Thankfully, there is a very real sense now that we have returned to ‘normality’ at Meningitis Now, whilst recognising there are still real challenges ahead of us as we all emerge from a difficult few years into the uncertainties caused by the cost-of-living crisis and other problems facing us all.
We ran into a few of these challenges earlier this month when we staged our traditional London Carol Concert. This, I am pleased to report, was a success despite the snow and the ice, a rail strike, and operating from a new venue – St Paul’s Church. But what a venue it is! The church is beautiful, situated at the heart of Covent Garden. The vicar was perfect, balancing a tone of reverence with a touch of flamboyance. And our performers and speakers were characteristically brilliant. Unfortunately, though, the snow and ice restricted travel and meant only about half of the number of planned staff and expected guests could make it. Even one of the choirs had to call off at the last minute.
And so – in many ways – you could say that that the London Concert typifies the year we’ve just had. The event was, above all, a success. We had a wonderful mix of familiar and new faces in the congregation, and good feedback too. One message read: ‘it was an equal mix of inspiring, tearful and joyful’. This pretty much sums up our work as a charity, doesn’t it? But, as as we would all recognise from the past few years, it was a busy night and at times a stressful build up. And whereas before it was Covid that prevented the Meningitis Now family from fully gathering, this time it was the weather and a rail strike. And yet our work goes on and we finish on a positive and optimistic note. Sounds familiar for much of 2020, 2021 and 2022, right?
Highlights of the year
Thinking about the year just passing, therefore, what have been the highlights for Meningitis Now? For me, there’s a lot. Personal highlights include Barney’s Run – the 60-mile race to Butchers Hall in central London with our Trustee Rod Adlington and his small team of runners/rowers, as well as the Believe & Achieve Graduation in Stroud. We also had the excellent news of receiving another five-year grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to support B&A. And I’ve enjoyed welcoming new faces to the staff team in 2022 and seeing the difference that has been made by people bringing new ideas and new energy to our work, as well as our new Trustees who were appointed in 2021 and have bedded down in 2022.
Other activities that stand out for me include:
- Spencer’s Legacy – a campaign that recognises the sad anniversary of the death of Spencer Dayman, and acknowledges the four decades of progress made in the fight against meningitis in his name.
- The ‘Worry and Concern’ work we are contributing to with NHS England, which will hopefully see improvements to the diagnosis and treatment of people experiencing acute deterioration (including meningitis and sepsis).
- The ongoing return of our face-to-face support events – where Meningitis Now is often seen at its best. One that springs to mind is our Family Day in Scotland
- The success of our Splash Now partnership with Turtle Tots
- A return to face-to-face conferences involving the NHS, public health and industry – all key partners as we fight to defeat meningitis. When I spoke at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry conference. I was applauded for ‘telling it like it is’ – a critical part of this charity’s work.
- Online support events – extending the reach of our invaluable support services to people across the UK.
- Our Community Ambassador Ali Walker at Buckingham Palace
- The Five Valleys Walk – back again!
- The ongoing evolution and impact of the Rebuilding Futures Fund, including a new and much-improved approach to memorials.
- Our Celebrity Ambassador Lisa Snowdon winning Celebrity Masterchef!
- The ‘Roundtable’ meningitis awareness work, bringing together NHS England, a Life for a Cure, MRF, UKHSA and GSK to run a genuinely collaborative campaign.
- Plus a lot more, I’m sure …
As ever, though, it is Meningitis Now family who remain at the heart of what we do. It’s what we’re all about – people like Cormac, a nine-year old who had meningitis aged two days and who is running 3km every day during Advent. Or Nick running the marathon in memory of his sister. Then there's Ian of HSBC supporting our Business Ambassador programme; Paul
continuing his mammoth fundraising feats for us; Community Ambassador Mary being all-round wonderful; Annette speaking at our Gloucester Cathedral Christmas Celebration Concert and sharing her story of her ‘pure of heart’ son Daniel, and April and Claire for again supporting our Splash Now campaign in memory of Clara … plus countless others and too many to name here. This is what drives us to save lives and rebuild futures.
This makes me reflect positively on 2022. And as to 2023, who knows? I think we can remain optimistic. We will save lives and rebuild futures.
Thank you for everything you’ve done to support our work during the year and we look forward to your continued support in 2023. On behalf of everyone at Meningitis Now I’d like to wish you a peaceful and restful Christmas and New Year break.