CRY has always been fortunate to have had the support of an illustrious list of Patrons – largely from the world of sport, due to CRY’s early associations with tennis and the initial screening of athletes. But, back in 2010, a chance ‘viral video’ made by a group of Surrey schoolchildren saw Pixie Lott – one of the UK’s rising stars – approach CRY with a pledge to use her profile to raise awareness of young sudden cardiac death and the work that CRY was doing to prevent these tragedies.
CRY’s Founder, Alison Cox MBE, met Pixie Lott (who is currently back on our screens as a judge on ITV’s hugely popular show, “The Voice Kids”) in the summer of 2010, on the day that she made a secret visit to Amesbury School at their end-of-term prizegiving ceremony.
Pupils at Amesbury School had previously recorded a version of Pixie’s hit song “Boys and Girls” to sell through iTunes to raise money for CRY in memory of former pupil Sebastian English, who had died suddenly and tragically at the age of 15 from an undetected heart condition. The video had caught Pixie’s attention and she contacted CRY to arrange a surprise appearance to thank the students for their efforts, in person.
Pixie’s passion for CRY’s work was clear from day one… and Alison had no hesitation in inviting her to become a Patron and to formalise her role with the charity. Later that year, Pixie was officially announced as CRY’s latest Patron at the charity’s annual Parliamentary Reception, where she made history by taking to the mic on the speakers podium and becoming the first singer to perform live inside the House of Commons! The following year, she followed up with another mesmerising performance, singing ‘Silent Night’ at CRY’s first ever fundraising Carol Concert.
As part of our “Looking back” series of blogs, Alison explains how, 10 years on from offering to lend her support to CRY, Pixie Lott is still seen as one of the charity’s most proactive Patrons and is fondly remembered for the inspiring events she championed to ensure that CRY’s key messages would be picked up by the all-important youth audience, across the UK.
“From the first time I met Pixie – and her wonderfully supportive mum, Bev – I knew that there was something special about her and her commitment to CRY and that we had to have her on board with us. We’d always had amazing support from our exisiting panel of Patrons, with ‘big names’ such as Sir Ian Botham, Sir Steve Redgrave and Pat Jennings, alongside a host of other Olympians and high-profile personalities… but as we marked our 15th aniversary year in 2010, it felt entirely appropriate to include a new and young ‘ambassador’ from the entertainment industry. At just 19 years of age at the time – and at the start of her flourishing career – Pixie was just the woman we needed to help us communicate to other young people at a similar age.
“And it quickly became apparent, through my conversations with Bev, that Pixie wasn’t just ‘another celebrity’ who wanted to align herself with a national charity. She had a very personal connection and poignant reason for wanting to become involved with CRY. In 2004, Adam Donnelly (who was a friend of Pixie’s older sister, Charlie) tragically died from a previously undiagnosed condition known as Brugada syndrome. He was aged just 17. Then, in 2012, Matt Beadle (a performer and dance teacher who knew Pixie during his time at the Italia Conti School in Chislehurst) died suddenly in 2012, also from a previously undiagnosed condition. He was aged just 32.”
Speaking in 2010, as she first took on her role with CRY, Pixie said; “I wanted to become a Patron of CRY as it affects so many young people and it’s crazy that a seemingly fit and young person can just drop down dead. I feel it’s so important to raise awareness and will continue to use my role as Patron to help ‘spread the word’ about CRY’s vital work.”
Having made two impressive singing debuts for CRY in 2010 and 2011, Pixie’s awareness raising work didn’t stop there – despite her own rapidly growing profile, workload and demanding schedule. In December 2013, she performed at another CRY Carol Concert, this time held at St John’s Church Smith Square, where she sang alongside the very talented, utterly spellbound (and a little bit starstruck!) choir from Sandcross Primary School who had travelled from Reigate (close to CRY’s office) to the prestigious central London venue.
The following year Pixie took part in four “surprise assemblies” at secondary schools, close to her original home town in Kent – all with very personal associations to CRY due to tragic deaths of past students from previously undiagnosed heart conditions.
Alison Cox adds; “Everyone involved, staff and students, were absoutely thrilled that Pixie was able to visit High Weald Academy, Aylesford School Sports College, Ravens Wood and St Thomas More Secondary schools as part of her short tour of selected schools during the Summer term of 2014.
“Yet again, Pixie proved herself to be a wonderful ambassador for CRY through her unique way of communicating with a young – apparently invincible – age group, who we knew were hard to reach with messages about health and the importance of having their hearts screened. Not only did she sing for them but also took part in short Q&A sessions with the delighted pupils, helping to generate some fantastic and very valuable media coverage from local newspapers to national TV news! I also had the privilege of attending, along with invited CRY representatives (bereaved family members from the local area). It was certainly an initiative in CRY’s 25-year history that I shall never forget.”
In 2014 and 2016, Pixie again stepped up her support by offering to “clear out her wardrobe” to raise funds for CRY. Pop-up shops in Grays (Essex) and then Uxbridge saw Pixie donating a huge amount of clothes, including stunning dresses from her tours and performances, as well as leisurewear, shoes, trainers and accessories – all to be sold off to “fans for funds”.
With items ranging from £5 to £50, the shops were staffed by the CRY team and volunteers, who also took the opportunity to hand out important information about CRY. The unusual and provocative initiative was a huge success!
But perhaps the pinnacle of Pixie Lott’s involvement as a Patron was her starring role in the BBC Lifeline Appeal on behalf of CRY, which was broadcast (as part of the BBC’s iconic and long-running series) on February 21st 2016.
Alison, who spent the day filming with Pixie, says; “We were hopeful that Pixie’s past commitment and great loyalty to CRY meant she would do everything to squeeze us in to her very demanding schedule, which at the time, included appearing in a West End show as well as her busy pop career! So, we trusted our instinct and cautiously invited her to front the programme for us, along with families and young people who had been affected by inherited heart conditions.
“Pixie was – and always has been – a highly committed advocate of CRY. Of course, all of our fantastic Patrons (and our new wave of Ambassadors) have made a wonderful difference to CRY’s work and public profile and we are always hugely grateful to them all for the enormous amount of time and energy they give to supporting our mantra of helping to save young lives.”