Saturday, 9 July 2011

MERVYN PEAKE AWARDS 2011 - Part Two

Well, it was a bit nerve-wracking but I made it and it turned out all round to be a very enjoyable afternoon. Jane and I met Jenna Durdle and then Clare Chater, both of Parkinson's UK when we arrived and then we were introduced in turn to Sebastian Peake, his daughter Rose Peake and his brother Fabian Peake all of whom were utterly charming. We met the third Peake, Clare, at the end. We were placed on the "Rembrandt" table (Rembrandt being Mervyn Peake's favourite painter) and we were introduced to Brian Sibley, a writer and broadcaster, who recently dramatised a radio version of Gormenghast for the BBC. He was there with his partner, David Weeks, who is a professional magician and who proceeded to bamboozle Jane with some card tricks.



Paul Jackson Clark of Parkinson's UK then introduced me to the audience and I got up and spoke and my speech seemed to go down very well. Afterwards, they had the prize giving and a guy on our table, Eric Popplewell won the digital Art Section but we never got to see his work.

Jenna Durdle presenting me witha bottle of wine

 The author, Joanne Harris ("Chocolat") gave away the prizes and I wanted to say hello to her afterwards but we got talking to various people and then turned around and found that, unfortunately, she had disappeared.

We were home by about 5pm. A very nice day and it was lovely to have Jane with me because I love her so. So, thank you, Parkinson's UK and the Peake family.....and Jane!

A transcript of the speech is set out below.



FIRST OF ALL, I WOULD LIKE TO SAY HOW HONOURED I AM TO HAVE BEEN INVITED TO SPEAK TODAY. I AM MOST GRATEFUL TO THE FAMILY OF THE LATE MERVYN PEAKE AND TO PARKINSON’S UK FOR THIS INVITATION.

HOWEVER, REALLY I AM HERE UNDER FALSE PRETENCES.  MY PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT, ‘’OVER THE HILL’’ WHICH STARTED BY COMPLETE ACCIDENT, HAS INVOLVED ME IN DOING NOTHING OTHER THAN STAND IN FRONT OF 145 VERY TALENTED PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ALLOWING THEM TO PHOTOGRAPH ME. SO IT IS PERHAPS THEY WHO SHOULD BE STANDING HERE AND RECEIVING THIS HONOUR. AND NOT ME.

SO TODAY I AM THEIR REPRESENTATIVE.

AS I SAY, THE PROJECT STARTED BY ACCIDENT. I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE IN NOVEMBER 2OO5 AND IN JUNE 2006, I WAS FORCED TO TAKE EARLY RETIREMENT FROM MY WORK AS A LAWYER.

IN MAY 2007, I SAW AN ADVERTISEMENT IN ‘’TIME OUT’’ FOR NUDE MODELS AND I THOUGHT ‘’WHY NOT?’’ I WAS NO LONGER A SOLICITOR WITH MY FIRM’S OR MY OWN REPUTATION AT STAKE AND I HAD ALWAYS LOVED PHOTOGRAPHY ALTHOUGH I HAD NEVER BEEN MUCH OF A PHOTOGRAPHER MYSELF. SO I WENT ALONG AND MET GRAEME MONTGOMERY, AND SPENT A VERY PLEASANT HOUR OR SO STARK NAKED IN HIS STUDIO IN LONDON WHILST HE PHOTOGRAPHED ME AND I CAME AWAY THINKING HOW BRILLIANT IT WOULD BE TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL NUDE PORTRAIT OF MYSELF HANGING UP ON THE WALL AT HOME.

AS IT HAPPENED, MY CHILDREN WERE NOT AT ALL KEEN ON THE IDEA AND SO IT REMAINS HIDDEN AWAY IN A DRAWER.

HOWEVER, THERE FOLLOWED 3 MORE ADVERTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC MODELS OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS BUT IT WAS NOT UNTIL APRIL 2008 THAT I THOUGHT OF APPROACHING PHOTOGRAPHERS MYSELF AND THEN I WROTE TO THE FIRST SAYING ‘’ I WOULD LIKE TO CONTINUE ON THE PATH OF BEING PHOTOGRAPHED BY DIFFERENT PEOPLE DURING THE COURSE OF MY ILLNESS’’ AND, AS I WROTE THOSE WORDS I REALISED THAT I HAD A PROJECT AND SINCE THEN I HAVE SEEN 145 PHOTOGRAPHERS.

WHY DID I DO THIS?

WELL, I HAVE NEVER WANTED TO DOCUMENT MY PARKINSON’S AS SUCH BUT RATHER TO DOCUMENT MYSELF AT A TIME WHEN I HAPPENED TO HAVE THE DISEASE.

THAT SAID, MANY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE CHOSEN TO EXPLORE THE EFFECT THE DISEASE HAS HAD ON ME – THE FIRST TO DO SO WAS ADA YU WHOSE PHOTOGRAPH ‘’LOOK TWO HANDS!’’ SHOWED HOW EVEN THE SIMPLE ACT OF TAKING A HANDKERCHIEF OUT OF MY POCKET PRESENTED PROBLEMS.

