The women who march to the tune of a vital drum at the Portsmouth Race for Life

The March For Life band
The March For Life band
Unite the trade union holding a universal credit protest on the doorstep of Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt's constituency office on November 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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  • Band involved in Race for Life reaches milestone
  • The group has raised more than £50,000 for Cancer Research UK
  • Organisers never expected the troupe would become so successful
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The Race for Life fundraiser is known for its participants wearing bright pink – you could even say loud – running gear.

But one group of those taking part have earned a reputation for being loud in a different way – with drums, saxophones, trumpets and other musical instruments.

And now the members of the Race for Life Marching Band are celebrating a special milestone – they have raised more than £50,000 over the past seven years they have taken part in the Southsea event.

One of the band members, Anita Newman, said she was thrilled when she heard how much the band had raised for the charity Cancer Research UK.

Anita, 44, is also a member of the Portsmouth-based HMS Nelson Volunteer Band, and is facing her own fight with the disease.

But since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2010, she has continued to march and play despite going through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a double mastectomy.

We never dreamed we would be so successful

Anita Newmann

Anita said: ‘We are over the moon at raising over £50,000 for Cancer Research UK.

‘It is a real team effort and involves partners and husbands – many of whom work in the dockyard – who act as water boys.

‘We support each other, especially those diagnosed with cancer.

‘We are all doing well due to today’s treatments thanks to research.’

The idea for the ‘March for Life’ came from Portsmouth sisters Laura Meredith, 38, and Bev Millsom, 40.

Laura and Bev were inspired to start taking part in the Race for Life after losing their dad to cancer.

As they were both members of the Royal Naval Volunteer Band, which is based at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, they came up with the idea of having a band of women playing their way around the event’s 5km course.

The idea was picked up by 38-year-old Dr Zoe Larder, a French horn player who worked at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham as well as Royal Hospital Haslar.

The three put out a call to other musicians and the first March for Life in 2009 saw 45 women take part, raising more than £7,000 to fund cancer research.

Bev and Laura continue to take part every year.

Zoe is now based in Somerset but she continues in the role of manager with Anita’s help.

Anita said: ‘Zoe in particular is a legend, not only helping organise this event every year, but supporting those of us who have been diagnosed.’

Anita said the band members’ goal was mainly to motivate the other participants, adding to the colour and life of the event.

She said they had not expected they would raise so much money themselves.

Anita said: ‘We never dreamed we would be so successful.

‘Our aim has always been to march around the 5k, looking good in pink, sounding fantastic and motivating other runners to raise lots of money.’

Event manager Chris Woods said the beat of the marching band’s drums gave participants a special kick and extra motivation to finish the course and beat cancer together.

Mr Woods said: ‘The marching band’s appearance every year has become one of the highlights of the Southsea 5k run, with many hundreds of participants singing along with them.

‘Their fundraising total is absolutely fabulous.

‘It was a fantastic day, full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter.’

Mr Woods praised the efforts of everyone who took part in the Southsea run in July, and asked for the money they had raised to be passed on to the charity.

He said: ‘Now I hope all the women who took part will transform their passion into progress by returning the money they’ve raised as soon as possible.

‘Cancer Research UK doesn’t receive any government funding for its ground-breaking research’.

For more information or to make a donation, visit raceforlife.org.