Friday, 29 March 2013


By the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation's Writer-in-Residence - Tom Chaplin:

When a charity such as the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation celebrates a milestone like its fifth birthday, having recently reached the staggering fundraising total of £5.2million pounds, it's difficult to know who to thank first.

Should we send a special message of thanks to Sir Bobby himself, grateful for the sacrifices he made whilst very ill to push the Foundation forward, reaching its first milestone of £500,000 in just seven weeks? Of course we should.

But then what of his family, of Lady Elsie his wife who attends so many events, working tirelessly to push that total upwards? Or her sons – Paul, Andrew and Mark, who are always on hand to support her and the Foundation with energy and tenacity that their dad would be proud of? Of course we should.

Or we should begin with the hard-working administrative and accountancy team who work within the NHS, people like Pauline Buglass and Mike Love.  Or Liz Luff of Longstone Public Relations who publicises the charity? Of course we should.

But what about the Foundation's Patrons? Should we start our list of thanks with Alan Shearer, Niall Quinn, Steve Gibson, Mick Mills and Delia Smith – who lend their time, their profile, meeting patients and fundraisers and publicly representing the Foundation which great enthusiasm and passion? Of course we should.

Or Lady Elsie’s friends, also Patrons, who tirelessly support her and the work of the charity behind the scenes – Janet Bruce, Jane Morgan, George Caulkin and Rita Hogan? Of course we should.

Or surely we should begin with Professor Ruth Plummer, Sir Bobby's oncologist during his fifth and final battle with cancer, who came up with this whole fundraising idea in the first place? Of course we should. Or her colleagues, the team of magnificent doctors, researchers, nurses, scientists and support staff who are doing such an amazing job every day of the week at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Freeman Hospital. Should we start with them? Of course we should.

But what of the patients who attend the Centre, those who give their time so generously to the trials Professor Ruth and her colleagues are carrying out, when they are often very poorly and having to make huge personal sacrifices to help others? Should we begin with a special thanks to them? Of course we should.

Or what of the fundraisers, like Bike For Bobby’s Robbie Elliott and Phil Gray, Tony 'the Fridge' Phoenix-Morison, Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Auction’s Gina Long, the team behind Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration or ‘Run Geordie Run’ Mark Allison – all of whom raise huge sums for the charity and generate so many positive news stories? Of course we should.

Or those who arrange coffee mornings, bake cakes, do sponsored walks, shave their heads, give up treats, organise recitals and so much more in an effort to raise significant funds for the Foundation? Should we begin with them? Of course we should.

Or maybe be it would be most appropriate to begin by remembering all those who lost their lives through cancer.  To start by thanking the families and friends who have lost loved ones to the disease and celebrated their lives through funeral collections and emotional fund-raising events for the charity?  People who know all too well the pain of cancer and who don’t want others to experience it.

Maybe though, with so many people to thank on this special occasion it's not possible to start with anyone. Maybe we should just say a huge well done instead? Yes, well done. A huge well done to everyone. Well done… And thank you!

Monday, 25 March 2013


Today (Monday 25 March) marks the fifth anniversary of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, the cancer charity launched by Sir Bobby to help find better ways to detect and treat cancer.

And the Foundation is also celebrating another significant milestone with the announcement of a new fund-raising total – an incredible £5.2million.

It is a long way from the initial £500,000 target Sir Bobby first set for the charity after a request for help from his oncologist Professor Ruth Plummer in 2008.

Professor Plummer was treating Sir Bobby for his fifth, and what he knew would be his final time facing cancer.

He was receiving treatment in what was the clinical trials unit at Newcastle’s General Hospital.  The clinical trials team was moving to a new purpose-built unit at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital and needed £500,000 to equip the centre.

Professor Plummer explains: “Clinical trials of experimental drugs need specialist units and equipment so that we can safely work out the right dose, and also collect research samples from our patients so that we can test the new treatments and make them available to all patients as quickly as possible.”

Rather than simply supply the names of likely donors, as Professor Plummer had asked, Sir Bobby and Lady Elsie responded by launching a charity to get the money she needed.

The reaction was incredible.  Just seven weeks after the launch of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Professor Plummer had the £500,000 required and in February 2009 Sir Bobby officially opened the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre – he was very proud that the centre carried his name.

