The C Word. It filled A’s heart with dread, a reminder of people she had lost, who had suffered, writhing in pain. People liked to ‘romanticize’ things that felt ‘ dark and desperate’, but the truth was that cancer unequivocally sucked. The haunting uncertainty of life waved before your eyes, a pendulum of death’s shadow lurking. A reminder of our own mortality, our bodies crumbling before our own eyes. Yes, that would be the outsider looking ins perspective. But the truth was cancer patients were warriors, who fought with every inch of their breath to overcome the disease. It’s why Atria Watford had created the ‘Love Your Selfie’ pop up, to commemorate all the beautiful angels in heaven, who had gone too soon.
Young babies, children, and teens too, caught in the cruel throes of cancer that robbed them of their lives. Some as young as just two years old, swept into the eternal skies. Embraced by celestials, they would watch over their families, guardian angels if you will. Though the darkness lingered, and the light began to fade, they never, ever stopped fighting. Her beloved Aunty, was one of the warriors, who had been cancer-free for 6 years. She had stage three stomach cancer and needed part of her stomach removed. Yet despite her battle, she was fearless, fierce, and strong. The pain was mighty, but her time wasn’t up just yet. Here she was, six years later. The after-effects of cancer, and treatment would never go away, but as she put it ‘she was grateful to be here, when so many others weren’t’.
A’s grandma was one of those people, who had terminal bowel cancer. She was unrecognizable at the end, yet her eyes still sparkled. Despite the illness that was slowly taking over, the heart of who she was still shone through. There were many others, young, old and in-between that A had known who had cancer, and it was a cause that A was passionate about. Why? Because according to Macmillan, there were 3 million people living with cancer in the UK. That meant that around 1 in 20 people (*5%) in the UK were living with cancer, which was an alarming statistic.
There were babies, children and young adults too. 3,755 young soldiers diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK. It broke A’s heart; all those long lives cruelly ended by the C word. And yet despite the brief time that they were on this earth plane, their journey was impactful. Their stories helped others get diagnosed. Their lives shone awareness on new treatments, and funded research. No matter how long these little warriors lived, their bravery would be told for years to come. To all our angels in heaven and on earth, words can’t describe how proud we are.
Babies born fighting, toddlers in impish battle. Young children confronting cancer head on, teens writing exams saying no to the C word. Young adults locked in war to be free. They were more than just a statistic. They had names, lives, stories, and memories. These soldiers deserved to be remembered, memorialized even in death. Its why A chose to partner with Atria Watford, whose first summer pop up ‘Love Your Selfie’ celebrated cancer warriors past and present.
Supporting young people with rhabdomyosarcoma, 100% of their tickets would be donated to Alice’s Arc, a local charity. Before attending, A had no idea what rhabdomyosarcoma was. A rare type of soft tissue sarcoma (tumour), it mostly affected children under 10. More common in boys than girls, the tumours would develop from muscle or fibrous tissue. The most common areas of the body to be affected were around the head and neck, bladder, testes, womb, or vagina. Tears sprang to her eyes reading the prognosis. It was a seriously underfunded form of cancer and needed more widespread attention.
That’s why Atria Watford had created an immersive, bold, and colourful pop-up event, with fun interactive selfie rooms. It was a chance to celebrate the lives of all the rhabdomyosarcoma warriors who had died bravely fighting. She would say their names out loud. Jessica Macqueen 3rd September 2010 – 18 October 2019. William Rutt who passed on the 21st February 2021, aged 2021.Freddie Carpenter aged 5, in October 2018. Alice, the inspiration behind Alice’s Arc died age 7, after 4 and a half years of fighting the disease. Their names would never be forgotten. Their stories would be relayed. Their memories would be kept alive.
And so A headed down to the ‘Love Your Selfie’ pop-up, to raise vital funds for local charity Jessica’s arc, who were supporting Alice’s Arc. This summer’s must visit attraction, the selfie rooms were colourful, sparkly, and just as popular with adults, as there were with kids. It was like A had stepped back in time, childhood nostalgia rampant. A melting Rubix cube in a rainbow colour, plucked from the 80’s. Papier Mache rainbow curtains, and an explosion of confetti, twirling through the air. A sea of pinks, reds, yellows, and greens too, a zebra print floor with a pop of sage green. The colours were curiously joyful, a pastiche of textures, prints, and fabrics.
The artist in her was begging to explore. She was happiest when she was around colours, and Atria did not disappoint. A soft pink study with a library of faux books. She perched lingering on a soft backed chair, vintage pink. A whimsical sign read ‘quiet please’ above her head, and she took that time to think. It wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing to look at, or an ‘Instagram opportunity’. It was so much more than that. It was a chance for people to use the selfie rooms to raise money for childhood cancer. It would push its visitors to do their research and help others who were suffering with rhabdomyosarcoma. Together, they could make a difference.
She clambered upon the large pink and white desk joyfully, a retro Barbie pink telephone in her hand. There was even a vintage bell on the desk that she would pretend to ring, unleashing her inner child. Because that is exactly what the event was about. Celebrating life, in all its entirety. Sure, real life was full of ups and downs. But here time was suspended, in 9 rooms of magical surrealism. In a red and pink floral top, and skirt, her red heels click clacked on the floor as she found a rainbow room, that was bursting with elation. Papier Mache style textured curtains in cobalt blue, sunshine yellow, and lime green juxtaposed with a fuchsia floor.
