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Why we've taken the decision to cancel our carol concert at St Paul's

9th Dec 2021 - Gemma Peters

Our Chief Executive, Gemma Peters, explains our decision to cancel our carol concert at St Paul's in response to the omicron variant.

We had planned to end 2021 on a high – with a brilliant evening of carols at St Paul’s Cathedral next week.

But as the pandemic has proved time and again over the last couple of years, Covid has the ability to force us to change our plans. And so it was again this week, and as a result of the omicron variant I have made the difficult decision to cancel the event.

After long conversations with our staff here and with some of the scientists we fund, I decided this is the right thing for our community.

We cannot ignore the fact that omicron seems to be growing so quickly, and the fears of our own scientists that the vaccines may be less effective against it.

As well as the potential risk to people attending, we don’t want to do anything that might contribute to community transmission of omicron because we know the effects of its spread will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of people with blood cancer, as their weakened immune systems make them particularly vulnerable to Covid.

But I am also acutely aware there were good reasons not to cancel it.

Firstly, it would have been a wonderful evening that would have given us the chance to reflect on what we’ve achieved as a community over the last year. My colleagues here have put so much work into the event, and I’m gutted they won’t now see the fruits of their labours.

But the biggest reason it was a difficult decision was because the concert would have raised a significant amount of money that we would have used to fund research, but now won’t be able to. And if our charity has proved anything over the last 61 years, it’s that funding blood cancer research saves lives.

As with all difficult decisions, it was finely balanced. It has been hard to try to balance the negative of the concert’s potential to spread the virus against the positive of the research breakthrough its income might have led to. But in making that choice, I was guided by the same question that guides every decision, big or small, I make as chief executive of Blood Cancer UK: what is in the best interests of people with blood cancer?

I believe that, on balance, cancelling the concert is the right decision for them. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less disappointed the concert is not going ahead. I’m very grateful to those of you who supported us by buying tickets (and will be able to get a full refund – all ticketholders should have already received an email about this), and I’m sorry, in particular, for those people who have already made travel plans. I am particularly grateful to our brilliant performers who volunteered their time to read or sing at this concert – we felt so lucky to be able to assemble such an amazing group of performers, and I know many of you were excited to see them and I thank them for their commitment to Blood Cancer UK.

The cancellation of our Christmas concert is just the latest financial impact Covid has had on our charity. I want to assure you that whatever obstacles the pandemic throws in our way, we remain as determined as ever that we will be the generation that beats blood cancer. But to keep that dream on track, we need our community to rally around like never before. If you’re able to make a donation towards our work this Christmas, you can do so on our website, and there are also lots of other ways you can get involved in our work.

Finally, I want to wish you and your families a safe and Merry Christmas, and I look forward to speaking to as many of you as possible in the new year.

Visit our coronavirus hub

Visit our covid hub to read detailed information about the coronavirus vaccine and blood cancer.

Covid vaccine and blood cancer