Sir Bobby said he would give up a year of his life to the charity.  In fact he became so passionate about it that, despite being very ill, he spent his last 18 months doing all he could to raise funds to help others with cancer.  He said he hoped it would become his legacy.

It is a legacy which continues to grow and has funded world-class cancer facilities within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that directly benefit cancer patients from across north east England and Cumbria - and which contribute significantly to international efforts and research into fighting the disease.

Professor Plummer adds: “Sir Bobby always had an eye on what we could do if we raised more than £500,000.  I think he’d be amazed at just how much more we’ve been able to do.

“The specialist cancer equipment and staff we’ve been able to fund as a result of the charity is making a tremendous difference to patients.

“The scientists, nurses, doctors, in fact everyone who is involved in treating and caring for patients are just so appreciative of the help we get thanks to the generosity of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation’s supporters.

“Sir Bobby was a great inspiration to everyone at the Sir Bobby Centre and his charity is a legacy worthy of his name.  We’re grateful to him every day.”

It has already made possible three significant new approaches to detecting and treating cancer by equipping the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre and funding specialist training posts for a clinical trials doctor and nurse within it, jointly funding the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation PET Tracer Production Unit with Newcastle University and making the majority charitable contribution to help purchase the latest generation in 'stereotactic' radiotherapy.

The combination of these three elements - clinical trials of new drugs in the Sir Bobby Centre, patient PET scanning and new radiotherapy treatment which is so accurate it can treat inoperable tumours – is creating what Professor Plummer describes as “a very special jigsaw to help fight cancer.”

Sir Bobby’s wife, Lady Elsie, sons Paul, Andrew and Mark and committed Patrons including Alan Shearer, Niall Quinn, Steve Gibson, Delia Smith and Mick Mills are helping continue the work Sir Bobby began through the Foundation.

Niall Quinn, Patron, says: "I feel privileged to have met Sir Bobby, let alone to have contributed in a small way to his Foundation and the lesson I have taken from my involvement is that it's not what you have, it's what you leave behind.

"Sir Bobby may no longer be with us, but he left behind an incredible legacy and a remarkable team. Reaching £5m is a brilliant achievement, a testament to the deep generosity and tireless efforts of so many people.

"His team include those who are working hard to tackle cancer, but also everybody who helps to raise funds or contributes time, money or support. Bobby's memory brings out the best in people. Long may it continue."

Sir Bobby always said ‘when’ not ‘if’ we beat cancer.  He truly believed, with us all pulling together, we will beat the disease.

Alan Shearer, Patron, says: “Sir Bobby set off to raise £500,000, so for his charity to have raised over £5million is a staggering achievement.

“I’m proud to be a Patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people through the charity.

“Cancer affects everybody differently.  For some people, like Sir Bobby, it becomes a challenge.  We all know that sometimes it’s just not possible to beat the disease but I’ve met lots of people who have dug in regardless.  People who know that by helping the Foundation they’re helping others who will have cancer in years to come.

“The work the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has funded over the past five years is incredible and really pushing the boundaries of how we detect and treat cancer.  I’ve no doubts the next five years will be just as positive and bring even more advances. 

“My thanks to everyone who has contributed to this fantastic team effort.  I'm sure Sir Bobby would be humbled and very proud at his charity's ongoing success.”

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration, supported by Virgin Money, was a very special evening of music, memories and laughter as family, friends, musicians, comedians, football greats and admirers gathered on the banks of the Tyne to remember Sir Bobby on the night he would have turned 80.

The charity night at The Sage Gateshead on 18th February raised funds for The Alan Shearer Foundation and Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and featured some of Sir Bobby’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ as well as excerpts from his final interviews.

A very special souvenir programme was produced for the night and features previously unseen images of Sir Bobby, Lady Elsie’s thoughts on her husband’s musical preferences and information about the two charities benefitting from the event.  It also includes a touching retrospective on Sir Bobby by Foundation Patron George Caulkin of The Times.

A limited number of Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration souvenir programmes are now available from The Back Page shop in Newcastle and from Newcastle United’s official club shop at St James’ Park.  A donation of £3 per copy is suggested, which will benefit The Alan Shearer Foundation and Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.