Shine Camp 2016 – One camper’s story!


Shine Camp is held every year in the beautiful village of Corfe Castle in Dorset. From the 5th-8th August this year, around 100 people camped out in a private field surrounded by the picturesque views typical of the area. We asked Clare to tell us about her first Shine Camp experience…


It was with the measured optimism of the British that I packed according to the weather reports. We were promised sun and, as such, I packed wellies, sourced some waterproofs, and found the numbers of some local B&Bs in case of extreme storms. The weekend of Shine Camp 2016 had finally arrived and after many hours of trying to edit my ‘I definitely need this for camp’ list the car was full and we were ready to go west. Like the Pet Shop Boys, but less stylish.

I’d heard tales of Camps past; rumours of a mystical campfire, promises of beach walks and barbecues. I’m not above admitting that I was a little bit very excited. The traffic gods were not in everyone’s favour and as we arrived in the middle of a very sunny Friday afternoon we were fed tales of people still stuck on the road. Seven hour drives from London, an unintentional diversion onto a ferry, three long days stuck in a roadside burger bar (some of those are true). The frustrations of the road were quickly forgotten however when the Friday night ‘bring your own buffet’ was revealed; with everyone bringing along a dish we had communally created the biggest table of food in the world. A brilliantly devised and delivered Pub Quiz in the marquee followed the food. I’m not going to pretend that it was friendly competition. With the prize being free places at Shine Camp 2017 it was a hard-fought contest. I believe we came second, amongst rumours of match-fixing and bribes. We’re not bitter.2

There was predictably a frenzy of tent-pitching, some more efficient than others. In our small corner of the field we created what we liked to call a tent village, a place that fostered an immediate community spirit and kicked off the three-day game of musical camping chairs, which was to become a defining feature of the weekend. The evening was rounded off with a campfire and stargazing. For those city-dwellers of us, the display of shooting stars that had been arranged in our honour was much appreciated. It was sat round the fire that it first dawned on me what an incredible event this was; I was surrounded by people who would not bat an eyelid at a cancer reference, in fact it was welcomed. Everyone who attended had an experience to share; be it as a patient, a family member or a friend. There was no pressure to talk about your story but the option was there and that, in itself, was enormously comforting. I’ve been to many Shine meet ups in London and attended the Escape earlier this year and I was reminded of the power of sharing a common experience, and of the compassion that is seemingly endless within this wonderful Shiny community.


Saturday morning bought bacon and egg sarnies, comparisons of last nights sleep, and certainly my resolution to buy a new airbed that didn’t deflate overnight. The weather was gloriously sunny (I think entirely down to my extreme wet weather preparations) and groups ventured out to enjoy the Dorset surroundings. A waterpark trip had been organised in advance so a large contingency of brave, wet-suited individuals set off to take on the inflatable obstacle course set on a local lake. For those of us who prefer a more sedate pace of life there was the chance to visit the beautiful beaches at Studland or to grab fish and chips by the sea in Swanage. For the Pokemon obsessed in the group apparently there was a gymnasium in Corfe Castle just down the road. This is apparently a big deal.


Later that afternoon Oliver Spencer, our lovely Shine patron, hand-delivered enough BBQ food to feed a small army. Which was then valiantly cooked by various people in relay. It was only then that Emma revealed the big surprise, an ice cream van from one of the sponsors of the event, Insurance With. As the realisation dawned on everyone that this did indeed mean free ice cream the gloves came off…and we queued politely like only the British do. As the sun went down on another wonderful day at camp, the Shine Shot Bar opened up. Cue several people with limited recall of the rest of the evening.



Saturday night bought the first reminder that we were actually camping in the UK. The wind was determined to make our tents into wind tunnels and the rain followed, fortunately only after everyone was safely ensconced in their sleeping bags. I personally used the opportunity to steal the duvet, blankets and most of the pillows to ensure that I slept well. I think we established that I am nothing if not a selfish camper.


Ceinwen’s Canadian pancakes (apparently different from their American counterparts in that they are ‘just better’) were a great incentive to stagger down the field to the marquee on Sunday morning. The Shine camp facilities, which had worked flawlessly all weekend, meant that cups of tea and coffee were free-flowing and those of us who had had images of camping stoves at dawn were pleasantly surprised. I then fell into my typical Sunday routine of eating and resting; it’s just how I roll (quite literally after a pub lunch, Cream Tea back at camp, and another BBQ in the evening). It was lovely to spend some downtime with old and new friends, to get to know partners and children, friends and family. The program of events culminated with Shine Camp’s Got Talent in the evening. I was privileged enough to judge the competition which included performances from our younger campers. We were dazzled by dance moves, super-impressed by singing and blown away by a bike display. My fellow judges and I worked hard to keep it professional but tiny girls dancing in tutus were pretty much the end of us all.



By the third campfire that evening the crowd had thinned out a bit, with many people heading home for work on Monday (ah, the life of a part-timer!), but a solid contingency manned that fire knowing it was our last of camp that year. We had a revealing game of ‘tell me a secret’ and caught the last shooting stars of the weekend.

