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Looking back… and moving forward

Our anniversary was a time to reflect, but also a time to plan for what is ahead… Read more

Volunteers going the distance

Our volunteers come from far and wide, and from all walks of life. They never fail to make the office a brighter place to be, and we strive to give them valuable hands on experience in return. Kristen came all the way from Georgia, USA to give us a helping hand. She was with us for six weeks, and has very kindly shared what she learnt from her time here. Read more

Doing it their way for The National

We have some incredible individuals at The National: our medics are life-savers and every day our patients face the biggest fears with strength and determination.

Not content with these amazing feats of human spirit, every year medics and patients alike put their energy into organising events to raise thousands of pounds for us. From the corridors of The National, we’ve had marathon runners, trekkers, cyclists, and all manner of fundraisers coming up with individual and creative ideas to raise awareness of neurological conditions.

This year is no exception. Here are just two individuals who are making a difference, in their own way.

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Being active and staying safe

It felt very shocking to hear just before New Year that Michael Schumacher was in a critical state in hospital. The man who raced over 200 miles per hour for a living had “severe brain trauma” following a skiing accident and though at the time of writing Schumacher’s  condition is being reported as steadier, the future remains uncertain.

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The big THREE-OH!

A very happy New Year to you from everyone in The National Brain Appeal team!

2014 marks our 30th birthday so we’re planning lots of activities to celebrate our joint achievements to date.

Over the past thirty years, amazing projects like the Dementia Research Centre, The Molly Lane Fox Unit, the Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases and the Advanced Neuroimaging Suite have come to fruition thanks to the support of people like you. You’ve helped us provide better care for the thousands of patients who have come through the doors of The National by funding more than £40 million of innovative projects.

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Once again, a big thank you to Peregrine’s Pianos

For those of you attending our Carol Concert you might like to look out for a very special donation centre stage…

For a second year running, Peregrine’s Pianos have very kindly donated one of their pianos for our Carol Concert on the 12th December.

Situated on the corner of Guilford Street, Peregrine’s Pianos are very close to The National Hospital and have a connection to community events and charities in the local area, having supported both ourselves and the Bloomsbury Festival in recent years. In October, Peregrine’s Pianos also hosted the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 knock-out rounds in their studio space.

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This year, Peregrine’s Pianos have given one of the latest model Schimmel upright pianos which will accompany the choir.

We’re so grateful to Dawn Elizabeth Howells and all her team at Peregrine’s Pianos and can’t wait to hear the piano in all its glory.

For tickets to the carol concert, order online today.

 

Greased Lightning

Around 9.30pm last night, a stream of people in their PJ humming songs from a musical, dispersed into the streets around London’s Oxford Circus. Some had slippers on their feet, others were in animal-printed onesies and many wore nightcaps. If you’re wondering what on earth was happening, this jolly bunch had joined our Pyjama Party held at the beautiful Courthouse Hotel.

The lobby had begun filling up with people around half 6 and it was wonderfully bizarre to see people at the bar doing double (or even triple) takes at the fact they were sharing their post-work drinks with people in dressing gowns and slippers. One couple had really gotten into the swing of things; she had her hair in curlers and her partner sported a marvellous 50s-style quiff.

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One step ahead

Jess, one of our Fundraising Co-ordinators, always has her diary open six months in advance. Here’s why…

My work calendar always seems to be a little bit at odds with the weather outside: I seem to be thinking about Christmas in June and in the hottest summer we’ve had in years, I was researching different kinds of pyjamas. When it comes to wintertime, everyone else is getting festive and I’m planning summer fundraising events.

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The Big 100

Rolling with the legacy of last year’s Olympics, this month saw the first ever Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 – as the name suggests, a gruelling hundred mile cycle through the hills of Surrey and the city roads.

Thank you to Kirsty Brown, Peter Godsall and Vaughan Ward, the three intrepid riders who cycled for The National Brain Appeal. Here, Vaughan shares his story of the up-hill struggles and the sweet, sweet downs …

On the 14th of May I received a rather unexpected text message from my good friend Clare asking if I was interested in taking part in a charity bike ride for The National Brain Appeal. I happily accepted – only to then realise it was a hundred miles long.

Although daunted at first by the prospect, I soon became extremely excited to ride an adaptation of the Olympic road race and cover the same tarmac as the great Bradley Wiggins and Lizzie Armitstead.

I have to admit that this was my first exposure to The National Brain Appeal but I quickly found that everyone has something in common with the charity. They campaign for such a wide range of conditions and illnesses that seem to touch everyone I know in one way or another.

My training began well, taking thirty mile cycles down the picturesque Lea Valley into rural Hertfordshire. The rolling hills, even in bad weather, were a breath of fresh air from the stop/start congestion of the streets of London. However, I made a serious error in my training; I continued my normal routine, which consisted of football, predictably injured myself and had only six weeks left to train.

