LAURA Appleton from Warrington has put on her dancing shoes in a bid to raise money by taking part in this year’s Strictly St Rocco’s event.
But Laura’s motivation stretches back generations and highlights how inspirational her family have been in their support of the hospice.
Once dubbed ‘the Lowry of Warrington’, Laura’s grandmother – Brenda Shaw – was a passionate and dedicated advocate for St Rocco’s Hospice. Brenda’s journey started when her father, Laura’s great-grandfather, was cared for many years ago, in the old hospice building.
Laura told us how much her grandma loved to paint.
“She would paint at home, in the garden and on holiday. When my grandma and grandad went away
together, she would set up and paint pictures whilst he went fishing.”
Brenda was a talented artist, specialising in paintings of Warrington through the years, which were reproduced on cards and in calendars and sold to raise money for the hospice. Laura told us that when she was small, she thought her grandma was famous because she was recognised wherever she went!
Laura remembers her grandma as a “lovely soul” and her mum and auntie’s best friend.
Brenda’s prints have appeared on many ‘Warrington Memory’ groups, some of which show they have been bought by people around the world!
Sadly, Brenda died in 2009 after a long battle with leukaemia. Laura recalled visiting the hospice to see her grandma and say goodbye and said that it never felt like a sad place to be, but a comforting and positive place.
“Everyone was nice, and you can really see why the hospice means so much to so many people in Warrington.”
Laura wanted to do something to keep Brenda’s memory and dedication alive and to encourage her friends and family to support the cause. And with her love of dancing, Strictly St Rocco’s was the perfect idea! Although she told us she was nervous about being a dancer at the event, set to take place on Sunday 10th December at Nunsmere Hall Hotel, she was also really excited. She told us that her grandma would love every minute of it and her grandad, Brenda’s late husband Andy, enjoyed dancing too.
Laura will be joined by seven other amateur dancers on the night: Chris Forster, Emily Blight, Christine Brett Rowles, Lee Houghton, Duncan Thorpe, Steph Houghton and Steve Park. Each will be paired with a professional dancer from Cadman’s Dance School and will be competing for the coveted Strictly St Rocco’s Glitter Ball trophy. The event has been sponsored by Ingevity and Quintessential Brands (Greenalls).
Since signing up for the event, Laura has recently learnt that some of Brenda’s prints are still in the hospice and have been there since 2009. She said that she felt this was her grandma’s way of comforting her through the emotional feat and supporting her fundraising efforts. The beautiful paintings have given Laura something to focus on and have increased her confidence. Laura, supported by her mum and auntie, will be holding a pop-up stall in Golden Square on Saturday 11th November outside the old M&S to sell the prints and give people the chance to be part of Brenda’s legacy whilst raising money for the hospice. There will also be a small number available to purchase from St Rocco’s Hospice reception.
“I have grown up knowing about the amazing work that St Rocco’s does for our local community. My grandma, Brenda Shaw, raised thousands of pounds for St Rocco’s over many years by painting pictures of old Warrington which were used in a calendar which St Rocco’s produced and sold each year.
Her name and legacy of her work are greatly remarked on by many people, and I feel that taking part in St Rocco’s Strictly will be my way of keeping her fundraising efforts alive as well as doing something that I am passionate about.”