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Sunday, 16 January 2022

Stars back Alzheimer’s Research UK campaign highlighting hope

Stars back Alzheimer’s Research UK campaign highlighting hope
Shobna Gulati – Alzheimer’s Research UK – Photograph credit: Alex Wallace.

A host of famous faces are backing a new campaign from Alzheimer’s Research UK celebrating the power of our brains and research’s ability to overcome dementia.

Actor and author Shobna Gulati has fronted a thought-provoking new film for the charity, while stars from stage, screen and social media have appeared in a powerful portrait series.

The campaign, called #MakeBreakthroughsPossible, aims to drive hope that research will lead to effective new treatments for dementia and champions our brains as the key to overcoming the condition.

It comes as a new poll showing public belief in medical research is growing, following a year in which the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines has helped reopen society. The polling, carried out by YouGov, shows that:

  • In light of advances in medical research over the past year, 63% of UK adults are now more hopeful that researchers will develop new dementia treatments – rising to 72% of over-55s.
  • Just over half (53%) believe researchers will develop a new dementia treatment within the next five years.

The film uses brain scan animations as visual inspiration to demonstrate all the amazing things our brains are responsible for, from human achievements to emotional experiences, and the potential for research to make breakthroughs possible for people with dementia.

The film has been brought to life by the creative agency Wonderhood Studios and animation studio Blind Pig. The Fugees have gifted the use of their track Ready or Not, featuring the sample of Boadicea by Enya. It launches today across Alzheimer’s Research UK’s social channels.

In the film, Shobna, who stars in the Amazon Prime hit Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and is also known for her roles in Dinnerladies and Coronation Street, encourages people to watch and share to spread hope. Shobna has been a supporter of Alzheimer’s Research UK for several years, having cared for her mother, Asha, who died with mixed dementia in 2019.

She said:

“My mum was an extraordinary woman and the linchpin of the family. She’d remember birthdays, anniversaries, everybody’s names. She’d even be able to tell you where a cousin twice removed came from and who they were related to. But then she’d start forgetting things and, alongside that, there was a retreat into the past and the memories of her as a child. She was diagnosed with mixed dementia in her mid-seventies and passed away two years ago.

“The more awareness we can raise about dementia, the better. I’ve written a book about my experiences of caring for Mum, and this campaign helps shine a further spotlight on the issue and the vitally important role Alzheimer’s Research UK plays in overcoming dementia. Our brains are extraordinary and, if we can create everything around us, there’s no reason why we can’t find a cure for dementia. My mum’s name, Asha, means hope, and hope is what drives us all. We’re so clever as human beings and I know there’s a way through this, and it’s organisations like Alzheimer’s Research UK that will get us there sooner.”

The campaign has also been supported by fine art photographer Linda Blacker, who lost her grandmother to dementia. Like the campaign film, her powerful portrait series celebrates our incredible brains and its ability to drive research breakthroughs.

A string of well-known faces took part in the shoot, including Will Poulter, Eddie Marsan, Hayley McQueen, Katie Derham, Nish Kumar, Konnie Huq, Nikki Lilly, Juno Dawson, Candice Brown, Nyome Nicholas-Williams, Olivia Campbell and Derrick Evans, best known as Mr Motivator, who all have family or close friends who have been impacted by the condition. Laila-Jean Washington, Arabella Daho and Michelle Elman also feature and are backing the charity’s mission.

Scott Mitchell, Alzheimer’s Research UK Ambassador and husband of the late Dame Barbara Windsor, who died with dementia in December 2020, was also among those taking part in the shoot.

He said:

“Alzheimer’s disease is one of the cruellest, hardest things you can go through – both for the person caring for their loved one, and the person unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with it. But I don’t think there’s ever been a time when research has given us more hope that we’re going to find a cure, that we’re going to find a preventative, that we’re going to find a way to alleviate the symptoms. I truly believe major breakthroughs are right around the corner.”

Will Poulter, who has close friends dealing with the heartbreak of dementia, said:

“Given the prevalence of dementia, you constantly find yourself a few degrees of separation from someone who is either directly affected by dementia, or someone who has a loved one or someone close in their lives who has been impacted by it. While I’m fortunate that no one in my immediate family has been affected, it isn’t to say people in my family aren’t susceptible. Watching friends witness their loved ones deteriorate as a result of Alzheimer’s is a really heartbreaking thing to observe.

“The efforts from Alzheimer’s Research UK are truly incredible and I’m a firm believer that they will get there and there will eventually be a cure. The more support the charity can get in their endeavours to find that cure, the better.”

Eddie Marsan, who lost his stepfather Charlie to dementia with Lewy bodies, said:

“It was heartbreaking to see how dementia affected him and my mum who was caring for him. He was a very gentle, kind man and a great husband to my mum. He loved her dearly and they had more than 20 great years of marriage together. He drove a props truck on movies so when I first started acting, I’d sometimes see him on films, and it was so nice to see him there. But as a professional driver, we knew something serious was wrong when he drove the wrong way down a dual carriageway.

“Having seen what Charlie and my mum went through over a period of about 10 to 15 years, Alzheimer’s Research UK has my full backing, as the more we can alleviate people’s symptoms, the better. I hope research finds a way to stop dementia in its tracks – that would be a great thing.”

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The past year has shown us the potential for research to change lives, and more people now share our belief that research can and will deliver breakthroughs for people with dementia. With focused energy and resources, research has produced life-saving vaccines for COVID-19. We now need to channel that same energy and focus our efforts on research into dementia, our greatest long-term medical challenge.

“Our scientists have shown huge resilience and determination in the face of restrictions over the past year and are making great strides forward in the search for new dementia treatments. We’ve never been more hopeful about what research can make possible – but researchers need our support to be able to turn their discoveries into life-changing breakthroughs. That’s why we’re asking people to share our film to spread the message that through research, we can change the lives of everyone affected by dementia.”

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