Next month hoards of walkers will take to London’s streets to tour the capital’s most famous buildings at the same time as raising money for a cancer support charity.
Maggie’s Culture Crawl has become an annual must-do as it provides a unique opportunity to get exclusive access to sites such as the Foreign Office, Fulham Palace and Chelsea Physic Gardens at night.
As well as being a fascinating 15 mile walk it has a sombre tone to it as walkers raise funds to help Maggie’s, the charity which offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer as well as their families and friends.
Celebrating its 18th year, Maggie’s has centres around the UK and even in Hong Kong. They are all individually designed by architects and provide a unique, tranquil space for cancer-sufferers and their families.
Cathy Davies, of Claygate in Surrey, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and used the then recently opened iconic orange Maggie’s Centre in the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith - designed by celebrated international architect Richard Rogers whose practise is just around the corner.
Mrs Davies, now 56, was treated at the Royal Marsden in Chelsea but said the help from Maggie’s was invaluable. “Within a month of being diagnosed I came to Maggie’s and dragged my whole family there,” she said. “It was a massive help as both me and my husband, John, had interpreted the advice and options from the hospital differently and the staff at Maggie’s were great at explaining. I was in shock and trying to deal with the diagnosis and everyone at Maggie’s dealt with explaining it to my whole family - I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Mrs Davies did the Culture Crawl - then known as Maggie’s Night Hike - the next year despite being quite weak from the chemotherapy, but she was determined to give back to the charity.
Mr Davies helped with the marketing and all their friends joined the walk to help raise about £12,000. He said: “We saw how much Maggie’s had done for Cathy and also for us, so really wanted to show how much we appreciated all their help. Every building we stopped in had something special set-up inside, like lanterns in hearts inside Battersea Power Station - that was very special.”
Bernie Byrne, Hammersmith’s centre head and former cancer nurse, said their help was great and explained why the Culture Crawl was more than just a charity walk.
“People who have recovered from cancer do the walk and lots of their friends and family,” she explained. “But we also get the loved ones of people who’ve used Maggie’s but unfortunately have died. It’s always very emotional and we get people crying as they come into the centre as part of the walk because it brings back so many memories.
“I think it’s the camaraderie of the Culture Crawl which makes it so special. If somebody is struggling everybody will help and lots of people who don’t think they’ll be able to do the whole route end up doing it because of the atmosphere. We also get people coming out of pubs and getting all the drinkers to donate to us, it’s always such a wonderful response when people find out why we’re walking.”
Find out more about Maggie’s Culture Crawl, in partnership with Open House, on September 19 or register now for £40 at maggiescentres.org/culturecrawl