Gold and pink smatterings of confetti were littered across the floor, in exploratory delight. The theme of a ‘never-ending childhood’ seemed apt given the charity they were supporting, and A couldn’t be happier. It was fun for all the family, with immersive rooms and stand out backdrops, that she hadn’t seen elsewhere. A kaleidoscope of colours that resonated so deeply with her within her soul. Colours that represented ‘good times’, ‘positivity’ and ‘jubilation’.
Next to the ribbon and confetti room, there were kids talking to magical teddy bears. They would whisper into their ears, impish grins on their faces. There was a permanent smile etched onto the bears, who were oh so cuddly to touch. Sandwiched underneath them were rainbow macaroons, pastel purple, vintage pink, lemon yellow. It was oh so sweet, with lollipop props that would make any children’s dreams come true. They were too young to remember now, but their visit, could help save someone’s life. As a woman who was passionate about charity work, A could think of nowhere else she would rather be, than Atria Watford.
A ‘barbie pink’ wonderland came next, with melting paint swirls. Some of the rooms were elaborate, and some were simpler. This was the latter of the two, paint spills splurging onto hot pink walls. Marigold yellow overpowering duck egg blue, and parakeet green, in hopeless abandonment. Her time was fleeting here, but nevertheless impactful. Though the time crunch was looming, she lost sight of the concept of hours here. Like the paint swirls, she was drifting more, and more into a world where rules forgot to exist. Perhaps one of the most surreal rooms was the Rubix cube. One of the most popular rooms, it lay opposite a green room with a boombox, oh so flawlessly.
If there was one sole room that would be responsible for attracting the most people to Love Your Selfie, the Rubix would win. Why? It wasn’t just the world’s top selling puzzle game, but it was a miraculous invention too. Sure, there was mathematical skill and logic, but it was the mystery that lay within, that made it oh so enticing. She would walk in, an emerald, green handbag at the ready. A matching blazer would be tossed on elated shoulders, skimming over pumpkin and rust orange top and trousers. With green 90’s jelly mules, the look was decidedly retro, and deliberately so.
Channelling her inner Kyle from South Park, she would laugh, smile, and snort her way through the room. Leaving behind her adult worries, she slid up and down the Rubix cube, as though she was a kid once more. It was a long time ago since she felt like a kid again, but somehow Love Your Selfie had recaptured the innocence and wonder of her child-like mind. After all, she was a child at heart, even if she had adult responsibilities. Even the person who was behind the phone would smile, as she channelled her inner ‘big kid’. Though the cause that she was supporting was sad, she hoped to bring joy to the experience, to remember them how they wanted to be remembered.
Because let’s face it. Cancer robbed children from living their lives. It took away their freedom and left them sick. No one should have to fight cancer, least of all a child. To be a parent of a kid who is sick must be unimaginable. How do you deal with a diagnosis like that? That’s why, as trivial as it might sound, your ‘selfie’, is more than just a photo. A photo speaks a thousand words. A photo can help improve frontline treatments; a photo can diminish the chances of relapse. To date, £1,600,000 has been raised for Alice’s Arc, in the short time they have been established. A hoped that the Atria Watford Love Your Selfie pop up would help towards their target goal of £5,000,000.
At just £5 the pop up was affordable and helped support the families of those with rhabdomyosarcoma. On until the 4th of September, it was the perfect experience for those like A who wanted to educate themselves on rare childhood cancer. With only 4 new drugs approved in 20 years to treat childhood cancers, Alice’s Arc’s mission was to improve young people’s treatment, prognosis, and decrease the chance of relapse. If just 300 people paid £5, 1,500 would be donated to Alice’s Arc. That money would make a difference, and a much-needed change. To think that only four new treatments had become available in 20 years was unimaginable.
With that in mind, she continued exploring the rest of the rooms. A bright acidic yellow booth with a telephone and hairdryer, was next for inspection. With the words ‘love your cell-fie’ overhead, the inspiration was most definitely a prison cell. It might have seemed tongue in cheek given the charity, they were supporting but somehow it worked. It was light relief that was comical and understated. In its simplicity, it ended up being one of the most Instagrammable hot spots. An orange ruffle top, and palazzo pants, with an orange headband that ironically looked like a prison jumpsuit. It was rooms like this that would the tip of the ‘love your selfie’ iceberg. In short, Atria Watford had delivered.
There was one more magical room waiting to be explored. A sparkly pink floor contrasted with holographic tinsel, in pink, gold, white and silver. To the left of her feet lay dazzling disco balls, where lights shimmered. In one entrancing step, the dancing commenced, straddling the line between ‘ childhood, teen years, and adult nostalgia’. It was nothing short of magnificent. Even when she had less than 5 minutes left to explore, her heart was full of joy. In those few hours that she had outside of London, she felt something explode inside her. Her heart was opened to happiness in its purest form. As she swam in the joy of the here and now, her skirts swirled cheerfully.
