Formerly known as the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund

Tag: fundraising

Many people in West Sussex know of the Sharpthorne Carol Party, which isn’t surprising as this highly popular group is currently celebrating their 93rd anniversary. The choir, who are currently booking private parties this Christmas will be raising funds for St Catherine’s Hospice and the Melanoma Fund. This is their story:

“Ron and Doris Comber, whose family were Comber and Son (builders who still trade in Sharpthorne) organised a party of carol singers each Christmas to collect donations for local good causes, by traveling around the local area on a lorry bed with a piano strapped to the back. I was in the St. Margaret’s Church choir one Sunday morning when Ron Comber came in to ask if anybody would like to sing with their carol party, as several adult members had lost their voices from tonsillitis.

He assured us we would only be singing the well-known carols, so we all agreed to go along. A few weeks before Christmas we all got together and practised at Ron’s home, fine tuning our voices and having lots of fun. This was the start of an annual event that has continued until the present day.

Local hero
One of the early members, Harry Martin, always came with his collecting tin, which he did from 1932-1988. He was a popular and well known local character and was welcomed in the homes we visited and people enjoyed his sense of humour and local stories. He had been the chauffeur at Courtlands and later, petrol pump attendant at Sharpthorne Garage. (I have a photo of him with his tin at Chiddinglye when Earl Limerick gave a speech and presentation on his retirement.)The Reverend Michael and Sheila Allen called Harry ‘The Top Tin Rattler’.

Grand clients
One of Doreen’s first memories was singing at Dalingridge Place, which was very grand. “We all assembled in the hall around a big iron stove and when we were settled, the family magically appeared from the dining room. Lady Margaret Duckworth would lead the family in, and she and her three sons, their wives and guests were all in full evening dress. Lady Margaret always wore black with a lot of jewellery, and her daughters-in-law also wore a lot of jewellery and looked very grand. To us teenagers it was quite an impressive occasion!

Every year we went to the Furze family at Old House, where some of their family were visiting from America for Christmas. After we had sung, Mrs Pam Furze would play the piano and her grandchildren would sing to us, which gave us a break. In those days we sang to seven or eight houses per evening and also sang outside when requested, such as for Mrs Daw at the Vineyard.

Lord and Lady Kindersley at Plawhatch Hall invited us to sing every year and once or twice on the same evening as the Forest Row Band and Lifeboat Choir. So, more than once the band would be leaving as we arrived, which caused quite a bit of amusement and friendly rivalry.

Houses on fire!
The choir also had a few evenings when things didn’t go quite to plan. As they were driving up Horsted Lane from Ravenswood to Kixes there was a lot of black smoke ahead and they arrived at Kixes they found a fire engine and the oast house on fire! When they enquired whether they still wanted the choir to sing, Lady Wilkinson replied in a very calm voice “Do come in, we are having a problem with the oast, but we would still like you to sing.”

The show must go on!
Another memorable evening was held at Wickenden Manor when the choir were due to sing for the Astor family. They were short of transport that evening, so someone offered the use of his builder’s truck. As they descended down the steep drive, Harry Martin who was our driver, shouted “I think the brakes have failed”. Half way down the hill he turned the truck into a pile of brick rubble and the choir were very lucky to get out ,shaken but unharmed. Doreen recalls ‘Although the truck was in bits, we still joined the rest of the group to sing. ‘The show must go on’, as the saying goes.

Hair on fire
At an event in Hoathly Hill to sing for Robert Clarke’s family, there was a power cut and the whole house was thrown in darkness. A box of candles was produced and the choir did its best in the circumstances to see the music sheets. The worst was yet to come! “Suddenly there was a smell of burning hair. The tenor standing behind me was leaning forward to concentrate on his music and the flame of his candle was singeing my hair! The conductor, Tim Denby who lived at Tanyard, realised what was happening, before I did, and beckoned me to move forward, I was blown out, and we continued to sing!”

