I met Annie within a few days of starting work at Maggie's Centre Manchester when she was introduced to me by Sinead, the centre head. Sinead described Annie as 'a big part of the Maggie's family' and as I have got to know her, I can't work out if her place in the family is as everyone's favourite gran or the cheeky teenage rebel!
Annie is great. She is warm and chatty, funny, comforting and cheerful, and she shares these qualities with centre visitors in her role as a Maggie's volunteer. Annie welcomes people to the centre, giving tours and directing them to the various activities and practical support that is on offer, then takes her place around the kitchen island ready to lend a sympathetic ear, tell a funny tale or let you in on where to buy cheap Doc Marten's. Annie is retired, coming from a background in social care, and, not willing to let her counselling skills go to waste, she volunteers at Maggie's and at the local food bank. Annie's son Stephen is also a volunteer at Maggie's and he has obviously inherited some of his Mum's warmth and conviviality!
When I met Annie she still had stitches from having undergone surgery following the removal of a malignant melanoma from below her eye. The area was reconstructed using the soft, hairless skin from her upper, inner arm and, by the time we took the photos for the portrait, it was beginning to heal well. I wanted to be sure to capture Annie's infectious smile so I called in another volunteer, Hilary, to stand behind me to make Annie laugh. It worked a treat. In my mind I call this painting 'The Hilary Effect'!
I really enjoyed painting Annie surrounded by the beautiful wooden struts that are a unique and stunning feature in the design of Maggie's Manchester, and holding one of the lovely, slightly wonky ceramic mugs. I think, when you look at the painting, you can see exactly what Annie looked like as a little girl, full of fun and giggles!