Monday morning arrived and I began to regret my ‘bring everything you might need in the event of a nuclear disaster’ approach to packing. We dismantled tents, deflated mattresses, retrieved kites from cow fields, and packed away the illuminated rabbit night-lights. We then had a discussion about why I needed four illuminated rabbit night-lights, but that’s for another time. We made our final trips to the portaloo and bid farewell to the donkeys that had become firm friends in spite of their nocturnal singing sessions. We said our goodbyes to the remaining campers, exchanged hugs and phone numbers and as we drove off made promises to meet in that very field next year to do it all again.

It cannot be underestimated how much work goes into organising such a fantastic event. A whole team of people work extremely hard to make sure the weekend is as amazing as it is. I know everyone I spoke to is enormously grateful for all that hard work both in the run up to and during the campout. Particularly a big shout-out to Emma Willis, the one woman camping machine, we salute you.


The biggest Shine Camp yet!


Marshmallows by the fire

Six years ago this summer, we ran our first Shine Camp.  We weren’t even officially registered as a charity but seventeen people came. It was a great time and we decided to do it again (and again). This year, for Shine Camp Number 6, we were lucky enough to get funding through the Aviva Community Matters programme. With the Aviva money burning a hole in our pocket, we got to work planning our biggest and best Shine Camp ever.

Between Friday, 7th August and Monday the 10th, we had more than 140 people join us on a field in Norden Farm.  Walking distance from Corfe Castle, the field is part of a larger campsite which means that there are showers and a lovely camp store nearby (along with a bunch of fun farm animals!).

We started Shine Camp because we like camping, but as it has grown we’ve also found that it’s a fun way to bring our Networks together and for young adults who are living with cancer to hang out in a different type of environment.

It took us AGES to get this photo. But it's (almost) the whole gang.

It took us AGES to get this photo. But it’s (almost) the whole gang.

There are no nurses, white walls or officious receptionists – just a big marquee, a nighttime campfire and, more often than not, a fair amount of Polish vodka (courtesy of our Polish friends Jack and Magda who make the trip down South every year).

This year we had people join us from across the country. For some, it was their first ever Shine event, for others this was their fifth or sixth camp in a row!

A number of our 2015 ‘Escapees’ also joined us for an informal reunion.

Escapees at Camp

A few of our 2015 ‘Escapees’

We try to keep Shine Camp informal, with only a few set activities – one of which is a big dinner on the Saturday night.  This year we had a hog roast and veggie BBQ followed by some mammoth cakes that the lovely Lucy from our Cardiff network drove down to Dorset.


Tired and smelling of woodsmoke, we finished camp on Monday and pretty much started planning Shine Camp 2016 the next day.  As it was our largest camp ever we had a fabulous time and also learned a lot (next year, we’ll bring more pancake mix!).  A huge thank you to everyone who came out, helped out, cleaned dishes, cooked breakfast, pitched tents – and had fun.  Can’t wait ’til next year!

We would like to send a special thank you to our friends at NC Insurance for nominating us for the Aviva fund and to all of those who voted for us in the competition.

Shine Camp 2014!



In early August we held our 5th Shine Camp – it’s taken us this long to recover and write about it!

Shine Camp is a weekend of camping with friends and families in the beautiful Dorset countryside. It gives young adults living with cancer a chance to relax and connect with other people, friends and family members that have similar experiences – and it’s great fun too!

This year we had nearly 100 people at camp and still had plenty of space in our fantastic private field at Norden Farm campsite near Corfe Castle. (Check them out if you’re looking for a great camping location!)

shine camp marqueeOur fantastic marquee, courtesy of Marqco Marquees went up on a slightly grey Friday morning and proved a great shelter from the teeny tiny bit of rain we had on the Friday evening and Saturday morning.  It also looked great at night with the colour changing light show and was the perfect place for everyone to congregate over food and drinks and to hang out for a chat.

The Friday night of Shine camp is always a ‘bring and share’ supper and once everyone has decided where to pitch and put their tents up (with varying degrees of success!) we all relaxed around the marquee.  We tucked into a feast of homemade bread and cakes, salads, quiche and all round proper picnic food! Yummy!

Saturday morning we had some pretty poor weather but the sun eventually came out and we had beautiful weather for the rest of the weekend .  Clever campers packed Wellies and sun-cream!

We went from this....

We went from this….

to this - in one hour!!

to this – in one hour!!

We never really have a schedule for Shine camp – those who come can choose to hang around at the campsite or go off out for the day with friends or family.  The only part we ask people to stick around for is the group meal on Saturday night.  With a fabulous hog roast and veggie BBQ, no one took any persuading!!

hog roastP1090566


We also share breakfast in the mornings if you’re up and about when the bacon and eggs are getting cooked!  This year we had a special Sunday breakfast of Canadian pancakes courtesy of our resident Canadian Ceinwen! (Thanks Cein!)


Jeanette makes the bacon butties!

This year we also had our first ever best dressed tent competition and they all looked great!  The deserving winners were the Hart family whose home-made ‘under the sea’ theme stole the show in our Facebook vote!



