Monday, 16 October 2017

Do as I say, not as I do?

The last couple of frantic weeks have involved some further great moments in the journey of developing our social enterprise, Sporting Memories Network CIC. Trips to Cardiff, London & Edinburgh, a lecture to the FIFA Masters at De Montfort, team meetings, staff supervision sessions, countless Skype and conference calls and hours at the computer finalising project plans and media releases. All part and parcel of being a director of a social enterprise striving to demonstrate impact and achieve the growth all involved expect to see. Friday saw another long car journey on our increasingly clogged motorways, this time going across the Pennines to Media City, Salford, for an early morning recording with BBC 5 Live about the news of the funding we have secured from Sport England (listen in to the feature here)

The announcement was in relation to Sport England's Active Ageing Fund. We've secured an investment of almost £500,000 over three years to test out approaches to get people over 55 more active. At present 25.7% of the population of England are classed as inactive; not managing 30 minutes of moderate activity. 5.6 million over 55's are in that category and those percentages rise significantly with age. Add in a long term condition such as dementia, social isolation and a lack of confidence.....well in one county alone we surveyed our group members, all of whom were male and all were living with a diagnosis of dementia. 84% told us they undertook no physical activity until they joined their local sporting memories group. They now do at least 30 minutes per week, as per the minimum target set by Sport England.

Which leads me on to the real reason for revisiting a much neglected blog. The challenge of running a social enterprise AND not neglecting physical activity! It was when we learned that of the 725 orgs that applied to the fund, we had made it to the shortlist of 46 who were invited to present their ideas in depth to Sport England, I reflected back on how much exercise I was regularly taking. Other than always walking (briskly) wherever I go when in London for meetings (I hate the Tube and love seeing the sights!), my own regime was in danger of not hitting Sport England's minimum requirements for our group members.

I'd slipped into working seven days a week (not a sob story, I love the work) often late into the night. There was no time for exercise. I decided it wouldn't be right to stand in front of a panel talking about physical activity if I didn't even meet their minimum levels myself! I'd tried a few things previously, running was a bit of a disaster, a lack of Vitamin D (of course!) and long limbs led to knee problems & I'd been warned off anything that increased impact on them. Cycling was pleasant enough, well I do live in Yorkshire, home of cycling, but I needed something with a competitive edge to it too. Three months ago I took up golf again for the first time in over 15 years. Taking advantage of twighlight offers of reduced green fees, I found I could enjoy the fresh air and exercise whilst clearing the mind for a while too. Having been a caddie on the European Tour many years ago, I naturally carry my golf bag, adding to the cardio work out of walking briskly between shots. Since taking it up again, I've already begun to see and feel the benefits, of mind and body.

Now winter is approaching, I've put a plan in place to still play the occasional round when time permits and the weather is good, but have now put exercise equipment in the office, to keep exercising and to be ready for the new season next spring in tip top physical condition. Tonight was the first session. Only 10k's on the spinning bike up a few hills, it wasn't exactly easy, but boy did I feel better for it afterwards!

I'd love to hear how you manage to balance a busy life with keeping fit and active. Add any tips or hints below



Wednesday, 10 May 2017

25 years on

Time to reflect

25 years ago today, 10th May, I set out on a new career, training to be a psychiatric nurse. I'd not particularly bothered with school in my early years nor had school bothered with me, we agreed to mutually part company when I was 13, moving to 'home education' which mostly consisted of playing sports. Exams hadn't been on the agenda either, so I was fortunate that nursing allowed those without academic qualifications to sit the 'DC Test'. Knowing very little about healthcare and even less about psychiatry, my first placement on a ward was only the second time in my life I'd set foot in a hospital (the 1st occasion was a result of concussion from a playground collision whilst playing 'Bulldogs'). I'd somehow come to the conclusion before stepping out as a student nurse that I'd make a great CPN working in forensic services and was pleased to find out my first placement was to be on a busy working age 'acute' ward. Six weeks of working on the ward, it was time to head back to college, to prepare for the next placement. Older Peoples Mental Health, or, as one staff nurse put it, 'enjoy your 6 weeks of wiping wrinkly bums'. Oh joy, not only was I going to be nursing older people, but I'd been allocated a mixed ward, which was staffed by RGNs & RMNs, some beds were medical, some psychiatry. Nightmare.

First day on the ward & something happened that was to shape the rest of my career, I met a 'patient' (that was the term used back then) who had dementia. She was called Grace. Grace was a bit of a handful for the staff, forever wandering around the ward, asking repetitive questions, wanting to know when she was going home. As I was 'an extra pair of hands' on the ward, I was asked to spend a lot of time with Grace, which I did and the more I got to know her, the more fascinated I became. I was hooked.

Training flew past and soon I found myself applying for my first staff nurse post. Bingo, got a job on a dementia care ward, which was about to relocate from an old asylum hospital to one of the new 'CUE' units. Loved it, enjoyed it, experienced the move and six months later spotted an advert for a senior staff nurse post. Got it and dropped so lucky. Within two weeks of starting in post, a colleague had to drop out of a training course at Bradford University about 'Dementia Care Mapping' which was to be co-facilitated by someone called Professor Tom Kitwood. What a course, what a concept. What an inspiring man.

