Returning for the ninth year in a row, Oxford Pink Week has been raising money and awareness in aid of Breast Cancer prevention since 2016. This year has proved no exception, with the usual packed schedule of social events, creative fundraisers, and informative talks once again on offer to Oxford university staff and students.

From comedy shows to park runs, the 2024 Pink Week team has worked tirelessly since May 2023 to provide an extensive list of events, all hosted with the goal of raising money for the teams’ five chosen charities: Oxford Breast Buddy Group, CoppaFeel, Black Women Rising, Breast Cancer Now and Live Through This.

The Oxford Imps, a student improvised comedy group, hold weekly shows, often performed at the Jericho Tavern. On Monday 29th of January, the group’s distinct pink logo was not the only rose-hued aspect of their performance, as they held their show in conjunction with Oxford Pink Week. Over the course of their two-hour performance, the Imps delivered monologues, played word association games, serenaded audience members and even performed a short impromptu musical. Although none of the skits themselves were related to Pink Week, the Imps explained that half of the proceeds from their ticket sales would be going towards fundraising for it, while the Oxford Pink Week president spoke about the charities they are supporting this year and the importance of the cause. The crowd was lively and the performances drew many laughs, with a competition for the best pink outfit rounding out the night.

In an interview early last week, this year’s Pink Week president, Sam McCarthy, a second year student at Regents Park College, told The Blue how Pink Week 2024 aimed to be more inclusive, in particular encouraging both men and women to get involved, while also seeking to depart from the usual reliance on alcohol-related events as a means of university fundraising. Although women are affected by breast cancer far more frequently than men, with Breast Cancer Now reporting that approximately 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, as opposed to just 400 men, the organisers of Oxford Pink Week have been keen to emphasise that anyone, irrespective of age, gender, or race, can develop breast cancer, something Sam said they have tried to reflect both in their events and choice of charities.

Nonetheless, Sam clarified that there are certainly factors that can increase the likelihood of someone developing breast cancer in their lifetime, something the Pink Week organisational team has taken particular care to keep in mind while organising fundraising opportunities. For example, Cancer Research has found that 23% of breast cancer cases in the UK are preventable, with 8% being caused by alcohol consumption and another 8% by people being overweight or obese. While a number of colleges, including St Edmund Hall and Hertford, sold charity drinks in their college bars for the duration of Pink Week, in general, this year’s team tried to host events that were not centred around the sale and consumption of alcohol. Sam proudly told The Blue that the Oxford Feminist Society’s Liberation and Liquor (L&L) event on Monday 5th February was the only directly alcohol-related fundraiser they had planned.

Towards the end of the week, on Saturday 10th February at 9am, about 200 of the Oxford population made their way to University Parks to participate in a 5k run in aid of Pink Week. A collaboration between the nationwide Parkrun community initiative and Pink Week, the run drew a wide variety of participants of all ages, genders and abilities, many of whom had not previously participated in the weekly Univeristy Parks run. The event, which aimed to promote a healthier lifestyle and community interaction, was chosen specifically for Pink Week since one of the organisation’s main aims is the encouragement of activities which ‘help reduce the risk of getting a breast cancer diagnosis.’ One participant reported that “running – sweating and panting – through the park, there was a host of marshalls cheering, alongside friends and families clapping in support. It was a difficult yet rewarding experience made all the better by a doughnut on the finish line!”. 

Pink Week was founded in 2011 at Haberdashers’ Askes School for Girls by Nina Rauch after her mother passed away from breast cancer. Nina then took Pink Week to Cambridge, where she studied Classics at Clare College from 2013 to 2017. Since then, Pink Week has spread to numerous schools, universities, and companies nationwide. For many, the week now marks an annual occasion dedicated to spreading awareness, raising money, and also celebrating the progress that has been made. Today about 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for over 10 years after their initial diagnoses, compared to just 40% 50 years ago. 

While the official Pink Week may now be over, the Oxford team still have several events planned for the rest of Hilary term as well as the annual Pink Ball in Trinity term.