Matt and Julie Shanley are helping the national charity Brain Tumour Research celebrate its Wear A Hat Day campaign Image:Brain Tumour Research

Brain Tumour Research’s Wear A Hat Day

A Cranfield postman living with a brain tumour, and his wife, also a key worker, are taking centre stage in a charity’s campaign to find a cure for the devastating disease.

Matt Shanley, 46, and Julie, 36, are helping the national charity Brain Tumour Research celebrate its Wear A Hat Day campaign for 2021 (26 March).

This year, the charity is paying tribute to key worker families, like the Shanleys, who have played a pivotal role throughout the coronavirus pandemic and were delighted that brilliant photographers at Venture Studios volunteered to create evocative portraits of Matt and Julie as they share their story.

Matt, a grandfather of three, has life-changing effects since being diagnosed with a rare subependymoma brain tumour in 2018. He, like thousands of others diagnosed each year, knows only too well the devastation caused by the disease.

Matt is taking part in Wear A Hat Day, along with Julie, who is holding an event at Thames Valley Police’s head office. He said:

“It was back in 2011 that I was told I was suffering with vertigo brought on by labyrinthitis. I was back and forth to the GP for seven years until they thought it might be neurological and referred me.

“Six months later, after an MRI scan at Bedford Hospital, I learnt I had a 6cm x 6cm tumour and was being referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

“I underwent surgery to remove the tumour but it has left me with sight loss which makes it very difficult when I am in unfamiliar places and prevents me from driving.

“I also have memory issues, weakness down my left side, fatigue and suffer with debilitating seizures, which sometimes mean I end up back in hospital.”

Julie, a civilian who works in the control room for Thames Valley Police, added:

“People often say how well Matt looks, but they don’t know what he has to contend with, having lost his driving licence and therefore his independence when he became partially sighted.

“We were both shocked to discover the stats about brain tumours and how low funding into research actually is. It’s disgusting that they don’t warrant more investment. Even people with low-grade or slow-growing brain tumours can suffer life-changing side effects.”

Matt and Julie’s images are being seen across the country, as the charity’s marketing imagery features key worker families who, despite having their own devastating brain tumour stories, are determined to show the joy and positivity that is being involved in Wear A Hat Day.

All are donning their best headwear from beanies to cowboy hats, flat caps to Panamas, baseball caps to berets, and are asking others to join them for this year’s event.

Brain Tumour Research has also developed six new pin badges representing key workers’ hats. They represent key worker professions of firefighter, surgeon, police officer, paramedic, nurse and soldier.

Now in its 12th year, Brain Tumour Research said its Wear A Hat Day has raised over £2 million to help fund the fight against the disease. Adding that it is one of the UK’s biggest and best-loved brain tumour research awareness and fundraising days.

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. The charity said that, historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research is campaigning for an increase in the national investment into research to £35 million per year. It is also fundraising to create a sustainable network of brain tumour research centres in the UK.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, chief executive of Brain Tumour Research, said:

“The pandemic hit Wear A Hat Day hard last year and meant we brought in £250,000 less than we had hoped. Despite the challenges of the first lockdown, we were amazed by our dedicated supporters who still came up with inventive ways to take part.

“It’s so touching to see people are once again embracing Wear A Hat Day, one year on from the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK. Our supporters’ dedication in these unprecedented times is genuine and inspiring and we can’t wait to join them in putting on our hats, having some fun and raising money to fund sustainable research that will bring us closer to a cure for brain tumours.

“Just 12% of brain tumour patients survive beyond five years whereas, for cancers such as breast and leukaemia, the figures are 70% and 40% respectively because of greater investment for research in those areas.

“Unlike many other cancers, brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time, regardless of age, gender, race or lifestyle. Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital if we are to improve outcomes for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.

“Please join us this Wear A Hat Day – let’s have fun and make a difference.”

Matt and Julie Shanley Image:Brain Tumour Research

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

Whilst COVID-19 restrictions still apply, the charity is politely reminding supporters to observe safety measures when planning their events. Families, friends, workplaces and schools can however, still come together safely, virtually or in-person where restrictions allow, to raise money for this vital cause.

You can register to take part at


Matt and Julie Shanley are helping the national charity Brain Tumour Research celebrate its Wear A Hat Day campaign Image Brain Tumour Research