When he was busy raising £50,000 over seven years through a string of sell-out concerts to support the work of York Against Cancer, musician Ian Surgenor never dreamed he’d one day need the charity’s support himself.

York Rocks Against Cancer and York Swings Against Cancer became much-loved fixtures on the city’s social calendar, showcasing the talents of brilliant local musicians as they raised money for the popular cause.

Ian and his collaborators, including Martin Lettin, Will Robey, Sam Johnson and Mike Pratt, also organised spin-offs such as York Musicals Against Cancer and York Country Against Cancer.

Most recently, last Christmas’s hugely successful York Brass Against Cancer saw Ian cornered into trying his hand at conducting for the first time, leading the Shepherd Group Brass Band and the Brighouse and Rastrick through the latter’s massive hit, The Floral Dance.

But last December Ian, founder member, keyboard player and vocalist with York band Sister Madly, was diagnosed with prostate cancer himself.

He began hormone treatment immediately - and earlier this year found himself being taken by York Against Cancer’s minibus for radiotherapy in Leeds.

“It really brought to life what the fundraising is for,” said Ian, 53, from Acomb. “I was on the bus and thinking, ‘Wow, I raised money for this thing. I never expected to be using it myself.’ In a strange way it was good to experience the service, and the drivers Ian and Neil are brilliant.”

Ian coped well with his treatment and tests show it has been successful, although he will continue to be monitored to ensure that he stays healthy. “I feel blooming great, absolutely tremendous!” he said.

In spite of all he’s achieved for York Against Cancer, his brush with illness hasn’t put him off further fundraising. Even as he was awaiting each radiotherapy appointment he was planning the fifth York Rocks Against Cancer, which takes place on July 17, 2021 at York Barbican.

Featuring stars from Emmerdale, a house band and guests including Chris Helme, late of York band Seahorses, it promises to be a real party night to banish the coronavirus blues.

Julie Russell, general manager of York Against Cancer, said Ian was a worthy charity champion. “His events are always great fun and they help make our vital work possible,”” she said.

Ian was touched by Julie’s recommendation. “I don’t do this for recognition, I enjoy it – but it’s very flattering,” he said.

  • Tickets for York Rocks 2021 are available here
  • Find out more about York Against Cancer here

This is the first in a new regular column celebrating York's 'charity champions' who do so much to make this city a better place to live. We want you to tell us about the unsung heroes - the charity workers, volunteers, or friends or neighbours who have raised money for a good cause - who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Some might have been helping out during the coronavirus pandemic; others may have selflessly been doing good for years. We want to hear about all of them.

Tell us about your charity champion by clicking here and filling in a simple form.