A fuchsia pink strappy top, paired with the swishiest of pink skirts, and those jelly mules that she had been favouring recently. An adult Princess party come to life, that dreams were made of. It wasn’t a dissociative episode per say. Instead, it was a flawless immersion into positivity, where she could see the world though rose-tinted glasses. She had a habit of sentimentalizing her personal narrative, but who could blame her, when she saw the world in a rainbow of colour? Her stay was coming to an end, the clock had struck six. Like a fairy godmother she must depart, and dust off her attire to go back into the present. And yet she did not forget.
Even days after the ‘Love Your Selfie’ pop up event, she dreamed in colour. Even a week after, she was still researching rhabdomyosarcoma. Because A was passionate about making real change. And so, she would call on all her readers, and followers to donate to Alice’s Arc, to help support families and children with rare cancer. It did not matter how much you would donate. What mattered was the passion, and the willingness to spark real action. A chance to fund new treatments, particularly in the case of relapses which were not responsive to current treatment. We only had one life, and to A there was nothing that was more important than helping others. It was time to join the rhabdomyosarcoma revolution and fight for what was right.
Would You Like To Visit The Love Your Selfie Pop Up?
Please note this is a paid campaign with Atria Watford, but all thoughts are my own, and are not affected by monetary compensation. It is so important to raise awareness of rare cancer, particularly childhood cancers like rhabdomyosarcoma. Most children are under 10 years old, although young adults can be affected as well. The 5-year survival rate for someone with high-risk rhabdomyosarcoma is 20-30%. Atria Watford’s Love Your Selfie Pop Up event is donating 100% of ticket sales to Jessica’s Arc, supporting Alice’s Arc.
Jessica, aged 8, was diagnosed with stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, in June 2019. She sadly died 4.5 months after her diagnosis. The cancer had unexpectedly spread to her brain and spine, despite scans a few days before showing she was free of disease. Unfortunately, in the weeks leading up to her diagnosis, she was misdiagnosed, and doctors did not pick up on the seriousness of her situation. Her family felt let down and chose not to tell Jess that she had Cancer as she was an anxious child. Despite attempts to deliver chemotherapy directly into Jess’ spinal fluid, she died suddenly, after a week in ICU, on Friday 18th October 2019 following a cardiac arrest.
Alice’s Arc is dedicated to finding a cure and kinder, more targeted treatments for those affected by the childhood cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma. Alice was diagnosed with stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, at the age of 3, in March 2015. Alice died, aged 7, in October 2019, over 4.5 years after her diagnosis, after her cancer returned in 2018. The arc aims to continue Alice’s legacy, and fund life-saving treatments, as well as research. Together, we can honour the memory of all those who have died from rhabdomyosarcoma and raise money in support of a brighter future.
It honestly breaks my heart that such young children, and adults have had to suffer so much. I wish there was more accessible treatments available, and quicker diagnoses, to target cancer faster. By attending the Love Your Selfie pop up, all proceeds of ticket sales (excluding Eventbrite 98p per booking fee) go to Alice’s Arc who has three Arc’s locally in their network. These include the families of Jessica Macqueen, William Rutt, and Freddie Carpenter who all sadly lost their battle to rhabdomyosarcoma in recent years.
Some Information About The Event
Tickets for up-to an hour experience cost £5 to enter (plus 98p per ticket booking fee) children under 5 go free with a paying adult. Please note that your session starts at the hour which your booking states. To get your full hour experience, ensure that you arrive 10 minutes before your booking starts.
Inside the unit, you will have the opportunity to win amazing prizes by sharing your photos using #AtriaSelfieRooms. The prizes up for grabs:
• £200 voucher to spend in Atria’s Boom Battle Bar
• £100 bar tab to spend in Atria’s The Florist
• £200 bar tab plus mini golf for four to spend in Atria’s Puttshack
• £150 gift voucher to spend in Atria’s Escape Hunt
• £215 prize bundle with Atria’s MAC
• £200 gift voucher to spend in Atria’s Rock Up
• Annual Passes for four to be used at Atria’s Hollywood Bowl
• A gift voucher for four IMAX tickets and four regular combo food & drink to be used in Atria’s Cineworld
• £100 gift voucher in Atria’s Toy Galaxy
All proceeds of ticket sales (excluding Eventbrite 98p per booking fee) go to Alice’s Arc who has three Arc’s locally in their network, including families of Jessica Macqueen, William Rutt, and Freddie Carpenter who all sadly lost their battle to rhabdomyosarcoma in recent years.
12-year-olds and under must be accompanied by a paying adult.
13- to 15-year-olds do not have to be accompanied by an adult but MUST be signed in by a parent/guardian.
Book online HERE.
Walk-ins will be allowed on the day if availability permits. To avoid disappointment, we recommend you book in advance.
Walk-ins – pay exact cash amount (no change available) or tap by card (credit cards, Apple pay, Google pay, Samsung pay, and Monzo)
DATES AND TIMES:
Monday 8th August to Sunday 4th September
Monday to Wednesday 10am to 6pm
Thursday to Saturday 10am to 7pm
Sunday 11am to 5pm