On 16 September, Meta Wells-Thorpe will be making the 450ft leap from Brighton’s iconic i360 tower to fundraise for Martlets. She tells us about her connection with the Hospice and how she’s feeling about the challenge.
In August 2016, Meta and her husband John were photographed at the top of Brighton’s i360, celebrating the attraction’s public opening. Now, five years on, Meta will ascend to the top of the tower once again. This time though, she will be making her descent dangling from a rope as she makes the leap for Martlets!
Meta has chosen to support Martlets as her late husband John was a former chairman of the Hospice.
“John was passionate about Martlets and their mission also means a lot to me,” explains Meta. “He died in 2019 at the age of 90 and I still miss him so much. He was also much-loved by the community and a respected local architect. We married 30 years ago, and John became chairman of Martlets in the late 1990s.
I loved being involved with Martlets. Sometimes I’d be in evening dress shaking hands at a ball or another event. Other times we would put our jeans on and get involved in a more practical way. At Christmas, we would buy boxes of chocolates and take them round to the Martlets’ shops. Then we would stop and have a cup of tea and mince pies with the staff.”
In 1999, The Argus reported that ‘Architect John Wells-Thorpe will celebrate the millennium a day late because he’s hiring himself out on New Year’s Eve to the highest bidder. John’s willing to do anything legal provided there’s a good payment for Martlets Hospice in Hove. His suggestions include being a barman, after-dinner speaking and washing up. He’s even prepared to do several jobs in succession.’
“John was such good fun,” adds Meta, “and he would have done anything to support Martlets. In 1999, when he was ‘up for hire’ on New Year’s Eve, we ended visiting several locations. Firstly, we went to a nursing home and he poured champagne for the residents at 8pm. Then we helped at the St Patrick’s Church night shelter. At midnight we were in the home of a generous supporter of Martlets pouring more champagne and John lit the fireworks!”
A brief history of Martlets
“John was chairman of a local health trust and on various local committees,” continues Meta. “That’s how he came to be invited to be chairman of Martlets. He had a house bordering the Tarner site before we were married. So, he was involved even then before the three hospices combined to become Martlets.”
Martlets opened its doors in 1997 and was formed from the merger of three separate charities: Coppercliff Hospice, the Tarner Home and Macmillan Day Hospice.
Brighton has a long history of providing charitable care for those affected by terminal illness. In 1935 the Tarner Home was established which, through a generous endowment, provided care to the seriously ill who could not afford private nursing home fees. On a similar basis, Coppercliff (which later became Coppercliff Hospice) came into existence in 1967.
As charities, both organisations were unique in providing their services at a cost affordable to everyone. Over the years, medical conditions became more complex and it was becoming impossible to meet patients’ needs from the restricted facilities of converted houses. In 1994, fundraising began to build a purpose-built hospice to meet the changing needs of the local community. In 1997, Martlets opened its doors with an 18-bed inpatient unit. Since then, across the hospice services, more than 25,000 local people have been cared for.
Ever wondered what the bird in Martlets’ logo represents? A martlet is a mythical heraldic bird which is thought to represent the swift or house martin. Martlets have been traditionally associated with Sussex for centuries and appear on the Sussex county crest. They are typically shown in perpetual flight with open wings, never stopping to sleep. As part of our logo, the bird represents Martlets’ ethos of round-the-clock care; we are always ready to respond to the needs of our community.
‘Why I’ve chosen to make the leap for Martlets’
Meta decided to take on the iDrop challenge after she got an email from Martlets’ fundraising team ‘calling all thrillseekers!’
Meta thought ‘that’s for me’. She has no fear of heights and actually enjoys looking down! Around 45 years ago, Meta did some abseiling in the Lake District though she hasn’t done anything similar since. But she thought why not?!
I am taking on the fundraiser because I realise how much Martlets has lost in income over the last year. Covid meant that their big fundraising events were cancelled in 2020, and I want to do my bit to help. I am doing it in memory of John and will be thinking of him as I step over the edge. People have been so generous in donating to my fundraising page as John still lives on in their memories.”
Support Meta…or take on the iDrop challenge yourself!
You can support Meta by donating to Martlets via her fundraising page:
“I hope you’ll consider encouraging me in my dare-devil endeavour with a small donation. Every little bit will help me reach my fundraising goal. Thank you so much for supporting me and Martlets.”
Could you take on the iDrop challenge yourself? Sign up here and leap into action for Martlets. On 16 September you could be joining Meta and other hospice heroes taking on the challenge of a lifetime. Step off the i360 pod at the top of the tower and make the 450ft drop to the beach!
Also, you can read Sophia’s story, she took the leap for Martlets back in 2019.
Find out more by calling our fundraising team on 01273 273400.