Unwelcome guests
One of the more unusual carol singing calls, was the night the choir tried to sing at Snegg’s Hill. As the choir drove up to the house it was well lit up on all four floors. They started to sing and it became very apparent they were not welcome, as starting with the ground floor, one by one the lights went out on each floor until the house was in complete darkness.

For a number of years we sang in St. Margaret’s Church as people were arriving for the Midnight Service on Christmas Eve. We also recorded a cassette in the church in October 1995 in memory of Steve Comber. Pearl Knight was the conductor at that time and arranged the recording.

Last call…
Our last venue every Christmas Eve was to Gravetye Manor. The guests came from the dining room to sit in the hall where we stood by the huge Christmas tree to sing to them. Mr Peter Herbert, the owner, then took us to a member’s room where we ate more mince pies and were served drinks. He always gave a speech of appreciation, along with a few of his memories of Carol Party visits over the years.”

The count up
After the last performance on Christmas Eve the tradition was to have the ‘Count-up’. The money collected was tipped from the collecting tins, and the final total was announced. Back in the 1940’s and 50’s we felt pleased to have collected £30-40. Now the average total is in the thousands.”

Taking bookings
Today the choir is still in high demand. Word of mouth has ensured their bookings, which still include private parties are constant. Michele Luck-Jacques continues as conductor and prepares the musical programme for the year, ensuring she has a well-balanced choir.

If you wish to raise money for a local charity cause and experience a truly traditional experience, why not book the choir for a private booking? They are available in the East Grinstead or Forest Row area between the 12th and 22nd December, please email Julia at





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This year has been an exciting and busy one for the Melanoma Fund.  We shook up our internal structure, changing our working name from the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund to make our name easier to say! We increased the size of our Trustee board and armed ourselves with an updated logo, branding and website.  Thankfully, we have retained our Chair, the unstoppable Harry Townsend, without whom this charity would not exist.  Read more about Harry here.

Support patients

We were invited to attend a wide number of patient and cancer focused panels and seminars, and again supported and attended the Melanoma Patient Conference, representing and cementing our place as one of the top melanoma charities in the UK. We retained our place on the Melanoma Taskforce and have reached out to other melanoma charities to increase our strength through unity.

Create national and community awareness

We successfully rolled out our Watch Your Back! sun protection for gardeners campaign for a third year, reaching an even wider audience, ensuring our messages are making a difference. We worked with 10 celebrity gardeners who promoted the message ‘Don’t be Ridiculous! – wear sunscreen’ featuring in 125 major garden centres.

We ran a national sunflower growing competition, generated funding for a Skin Health Clinic bus which visited six garden centres across Kent and Sussex, seeing over 1,500 people, promoting the importance of sun protection and early detection of melanoma, and referring 35% to their GPs.  Our summary video can be viewed here

Media support

We dramatically grew our on-line support, received TV coverage of our work on the BBC – see here, and appeared on hundreds of supporters blogs and online media sites. We were recognised as having one of the top 5 melanoma blogs in the UK and a top rating YouTube channel, and have consistently kept this work up, despite being dependent on small budgets and one paid member of staff.

Local support

Jeff, Aanna and Neil, the amazing club captains!

To top this off, we were approached by Jeff Morris at Chartham Park Golf Club to be their Club Charity 2018/19. At the time we never envisaged how this would lead to such amazing, conscience support. From raffles, auctions, club days, spinathons and a dragon boat racing team, the club is working relentlessly to raise as much as possible. To honour this work, we are pledging to put this donation to very good use which we know that clubs members will have full empathy with.

Create change!

The Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code was created by the Melanoma Fund in 2014. It was, and remains, the only sun protection campaign, designed to support all those who work outdoors with children. The aim is to get those in charge to ‘Blow the Whistle on Sunburn’.

Partnered with the Youth Sports Trust, Association for Physical Education (AfPE), Child Protection in Sports Unit and sports coach UK, it is supported by over 120 national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) and a wide variety of overarching outdoor and coaching organisations.