Armed with this new knowledge, my next post was managing a unit in a dementia care home. It remains one of my favourite times looking back. It was a small, 16 bed unit that pretty much relied on dishing out Thioridazine & Diazepam to keep the residents 'quiet & content' or chemically coshed. I was lucky enough to be able to recruit some great care assistants and a couple of new RMN's to replace the old team who chose to move on and we agreed on a vision to work towards. We opened doors to the beautiful rear garden, we ended the routine of night staff getting people up on a morning, meals were available when people were hungry & we all spent time talking, sitting or playing activities with the people living in the unit. Within three months we saw significant reductions in prescribing of medication and after six months we'd eradicated all psychotropic medication. None of it was rocket science.

Possibly the most surreal moment looking back was during my time as a clinical team manager, leading a unit that had an inpatient dementia care facility, day hospital and community teams based in the building. All our staff team on the inpatient unit were trained in dementia care mapping as part of their induction when joining the unit. As a result, we were visited by some of the team from Bradford, who were hosting a delegation from the Japanese government, who arrived accompanied by interpreters and a film crew from their own TV channel! The hilarity at lunch time when we served our guests giant Yorkshire Puddings filled with beef and gravy will live with me forever. It was certainly a dish none of them had encountered before.

Having enjoyed my time as a clinical lead, it was time to try my hand at a new challenge. As luck would have it, a few miles up the road, there was an advert for a project manager to work across 4 PCT's on something called the Dementia Services Collaborative. Improving dementia services by consulting with and working alongside people living with dementia, their carers and staff. What a job! After two years, our team were fortunate to receive a lovely award from the Alzheimer's Society recognising their work. I'd got a taste of how collecting and sharing knowledge could really influence and lead to positive change. A part time post came up working for the National Institute for Mental Health in England on the older people programme in Yorkshire & Humberside. It was just one day a week, meantime an amazing chance came up to join a local team to work on improving the physical environment of a CUE unit that was for men living with dementia. The unit team was to take part in the King's Fund Enhancing the Healing Environment programme and WOW, was that life changing. Led by Sarah Waller, the course was so inspiring. We were taught about the influence colour can have on mood, how good building design can influence care pathways and healing. We visited Tate Modern and had a half day with one of the curators. We were taught to sing, we were videoed, we met table top magicians and a jazz singer who entertained us over dinner one night revealed herself the following day in further learning sessions to be CEO of a PCT! At the end of the course, we had to present our idea for the unit to an audience including Sarah. The team were somewhat reluctant to speak so I hit on the idea of making an automated powerpoint presentation set to music. I'd stumbled into making a digital story without knowing what one was! Set to Underworld's Born Slippy, it seemed to strike a chord with those in the room and it was a real thrill to hear the programme subsequently used it at the launch of future programmes.

A chance opportunity to show the story to the national lead for OPMH led to a new role with NIMHE, which had by now become part of the Care Services Improvement Partnership. Another stroke of luck. Within a week of starting the post, a spare place was available on a course to become an accredited knowledge manager (KM). Using the learning and techniques of KM my geeky side took over and working with the national lead, I had an absolute ball in building a website to share good practice. I was lucky to meet and work alongside some truly inspiring and visionary people, one particular highlight being involved in the launch of the Let's Respect campaign. This was a brilliant learning resource for acute hospitals, covering the 3 D's of Dementia, Depression & Delirium. We hit on the idea of filming interviews with people talking about their experiences of living with these conditions and the Let's Respect series of podcasts were born. At the same time, a group of us began a piece of work which resulted in the first 'product' of the newly announced national dementia strategy. Being on the editorial board of Strengthening the Involvement of people with dementia and their carers was a real learning experience and something I really enjoyed.

One little ditty I enjoyed putting together to try to show how networks, KM and the web could be effective was this 4 minute digital story 

When the National Mental Health Development Unit was born, an opportunity appeared to work across all their programmes as knowledge and online lead. Geekdom, mental health, service improvement & a chance to work with a team of people absolutely driven by a determination to make things happen. Two years passed so quickly, in the final six months another chance to join an editorial board, Let's Respect for care homes was published.

My techy geeky side began to come out more and when the unit was closed, an opportunity to work with some great people led to an Australian adventure. Sadly my geekiness meant I only ever visited the country virtually, whilst working with the government in Western Australia on their vision for mental health. 

I also had the pleasure of writing my first ever chapter in a publication. I was proud to be asked by Hari Sewell to share some of my thoughts on the use of technology and knowledge management in his book; The Equality ACT 2010 in Mental Health: A Guide to Implementation and Issues for Practice

In 2011 I ventured into the world of social enterprise, co-founding The Sporting Memories Network CIC with Chris Wilkins and establishing The Sporting Memories Foundation a couple of years later. Six years in, it remains something I am incredibly proud to be involved in.

In 2017 I commenced a three year visiting fellowship at the School of Health and Community Studies, Leeds Beckett University. To be offered a position that affords the opportunity to work alongside so many talented people who are leaders in their respective fields of expertise is so inspiring and exciting. 

Thanks to those 6 weeks of 'wiping wrinkly bums' I've had the most amazing journey in a career I've loved. 


