The new Maggie’s Centre, Oxford
Finders Keepers’ Charity of the Year 2013 was the wonderful Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres in Oxford. Over the year we cycled, walked, manned bucket collections, hosted a charity shoot and organised an online auction all in the name of Maggie’s. For our efforts, our incredibly generous landlords donated a day’s rent by way of sponsorship bringing the year’s total funds raised to £22,855.77. On Monday 23rd June 2014 we were fortunate to be invited to see what this money has gone towards: the team at Maggie’s has finally received the keys to the brand new centre, opposite the cancer centre at the Churchill hospital.
A small group of Finders Keepers representatives arrived at the Churchill site and were welcomed by the sight of the new ‘tree house’ structure. Our last visit in November was to see the basic frame of the building so it was a real privilege to be invited to look around the finished article. We looked around the various rooms, from the kitchen that welcomes you as you walk in, to the meeting space (where group sessions and Tai Chi classes will take place) and smaller rooms for one-to-one sessions. One thing that struck us was that none of the balconies or floor-to-ceiling windows faced the hospital. The building is designed on a domestic scale and so when a patient enters the new centre they will most definitely not feel that they are at a hospital, but that they are in a welcoming, cosy and supportive space.
After we had all had the chance to look around, the guests then gathered in the meeting space for brief talks from Laura Lee (Maggie’s Chief Executive Officer), Chris Wilkinson (the architect) and Flora Gathorne-Hardy (the landscape gardener). It was fascinating to hear from the architect who told us that the timber tree house design came about in response to the lovely wooded site: the idea of a tree house because, although you access the centre across a straight bridge, it is actually raised off the ground and in amongst the foliage, and the angular geometry part of the building was designed to fit in around the trees and natural wildlife setting. One thing we noticed was the cosy atmosphere of the inside and the peaceful tranquillity of the outside; indeed, Flora mentioned that the theme of the garden was “listen”, which is very much what happens inside of the centre too.
It will be fascinating to see the garden area flourish over the years and the new spectacular building and its location is just wonderful for those dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Having visited the interim Portakabin many times, we know that the friendly welcome from the Maggie’s team will remain the same, but the new centre just offers a bit more of that ‘safe haven’ atmosphere. The centre is due to officially open next week.