Pink Tractor Annie is recognised at Flame of Hope Awards

NORFOLK’S Annie Chapman – affectionately known as ‘Pink Tractor Annie’ – has a new title to get used to.

The incredible 82-year-old has been made a Cancer Research UK Honorary Fellow at this year’s national Flame of Hope awards, celebrating her outstanding contribution to the cause.

The awards acknowledge remarkable efforts in volunteering made by people from all walks of life and 2024 marks 21 years of the recognition programme.  

Annie’s famous Pink Ladies’ Tractor Road Run is a sight to behold. An audience at Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, heard how Annie’s fundraiser – held every year on the first weekend of July – sees women driving tractors from Norfolk across the border to Suffolk and back, stopping for a picnic along the way.

Last year, 195 tractors decorated with all things pink took on the challenge with one aim – to bring their fundraising total for Cancer Research UK to £1m to celebrate the tractor run’s 20th anniversary.

Annie, who lives near Diss in South Norfolk, said: “On the day, there were 201 ladies on 195 tractors – and we needed £104,000 to reach the £1m mark. We raised £201,000. We smashed it! A record number of ladies took part and we had record sponsorship.”

Her husband, John, a retired lawyer, came up with the idea in 2003. Annie said: “We were sitting around the log burner trying to think of what I could do when I retired. John suggested a tractor run for ladies; it’s a strong movement countrywide, but it’s mostly men raising money, so he suggested tractor runs for the ladies. I rang a couple of friends and organised a poster and sent it out to everyone I could think of. One of the ladies I rang had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, so we decided to raise money for Cancer Research UK’s research into breast cancer. It snowballed from there. It was only meant to be a one-off ‘bit of fun’.

“That first year, 2004, we had 50 tractors and raised £16,500. Some people had come on trailers. My daughter, Libby, took a group photograph – we call them The Pioneers – and they said we had to do it again.”

John’s love for tractors and all things farming has come in handy throughout the years. “John would have liked to have been a farmer,” said Annie. “We have a collection of farm implements and old farming equipment, including 15 tractors that are either classics or vintage. He would have sold some of them by now if it wasn’t for the tractor run. Over the years, he’s taught a lot of ladies how to drive them.”

Twenty years and £1m later, there’s no stopping Annie or her famous Tractor Run, which attracts entrants from as far afield as Dorset. She’s already gearing up for the next one and her home has once more been turned into the Tractor Road Run HQ, with posters and entry forms in abundance.

But she took time out with her ‘right-hand girl’, daughter Libby, to collect her award from Cancer Research UK’s Phil Almond and Caro Evans. She said: “The Honorary Fellowship is a huge honour, but the only problem is I can’t share it. This event is not just about me. I’m very humbled because people are so very kind and so generous. 

“We don’t have a committee; it’s just John, me and Libby and, of course, our dear friends who’ve been with us from the beginning: Rob White, chief mechanic, and Roger Connah, chief marshal. Every year, on the day of the run, a huge army of marshals and other helpers steps up to support us.”

Annie is no stranger to awards.  She won the Flame of Hope volunteer of the year award in 2008 and carried the Olympic Torch for Cancer Research UK for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Two years later, Annie received the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to charity.

Annie was nominated for the Flame of Hope Honorary Fellowship award by Sophia France, of Cancer Research UK.  Sophia said: “Saying that Annie is an extraordinary ambassador for Cancer Research UK does not even begin to articulate the magnitude and impact of her fundraising and dedication over the past 20 years. 

“Annie selflessly organises the event’s logistics, recruits participants, produces promotional materials and distributes all sponsorship packs herself. She is humble, tenacious, ambitious, noble and generous and is widely known and celebrated in East Anglia and further afield.”    

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said: “Thanks to the dedication of almost 25,000 volunteers supporting us right across the charity – from keeping our shops running to helping us operate many of our outdoor events and so much more – Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of progress that has seen cancer survival in the UK double over the past 40 years.  

“The Flame of Hope Awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and thank the amazing people who give their time and energy wholeheartedly and who have made outstanding contributions. We are proud to have presented almost 2,000 awards since the first ceremony back in 2003 and to be able to shine a spotlight on their incredible efforts and achievements.”  

The 2024 Flame of Hope Awards are being held at six locations across the UK throughout March. Annie is among 135 individuals and groups being recognised.  

Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the East of England, Shelley Baxter, said: “These awards are our way of honouring incredible people like Annie who give their time freely to raise money for research and promote greater awareness of the disease, and yet ask for nothing in return.  

“Time volunteered is not ordinary time. It’s time infused with passion, drive and determination. It’s time honouring lost family members and friends. Or extra time gained thanks to advances in research. Every step we make towards beating cancer relies on every pound, every hour and every person. That’s why, with volunteer numbers having dropped significantly due to the pandemic, we’re encouraging people to get involved and start their journey to a potential Flame of Hope Award now.  Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and learn new skills, and committing just one hour a week can help make a difference to people affected by this devastating disease.”  

Find out more about opportunities to volunteer for Cancer Research UK at