Last week I received an invitation to attend a one-off musical performance at the Royal Albert Hall, with seats in the Queen’s Box.
Billed as Parkinson’s UK ‘Symfunny’ the event was the idea of music producer, composer and conductor James Morgan, who was recently diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s at the age 42.
With a 60-piece orchestra and both the Brighton Festival Chorus and London Symphony Chorus, the event was hosted by Al Murray and featured musical and comedy performances from Rebecca Ferguson, Sarah Brightman, Alfie Boe, Jane Horrocks, Jason Manford and BAFTA Award-winning comedy duo Armstrong & Miller.
I had received the invitation to attend the event after I donated my profits from the Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is TV show to Parkinson’s UK.
My all-time sporting hero Muhammad Ali has suffered with the condition for many years, but it wasn’t until a very close friend was recently diagnosed with the condition that I took a few minutes to learn a little more about it.
Antiques dealer Ian Parmiter, a very well-known figure in the city who organised the hugely successful street festival Love Albert Road and was in the 1980s Portsmouth cult band Empty Fish, has often appeared with me on TV.
When he told me about his Parkinson’s diagnosis, I felt totally shocked and saddened.
But he’s determined to carry on doing what he loves and refuses to allow the condition to de-rail his plans.
Back to the concert and after a dash from Portsmouth, my wife, myself and two friends were joined in the Queen’s Box by X Factor finalist Diana Vickers and TOWIE’s Ricky Rayment and Jessica Wright.
The evening was a great success for Parkinson’s UK, raising in excess of £50,000.
Of all the performances, I was most impressed with Jason Manford, who had the crowd cracked up laughing.