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Blood Cancer UK’s approach to in-person events

14th Jan 2022 - Gemma Peters

Our Chief Executive, Gemma Peters, explains our decision to hold in-person events again.


Last month, I made the difficult decision to cancel our Christmas Carols event at St Paul’s Cathedral. Doing so meant we missed out on income that would have gone towards blood cancer research, but I decided that going ahead with an indoor event while rates of Omicron were rising quickly would not have been the right thing to do for our community.

Last month’s decision is just the latest in a series of difficult decisions about in-person events we have had to make over the last year.

At what point is the infection rate low enough for us to hold events? Should we have a different approach to different types of events? And what measures should we be taking to minimise spread?

The reason these decisions are difficult is because they have a tension at their heart.

On the one hand, many people with blood cancer will not feel able to attend in-person events because their weakened immune systems mean they are less likely to be protected by the vaccines and are more likely to become seriously ill if they get Covid.

I don’t like the thought that we are putting on events that people in our community aren’t able to be part of, and I hate the thought that someone with blood cancer might become seriously ill after contracting Covid at one of our events.

But on the other hand, in-person events have been the lifeblood of our fundraising efforts for many years. The money they have raised has funded research that has saved many, many lives. The more in-person events we don’t go ahead with, the less research we will be able to fund and the fewer lives we will be able to save.

This is a difficult tension to manage and there are no easy answers. Rather, we need to judge each in-person event on its own merits before deciding whether to go ahead with it. We also look to make sure we are always thinking about live streaming options for those who do not feel comfortable to be there in person, although, as with the event at St Paul’s Cathedral, sometimes this will not be financially viable.

There is no blueprint for a charity coming out of a pandemic, and I can’t guarantee we will get it right every time. But I promise that we will try to learn from the things we don’t get right, and that every decision we make will be guided by what we think is in the best interests of people affected by blood cancer.

The first decision we’ve had to make since last month’s cancellation is whether to go ahead with an audience with David Walliams and Rob Brydon at the Criterion Theatre on February 21.

We are so grateful to David and Rob for giving up their time to raise money for us through what promises to be a fantastic event (and you may remember David meeting Hugo Griffiths and his brother, Henry, a few years ago while Hugo was being treated for leukaemia).

We’ve given a lot of thought about whether we go ahead with this event. The key thing we’ve considered is that the Covid infection rate now appears to be declining in London, which gives us hope that it will be significantly lower on February 21 than it is now. Also, the number of people who have become seriously ill from the Omicron variant has so far been lower than we feared before Christmas.

So we have decided to go ahead with the event, and I am confident it will be a brilliant night, with Rob and David raising lots of laughs and us raising lots of money.

But I’m not writing this to exhort you to buy your ticket. Rather, I urge you to decide whether to attend based on your level of comfort with spending an evening in a theatre at a time when Covid is circulating in the community.

I know that for many people with blood cancer or who live with someone with blood cancer, this will not be an event they will want to attend – for advice on understanding your level of risk if you have blood cancer, we have a section on our website.

None of us have lived through a pandemic before. We are trying to navigate a difficult course and don’t claim to have all the answers. As such, it would be great to hear your thoughts on how we balance these tensions – please do email us, as it would be great to hear your views on this as we make further decisions about our events in the months ahead.

Thank you.

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