Soul Lounge at Leyburn raises £22,000 for Breast Cancer Care

Lounging around in a good cause - some of the 300-plus guests at The Soul Lounge. Photo by Mike Barker.

By Betsy Everett

In a night of glitz and glamour at Tennants Garden Rooms in Leyburn, with a spectacular firework display matched only by the explosive soul music, a total of £22,000 was raised for the charity Breast Cancer Care at the weekend.

Organiser Anita Watson of Askrigg, who was struck by an aggressive form of the disease earlier this year, told the Soul Lounge’s 300-strong audience from the Dales and beyond: “Putting on this event is my way of turning a very difficult time into something positive, and I thank you so much for your support.”

Afterwards she said: “Thanks to all these incredible people we raised £22,000 which for a small rural area like this is amazing.”
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Among the entertainers who gave their time free of charge were international soul singer Mica Paris, Grammy-nominated soul star, Jaki Graham, swing singer Joe Corrigan and DJ Fast, found of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

As well as the singing and dancing, there was a charity auction conducted by Rodney Tennant, chairman of the family auctioneering firm, a “silent auction” of hundreds of donated gifts, a raffle and a tombola.

But if the mood was celebratory the purpose of the evening was never lost.

In a very personal speech about the effects of cancer on her own life, and the support she has received from Breast Cancer Care, Anita, who runs the international events company, Incredible Artists with business partner Simon Watson, pulled no punches.

“Chemotherapy was horrendous, and after six days of being fed water through a straw it was decided my body couldn’t tolerate it, so I moved on to herceptin and other adjuvant therapies.

“It was during this time that Breast Cancer Care really came into their own. Their telephone and online support was invaluable. Everyone knows about the main side effects – the loss of hair, the tiredness and sickness. But I didn’t know about the effect it would have on the rest of my body.

“My nails (I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t lose them altogether) and on my eyesight. My joints, my tendons, my moods and my weight. I didn’t realise that tiredness meant a struggle to even get up and down the stairs. But the one word that keeps coming back to me is how dehumanising I feel it is. There is nothing more sobering than forcing yourself to look in the mirror, having tried to avoid it for weeks, to see yourself with no hair, and with missing bits and ugly scars.

“Thankfully I will get reconstructive surgery later next year, but you do feel like you will never, ever, be the same person again.”

Breast Cancer Care offered support, said Anita, on everything from legalities surrounding drug therapies, answering questions people couldn’t raise with the medical team, and providing someone to talk to who has been through the same regime and treatment. Breast Cancer Care can be contacted at Telephone 0808 800 6000.

Soul singer Jaki Graham takes to the stage. She gave her services for free. Photo by Mike Barker.
Tilly Booth lays out the red carpet in a stunning tableau. Photo by Mike Barker.

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