Film art director fundraises for hospital which treated his brain tumour

Oliver Roberts

Oliver Roberts takes part in The National Brain Appeal's A Letter in Mind exhibition and has also designed a fundraising advent calendar. - Credit: Marie Mangan

A Stoke Newington art director is taking part in a fundraising appeal for the hospital where he had surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized brain tumour.

Oliver Roberts, who has worked on blockbuster films including the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises, is among 500 artists taking part in The National Brain Appeal's annual A Letter in Mind exhibition.

All have donated artworks on an envelope for an anonymous online sale.

The 49-year-old has also illustrated an advent calendar for the charity, which raises funds for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where he is a patient.

He said: “Being able to use my creativity is the perfect way to show my gratitude to the hospital and the amazing staff who have helped me so much. I love that the artworks are anonymous so when you are choosing what to buy you are responding to the image and not whether the artist is famous.”

Oliver with wife Eliya, son Theo and daughter Lola.

Oliver with wife Eliya, son Theo and daughter Lola. - Credit: Marie Mangan

Oliver’s life took a dramatic turn at the start of 2019 when he began having occasional headaches and vomiting. While working in a quarry for the film 1917, he struggled to put on his wellington boots and waterproofs. He said: “I had to be up and out by 6am, but there were days where I couldn’t get in the shower.”

Then on a family holiday his symptoms worsened and wife Eliya took him to the nearest hospital in Carcassonne, where they carried out CT and MRI scans and discovered a massive tumour. Unable to fly due to the cabin pressure, he was taken back to Hackney in a private ambulance. After being assessed in A&E, he was transferred to The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where within days he underwent a two-part 11 hour operation to remove a tumour the size of a grapefruit.

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He then spent time on the high dependency unit before moving to The Molly Lane Fox Unit, a specialist brain tumour ward funded by The National Brain Appeal.

Oliver said: “I had a real empathy with the other people on the Unit. I remember a man in the next bed encouraging me to be strong when I was having a difficult time.”

In December that year, Oliver had a violent seizure and an MRI scan showed his tumour had returned almost as big as before. He had further surgery in 2020, followed by radiotherapy and then gamma knife treatment in July 2021. He continues to be monitored by the team at the hospital.

Oliver inherited his artistic talent from his father, John, who died following a brain haemorrhage in 2005 aged 61.

“Dad was a talented draughtsman who drew by hand on a daily basis for more than a decade. He steered me away from being a fine artist saying I would struggle to make a living, but he could doodle something quite wonderful on the back of an envelope without even thinking. That’s why I love the idea of The National Brain Appeal’s art on envelopes exhibition.”

Oliver's brother Tom is also raising £5000 for the appeal by running the 1240 kilometre that the ambulance took to repatriate him over a series of organised and personal challenge events.

The calendar is on sale for £10 from The National Brain Appeal

The calendar is on sale for £10 from The National Brain Appeal - Credit: Courtesy Oliver Roberts

A Letter in Mind - Making Your Mark previews from November 2 with sales opening at 11am on November 4.

To buy Oliver’s £10 advent calendar go to: nationalbrainappeal.org/product/advent-calendar 

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