Tony Jameson-Allen FRSA

Sunday, 8 March 2015

What do we want now?

This week I was reminded of a lecture I'd delivered earlier in the summer that maybe could help shape the thinking of a highly influential group of people who could go on to make a real difference across the globe. The journey Sporting Memories Network is taking me on has led to some amazing encounters and opportunities to shine a positive light on generations in the UK and to hopefully challenge some stereotypical assumptions that are commonly made, along the way.

As part of the the celebrations of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the network had the wonderful experience of teaching primary school children how to interview each other and then take those new skills to speak with older people in their own communities.
                                                  Pupils practice interviewing each other
Similar chances to work across generations have led to work with National Citizen Service students at some of our Memories Games. The NCS is excellent scheme that allows young adults to spend a couple of weeks away from home to learn and develop many skills, culminating in social action that can include many different actions that can benefit their own communities. See what some of the NCS folk got up to on #NCSActionDay here

NCS Students get ready to help out at a Memories Game TM

Every project we now establish embraces the opportunity to work across generations in whichever community these are based in or whichever sport it may embrace. We recently had a wonderful time working with RFU National Youth Council who acted as Memory Makers at England v Italy at Twickenham. Sam talks about the experience of interviewing fans in the video below.

Perhaps the most remarkable opportunity though, came in September 2014. According to the FIFA website "Every year the FIFA Master programme takes its graduates on a unique journey through three different European countries to study sport. Three distinguished universities in England, Italy and Switzerland, which are among Europe’s most sports-oriented countries, have come together to provide a ten-month programme that combines top-class academic teaching and practical case studies supplemented by guest speakers and field visits. The course focuses on three key and inter-related aspects of sport: humanities, management and law."

I was fortunate to be invited by the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University to deliver a 90 minute sporting memories lecture on sport, corporate social responsibility, older people and dementia to the World FIFA Masters Students this summer. The chance to speak to 32 students from 28 different countries, one of whom, sat on the front row in the lecture theatre had just won gold at the World Rowing Championships. 

                                         FIFA Master Students from 28 countries

In the lecture I was able to set out a case for sport to continue its course of inspiring a (young) generation, as outlined indeed by London 2012 and to promoting excellence, activity and promoting the sense of community. But I was also given the chance to challenge why sport should also celebrate its history, its heritage and use that to also support the generations who made sport what it is today. The older generation who now face other challenges in their lives, that of being able to continue to age well. To continue to have networks of friends, to continue to experience mental and physical heath, to avoid developing cognitive or memory problems. The generation that now sees up to 35 million people across the World living with dementia, millions living lonely lives and experiencing poor mental health. The response from those in the room was truly uplifting (and reassuring for one whose middle age is passing by all too quickly)

The first question to come from the floor was to enquire how much financial backing or development assistance the British Government had put into the network and what plans were there to expand its reach and influence. I was able to confirm our plans to broaden our reach and to hopefully work with many of the brilliant influencers in the room during their careers.

It was with a heavy heart I had to confess to these global ambassadors that to date no financial or development assistance was yet to appear.

I however continue to work with colleagues to try to crack that particular nut and so it will be with optimism that I prepare our lecture for the 2015/16 FIFA Masters Programme having received the thrilling news this week we've been asked to deliver a similar lecture on CSR, Sport and Older People to the programme

The network is also heading back to Twickenham this weekend to engage with fans across generations at the England v Scotland Six Nations game, Swing Low and Carry Them Home!!


In May 2014 Sporting Memories Network was voted Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative. The network chairs the task and finish group on the role of sport and dementia in creating dementia friendly communities for the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Awards, Speeches and Blogs

The last four weeks have been something of a whirlwind.

Following on from the fantastic experience of seeing the network feature in the NME & the article on Brian Johnson's support for the network on Ultimate Classic Rock's facebook page gaining over 62,000 likes, November hasn't slowed down!

On the 6th November I headed down to London to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium for the Football Business Awards. Safe to say we are working flat out on projects and bids at the moment, so co-founder Chris Wilkins stayed up in Scotland to carry on rolling out the weekly groups North of the Border (up to 31 weekly groups now & still rising).

The Football Business Awards

I hadn't quite realised just how big the Football Business Awards (@footiebizawards) are now. Over 600 people including many CEO's of Premier League Clubs,  the Chairman of the FA and non other than Sir Bobby Charlton were there. If the night couldn't get more exciting, one of the guests on the table I was allocated to just happened to be the man I watched from behind the goal at Highbury put my beloved QPR into the FA Cup final in 1982. An evening with Clive Allen!

The awards went by in something of a blur, with great company, excellent food and a few enjoyable beers. I was busy debating QPR's proposed stadium move with a fellow guest as Paul Thorogood, CEO of the Football Foundation announced the award for excellence for Best Football Community Scheme, which went to Crystal Palace Community Foundation. Thinking that was the top prize I turned back to start up the debate again as I heard the words 'and the overall winner is Sporting Memories Network'. Hopefully the spotlight and camera that suddenly appeared at the table didn't catch my initial verbal response at the shock!!

