Rock bands Ash and Snow Patrol pull strings for cancer charity
Rock bands Ash and Snow Patrol are joining forces to create special souvenir bracelets from guitar strings used on tour to fundraise for a local cancer charity.
The idea to customise the bracelets was the brainchild of Ash bassist Mark Hamilton, whose mother Miriam is battling breast cancer for the third time.
One batch of 50 bass and guitar string bracelets has already been snapped up by Ash fans, selling out within minutes of going online and raising around £1,200 for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
Miriam, from Downpatrick, was first diagnosed with breast cancer 34 years ago when she was just 31. She received the news she had a second tumour 19 years ago and is now battling breast cancer again, for the third time. Miriam is also one of the founding members of the Cancer Focus NI support group and has been a member for almost 30 years.
After hearing of Mark's fundraising initiative, members of Snow Patrol - who have been friends with Ash for almost 20 years - offered to donate their strings from their recent US tour. These strings, used by Gary Lightbody, Nathan Connolly, Johnny McDaid and Paul Wilson, will make up the second wave of bracelets to be sold. A third batch of rock bracelets will then be made from Ash strings.
Mark, who is based in Jersey City, USA, said: "It's a bit of a team effort. My dad Neil is in the process of finishing this new batch. He has around 120 of them to do but is working his way through them quite quickly."
He added: "Previously the strings were tossed away, and would have ended up in landfill. It's good to know they can now have a purpose beyond the stage."
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With the Snow Patrol batch nearing completion, Mark hopes to auction them to raise as much money as possible. A third batch will then follow, consisting of strings used by both Mark and frontman Tim Wheeler in Ash gigs over the summer.
"I'm hoping the second batch featuring the Snow Patrol strings will raise a lot of money, given the size of their fan base," he said.
"The Snow Patrol lads are good friends of ours and I'm so grateful to them for helping out in this way.
"The strings from our Ward Park 3 gig in Bangor, supporting Snow Patrol, will also be used. The third batch will be ready to sell after we've played all our summer gigs."
Mark's girlfriend Becca is designing authenticity cards which will be packaged with the rock bracelets, including details of the date, venue and city that they were played in.
Mark's mum Miriam said: "As soon as I found the lump I knew right away that the cancer had returned. I had a mastectomy on December 11 and am just recovering from that now and am on hormone treatment. I had 19 years between my second and third diagnoses and I'm grateful for that.
"Mark has been saving his guitar strings and the band did a big tour last summer. He told me he was going to make the bracelets and said he would donate the proceeds to whatever I wanted. I chose Cancer Focus NI.
"The charity has given me fantastic support over the years and I have made many friends who were going through tough times. Cancer Focus NI is also raising £100,000 for breast cancer research at Queen's University to mark its 50th birthday. It's only because of vital research like this that survival rates are so good nowadays. I share the charity's vision to see a day when cancer is no longer a life-threatening disease."
To find out when the bracelets (#bassbangles) will be ready for auction or sale, fans are being asked to keep an eye on Mark's and Ash's Facebook and Instagram accounts.
If you would like to help raise money for research, sign up for the Cancer Focus NI Cheers to 50 Years campaign and ask for donations instead of gifts on your birthday this year - visit cancerfocusni.org/celebrate for details.
Anyone with any concerns about cancer can call the charity's free information and support NurseLine on 0800 783 3339.