When Carey Lander, keyboard player and vocalist for Glasgow band Camera Obscura, launched her JustGiving page for Sarcoma UK in August 2015, she hoped to raise “a bit of cash to help others in a similar situation”. Within weeks it had become our largest ever single appeal.
Carey Lander launched her record-breaking fundraising appeal following the announcement that her osteosarcoma had returned. Usually a very private person, the musician had not spoken publicly at the time of her initial diagnosis in 2011. But, being acutely aware that the disease mostly affects teenagers and young people, she finally decided to share her story to raise money for Sarcoma UK, in the hope that “in the future … children don’t have to undergo such awful treatment and have a better chance of survival.”
Almost as soon as she launched her appeal, friends in the media and music industry, as well as thousands of fans, rushed to spread the word and post links to her JustGiving page. On Twitter, the celebrities endorsing her campaign included actors Zooey Deschanel and Molly Ringwald; broadcasters Dermot O’Leary, Lauren Laverne and Geoff Lloyd; and writers Jon Ronson and Caitlin Moran.
Before she passed away, Carey saw her target of £50,000 surpassed, and at the time of writing, the total raised now stands at over £90,000. That her appeal galvanised so much support in such a short space of time is testament to indie music lovers’ affection for Carey and her bandmates. While fans on social media shared photos taken backstage at concerts around the world, donations came flooding in from over 40 different countries, a rare achievement according to JustGiving.
Carey grew up in Maidstone, Kent with her parents Eileen and Bob, and her brothers Nathan and Ross. She moved to Glasgow as a teenager, later studying English at the University of Strathclyde. Already a talented musician and fan of the band, she seemed like the obvious choice when Camera Obscura were looking for a new keyboard player in 2002. She was thrown in at the deep end: her first gig was a session for BBC Radio 1 at legendary DJ John Peel’s house.
Before long, the band’s country-tinged guitar pop sound was transforming, and lead singer Tracyanne Campbell recalls listening to mixes of their next album, finding “her piano, her keyboards, were all over them.” In the 13 years after she joined, the band released four more albums and appeared frequently on BBC radio, recording another four sessions for John Peel, and also playing in the studio for Dermot O’Leary and Lauren Laverne. They toured extensively, playing concerts on five continents, and it was on tour that Carey met her partner Kenny, the band’s sound engineer, who she lived with in the west end of Glasgow.
In addition to her musical talent, Carey also brought vintage glamour to the band; with her horn-rimmed spectacles and love of ‘granny chic’ she was a compelling presence on the stage. A self-confessed make-up obsessive, she made red lipstick and Chanel No 5 her trademarks. Her close friend, the beauty columnist Sali Hughes, has described how she once packed eight lipsticks for a hospital stay, and got into trouble with doctors for painting her toenails after an operation on her leg, making it trickier for them to check her circulation.
Carey’s bandmates have described her as a bookworm (her childhood ambition was to be a librarian) with a dry wit, a talent for self-deprecation and a prodigious appetite; on the band’s website she states that her favourite word is ‘dinner-time’. Her quiet and incisive sense of humour undoubtedly endeared her to the huge number of friends and fans who joined her family in responding to her very personal appeal for Sarcoma UK.
Bob and Eileen updated her JustGiving page after she passed away, saying, “As Carey’s parents we have been deeply moved by all the gifts and messages on this page. They have brought real comfort to us. Please keep spreading the word and keep giving.”