Neil Cliffe honoured in inaugural Pride of Manchester Awards

By Eamonn O'Neal on May 9, 2019

At St Ann’s, we’re always proud of the work that we’re doing across Greater Manchester, but this week we’re even more proud and inspired than usual, thanks to a fantastic surprise for someone who is an important member of the hospice family.

The Pride of Britain awards are always a moving, inspirational and uplifting event, with millions tuning in to celebrate incredible stories of people from right across the UK.

This year, organisers brought the awards to Manchester for the inaugural Pride of Manchester Awards, and we were thrilled to see Neil Cliffe recognised with a special life-time achievement award for his work.

For those reading this blog who don’t know Neil, he is an inspiration to many.  He was the first man in England to run a marathon with cancer, after being diagnosed at the age of 45.  He underwent a life-saving operation, and amazingly fundraised a million pounds to open the Neil Cliffe Cancer Centre, which opened in 1992 and is now part of St Ann’s Hospice.  It’s a care centre based in the grounds of Wythenshawe Hospital, providing support to people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses from across Greater Manchester.

When we secretly entered Neil, who is also Honorary Vice President of St Ann’s, for the award, we were hopeful that the judging panel would see just how amazing his fundraising efforts have been over the years, and we were delighted when we received the call to let us know he had been chosen.

Now over 80 years old, Neil continues to support people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses by raising money and awareness of the support that is available for patients and their loved ones.  His energy, fundraising, and thoughtfulness for others continues, and he has dedicated years of his own life to making the lives of others better.

His amazing fundraising activity started when he was undergoing treatment for colon cancer and promised to buy an endoscope for his cancer surgeon.  Spurred on to help even further, Neil managed to gather an army of supporters.  His promise turned into a huge appeal – The Buy a Brick Appeal – which was one of the region’s first ever ‘crowd-funding’ appeals.  It was supported by TV, music and radio celebrities who encouraged people to buy a brick to build the centre.  Those celebrities included Manchester City and Manchester United players, Coronation Street cast members and the pop stars of the day.  In fact, some of the named bricks can still be seen in the garden of The Neil Cliffe Centre today.

Neil and his supporters raised a staggering £1million to build the specialist facility for local patients.  It was the first of its kind to be built within an NHS hospital, and aimed to support people right from the point of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.  We’re pleased that the centre continues to make a real difference to the lives of people in Greater Manchester today.

Neil often says that he wants everyone to understand that there’s so much more to a person than their illness or tumour, that they have a mind, emotions and a heart, and that they need fully holistic care.  That’s something we have at the centre of everything we do at the hospice, and those that experience care at The Neil Cliffe Centre and the other St Ann’s sites often comment on how we enable them to live the very best quality of life they can.

Congratulations Neil on such a well-deserved award.  We were thrilled to see your decades of selfless work to help others recognised on such a prestigious platform.  We hope you enjoyed your day. You’re a true local hero.