This is not specifically a school sun protection campaign; this area is addressed and adequately supported by a number of schemes. The initiative is designed for children who spend a prolonged period of time in organised outdoor activity between March and October. This will be at holiday camps, club training, Outdoor camps, half term courses and those organised outdoor activities during the long school summer holidays that are growing in popularity due to working parents.

Due to resource issues, regrettably the campaign was not actively promoted or supported during 2017/2018 however, with the help of funds raised by Chartham Park, the aim is now to refresh the overall strategy and re-launch the campaign in Mid-March 2019, just before the spring holiday break.

The funds raised will help the charity pay for the resources to develop the new strategy, build a new website, create printed materials, communicate with the key supporters who have put their name to the campaign in past years and also to create new support and research new opportunities via a professional sports panel.

We believe that sun protection habits need to be created whilst young. We also believe that coaches and outdoor activity leaders are the ideal people to inspire children to do this.  They also need to ensure that sun protection is not just on the safeguarding table, but included in their activity (sunscreen doesn’t work in kit bags).

Just one sunburn can triple the chances of developing melanoma and this is more often than not triggered by a sunburn in childhood. We believe that everyone deserves the right to grow up with healthy skin, but this starts with healthy habits and this is where, with the help of this donation we can make a difference.

To find out more view our Outdoor Kids video here.

So, to answer the question, what can a small charity achieve?  We hope you will agree an awful lot, but only with the type of support that organisations like Chartham Park are willing to give. Maybe you have a business that could also do something to create a difference?  Please contact Michelle, the CEO on 07989551046 or, she would be delighted to hear from you!


We do hope you can all join us at the Skin Health Event at the club on the 11th August, kindly sponsored by The Rotary Club of East Grinstead.  This would be a great time to come meet us and find out more about what we do and why we do it.  We have the team from Queen Victoria Hospital offering skin checks and also rtwskin offering complexion analysis.  We will be offering bottles of sunscreen for a small donation and lots of advice.

From everyone at the Melanoma Fund…a heartfelt thank you. Visit for further details.

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We are delighted to announce that our loyal supporters Swim 4 Tri are running their annual Lou Parker Open Water Charity Race Day again on the 15th September.

This event is run in memory of open water swimmer and friend of the club, Lou Parker who died of melanoma in 2010.  The 4k course, set in Stubbers, Upminster, Essex is available to swim as an individual or as a relay. This is a relaxed event so swimmers can complete as much or as little as they want.

The event is always very popular, with SFT members and non-members, providing a scrumptious and well deserved BBQ breakfast after the final swimmer has finished the course, ensuring the race is not just fun but also memorable.

The event is designed to get as many people in the water as possible and also a timely reminder that sun protection is a vital part of all swimmers kit when the weather warms up.

The event is run by Keeley Bullock and her brother Dan who are dedicated to helping raise money for their chosen charity, the Melanoma Fund, helping raise awareness of sun protection and skin checking to all those who enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle.

Keeley Bullock – Organiser

Says Harry Townsend, founder of the Melanoma Fund; “Keeley and Dan are amazing people who consistently support us, showing not only loyalty to the charity but to their good friend who died tragically from this awful disease.  We hope this event will not only encourage people get people fit, but raise awareness of melanoma and the importance of sun protectio at the same time.”

The club aims to raise funds for the charity via sale of tickets and BBQ takings.  For full details on how to enter etc. click HERE

For further information on the Melanoma Fund and the work they do please contact




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With the help of our supporters, the Melanoma Fund was able to support a melanoma microRNA biomarker project, run by the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and headed up by Prof. Sarah Newbury.  We have been work closely with the team and here is their final report.

By Professor Sarah Newbury, Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS)

Melanoma remains the most aggressive form of skin cancer with an increasing incidence worldwide. Survival rates depend heavily on the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis. When detected in the early non-metastatic stages (I and II), melanoma has good prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of ~100% in stage I melanoma patients and 80%-90% in stage II melanoma patients, as thin local tumours are highly curable by surgery.

