Knebworth has long been a byword for heady summer nights spent worshipping the gods of pop and rock 'n’ roll.

Queen, Led Zeppelin, Robbie Williams, Oasis, Metallica and The Rolling Stones are just some of the famous names to have headlined at Knebworth House.

But the Hertfordshire estate's latest line-up will have audiences contemplating something a little more sobering – the precarious state of cancer support.

Laughing and chatting beneath a bright September sky in the Knebworth estate’s tranquil Rose Garden, few would have guessed the hardships that Alison Paterson, Bhavani Sarma and Lourdes Longalong witness daily in their jobs supporting people living with cancer in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

The Comet: Macmillan professionals pictured in the Rose Garden at Knebworth House.Macmillan professionals pictured in the Rose Garden at Knebworth House. (Image: Marc Morris Photography)

Alison, Bhavani and Lourdes – and thousands more Macmillan professionals across the country – have been providing vital information, care and support for people who’ve been dealt the blow of a cancer diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health and social care roles like theirs, and the specialist cancer support services they work with, only exist because of donations raised by supporters and events like Macmillan’s Coffee Morning.

Nearly all (98 per cent) of Macmillan's funding comes directly from donations, but disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic means demand for its services is high, while its income remains low.

This includes its free seven-day-a-week helpline, which has answered more than a quarter of a million telephone queries from people affected by cancer since the first national lockdown.

Working on the cancer frontline means Alison, Bhavani and Lourdes are acutely aware of the role Macmillan donations play in improving the personalised care and support that people living with cancer in Herts and Beds need to live, rather than just survive.

The Comet: Alison, Bhavani and Lourdes at Knebworth.Alison, Bhavani and Lourdes at Knebworth. (Image: Marc Morris Photography)

Alison is one of several Macmillan lead cancer nurses working across the UK to improve cancer care and support cancer nurses, who have seen workloads mount amid the pressures of COVID-19 and a rise in cancer referrals.

She is responsible for the quality and safety of cancer care at the Lister in Stevenage, the New QEII in WGC, and Hertford County hospitals, and is committed to involving patients as much as possible in decisions about their care.

“COVID-19 has without a doubt made life a lot harder for people living with cancer," said Alison.

"They’re not coping in the way they did before, because the pandemic has undermined areas of their lives they had previously thought safe and secure.

“Being in a crowded space is still fraught with fear for many who are clinically vulnerable and others are still feeling the effects of long-term isolation.

"Prolonged uncertainty and worry can grind you down, so it’s really no surprise that in the cancer population, as in the general population, we’ve seen a sharp rise in mental health issues.

The Comet: Taking tea in the Front Courtyard at Knebworth House.Taking tea in the Front Courtyard at Knebworth House. (Image: Marc Morris Photography)

“Fortunately, donations raised by Macmillan supporters will help us to address these issues in East and North Hertfordshire, making it possible to take on a new psychologist to provide more psychological support for people with cancer.

“It’s not common knowledge that Macmillan funds healthcare posts other than Macmillan nurses, and equips professionals like me with the skills, knowledge and resources we need to provide an even better service for people with cancer.

The Comet: Alison Paterson and Lourdes Longalong in the garden at Knebworth House.Alison Paterson and Lourdes Longalong in the garden at Knebworth House. (Image: Marc Morris Photography)

"It should be though, because cancer affects a lot more than just your health – it can play havoc with your relationships, your mental health, your finances and even your career.

“If Macmillan is to keep supporting and expanding the cancer workforce, helping them to do better and more for people struggling to get by, it needs your help to do so."

Macmillan Cancer Support’s flagship Coffee Morning – one of the UK’s longest-running fundraising events – was held on September 24. For more about how to still take part, visit

To donate, volunteer, raise money or campaign for Macmillan, call 0300 1000 200 or visit

For Macmillan’s COVID-19 information hub, visit

The Comet: Alison, Bhavani and Lourdes cradle mugs as they stroll through the Knebworth gardenAlison, Bhavani and Lourdes cradle mugs as they stroll through the Knebworth garden (Image: Marc Morris Photography)