A brilliant night was topped off with an invite to pop into the talkSPORT studios the following day to appear on the Hawksbee & Jacobs show (@tshandj). It was a great chance to talk about the network, but also to voice some of the frustrations we face in encountering government agencies and Ministers who continue to choose not to engage with our work, let alone give it any backing. The guys kindly gave us a copy of the rather excellent Shirt Tales and Short Stories by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke, who had been in the day before to launch the book that examines the lost world of football kits.

The next six days were filled with project work, some excellent evaluation meetings, feedback sessions and evidence gathering for further developments across the existing and planned projects before we then headed across to Manchester for the next event.

The Football Blogging Awards 2014

Seven days later it was time to head to the National Football Museum for the Football Blogging Awards 2014 . The FBA's (@theFBAs) had very kindly nominated Sporting Memories as their partner charity and it was a real honour to be given the chance to hand out a couple of the trophies on the night.

Over 300 people packed into the National Football Museum (@footballmuseum) to eagerly await the winners of 11 categories that included Best Young Football Blog, Best Social Account and Best Video Football Blog. The quality of the work produced by the finalists really was eye opening, as was the impact they are having in the way football fans access news 24/7. Host for the evening was Sky Sports News presenter Kate Riley (@SkyKateRiley)

Congratulations to Paddy Power (@paddypower) and Unibet (@unibet) on their awards

After the final award had been handed out, the FBA's founders Anthony Cooper (@Cooper_FBAs) & Richard Green (@greenrichard87) kindly gave me time to introduce the work of Sporting Memories Network to the audience, to play Bill's Story and explain how those gathered could help out, influence and raise awareness of the project. There was a wonderful response from the room, truly humbling experience.

Final word goes to the guys at Campo Retro (@CampoRetro) who have kindly donated one of their brilliant shirts as a prize this month (Details here) and to Emma Wright (@emmabethwright) & Catherine Bayley (@CSBayley) from Clifford French for some great @Carlsberg moments!

Congratulations to all the shortlisted finalists, the trophy winners and all involved in a vibrant event.

Don't forget bloggers, all articles are welcome to be submitted to Replay Football!!

Thanks to all the folk I got to chat to at the awards and for the very kind offers of help, looking forward to catching up with you all!

Let's see what next week brings




Wednesday, 29 October 2014

For those about to Rock....Don't bother to issue a press release.....

A huge part of the challenge we face in trying to make the vision we've got for Sporting Memories Network a reality, is getting airtime, be that on social media, newsprint, radio etc.

Sure, the core activity we work on minute by minute, day by day, week by week is gathering evidence of need, measuring impact, evaluating our latest development in the model of delivery and consulting with participants, volunteers, facilitators, advisors, commissioners, policy makers and candlestick makers (do they still exist?).

But getting our story out there is also important in attracting attention of possible funders, commissioners & dare I say it potential sponsors. In an increasingly noisy world of social media, 24 hour TV news, reality TV and youtubers attracting followers by the million, a good old fashioned press release really won't get you anywhere unless lady luck is on your side.

Yesterday demonstrated just how a story can grow 'organically'.

Local Press 

Friday morning I had a chat with a local reporter on our current work in chairing a new task group on the role of sport in dementia friendly communities. Interview concluded and as we begin to wrap up, the question is posed if there is any specific local news to add to the story. "Well we've a lot of new star supporters on board since we last met, including Brian Johnson from AC/DC"

Saturday dawns and our local North East paper publishes an article on various aspects of our work, mentions our place as finalists in the Football Business Awards next week at Stamford Bridge, but includes snippets from Brian's memory and uses his name in the headline.

Article at one point was the paper's 10th most read item but gradually it slips off the most read list and I think that is that.

Monday Madness

Monday morning and afternoon is filled with bid writing in our quest to secure the funding we need to roll this concept out. Head down, coffee mug permanently being recharged, type, type, type. Message pops up on facebook from my brother.

"Have I seen the Guardian website today?"


"Have a look"

Guardian Music 

AC/DC's Brian Johnson becomes supporter of dementia charity


Fantastic, nice article based on the local paper's coverage. Great to see it. Back to the bid writing.

Ping.  Another facebook message
"Have you seen the NME?"
"errrr no....."


AC/DC's Brian Johnson becomes supporter of dementia charity

Bandmate Malcolm Young was diagnosed with dementia in September

Okay, that's quite surreal seeing us mentioned in THE NME! Kind of dreamed of being mentioned in it as a teenager but never thought it would happen (with me and this girl from Clapham)

Little were we to know what was to happen next.


"check out the ultimate classic rock site"

"Errr okay....."

Ultimate Classic Rock 

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson Joins Forces With Dementia Charity Following Malcolm Young’s Diagnosis

Read More: AC/DC's Brian Johnson Joins Forces With Dementia Charity Following Malcolm Young's Diagnosis |

AC/DC's Brian Johnson joins forces with dementia charity following Malcom Young's diagnosis


"Now check their facebook page"


Two hours after publishing their article fans had started liking and commenting on the article in their hundreds, then thousands. After four hours 30,000 people had liked the article & 2,000 had shared it. Twenty four hours on and that figure stands at 62,000 and 6,000 shares

The comments from fans were a mix of heart warming for the love of the band and heart wrenching for the despair towards the awful news that AC/DCs founder has had to retire from the band because of dementia. Many compliments were written towards Brian's actions too.

