The Shop That Nearly Wasn’t

Posted on: 27 Jan 2020

The Shop That Nearly Wasn’t

Dancer Michael Flatley, Senator David Norris, writer Emily Hourican, director Stephen Bradley, RTE Supergarden winner Grainne Walsh and award-winning author Peter Donnelly, all lend their talents to the initiative

Ireland’s leading cancer research charity, Breakthrough Cancer Research, will open the world’s first shop and events space entirely stocked and staffed by cancer survivors, in Dublin on World Cancer Day (February 4th), to raise funds and highlight the urgent need for greater investment in cancer research.

‘The Shop that Nearly Wasn’t’ will showcase the many and varied creative contributions those who have survived, or are living with cancer, make to society.  Its name reflects the fact that these achievements have only been made possible due to the result of ground-breaking cancer research.

The shop will sell art, photography, books, crafts, clothing and even protective sports gear, made by cancer survivors of all ages, from all over the island of Ireland.   

The initiative is supported by many high profile cancer survivors including dance superstar and artist Michael Flatley; Senator David Norris; author and journalist Emily Hourican; RTE Supergarden winner Grainne Walsh, film and television director Stephen Bradley; award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Peter Donnelly; milliner to the stars Sarah McGahon; and rugby pundit and former Munster and Ireland legend, Tony Ward; who have all donated products or lent their talents and time to the initiative.

The youngest contributor, 10 year old Lily Burke from Cobh in Co. Cork, has partnered with illustrator Peter Donnelly to design unique tote bags while Hairy Baby Clothing Company has partnered with cancer survivors Kay Mckeon from Dublin and Michael Healy and Eimear Tynan from Cork to design a bespoke range of t-shirts for the store. To celebrate the launch of the shop a unique set of portraits of participants and their products was commissioned from Connemara photographer and fellow cancer survivor Kevin Griffin.

Senator David Norris will open The Shop that Nearly Wasn’t, which is being hosted in partnership with The Library Project, in 4 Temple Bar, at midday on Tuesday 4th February.  It will remain open in this premises for one week, February 4th - 11th to mark World Cancer Day, with the hope that a permanent online or offline space for the store will be found.

Over the week, The Shop That Nearly Wasn’t will also host a series of events including a hat-making workshop with milliner to the stars Sarah McGahon, a gumshield clinic for teams and schools with two-time cancer survivor Cathy Robinson of Gumshields2Go, a talk by Blackchurch print artist Monika Crowley, a reading from film and tv director Stephen Bradley, floral design workshops, yoga and wellbeing classes and more.

However, contrasting with the colourful, creative shop gallery, one part of the ‘The Shop That Nearly Wasn’t’ will remain empty to highlight the fact that more research is needed in order to help more people survive, sooner. The empty space will also highlight the reality that despite the fact there are currently 190,000 cancer survivors living in Ireland (almost 4% of the population), survival rates remain starkly imbalanced with over 90% for some cancers like prostate, but as low as just 9% for others that are currently treatment resistant.

Therefore, as well as celebrating the creativity and contribution that cancer survivors make to our society, ‘The Shop That Nearly Wasn’t’ will highlight the urgent need for increased Government investment and public support for cancer research to address this stark variation in survival rates for different cancers. 

This year, Breakthrough Cancer Research aims to raise €2 million to fund research into new and more effective treatments for poor prognosis or drug resistant cancers, to make more survivors sooner.  The researchers they support currently have a particular focus on ovarian, malignant melanoma, lung, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers. 

Breakthrough Cancer Research CEO, Orla Dolan, said: “Our mission is to disrupt cancer’s future and save more lives. By showcasing the unique talents of just a few of Ireland’s many cancer survivors, The Shop that Nearly Wasn’t is both a celebration of their achievements and a call to action. We can and will ‘make more survivors sooner’ with improved treatments from the cancer research we directly fund. We do it every day, right here in Ireland, and in partnership with clinicians, scientists and researchers around the world, but greater focus and funding is needed. We make great strides every day, but cancer research in Ireland can move further and faster with increased public donations and serious commitment and investment from government.

“Many of those who have contributed to the shop were creatives, producers, tech innovators, or business people before they got ill, and others changed direction following their diagnosis, finding the inspiration and determination to explore a new creative journey.  Our shop will not only showcase their talents, but we will share their stories and will demonstrate how wonderful it is to have so many remarkable people - who are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues - still in our lives, despite a cancer diagnosis.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone for sharing their time, their talents and inspiring stories for this initiative and were bowled over by the level of support we received from our high profile contributors.

“The shop and showcase is kindly hosted by The Library Project for just one week. Our hope is that we can host it in a permanent location online and offline if public support is there.  Our goal is to raise €2 million this year for ground-breaking new research to develop more effective treatments to tackle drug resistant cancers. So we ask everyone to visit, learn, buy, donate or take part. This is something that can make all our futures’ better - sooner.”

Cancer survivor and shop contributor, dentist Cathy Robinson, founder of Gunshields2Go said: “I was diagnosed with cervical cancer the day after I turned 40. During my recovery, I launched Gumshields2Go. I then thought I’d put cancer behind me, but less than 3 years later, in 2019, I was diagnosed with unrelated Breast Cancer. Thanks to research and all the amazing care I’ve received, I’m grateful to be able to continue living my life and operating my business.

“Cancer research is at a critical stage, where ground-breaking treatments are within sight. There are exciting developments in cell-therapy, and immuno-therapy and personalised medicine which will improve survival rates and minimise side effects of current treatments. Never more has it needed the support from the public by way of fundraising and donations.”

Some of the products that you’ll find at the Shop that Nearly Wasn’t include:

  • A limited edition Michael Flatley fine art print of his ‘Oscar Wilde’ painting, with a certificate of authenticity
  • Millinery by Sarah McGahon
  • Fine art screen prints from Monika Crowley
  • Books by authors Emily Hourican, Peter Donnelly, Stephen Bradley and Nicola Pierce
  • Photography by award-winning Connemara based photographer Kevin Griffin
  • Organic headwear by Bare Necessities
  • Bespoke Hairy Baby T-shirts designed by cancer survivors
  • Tote bags designed by 10 year old cancer survivor Lily Burke and illustrator Peter Donnelly
  • Sports gum shields by Cathy Robinson of Gum Shields 2 Go
  • Designs by RTE Supergarden winner Grainne Walsh

If you are interested in getting involved or know someone who might be, get in touch by calling 021 4226655 or 1890 998 998 or email

For further info and up to date details on products and events in The Shop That Nearly Wasn’t go to / or follow their social media channels #makemoresurvivors #theshopthatnearlywasnt


For press info please contact  / 085 1007201


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