Unfortunately, recurrence is common and often results in progression to locally advanced melanoma and subsequently to metastatic melanoma (stages III and IV), with a 5 year survival rate of ~50% in stage III melanoma patients and 10-25% in stage IV melanoma patients. Therefore there is a pressing need to establish robust biomarkers that allow the identification of patients at high risk of metastatic recurrence after surgical removal of a non-metastatic melanoma.

Early detection will maximise the chances of patient survival, as there are now a number of treatment options available that are effective against certain subtypes of stages I, II and III melanoma.


Circulating microRNAs are emerging as promising non-invasive cancer biomarkers that can be detected from a blood sample. MicroRNAs are small non-coding nucleic acids that function in gene silencing and are often associated with cancer progression.

These microRNAs are stable in the circulating blood because they are encapsulated in small vesicles (exosomes) or are bound to protective proteins. Previous work carried out at the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School identified 3 potential microRNA biomarkers that can distinguish Stage I/II from Stage III/IV melanoma, plus three potential reference controls.

Support from the Melanoma Fund

Generous funding from the Melanoma Fund provided us with the exciting opportunity to check and validate the microRNA biomarkers identified in these initial experiments. The technician employed on the grant, Sophie Mumford, used the serum of 20 healthy, 20 melanoma stage I/II and 20 melanoma stage III/IV donors, which were originally collected at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

Sophie performed 2,034 careful experiments to validate these 3 potential biomarkers and 3 reference controls as well as checking 2 new potential biomarkers identified following the re-analysis of the original data and evaluating the effect of different extraction kits and experimental conditions.

Prof. Sarah Newbury and team

Sadly, despite all this careful experimentation, we have not found any microRNA biomarkers which clearly and consistently distinguish between non-metastatic and metastatic melanoma. We are all deeply disappointed with this result. The circulating microRNA biomarker field is still in its infancy; therefore techniques are difficult and are not yet well established.

The techniques being used to detect microRNA biomarkers in serum have improved immensely since the start of this project and continue to improve, therefore if we started this project again, we would have much more likelihood of success. With this is mind, we thought that it would be very useful to provide an up-to-date review of the literature on circulating miRNA biomarkers in melanoma, using our experience to focus on the pre-analytical and analytical variables that challenge this field.

Interestingly, none of prognostic melanoma microRNA biomarkers published have used the rigorous normalisation procedures that are now required in the field. Therefore there are, as yet, no reliable circulating microRNA biomarkers which can distinguish metastatic from non-metastatic melanoma.


Despite our difficulties in identifying microRNA biomarkers for melanoma this time, we have been successful in providing a number of outputs for the Melanoma Fund. These include our monthly reports, invitations to speak at International Conferences, poster presentations at International conferences, grants and training.

These outputs are detailed below:

2013-2015: £20,000 for a BBSRC “Sparking Impact” Award to fund a post-doc, consumables, patent searches and market surveys. Title of project “Investigating the potential of microRNAs as biomarkers in malignant melanoma.”

2016-2017: £75,588 from Cancer Research UK (through the Experimental Cancer Medicines Centres “ECMC” Network) for a project over four centres (Universities of Leeds, Sussex, Cambridge and Newcastle on a project entitled “Standardisation of analysis and reporting of miRNA biomarkers in plasma from circulating blood. £17,896 (Co-PI: 24%) per centre, with Prof. Sue Burchill (Principal Applicant (28%), University of Leeds).

2017: £1395 from the University of Sussex Research Opportunities Fund to support two “Research Strengths in Cancer” Workshops. (Co-applicants: Dr George Giamas (University of Sussex) and Dr Mel Flint (University of Brighton)).