And so it continues with various rock magazines, blogs, news sites picking up the story.

As we wait to see what may happen next all I can say is Brian, Malcolm, AC/DC

We Salute You.


Friday, 25 July 2014

A Grand Depart- reflections on Le Tour De France

A Grand Depart

“Could we try to make Le Grand Depart of Le Tour de France ‘dementia friendly’?” It’s starting in Leeds and is in Yorkshire for two days. Got to be worth a try.

Yep, why not? Let’s go for it.

A brief thought and idea shared over a coffee after staging another memories game with a football league club in 2013. Le Tour was coming to the heart of Yorkshire in July 2014 and what better sporting event to work with? Le Tour de France is the World’s largest annual free sporting event. It is known for attracting relatively large crowds (little did we know!) , so we hatched a plan to try and make sure everyone could enjoy the spectacle of the weekend when Le Grand Depart of Le Tour de France came to Yorkshire. A plan was hatched and emails pinged out to try to enlist support to turn a bit of a pipe dream into reality.

We outlined three key aims to make Le Grand Depart ‘dementia friendly’:

To encourage people living with dementia and memory problems to come and enjoy the once in a lifetime event

To raise awareness of dementia and provide suitable information

To capture the memories of Le Tour de France and of sport from spectators across Yorkshire to use in our work across the UK

What we and probably 90% of the rest of Yorkshire hadn’t appreciated was what a huge logistical challenge the counties and councils of God’s own county faced in planning and delivering such a high profile sporting event that was to take place across such a huge expanse of countryside and take in numerous towns and cities along the route. 
Fast forward several months and the dream remained just that, hardly surprising given the huge number of proposals, plans, events, festivals and organisations getting involved. But then out of the blue came an invite to meet with organisers of Le Grand Depart from TdFHub2014Ltd. David Watson, CEO of North Yorkshire Sport had supported our proposal and accompanied us to discuss our ideas. This was early days but a chance to outline a vision that could embed Le Tour’s own values of inclusion, community and action. The meeting went well and now it was a case of waiting for the decision of the board.

The decision came through out of the blue – Le Grand Depart and Le Tour are all about communities coming together, about social action and social cohesion. Our proposal to make Le Grand Depart dementia friendly had been accepted!

With the jubilation of learning we would be involved in such a prestigious sporting event came a certain amount of trepidation. With only a few weeks till the event and with no funding, no equipment and no staff, had we bitten off more than we could chew?

First to help out were Leeds City Council and North East Leeds CCG. Leeds was the city hosting the start of Stage 1 of Le Tour de France 2014 and is working toward being an Age Friendly and Dementia Friendly city. Funding was agreed so we could purchase enough equipment to have a presence at three ‘spectator hubs’ across the city. A hub being a designated viewing point for spectators where there were giant TV screens, information stands, community activities and food and drink available. Space for Sporting Memories Network gazebos was allocated in Park Square Leeds City Centre, Scott Hall Road playing fields, Pool in Wharfedale and Otley town centre. 

Thanks to the help of TdFHub2014Ltd offers from other hubs to house Sporting Memories Network gazebos and be dementia friendly began to flood in. Knaresborough Castle, Keighley, Ilkley, Masham, Leyburn, Ripon and the town hosting the finish of stage one, Harrogate, all offered space. Having recently launched a project in partnership with City of York Sport & Active Leisure, the team at City of York Council offered space at four of their hubs for the start of Stage Two on the Sunday, including York Racecourse, where the riders would be signing in for day two and warming up before the stage.

We still faced some real challenges. How could we fund more hubs, how would they be staffed, where would the equipment, print, volunteers etc come from in such a short timescale?

We launched a public appeal online for donations and an appeal for volunteers. Just under £1,000 came in from the public and fifteen volunteers registered an interest. It was a start! 

A meeting to discuss our plans with the Department of Health in Leeds led to funding for a further two hubs and an offer to help recruit volunteers from their offices in Quarry House, Leeds. Meanwhile an email to BBC North led to a partnership with Leeds Trinity University and BBC Radio Leeds that would lead to nine post grad media students acting as memory makers across hubs in West Yorkshire, interviewing spectators about their memories of Le Tour and their favourite sporting memories and some of our volunteers receiving media training at the BBC!

With less than two weeks to go, the pressure was on as we placed orders for gazebos, banners, leaflets, storage boxes, mallets, scissors, voice recorders. One of the biggest challenges was finding tables, chairs and table cloths to hire as stockists ran out of everything across Yorkshire. At least we managed to secure a good sized van to hire, and boy would we need it!

Regular deliveries began to arrive, filling up the office and a garage, with one mammoth delivery of gazebos proving something of a physical challenge as fifty three heavy boxes were dropped on the pavement outside! Each piece of equipment needed to be allocated to the correct hub, each hub required a risk assessment supplying, copies of insurance, method statements on our planned activities. The ‘to do’ list was now in danger of becoming the same length as one of the stages of Le Tour!

An appeal for volunteers by the Department of Health had resulted in more folk coming forward to help out over the weekend along with staff and volunteers from some branches of Alzheimer’s Society.

