LAST week saw the marking of National Parkinson’s Awareness Day and one woman who hasn’t let the condition hold her back since being diagnosed with it 10 years ago is Colleen Henderson-Heywood.
Since being told she had the condition, as well as taking Parkinson’s by the scruff of the neck, Colleen has done her utmost to help others in the same position and is hoping her latest venture will strike a chord with those suffering with degenerative illnesses throughout the UK.
The idea of ‘Beat It’ is to accumulate a register of drummers or players of any percussion instrument who would be willing to pass on the tricks of the trade to people suffering from Parkinson’s or similar conditions.
And it was through another musical avenue that Colleen was first inspired to pick up the drum sticks herself.
She told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “The idea for ‘Beat It’ came from presenting on Generate Radio. If you’ve got a degenerative condition like Parkinson’s you have to do as much as you can while you can.
“I wanted to have my own radio show so I could use my voice as much as possible as that’s one of the things that suffers as the condition worsens.
“Instead of letting Parkinson’s get the better of me I’m confronting it head on.
“My right side has pretty much given up on me now so I’m looking at new ways I can do physio.
“It’s so frustrating as one week I can do something without any difficulty and the next week I can’t. It goes as far as being able to walk fine one hour and then not the next.
“It occurred to me that one of the most complicated things you can do with your hands and feet is drumming so I thought why not give it a shot?”
Thanks to her role at Generate and involvement with creative business 80:8, Colleen knows plenty of drummers so it was then just a case of convincing one to teach her the basics.
The man she went to was The Warehouse Announcement’s Bob Laidlaw and fortunately for her he obliged.
Nine one hour lessons later, Colleen is beginning to find her drumming feet and it’s just as well as she’s going to be stepping into the spotlight to play the drums at her own wedding party at Paxton House on Saturday.
“Bob has been absolutely fantastic,” Colleen continued.
“I’ve even been allowed in The Warehouse Announcement’s famous basement where they practice so I feel honoured.
“Bob said that he was 1. scared to tell me I was rubbish and 2. tell me I shouldn’t be performing in public but fortunately he hasn’t had to tell me either!
“I’d like to say a big thank you to local band Morfsnud for the kit. I find drumming extremely libertaing and I’ve really got into it as it’s the music I love. My ultimate aim is to be able to play the drum part to The Smith’s ‘London Calling’ as it’s my all time favourite song but at the moment I’m busy learning the duet myself and Bob are going to play at the party.
“I’m not actually feeling too nervous about it; I know I’ll have lots of adrenaline pumping as the moment draws closer so I’m just hoping it’ll be alright on the night!”
Looking further than her musical baptism of fire, Colleen wants to set up a website for ‘Beat It’ so she can quickly start accumulating a network of both interested drummers and people eager to pick up the sticks and have a bash.
And she’s already got one very influential person on board in the shape of Mike Sturgess who has drummed with the likes of AC/DC and Motorhead.
“Mike is now the Head of the Royal Academy of Drumming in London and he said anything he can help with he’s willing to.
“I like the name ‘Beat It’ because of its play on words and its double meaning- beating Parkinson’s and beating the drum.
“I’ve been in touch with Parkinson’s UK and they said they would consider sponsorship once we’re properly up and running and I’ve also asked if we can put a performance on at the World Parkinson’s Congress next year.
“At the moment people can find out more by going to the ‘Beat It’ Facebook page and if anyone wants to join up or help with the website I’d love to hear from them.
“I’ve posted a number of videos of me drumming on Youtube and had some fantastic comments. One person even asked me to do a drum duet with me on Skype after being inspired by what they’d seen.
“I’ve been urging people to get out their saucepans and wooden spoons and have a go!”