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Cancer Tapestry

Launch of 5th panel @ V&A Dundee

16th March 11.00am and screening of Documentary


Launched Saturday 3rd February 2024 

Featuring launch of documentary called “A Good Thing to do” by Jon Gill

Four completed Cancer Tapestry panels

Meet stitchers with an afternoon workshop with further panels being stitched.

Cornerstone Centre, St John’s Episcopal Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ


The idea


The aim is to create a Cancer Tapestry that will show a 1000 stories of cancer. To show not only science behind cancer care and the process most cancer patients receive, but the human side of cancer treatment. The compassion and caring that comes not only from doctors, nurses and staff, but from family, friends and community.

"In 2017 Edinburgh artist Andrew Crummy was diagnosed with throat cancer. He vowed that if he survived he would tell the story of cancer by bringing people together to create something potentially bigger and more globally significant than his other great work, The Great Tapestry of Scotland. 


When an old art college friend heard about it she offered to donate yarn for use in the project as she had recently lost her sister in law, a talented machine knitter  to brain cancer. This led to her taking on a panel to be created in Dundee. She called on her friends to help to stitch and design the 24 small circles surrounding Andrew’s main image. Science was It’s title and there was much discussion about the content which combines some scientific references but mainly personal tributes celebrating survivors and remembering those who sadly lost their lives to cancer including Alasdair (Breeks) Brodie. 


Over the weekend 6 tapestries and Andrew’s initial artwork will be displayed along with Jon Gill’s film,supported by Macmillan Cancer Support whichchronicles the inception of the idea and what it means to those who have taken part so far... most of whom live with cancer or have someone very close to them who has.


There will also be workshops where visitors can add a stitch or two to the “Compassion” panel, seeing the developing Dunblane Panel and can take a kit to stitch their own individual circle which will be used to create a MacMillan Cancer Support panel."


Mairi Fraser


Background to the story from Andrew Crummy


" In 2017 I went through treatment for throat cancer. Through this experience I began speaking to Rod Mountain, an ENT surgeon from Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. Rod had heard through a mutual friend Fraser MacLean that I had designed The Great Tapestry of Scotland. Rod phoned me while I was in hospital getting chemotherapy treatment, suggesting when I get better I should think about doing a Cancer Tapestry. While at the same time, my oncologist Dr Ioanna Nixon noticed I was sketching in the hospital and encouraged me to keep drawing. After my treatment Ioanna, who was then working at The Beatson in Glasgow, and Rod began the journey with me to create a Cancer Tapestry, later joined by Gillian Hart.  Over the coming years several panels have been created. And recently MacMillan Cancer Support supported the creation of a documentary by Jon Gill and this event.

As a designer and community artist I felt I could give something back to The NHS and the amazing treatment I received. Getting The Cancer Tapestry up and running has been a real privilege, in particular the many moving stories that are shared and stitched."


Rod Mountain adds to this story


" Andrew's story is personal, but not unique. It speaks a universal human truth. Directly or indirectly, we are all affected by the physical, emotional and social consequences of cancers that none of us can avoid. The Cancer Tapestry project offers help and hope, and brings humanity together stitch by stitch, story by story, panel by panel. Would it not be amazing if every human being could add a stitch or two! "


From Dr Ioanna Nixon

“The Cancer Tapestry is a novel art project enabling anyone directly or indirectly affected by cancer to share their story. It is an honour being part of this movement from its infancy. 

We are making huge progress with cancer therapies through research and clinical innovations. However, everyone’s cancer journey is unique and undoubtedly requires all the support they can have to make it easier. The Cancer Tapestry panels  this journey combining hundreds of stories under many themes; from science to compassion. Hence, this movement is important for people to express themselves, share experience, learn, and talk about a disease way to common for us to keep quiet. Will you add a stitch? “


Jon Gill, documentary maker explains how he got involved


“As soon as I heard Andrew’s story I just had to tell it. And it became so much more than I could have imagined at the beginning. What’s remarkable is that until now the stories in Andrew’s tapestries have been geographical… whereas The Cancer Tapestry is universal."


From Eleanor Oglivie, MacMillan Cancer Support

“As soon as I heard about the Cancer Tapestry I was keen to work with Andrew to see how we might also extend this wonderful project to the people affected by cancer that Macmillan support. The creative way that people’s cancer experiences have been shared and the community spirit behind this work as a unique way to engage with people whose voice is often missing. It's such an important educational and community engagement method.”


The Panels


During the Covid lockdown Heather Swinson completed the first panel, which was presented to the Scottish Health Secretary Jean Freeman to put in the final stitch. This panel tells many stories and has involved many people including doctors, nurses, etc. Jo Allen  Heather's daughter made a beautiful film to tell its story. At present there are 10 panels up and running and I have completed three paintings based on my experience. We have panels in Walton on Thames, Glasgow, Dundee, Dunblane, East Lothian and Leeds. Two panels being designed by a Junior Doctor. And hoping to expand to create a MacMillan Cancer Support Panel. It is hoped to further expand the project gathering more stories about cancer.

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