Wednesday 2nd July 2014

Bit by bit (or should that be cog by cog?) things began to take shape and by Weds 2nd July a route map was in place for the build-up times and days for each hub, a master list of equipment needed for each one and almost all the equipment had arrived. Time to set off to put the first hub up. 

What a place to start. Harrogate West Park Stray Fan Park was expected to see 300,000 visitors and over 2,000 journalists over the weekend. Housing giant screens, a massive bar and being adjacent to the finish line of stage one, the scale of Le Grand Depart really struck home when we queued alongside massive official Tour de France lorries in the North Yorkshire Spa Town. Our next stop was Ilkley Riverside Gardens which had been set up as a festival site, a beautiful setting. Getting there proved to be something of a marathon as a series of last minute roadworks that were either removing traffic islands, smoothing pot holes or repainting white lines meant a very late finish to day one of our preparations. 

Whilst much of our time was taken up driving and building up hubs, we continued to try to secure funding to be able to make as many of the other hubs ‘dementia friendly’, to recruit volunteers, get in touch with those who had already stepped forward and of course, to balance all this with providing support to the Sporting Memories projects running across the UK.

Thursday 3rd July

A very early start and with two volunteers recruited to help out, the van was loaded up with equipment for another five hubs and it was time to travel across North and West Yorkshire, taking in the sea of yellow bikes, bunting and flags decorating the route.

  The roads were full of cyclists experiencing the first two stages and from time to time we happened upon official team vehicles accompanying Tour de France riders out on training and reconnaissance runs. The most amazing site was whilst circumnavigating Harrogate we spotted the whole of Team Lampre-Merida on the southern by-pass with the unmistakable rainbow jersey of current World Champion Rui Costa in the middle, flanked and protected from the traffic by his team-mates.

As we zig-zagged our way, the weather was threating to put a dampener on the celebrations as intermittent showers and an increasing breeze began to make each stop off more and more challenging, requiring more pegs and ballast to make sure sporting memories gazebos didn’t sprout wings!

In between hubs, we continued to attempt to secure much needed funds to cover not only the basic costs of equipping the extra hubs, but also to be able to offer volunteers a contribution towards their travel. Whilst monies were secured that allowed us to equip ten hubs, ultimately we had to make the difficult decision to halve the hubs we were offered. Volunteers had to be contacted to explain their expenses could not be covered.
In between hubs, we continued to attempt to secure much needed funds to cover not only the basic costs of equipping the extra hubs, but also to be able to offer volunteers a contribution towards their travel. Whilst monies were secured that allowed us to equip ten hubs, ultimately we had to make the difficult decision to halve the hubs we were offered. Volunteers had to be contacted to explain their expenses could not be covered. - See more at:

We headed to the Tour Presentation at the magnificent new Leeds Arena ceremony with somewhat heavy hearts, exhausted by the physical effort of lugging equipment across parks and fields and the highs and lows of trying to make this all work.

Le Tour in Leeds – Team Presentation

The city of Leeds was buzzing! If ever there was an uplifting event it was this. Some great performances from the likes of  Yorkshire’s very own Kimberley Walsh, Alistair Griffin and Embrace, the presentation of all the teams including World Champion Rui Costa and reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome made for a fantastic atmosphere in the arena but the most rousing reception of the night was for the man who brought Le Tour de France to Yorkshire, Mr Gary Verity. 

A standing ovation from the huge crowd was followed by an inspirational speech by the CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire. Gary Verity outlined the many challenges that had been faced by the Yorkshire bid and team to bring Le Grand Depart to God’s Own County.  “Never give up and never take no for an answer”

It was then left to Christian Prudhomme to speak on behalf of Le Tour de France who demonstrated a great understanding of the pride the county felt in hosting such a remarkable event.

Just what was needed to keep our spirits up.
A brilliant event that reminded us why we wanted to make Le Grand Depart dementia friendly. We couldn’t stop now!

Friday 4th July

After a very, very late night the alarm went off after a couple of hours to remind us that this was the Eve of Tour.  A couple of hours catching up on emails and finalising guidance for volunteers before packing the van as the sun rose with the last of the hubs. Heading to Leeds on the A61 from Harrogate, we pass Harewood House, a truly grand official HQ for Le Grand Depart, that would host the official start of racing tomorrow, after the parade out of Leeds City Centre had been waved off by The Lord Mayor of Leeds.

Something of a disaster to start the day, we got to the first hub on the list only to find yesterday’s breeze has turned into a full on gale at the top of Scott Hall Road in Leeds. Any attempt to put a gazebo up would have been futile and likely resulted in sporting memories being advertised by an air borne group of volunteers that would have landed somewhere near Scarborough….thankfully hub number two was far more sheltered, nestling in the basin that is the city centre. We drive out past Leeds Town Hall, the fascia of which is bedecked in Le Tour de France logos.

A trip west to Heaton Park in Keighley now, through a few blustery showers we arrived at the venue as a big fun fair was setting up at the opposite end to the giant screen that was being pieced together. The guy in charge of security (a Lancastrian who’d been allowed a temporary work permit across t’border) told us it had been reported that over 10,000 travel passes to Keighley for the weekend had been purchased. The volunteers for Keighley were making early starts from Lancashire or cycling several miles to get to the hub, sounded like they were in for a busy one!
After Keighley (and a fine bacon buttie from the lay-by just out of Ilkley) we headed to Pool in Wharfedale, which was another picturesque venue, with the hub situated at the local cricket club right by the route of Le Tour. Pool was the first village the riders would pass through at full speed.