Presentation of research at International Conferences:
Smalley, S., Gilleard, O., Aspden, J., Pacifico, M., Banwell, P., Metcalfe, A.D., Newbury, S.F. and Martin, Y. microRNAs as biomarkers for melanoma. Translation UK, Leicester, July 2014. Poster presentation.

Smalley, S., Gilleard, O., Aspden, J., Pacifico, M., Banwell, P., Metcalfe, A.D., Newbury, S.F. and Martin, Y. (2014) microRNAs as prognostic biomarkers for melanoma progression. Poster presented at the conference Non-coding RNA – From basic mechanisms to cancer, Heidelberg, Germany, June 2014. Poster presentation.

Smalley, S., Gilleard, O., Aspden, J., Pacifico, M., Banwell, P., Metcalfe, A.D., Martin, Y. and Newbury, S.F microRNAs as prognostic biomarkers for melanoma progression. BSMS Integrated Health Care Research Day. November 2014. Poster presentation.

Jones, C.I., Zabolotskaya, M.V., Smalley, S.K., Pashler, A.L., Caserta, S., Gilleard, O., Pacifico, M., Metcalfe, A.D., Martin, Y. and Newbury, S.F. “Identification of microRNAs for use as prognostic biomarkers in myeloma, melanoma and sepsis.” Circulating biomarkers 2015 Glasgow conference. Glasgow, UK. October 2015. Poster presentation.

Invitations to give research talks at International conferences
March 2016: Invited to present our work on microRNA biomarkers at BSMS to the Health and Life Sciences Networking Event (10/3/16). This has led to a number of new links with Industrialists who are likely to be helpful in facilitating Industrial funding.

October 2016: Invited by the conference organiser, Dr Ed Quazi, to be a guest speaker at the Circulating Biomarkers conference at Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland.

February, 2018: Invited by the conference organiser, Cerlin Roberts of Oxford Global, to be a guest speaker at the 13th Annual Biomarkers Congress in Manchester, UK.

Sophie Mumford has increased her expertise in the cancer biomarker field and is eager to continue her work in Cancer Research by carrying out a Ph.D.

Sarah Smalley increased her expertise in analysis of circulating biomarkers in melanoma and is now working in a Biomarkers company in the U.S.A.

Amy Pashler increased her expertise in analysis of circulating biomarkers in melanoma and is now completing her PhD in cancer.

Five reports detailing the progress on our work.

Research Publications:
Burchill, S., Droop, A., Jones, C. I., Brownhill, S., Amankwatia, E., Prokoph, N. Viprey, V., Thorne, J., Hughes, T., Towler, B.P., Pashler, A., Murray, M., Greystoke, A. and Newbury, S.F. A systematic review of the methodologies used in the detection and analysis in circulating microRNAs in cancer: recommendations for good practice. Nature methods (in prep).

Mumford, S., Towler, B.P., Pashler, A.L., Gilleard, O., Metcalfe, A.D., Martin, Y. and Newbury, S.F. Circulating microRNA biomarkers in melanoma: tools and challenges in personalised medicine. (to be submitted to Biomolecules)

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“Your on-going dedication is enabling us to make huge strides in melanoma research” Dr James Larkin

This year, as part of our ongoing charitable objective to ‘fund research to find a cure for melanoma’, the Melanoma Fund donated £20,000 to assist The Royal Marsden Melanoma Unit.  Here Dr James Larkin, Consultant Medical Oncologist FRCP PhD at the Melanoma Unit, explains how this significant donation is helping make an impact on melanoma and offering sufferers with renewed hope.

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Rowing a million metres and  breaking world records are not on the agenda for most of us, let alone those who are reaching the grand age of 80.

However, Harry Townsend is not like most people. At a time when he should really be thinking of hanging up his trainers and settling down to tend his fantasy garden in West Sussex, the prolific fundraiser is back on the case, planning on one final extreme challenge.

Harry is aiming to row a million metres and is hoping to break a world record by getting a million people to sponsor him; this being the highest amount of sponsors for one person for one event.

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