Bedford charity pays tribute to founder with new artwork

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Brian's wife Sally Woodrow (centre) with sons James and Nicholas admiring the new drawing of Brian Woodrow at the Primrose Cancer Unit. Image: BHC&F
Brian's wife Sally Woodrow (centre) with sons James and Nicholas admiring the new drawing of Brian Woodrow at the Primrose Cancer Unit. Image: BHC&F

Bedford Hospital Charity and Friends (BHC&F) have paid tribute to its founder Brian Woodrow OBE DL by unveiling a drawing of him at the Primrose Cancer Centre at Bedford Hospital – a service he created.

Speaking about Brian during the unveiling of the artwork, Robert Oakley Deputy Chair of BHC&F said: “Almost everyone in Bedford will have been positively impacted by Brian”.

“When Brian retired in 1988, he had the desire to help the Bedford community,” said Robert. “He certainly achieved this in a huge variety of ways impacting our health, sporting opportunities, education, religion and leisure provision.

“Locating this memorial painting in the Primrose Clinic is a very fitting memory as he regarded this facility as his most successful achievement, benefitting so many of us in our hour of need.”

In all, Brian was involved in 15 charities, including:

  • Hospice at Home
  • Sharnbrook Mill Theatre
  • Swaziland Schools Project
  • St Paul’s Church
  • Bedford Sports Foundation (Bedford Sports & Hockey Centre)
  • Country Days
  • The Rotary Club

His biggest legacy, however, was setting up BHC&F which under his leadership raised over £10 million and built the Primrose Cancer Centre.

The centre was opened in 2004 and continues to operate today. Bedford Hospital says that the centre, managed in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support completes around 40 appointments daily, equating to 10,000 a year.

Sally Woodrow and his sons James and Nicholas also attended on behalf of the Woodrow family and agreed the drawing was a fitting tribute.

Primrose Car Service

Building the centre also led to the creation of the Primrose Car Service, which was launched in 2006 and helps take cancer patients from wherever they live locally to receive treatment at Addenbrookes.

Peter Marks, who manages the service for BHC&F emphasised how important the service was to give cancer patients in Bedford access to the treatment they need.

He paid tribute to the drivers, some of which were at the event, and also unveiled a new cabinet displaying the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which was awarded to them in 2014.

“Brian took up the challenge of persuading Vauxhall to give us a car and then the East of England Ambulance Service of allowing us to drive the patients.

“We now have six cars, including three new Toyota hybrids, so we’re doing our bit for the environment.

“We whisk them over to Addenbrookes, drop them right at the entrance, to avoid a long walk from the car park, so patients really appreciate that.

“Then we go and take them into the department and show them exactly where to go on their first visit. We then wait for them and then we bring them back home.”

Brian passed away in July 2021 and he is still deeply missed by his friends and colleagues who he encouraged to help him with his fundraising efforts.

At the reception after his painting was unveiled, the room was full of people swapping stories about how Brian persuaded them to get involved or how they witnessed him getting hold of donations for his appeals, “it was impossible to say “no” to Brian” said one.

In an emotional tribute, artist and friend Amanda ‘Mandy’ Brookes who created the picture of Brian, spoke of what he meant to her.

Primrose Car Service drivers and the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. Image: BHC&F
Primrose Car Service drivers and the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Image: BHC&F

Emotional tribute

She said: “Brian had been a friend for a very long time and he only lived around the corner from me, so drawing this picture helped me when he died quite unexpectedly.

“He was fantastic. He was determined in what he wanted and if he had an idea, generally speaking, it came to fruition, and he knew people who to ask for support.

“With his leadership, others have now followed on and become committee members for Bedford Hospital Charity & Friends who have helped continue that work.

“The Primrose Unit and the work of the charity and everything else he was involved in is Brian’s legacy.”

Brian moved to the Bedford area when he started working for Texas Instruments in 1968. Following a successful career in recruitment and advertising, including 25 years commuting to London, he retired in 1988.

It was then that he became involved in charities across Bedford and beyond and he was then made High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1995.

In 2003, he was awarded an OBE for services to the community and was also a Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire.

Transparency: Paul Hutchinson is a
member of the BHC&F committee