Across to York to drop off equipment for the two hubs we would have for the start of stage two on Sunday then back to Knaresborough Castle to set up the final Sporting Memories Grand Depart gazebo at 4pm.

A marathon set up was almost complete, volunteers were briefed and it was simply a case of cross fingers that the weather would come good. Load up the van with the last hub that was to be put up in the early hours of Saturday morning, pack two bikes, wet weather gear and we are ready.

6pm Friday 4th July

Panic stations. Invite received to attend the official Eve of Tour dinner! Emails are flying in from volunteers still wanting to help out and an email from the press team at 10 Downing Street appears, more on that tomorrow morning!

Shaving foam, razor, shower, shirt, cuff-links, waist-coat, tie. Re-tie tie. Re-tie tie again. Can’t remember last time I wore a tie, but now remember how bad I am at tying a tie that isn’t either the stubby one I wore at school if I ever bother turning up for, or creating some kind of thin knot that results in most of the material ending up somewhere near my knees. I find some happy compromise and cover up the rest of the material with my waist coat. Quick polish of the Dr Martins and head down the A1 to Leeds.

Park up in the Woodhouse Lane Car Park and the rain is tipping down. No overcoat (it’s July!) and no brollie (optimistic) means turning up at the Leeds Arena looking a tad drowned rat like. Most of the World’s press had decided to head indoors given the downpour (sensible).

Once I get inside, past the impressive military band and grab an orange juice I move into a busy reception area. A TV screen is showing a World Cup quarter final, I’d totally forgotten the World Cup was even on!

Time to head to our tables. 850 guests in the arena and I’m somewhat overawed to find I’m on the Lord Mayor’s table. The man who is starting Le Tour de France in Leeds tomorrow! Also on the table is the inspirational Mike Tomlinson, who speaks so passionately about the charity he runs that was established in his wife Jane’s memory. As well as sharing some incredible stories of Jane’s determination and drive, Mike also shared a personal memory of Le Tour about the time they both travelled to France to be guests at the start of a stage, that coincided with the announcement of where the 2012 Olympics would be taking place.

I’d grabbed some of our memory cards on the way out of the door and am so glad I did. On arrival at the table I soon spotted City of Leeds Council CEO Tom Riordan on the next table. Tom has been a terrific supporter of sporting memories from day one and had kindly invited me along to the evening’s proceedings. I showed Tom the cards and he immediately hatched a plan. On his table were CEO’s of councils the route passed through. He would set them a task of getting at least one VIP guest to write down a short favourite sporting memory to support people living with dementia.

Some wonderful memories were duly delivered by the CEOs. Members of the cast of Emmerdale, MP’s, local leaders and sports stars had shared memories. Dr John Sentamu, Stuart Lancaster, and a special memory shared by two times Tour de France winner Bernard Thevenet.

Then the next memory card arrived, completed by six times Olympic Gold Medal winner Sir Chris Hoy – a Rugby memory of Scotland’s Grand Slam in 1990!

The night was rounded off with a memory shared by a legend of Le Tour, five times winner Bernard Hinault.
After a fantastic night and many wonderful conversations with potential supporters of the network, we finally made it back home at 1AM

Saturday 5th July Le Grand Depart!

3:30AM alarm. It is absolutely tipping down with rain as we set off for the market town of Otley to put up the last of the Leeds City Council sporting memories Gazebos. The planned road closures force the early start, despite it still being pitch black and decidedly soggy, when we reach the town centre there is already lots of activity at the farmers’ market stalls and the smell of sizzling sausages was already beginning to fill the air. Once all the roads had been closed we set up the Gazebo, along with info on local dementia services and a life size cut out of the star of the dementia friend’s TV campaign- Gina.
As we finished putting the final touches to the Gazebo, the rain abated and the first of the spectators began arriving on bikes or on foot. Time to tackle a personal challenge.

Gary Verity had stated he wanted the main legacy of Le Grand Depart to be getting more people cycling. Well due to the road closures, two people would be getting back on bikes for the first time in many years. Two volunteers were looking after the Otley hub, so now we had the challenge of getting to Pool in Wharfedale and Ilkley. Pool being a couple of miles East of Otley, Ilkley being eight miles West. I drew the short straw and set off into a head wind with a heavy backpack full of information leaflets. Even at 5:30AM there were fans at key points on the road between Otley and Ilkley. Despite my distinct lack of fitness, it was a fantastic feeling to cycle on the actual route Le Tour would be whizzing along in just a few hours time. The crowds were already getting into the spirit and at each roundabout there were people clapping and cheering every cyclist who passed by with encouraging shouts of Allez Allez!

Entering the outskirts of Ilkley (uphill and into the wind) gave me plenty of time to take in the sights of all the flags, bunting, banners and scaffolding put up in front gardens ready for folk to get the best possible view of the World’s greatest cyclists passing through the town.

