Topping off a tradition with the Maggie's Centre being built in Leeds

The vision to create a dedicated cancer care centre in the heart of Leeds reached a major milestone this afternoon.

Those involved with the Maggie’s project at St James’s Hospital celebrated the ‘topping out’ ceremony as the £6m purpose built centre reached its highest point.

The milestone has been marked within the building industry around the world for more than a thousand years and, in keeping with Viking tradition and with bagpipes playing in the background, an evergreen tree was fixed to the top of the structure which is beginning to take shape next to the Bexley Wing of St James’s.

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Sir Andrew McAlpine, the eldest great, great grandson of Sir Robert – the founder of the construction company appointed to build the centre, which has been designed by Heatherwick Studio, the architects behind the 2012 Olympic cauldron, led the way and said: “None of this would have happened without the dedication and support from the local donors.”

Topping out ceremony for the new Maggies Centre, at St James Hospital, Leeds.. John Greenoff (left) and Dr Terry Bramall nail the fern to mark the topping out ceremony..14th November 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

While the circular building with a woodland theme starts to take shape sandwiched between one of the country’s largest hospitals and Leeds city centre, there is also green space and landscaping taking place on the piece of land which was for years known as ‘grassy knoll’.

Linda Pollard, Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “It is a beautiful piece of architecture and we have to hold that thought in our minds because what we are seeing is the skeletal part.

“I am very excited and it is just inspiring and the hsopital staff and patients have watched it emerge from behind the hoardings with curious attention and now on the other side of the barriers is emerging this almost Doctor Who image.

“It is an absolute tribute to the studio team and I remember the first visit when we discussed the outside and I was very protective of that space and had quite a discussion as to my requirements and it surpassed my expectations.”

While there were celebrations from the supporters and partners with the Maggie’s scheme it was a “salutary” feeling given why the project has come to be.

Ms Pollard added: “Today 50 people will get diagnosed with cancer, that is 250 a week and 13,000 in one year. When they are diagnosed the challenges they face can be unsurmountable, it is important people access as much support as they can.”

The Yorkshire Evening Post spearheaded the A Million for Maggie’s campaign in April 2016.

It aimed to raise cash towards the then £5m target needed to build the charity’s facility at St James’s Hospital – and less than two years later, in January of this year, the turf-cutting ceremony took place to mark the start of its creation.