The fast-track training proved to have mixed emotions. Hours upon hours on the bike gave me time to think but the road soon felt like a lonely place without a training partner. The thunderstorms began, which made it harder, but when the clouds cleared I had some great experiences too. There was the triple rainbow, the time I had to stop on a country lane to let a family of ducks casually waddle across the road and, on the several occasions I became lost, passers-by would ask about the charity on the jersey that I was proudly wearing. A lady shared a story with me about how she had recently recovered from a brain aneurysm. It was a lovely moment to share her joy at the side of the road.

My fundraising went better than expected; the support I received from friends, family and beyond was fantastic.

The day arrived: I had trained and raised a great amount of money but had doubts about completing the task that loomed over me. What I wasn’t prepared for was how emotional the six and a half hours of cycling would be.

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The anticipation on the start line was incredible. Everyone was anxious to get their legs turning. The race began by making a few cycling companions until the point when our speeds no longer kept us together. We stretched out and I met the beginnings of the beautiful Surrey countryside. It wasn’t until about fifty miles in that it started to get difficult.

I’d met the climb that everyone thought was Leith Hill but that monster – the one that keeps going up and up on every turn – was still yet to come. When it did, my legs started to burn and many were walking. I didn’t care how slowly I went; I was determined not to get off my bike. I reached the summit to discover one of the most beautiful descents of my life. With everyone travelling under their own steam it suddenly felt like a different time.

The fun didn’t last long: the roads did claim some casualties as they aren’t without their dangers and the ascents began once more.

I soon learnt that the infamous Box Hill is actually the little brother to Leith Hill: Leith Hill saps you of your energy and Box Hill sets to finish you off. It was not to succeed. I stopped only momentarily to hug my Mum, who had travelled from Leicestershire with her boyfriend to provide me with my second wind. At this point, I was struggling and close to tears. I had never felt so emotionally compromised by a physical task before.

I felt a little pathetic. The National Brain Appeal calls their fundraisers ‘heroes’, but I only have to be one for a day; those who I aim to help have to be heroes everyday. It is this that drove me on.

With thirty miles to go, the carnival atmosphere began. Bands on the sides of the roads and people lining the street made you feel like you had already finished. You hadn’t; there was still a distance to go but pelotons formed and everyone was driving one another home. I limped towards the ten-mile mark after a bout of cramp but finished fast in a sporting sprint with four others. I’d done it.

My friends lined the finish with banners and my girlfriend had made a t-shirt with my face on it. I struggled to take it all in through the shakes of completing the task. The sense of relief and achievement forced a smile to my face. I celebrated with chips, a shandy, friends and thinking of all those I hope we’ve helped.

Vaughn's banner blog

 

Putting the summer to good use

We always like to profile our amazing volunteers and this month, we’ve asked Charlotte to step forward. One of her key responsibilities has been to help us prepare for the Magic of the Mind dinner in June – thank you for all your hard work, Charlotte!

Hello, my name is Charlotte and I have just completed my second year of a BA Linguistics degree at University College London.

During my first year, I signed up to the UCL Volunteering Society and I would receive weekly emails alerting me to volunteering opportunities. It was one of these messages that notified me of the existence of The National Brain Appeal – immediately I knew that it was a charity that I wanted to work with so I got in touch with Tallulah and Jess.

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Stroke enables artist Mark Ware to see in a new way

Award-winning artist Mark Ware has created images responding to Exeter Cathedral’s 900 year history and reflecting his altered perception of the world brought about by a stroke in 1996 at the age of 39.

Exeter Cathedral has been the setting and subject for Cathedra 900, Mark’s latest multimedia project funded by Arts Council England. For the past eighteen months Mark has explored the cathedral and interpreted its art and architecture through photography, abstract photomontages, 3D artwork and sound.

Mark said:
“Stroke affects everything I do and how I perceive the world. It influences all my art and it keeps me in the ‘here and now’ because of the physical and mental challenges it presents me with. In addition it has given me a wonderful insight into how the senses work, which in turn inspires the art that I now create.

“My Exeter Cathedral images and abstract photomontages were created in response to the building, particularly to its extraordinary medieval architecture and design, and I hope that they offer a meaningful experience to those who see the work. Cathedra 900 has been a profoundly rewarding project. I’m privileged and honoured to be participating in Exeter Cathedral’s 900 year timeline, contributing to the centuries of artistic activity within its walls.”

During October 2013, as part of Cathedra 900, Mark staged three performances of 900 Years of Light, and event which featured film, readings, music, and the premiere of Mark’s video composition accompanied by specially arranged music performed by internationally acclaimed trumpeter, Crispian Steele-Perkins with Lyric Strings trio.