Of course with the event being free, no one really knew what size crowds to expect.

7AM and all is well. Coffee and bacon buttie purchased at Ilkley Riverside Gardens festival site. Now time to check on all the other hubs. One minor disaster with a Gazebo at Scott Hall Road meant we were one hub down, but everything else was in place, with volunteers arriving and all systems ready to go.

9AM – A tweet from the Prime Minister launches our work on making Le Grand Depart dementia friendly
10AM – Just an hour before the race would be starting in Leeds City Centre. No sign of anyone other than stall holders in Ilkley.

11:30AM still all quiet, with just a few folk trickling through the festival site, it is something of a ghost town. Was this going to be a waste of time and energy?

Noon – A text received from the Pool in Wharfedale hub that simply says ‘Wow’

1PM we can hear a helicopter approaching and distant cheers from the town centre above us, more helicopters appear in the sky, rotor blades clattering as a TV chopper circled the park and the town. Clearly Le Tour was passing through, but then what? Would we see any spectators begin to appear? Wow. Would we?

A small trickle of fans began to head down the hill from the town, the trickle then began to grow, and grow, and grow. Thousands descended on a sunny Riverside Gardens. Time to start work!

Digital voice recorder at the ready, information on dementia and dementia friends to hand out, the Spot La Boule comp and memory cards. Initially it proved tricky to engage folk, who were mostly focused on getting to the food and drink stands, but once fed and watered, many were happy to chat, share memories and learn more about Sporting Memories and dementia. Kids in particular loved entering the Spot La Boule comp, with Dads generally assigned by families to be the one who added a memory on the back of the card.

The atmosphere in the park was wonderful, a true festival spirit, the sun shone and thousands of families sat on the grass watching the race unfold on the giant screens.

Time to cycle back to Otley to take down the Gazebo before the roads re-opened. Thankfully the wind had not switched so it was a tail wind for the cycle back!

Back to base and time to prepare for day two. Then we sit down to watch the news and see the incredible crowds that had lined the route. Emails and messages from volunteers confirmed just how busy hubs had been, with Leeds, Otley, Ilkley, Pool and Harrogate West Park Stray Fan Park packed all day

Sunday 6th July Stage Two

4:30AM Into the van once more and an early journey to York Racecourse for the start of Stage two. City of York Council Sport and Active Leisure team had offered us space for Gazebos on the Knavesmire and just up the road at Rowntree Park. We could have had two more hubs in York but just couldn’t make the finances stretch that far. 

As our team of volunteers set up at the Racecourse, to prepare for the 30,000 fans who had secured free entry tickets, I was back on my bike pedalling to Rowntree Park, along the route of Stage Two! Some hardy spectators were already getting their spots to see the riders set off. Gazebos up, sun shining and now time to wait to see if day two would be as busy. It is quiet at the park but it is definitely noisier at the Racecourse as our volunteers find themselves being entertained by a live set from The Stranglers at 9AM!

As the park was not directly on the route I walked five minutes towards the city centre and found a great spot on a bridge over the River Ouse to watch the Peleton pass by. The crowds were gigantic and the atmosphere built up and up as each support vehicle passed through ahead of the race.

It really was ‘a hairs on the back of the neck moment’ seeing Le Tour pass by at such close quarters. 

Time to head back to Rowntree Park as fans began to flock to the food stands.  A quick check of the phone and I can see volunteers in Knaresborough and Keighley are all ready for busy days. Photos from the racecourse show a busy time was had there too.

Once again volunteers are helping out at each Gazebo and this allows me to head off into the City Centre for a quick interview live on BBC Radio York to talk about what we have been trying to do during Le Grand Depart.

After a magical afternoon in the sunshine talking with many wonderful people it was time to take the Gazebos down in York and head across to Knaresborough Castle to do the same.

10PM – we catch up on the highlights of Le Tour after unpacking the van, ready for another marathon day ahead taking down all the hubs.

The second stage of the Tour de France finished in Sheffield with 2.5m people having lined the route around Yorkshire over two days.

Vive Le Tour, Vive Yorkshire!

Time for a cool beer.

Monday 7th July 2014

Still on a high, we scoot round the hubs, packing away the gazebos, collecting the digital recorders, completed Spot Le Boule cards and collecting the occasional souvenir along the way. The final Gazebo to come down was the first we put up, Harrogate West Park Stray. 

What a journey.

Our sincere thanks to all those who volunteered, who covered their own travel expenses and who gave up their weekends to help make Le Grand Depart Dementia Friendly. We'd also like to thank those who stepped forward to volunteer but were unable to get to the hubs due to lack of funding or due to road closures. 

Thank you to Leeds City Council, North East Leeds CCG, Public Health England and the Department of Health for helping to make ten spectator hubs of the World's largest annual sporting event dementia friendly.

All the memories shared are being added to the suite of websites at
Tuesday 8th July 2014

The following day we started three days at the Great Yorkshire Show, interviewing hundreds more and talking mental health and memory problems. THE most memorable moment was a mum who helped her two young children to enter Spot La Boule and to write a little memory each. They had all watched Le Grand Depart of Le Tour and had had a magical time. She then asked if either knew what dementia was and began to explain to the little boy and girl just why grandma can’t always remember..….