Tackling men’s cancer, one step and song along the Cleveland Way

January 31, 2024

‘Shall We Sing a Song For You: The Cleveland Way?’ sees Mike McGrother lead the Infant Hercules and their companions over a 110 mile walk, as they make their way from Helmsley to Filey, between 30 January and 8 February 2024. The ‘musical and sociable’ gatherings will allow people to connect each day and raise awareness of men’s cancer.

The project was initiated by The Trinity Holistic Centre cancer support and clinical team based at James Cook University Hospital with help from consultant Johnny Fergusson and, none other than Mike McGrother and his ‘Wild Rover’ guise. It has since evolved further with the help of a Macmillan Cancer Support grant, who are keen to find more ways to engage with men and their relationship with cancer, as well as private sector support to cover some of the costs.

Mike said: “We wanted the project to be something that could start in and highlight the community of the Tees Valley but also potentially further down the line, inspire others to follow in our footsteps. We would show them OUR way, The Cleveland Way, and they can explore and show us theirs. The project uses the empathic symbolism of walking and the emotional connection of singing to provide an inspiration, a connection to talk.

Infant Hercules provide a voice to enable often hidden, forgotten, or avoided words to be heard. Formed ten years ago, our pub-based choir sing and share stories of our heritage and consequently share stories of our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly! Inspired by our industrial past, the men sing loud and proud and consequently they have become difficult to ignore as they pop up around their beloved Teesside.”

Mike McGrother has often used his ‘Wild Rover’ guise to share stories that resonate and creatively incorporates singing and walking to narrate tales that matter. From his epic walk from Ireland to Middlesbrough, illustrating the impact of the Irish diaspora in Teesside to the evocative walk from Stockton to Ypres to remember Shot at Dawn Stockton Soldier George Hunter, Mike has a unique and creative approach to storytelling. He is passionate about reminding everyone that their story – their voices matter – they are the foundation of any community.

‘Shall We Sing A Song For You?’ is about the many issues faced by men in relation to cancer, from recognising symptoms to asking for help to reducing any consequent sense of isolation. The project enables people to walk in other men’s footsteps, to hear stories or songs, to share experiences and to explore new ways of connecting men, particularly in rural and coastal communities. It intends to remind us how precious life is and how each of us has a role to play in helping one another ‘on the way’.

Infant Hercules, a symbolic representation of ‘voice’ in the initiative, is sponsored by SRC an independent consultancy firm based in Stockton who deliver HSE, cost and project management, and lifting compliance services to an array of sectors throughout the UK. The sponsorship supports the transport and appearances of Infant Hercules at three points along the journey:

Tuesday, January 30 – to mark the first day of the walk, Infant Hercules will be ‘singing into the sunset’ at the top of Sutton Bank.

Saturday, February 3 – to mark the weekend of World Cancer Day, (February 4), the lads will be holding a shanty singalong in The Treebridge Hotel, (3.00pm) for participants of The Roseberry Ramble. (12.30pm) – a short and reflective walk around, up and down Roseberry Topping for anyone effected by cancer.

Thursday, February 8 – They will signal the end of walk with a rousing guest singalong in The Imperial, Filey – part of their weekly open mic event.

Graham Tyerman, managing director at SRC, expressed the organisation’s commitment to the cause: “SRC is proud to sponsor the Infant Hercules in this impactful endeavour. We have been moved by the many benefits of the initiative which aligns with our values of promoting health and well-being within communities. Men’s cancer is a critical issue, and we believe in supporting activities that spark meaningful conversations and connections.”

There will be a final sharing, celebration and reveal of OUR song at an event in ARC at 7.30pm on Thursday 29 February.

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