Big plans for Big C in 35th anniversary year

Philip Blanchflower, David Moar, Theresa Cossey and Dr Chris Bushby cut a cake at the launch of Big

Philip Blanchflower, David Moar, Theresa Cossey and Dr Chris Bushby cut a cake at the launch of Big C Norfolk and Waveney's 35th anniversary at the Bob Champion Research and Education Building.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

An East Anglian cancer charity is celebrating a landmark anniversary with a series of initiatives aimed at tackling the disease and bringing advice and comfort to its sufferers.

Big C has raised £25m since it was founded 35 years ago by two Norfolk men, with much of the funds – which go to helpg people with cancer and into research – realised from donations to its retail shops across Norfolk.

There are now plans to increase the number of Big C shops in Norfolk and Suffolk, according to the charity's chief executive Dr Chris Bushby, speaking ahead of a special 35th anniversary event at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) last night.

'We are looking to expand the number of shops in areas like Holt, Diss, Downham Market and Halesworth, in the Waveney area,' he said. 'It may be that we also look to expand into places like Bury St Edmunds as we are serving a lot of people who some from Suffolk.'

There are existing outlets at Beccles, Cromer, Dereham, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, Norwich, Sheringham and Wymondham, and Big C wants to market each store's area of expertise, for example, wedding dresses in Norwich and furniture in King's Lynn.

'It's a good way for people to turn their items into hard cash for those affected by cancer,' said Dr Bushby.

At the same time, Big C wants to make life easier for cancer sufferers by extending its support and information services into homes by the use of modern technology to create a 'virtual centre' in addition to the existing units at the NNUH, Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn.

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The charity also continues to invest heavily in work at Norwich Research Park – more than £10m since 1980 – and plans to build on the success of past projects.

'We want a proactive conversation with the science community,' said Dr Bushby. 'We will be taking more ownership of the delivery of research.

'In addition, we are currently investing in PhD students and we want to encourage more people into a career in research by engaging more with schools and colleges.

'We also want people to think about careers in caring and about connecting with us through volunteering, especially the younger generation. Every year, we currently benefit from 40,000 hours of voluntary work.'

At the 35th anniversary event last night, about 200 guests were shown a short film about Big C made by Mustard TV and applauded a £2,000 donation from department store Jarrold, the proceeds of plastic bag sales last year.

Dr Bushby told the audience: 'Without all the cuppa parties, marathons, triathlons, ploughing matches, balls and many, many more ingenious fundraising events Big C would not have been able to contribute so much to the help cancer patients and their families across the region.

'But there is still much more work to do, however. Because we have such a strong history, hopefully we can achieve more in less time.'