micro, a company that had been employed by the NHS to filter out Internet spam.  They blocked every single email coming from a major ISP provider – and one happened to be my supplier!  So emails due to be sent out reminding people about the event disappeared into the ether.  However, if we had had more the doors might have had to be closed!We had an unexpected set-back:

The North West London Cancer Initiative group is the overall cancer body for our area of London.  Two weeks before our event, we get to hear they had called a massive conference for the same day, so theoretically all their 400 members would be going to this conference, instead of coming to us.  Several of this group said they were horrified, and were coming to or event as they wanted to know what patients wanted, and what was provided for them.

So much for ‘Patients are at the centre’, etc!


Don’t underestimate the time it will take to organise and confirm arrangements.

But at the end it will be incredibly worth-while.  I couldn’t believe how many lovely congratulations came our way, and at the end I was presented with a plant that is still sitting across the room.

So if you want to organise a similar event, Go For It!  Best of luck!

Enhanced by Zemantas

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One thought on “How we ran an event – and almost had to close the doors to newcomers

  1. Valerie Forster June 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm Reply

    Really good day. Congratulations to everyone who organised this, and please may we have another day soon

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