Upton-born playwright signs up to help people with dementia

Date: 7th June 2016. Picture James Hardisty.
Actor John Godber at East Riding Theatre, Beverley.
Date: 7th June 2016. Picture James Hardisty. Actor John Godber at East Riding Theatre, Beverley.

Upton born playwright John Godber has been named as the patron of an alliance launched to tackle the threat of dementia in a Yorkshire city as health chiefs step up a campaign to support the growing number of sufferers.

The dramatist, who is one of Hull’s most famous adopted sons, has lent his support to the city’s Dementia Action Alliance as it marks a milestone of 5,000 people having received dementia awareness training.

However, senior officials at the alliance have warned more needs to be done to tackle the rising number of people who are battling dementia to provide support for sufferers, their families and carers. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that there are more than 60,000 people with dementia in Yorkshire and the Humber, although the figure is predicted to rise to just over 80,000 by 2021.

The Action Alliance’s lead

coordinator Diane Redburn said: “Our ultimate aim is to make Hull a dementia-friendly city – but we can’t do that without involvement from people with dementia and their families, and the businesses and organisations in the city.

“We’ve made a huge amount of progress since 2014, with some of our key projects resulting directly from suggestions made by people who have dementia and their families.”

It is hoped Mr Godber’s recruitment as patron will help to highlight the work of the Dementia Action Alliance and provide opportunities for him to take part in public events.

The playwright was born in Upton, near Pontefract, but has close links with Hull after becoming the artistic director of Hull Truck Theatre Company in 1984, a position he held for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for his plays, including a Laurence Olivier Award and seven Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.

Hull Council’s portfolio holder for health, Coun Gwen, Lunn suggested Mr Godber as patron and managed to secure his commitment to the cause.

She said: “The organisation does an absolute wealth of good work and works so closely with both people affected by dementia and the services they use on a day-to-day basis. They are doing very tangible work to improve life and help those lucky enough not to have experienced dementia to understand it.

“We are absolutely delighted that John Godber has agreed to act as patron – it feels particularly significant securing the representation of a cultural icon in the year we are celebrating culture so emphatically.

“We look forward to welcoming him to the organisation and showing him the positive impact it has had and continues to have on the city.”

Projects which have already been undertaken include a scheme to train taxi drivers in how to support a customer with dementia.

Staff at St Stephens shopping centre have become the latest to receive training, and a “mystery shopping” initiative involves volunteer family members visiting with someone with dementia to identify which stores are doing well and where they could improve.

Across the city, a wide range of different organisations and services actively working with the alliance, including supermarkets, pharmacies, medical and emergency services and tourist attractions. An awareness day will be held on the main deck of Princess Quay shopping centre tomorrow from 10am until 3pm.