The video composition brought together Mark’s photography showing details, patterns and architectural shapes, creating illusions of stillness and movement. During the screening of the work, the cathedral appeared to breathe as its vaulted ceiling was cast with slowly changing light, and the live music resonated throughout the building. 3D images on fabric banners hanging on the Cathedral’s columns added an extra dimension to the Cathedral’s architecture when viewed through coloured glasses.

The next phase of Mark’s work includes an exhibition at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital in Exeter early in 2014 through Exeter Healthcare Arts. As a taster for Mark’s exhibition, three of his images will be shown as part of a larger exhibition including work by other artists which will be on show from 25 until 25 February 2014.

Mark has been involved with supporting The National Brain Appeal and a number of other charities since having a stroke and his images are now being offered for sale, benefiting charities in the process.

Mark said:
“My family and I have benefited from the work of a number of charities and I wanted to give something back. My art seemed an ideal way to do this, so my work will be sold through a number of charities (including The National Brain Appeal) which will receive 30% of the profits.”

 

A Marathon effort

Last week was one of the biggest events in our calendar – the Virgin London Marathon – and what a day it was! Here are our highlights …

The day began at 5.30am when Tallulah, our Fundraising Co-ordinator, was at the bus stop on her way to the start line. She was joined by one competitor in his trainers and several revellers still enjoying their Saturday night out. We met at 6.45am on Embankment at the 25-mile mark so we could find the best spot where our banner would be most visible to our runners. Then it was time for a wake-up coffee and a bacon roll so we could be in top form for our runners… Read more

On Your Marks, Get Set …

My name is Tallulah and I am a Fundraising Co-ordinator at The National Brain Appeal. My role encompasses all challenge and running events as well as supporting our individual fundraisers.

This year our running events kick off with the Brighton Half Marathon on 17 February, the Paris Marathon on 7 April and, of course, the Virgin London Marathon on 21 April. I have organised a ‘Runners Reception’ which takes place in early February – it is a chance for all our runners to meet their team mates, as well as getting advice from a personal trainer and fundraising ideas from us.

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

The National Brain Appeal Christmas carol concert has always been a favourite fixture in the festive calendar and this year was no exception.

For everyone who has a link to Queen Square – from current and former patients, students and charity fundraisers to trustees, consultants and staff from The National – it is a magical event. This year, we were delighted to be joined by actors Phyllida Law, Sophie Thompson and Demetri Goritsas who added more than a touch of celebrity sparkle. Read more

Peregrine’s Pianos presents…

“There is perhaps more activity in our pretty shop on the corner of Guilford Street than people might be aware. We moved into Bloomsbury in the summer of 2010; up until then we had offered premiere music rehearsal facilities in Belsize Park to professional musicians.

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Get involved – it’s not too late!

It is only four days until our Pyjama Party campaign – a wonderful week where any excuse to wear your pyjamas in the daytime is a good one (just look at our chief executive Theresa doing the school run in her PJs)!

Don’t worry of you haven’t yet planned anything as there is still time to organise a great fundraising event that doesn’t require heaps of time.

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Odyssey of Love

We have been spending the last few months planning and preparing for our Odyssey of Love evening and now the event is almost upon us.

In a night of drama, passion and love, pianist Lucy Parham will reunite with actors Joanna David and Martin Jarvis and bring to life the music and words of the composer Franz Liszt.

Drawing together strands of Liszt’s life through sound and word, Lucy has created a programme that paints a portrait of the composer in a scrapbook of his music and writing. As a figure, Liszt is preceded by a scandalous reputation of multiple mistresses and it is said that he drove women wild with hysteria when they caught a glimpse of him. Indeed, when we spoke to Lucy she described Liszt as “the Tom Jones of the nineteenth-century” and recounted stories where women fought over his discarded cigar butts and treasured his locks of hair. Read more

Racing to help fight brain disorders

The National Brain Appeal’s race evening is a firm favourite with supporters with auction lots including diamonds, Disney passes and days out. Read more

Gassers v Slashers Quiz Night

TV hospital met real hospital when on 24 June, actors Julian Rhind-Tutt and Stephen Mangan (from Channel 4’s surreal hospital comedy series ‘Green Wing’) hosted The National Brain Appeal’s first ever quiz night. Read more

Thanks – you saved my life says MP

An MP who underwent life-saving surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) to remove a brain tumour returned to the hospital to pay tribute to staff.
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Celebrating a landmark anniversary at The National

2010 marked The National’s 150th and The National Brain Appeal’s 25th anniversaries. We celebrated with a host of special events, reflecting on past successes as well as looking forward to the future. Hundreds of people – including London’s Mayor Boris Johnson – streamed through our doors as part of an anniversary open day which showcased the range of services and treatments we offer.

During his visit, the Mayor unveiled a plaque to commemorate the start of works in the new Molly Lane Fox Unit, the dedicated ward and assessment centre for Brain Tumour patients which has since been completed and opened in early 2011. Read more

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