A few more of the fabulous tents…..

IMG_0683untitled-2P1090535This year’s Camp was made possible by all of your incredible fundraising over the past year, as well as an incredibly generous anonymous donor (thank you!!!).  We hope you’re able to join us next year for an even bigger and better event!!



Shine Camp 2013

Shine Camp 2013 was, I think, our best camp yet! 


We had a great location ( a private camping field in Swanage, Dorset), great weather and fantastic people!

This year was the first year we were joined by people from all over the UK, many people came who had never before met any Shine people and they left with new friends and a great experience! We had campers from the North East, Manchester, Haywards Heath, and plenty from Dorset!

The trip started on Friday 9th August 2013, and the first ‘tent’ to be pitched was the amazing marquee we had booked both in case of wet weather and as a communal area for the camp. The marquee was supplied by our friends at JD Evolutions and looked amazing as well as being practical.


(The sky looks a bit dark in this picture but we had no rain and great weather! Just a little cloud!)

Friday evening saw over 40 people camping and a shared supper of gorgeous food brought along by all the campers and a fantastic Paella cooked onsite by Allan with a bit of help from Glemy, a few (!?!?!) drinks were shared and new friendships formed as people met for the first time. For some campers, this was the first time that they had met other younger adults living with a diagnosis of cancer and whilst stories were shared, the evening was a positive and fun experience.


Saturday saw the arrival of some new campers and people went out and about, exploring Swanage and the local area, walking along the coast path.  In the afternoon, Lesley organised a great game of rounders (with a cricket bat!) which only saw a couple of injuries! and got the families and children playing together.

The afternoon and evening saw over 65 people enjoying the sunshine, games and chatter and, with a lot of volunteer chefs (thank you!) we managed to feed everyone!


A great evening that, spurred on by Polish Vodka cocktails (thanks Magda & Jack) managed to see us up chatting until the early hours of Sunday morning.

(No photos of that!!!!)

Sunday was a day of rest for most with a little sightseeing, a few walks and a lot of chat as we got to know our new friends better.  Many people left on Sunday (work Monday! boo) but we had a couple more visitors and managed to rustle up a BBQ for the remaining 25 or so people at camp.


Monday morning was a bit of a shock and a brush with nature as we awoke to find that some local cows had escaped and decided they wanted to be part of Shine Camp too! An early morning for most of us but some people managed to sleep through the excitement!


Packing up and saying goodbyes is always the toughest part of Shine Camp and this year was especially so as so many of our guests came from other parts of the country.

We asked people to write their thoughts on Shine Camp in a comments book and just a few of the quotes are below – along with more photos!

Will you join us next year??

Tiani (11) – We all really liked this trip. It was very fun! It was very good for adults and children. The people are lovely and very friendly, I can’t wait to come back next year!

Alison – This is our first Shine Camp and first Shine event so on arriving we knew no-one other than a few emails with Emma. I was a little anxious arriving with a 5 year old son, not knowing how many children he would have to play with or whether the group would be friendly. All my fears melted away with the friendly greeting on arrival and before we had put the tent up my boy was off playing with new friends. There is a great communal atmosphere and I have made good friends. Can’t wait til next year! Thanks Emma and Shine for such a fantastic event, your hard work is much appreciated.

Anonymous – This was our first Shine camping experience. If I’m honest I had my reservations, mainly the thought that it was going to be quite depressing but everyone here is so upbeat and positive it made it so much easier to talk about my mums diagnosis. If anything it has taken a load off my chest. So much fun, everyone is very approachable and easy to talk to. All in all a fantastic weekend.

Charlotte & Neil – Thank you Emma for a fantastic weekend, you have done a great job organising everything (especially cooking all those burgers!) Having only found out about Shine a couple of months ago, Neil and I have been really impressed with the friendliness of everyone. I have managed to go to a few Shine events to meet some new faces and share experiences, but was still a little nervous about pitching up a tent in the middle of a field with strangers! However, everyone has been wonderful and chatty and Emma has made sure everyone has felt so welcome.  I have survived my weekend with lack of showers but am grateful for the portaloos! I have liked having shared dinners and BBQs together as well as having time to do your own thing. Neil and I will be coming back again!

Caroline – We have had an amazing time. I know my daughter was nervous about coming, however, she really enjoyed it. This was my first Shine camp and we will all be looking forward to the next one! p.s. 1st time I’ve woken up face to face with a cow!

Lesley – …what really made it so wonderful was the fantastic people. Feels like we’ve known everyone for ages. My girls made some great new friends and we’ve all laughed and had so much fun.

Abigail & Georgie (Lesley’s daughters) – I was a bit scared about coming but people were really kind. I made some good friends and it was nice to talk to people who have been through the same situation as me. I can’t wait until next year and hope I can see everyone again 🙂

I was really nervous about coming because I didn’t know anyone but I have made some really good friends, thanks.

Magda, Jack and Daniel (2)-Shine camp was fantastic. beautiful place, beautiful people. It was our first shine camp but definitely not last!