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NHS takes award for ‘longest O2 Arena residency’

After turning the London venue into a training facility for 44 days, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been declared the longest residency to date at the O2 Arena.

The record – previously held by the likes of Prince, Take That and comedian Michael McIntyre – is commemorated by a piece of artwork, by illustrator Madeleine Floyd, signed by NHS educational staff stationed at the venue during its time as a ‘Nightingale’ hospital training centre.

The framed artwork is displayed backstage alongside signed photos of the artists, comedians and sports stars who have played the AEG-operated venue, which remains the most-visited in the world.

“It has been a privilege for AEG … to have been able to play our part during these challenging times”

Danielle Kennedy-Clark, the O2’s deputy general manager, says: “We’ve hosted some real heroes during these past few weeks and it has been a privilege for AEG, along with our partner O2, to have been able to play our part during these challenging times. This has been our most important residency to date, and we’re grateful to the team for this special piece of artwork to remind us of such a poignant time.”

The NHS team have now left the O2, as the coronavirus crisis eases in the UK, though all 120 are invited back to climb the Up at the O2 attraction when it reopens in July. The O2 staff recently raised £8,000 in memory of Up at the O2 climb guide Mark Griffiths, who died from Covid-19.

 


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CAA’s Ben Kouijzer fundraising for cancer care

CAA London agent Ben Kouijzer has thanked the international live music industry for its “incredible love, support and generosity”, following a groundswell of support for his fundraising campaign to pay for cancer treatment.

Kouijzer, 36, turned to crowdfunding site GoFundMe after being diagnosed with malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour (MPNST) – a rare and aggressive form of cancer of the connective tissue surrounding nerves, which in Kouijzer’s case later metastasised to his lungs.

After being told by doctors that the lung cancer would eventually kill him, Kouijzer “immediately began an ongoing process of researching every possible thing that I could do (conventional and integrative) to change the course of history I found myself on,” he explains, “discussing different treatments, arranging tests, ordering supplements, radically changing diet, speaking to therapists, embracing meditation and breathwork, taking in as much information as we could and trying to make sense of it all.”

MPNST is non-chemosensitive, meaning it doesn’t respond to chemotherapy. Doctors in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) suggested operating on one lung at a time to remove as much of the cancer as they can, and then follow up with chemotherapy to “manage the disease”, Kouijzer continues.

“We are embracing surgery with open arms, and feel fortunate to have an amazing surgeon within the NHS, but bog-standard chemo that isn’t likely to work just doesn’t feel good enough for a long term outcome.”

“We are more hopeful than that,” he adds, explaining that “there are other forms of treatment, targeted therapies and immunotherapies that can in some cases have better outcomes that we want to explore after surgery. Eligibility for these depends on certain genetic mutations which need to be tested for using expensive molecular testing and DNA sequencing – something that is not available as standard through the NHS. If I have certain genetic mutations, I might be eligible for some of these more promising treatments, and maybe even beat this thing!

“If I have certain genetic mutations, I might be eligible for some of these more promising treatments, and maybe even beat this thing”

“While I’m not turning my back on the NHS, who have been in so many ways amazing up until this point, we need to form the right team of people, do the necessary testing and create an individualised treatment plan for me, no matter what or where in the world this takes place.

“I just don’t have the financial resources to do all of this alone.”

Kouijzer, who is currently in hospital recovering from the first of the lung surgeries, says he has been “blown away” by the support for the fundraiser – which includes donations from friends, wellwishers and colleagues in the concert business – which smashed through its £50,000 target within a matter of hours on Friday 8 April.

At press time, the GoFundMe stood at over £117,000 – every penny of which will be put towards “treatments further down the road”, says Kouijzer, whose CAA roster includes electronic music acts 808 State, Meduza, Tough Love and Bearcubs.

“Thank you so much, everybody – I can’t tell you how this makes me feel,” he adds. “It’s been a lonely week in hospital but the support I’m feeling today is just unreal.”

To donate to Kouijzer’s campaign, visit Ben Kouijzer’s fight to survive MPNST on GoFundMe.

 


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The O2 Arena opens as NHS training facility

The O2 Arena in London has been made available free of charge to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as a training facility, starting on Easter Sunday (12 March).

Initially operating from 12 April to 29 June 2020, staff trained at the O2 will go on to work at the NHS ‘Nightingale’ field hospital at the ExCel centre in east London.

The O2 – the world’s leading indoor arena – says that while becoming an NHS training centre “will require further rescheduling of events booked to take place during this period, the priority for us all at this time is to help save lives, and we know our customers will understand our desire to support the NHS in this way.”

“We know our customers will understand our desire to support the NHS in this way”

The rest of the O2 remains closed to the public until further notice.

Mark Evans, CEO of the AEG-run venue’s naming partner, O2, comments; “Mobile connectivity is more important than ever before, and we’re continuing to work hard to keep the country connected…

“From providing additional capacity for the NHS, to working with our partners to utilise venues such as the O2, we’re committed to giving customers and key workers the network they need to keep in contact with those closest to them.”

 


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Paul Heaton, Jacqui Abbott to perform free for NHS staff

Former Beautiful South members Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott are performing a free show for National Health Service (NHS) workers at the 9,000-capacity Nottingham Motorpoint Arena.

The show will take place on Tuesday 13 October as part of a UK tour, which has recently been rescheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The tour is promoting the duo’s recently released album, Manchester Calling.

NHS staff, “including but not limited to doctors, nurses, support workers, porters and cleaners”, will be eligible for free tickets to the show.

“The coronavirus pandemic should remind everyone, and let no-one forget, that our National Health Service is the most brilliant and significant institution in our lives”

“The coronavirus pandemic should remind everyone, and let no-one forget, that our National Health Service is the most brilliant and significant institution in our lives,” says Heaton.

“The men and women who serve us and care for us, give us hope and sacrifice for their own wellbeing, can never be thanked enough. We are just musicians, so there is little we can do but sing for you.”

Tickets will be available from 7 p.m. on Tuesday 31 March, and will be limited to two per person. Ticketholders must bring a valid NHS or Primary Care Trust identification card to the show. More information can be found here.

Photo: Simon Fernandez/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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