BUT I HAVE NOT MINDED THIS EXAMINATION OF MY CONDITION. ANOTHER GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER, CHRIS FLOYD, ON A BITTERLY COLD DAY IN FEBRUARY THIS YEAR CREATED A VERY HONEST FILM WHICH INCLUDED UNCOMFORTBLE SCENES OF ME STANDING OUTSIDE NAKED AND SHAKING UNCONTROLLABLY. THE FILM WAS FEATURED ON THE WEBSITE OF THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER AND PROVOKED STRONG BUT POSITIVE REACTIONS FROM A NUMBER OF PEOPLE MANY OF WHOM EITHER HAD OR WHO WERE RELATED TO PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S. HOWEVER, NOT ALL THE COMMENTS ON THE SITE WERE SERIOUS - ONE PERSON WROTE ‘’HE JUST LOOKS BLOODY COLD TO ME’’.

I HAVE NO PARTICULAR AFFECTION FOR PARKINSON’S – I REMEMBER CLEARLY, SOON AFTER MY DIAGNOSIS, GOING TO A LOCAL MEETING OF WHAT WAS THEN THE PARKINSON’S DISEASE SOCIETY AND THINKING ‘’I DON’T WANT TO BE A MEMBER OF THIS CLUB’’ – BUT IT HAS PROVIDED ME WITH THIS OPPORTUNITY TO MEET AND WORK WITH ALL THESE VERY TALENTED PEOPLE AND I MUST SAY THAT IT HAS BEEN GREAT FUN.  MAYBE I NEEDED A SHOT OF SOMETHING POSITIVE AND CREATIVE TO COMBAT THE SHOCK NOT ONLY OF THE DIAGNOSIS BUT ALSO THE SHOCK OF FINDING MYSELF AT HOME AFTER 29 YEARS OF BEING A WORKAHOLIC AND WORKING SOMETIMES 12 HOUR DAYS EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

HOWEVER, THERE WAS ANOTHER SIDE OF THE COIN TO THE SUDDEN JOY OF BEING AT HOME EVERY DAY INSTEAD OF WORKING IN THE OFFICE.

I GUESS I AM RIGHT IN SAYING THAT MANY OF THOSE HERE TODAY – INCLUDING MYSELF, THE WINNERS OF THESE AWARDS OR THE OTHER ENTRANTS COULD NOT HAVE ACHIEVED WHAT WE HAVE WITHOUT THE LOVE AND SUPPORT OF A SPOUSE OR PARTNER OR OTHER CLOSE FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS. I SAID EARLIER THAT I AM HERE AS A REPRESENTATIVE AND I AM.

MY WIFE JANE, IS A WONDERFUL ARTIST WHO WORKS AT HOME.

FOLLOWING MY DIAGNOSIS, SHE WAS FACED FIRST OF ALL WITH THE SHOCK OF BEING TOLD THAT HER HUSBAND HAD AN INCURABLE DEGENERATIVE ILLNESS, THEN WITH A SUCCESSION OF PEOPLE ASKING ‘’HOW’S POOR TIM?” AND YET NOT THINKING HOW SHE WAS. THEN I CAME HOME AND INVADED HER WORKSPACE AS SHE WATCHED ME SLOWLY SUCCOMB TO THE ILLNESS. SHE WAS LOSING ME.

 BUT THEN TO TOP IT ALL, I WENT ON LEVADOPA AND I SUDDENLY BECAME SUPERMAN!!

SHE WATCHED ME WALTZ OFF WITH ALL AND SUNDRY ENJOYING MYSELF WITH ALL THESE YOUNG ARTISTS WHILST SHE WAS STILL REELING FROM THE SHOCK OF IT ALL!

IT IS VERY EASY FOR ONE TO OVERLOOK THE EFFECT AN ILLNESS HAS NOT ONLY ON THE SUFFERERS THEMSELVES BUT ALSO ON THEIR PARTNERS AND LOVED ONES.

I AM NOT ASKING FOR PITY EITHER FOR JANE OR FOR ANY OTHER SPOUSES OR PARTNERS OF THOSE SUFFERING FROM PARKINSON’S – THAT IS THE LAST THING THAT SHE OR THEY WOULD WANT. BUT I AM ASKING FOR RECOGNITION FOR THE BRAVERY AND THE LOVE SHOWN AND THE ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN BY ALL THE SPOUSES AND PARTNERS AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS WHO IN THE BROADEST SENSE, CARE FOR THOSE WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE.

EACH OF THEM WARRANT RECEIVING THEIR OWN SPECIAL AWARD.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT THROUGH MY PROJECT, I HAVE BECOME AN ARTIST BUT I HAVEN’T – I AM JUST A PRODUCER – I HAVE ENABLED OTHERS TO BE ARTISTIC ON MY BEHALF.  BUT YOU, THE WINNERS OF THE AWARDS TODAY, AND THE OTHER 500 OR SO WHO ENTERED THEIR WORK – YOU ARE THE ARTISTS.

BUT THE REAL STARS OF THE SHOW ARE YOUR SPOUSES AND PARTNERS WHOM LIKE JANE HAVE GIVEN UP THEIR TIME TO SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE US, TO REMIND US TO TAKE OUR PILLS, TO WASH OUR CLOTHES, TO COOK OUR MEALS, TO TAKE US HERE AND THERE, TO REMIND US TO TAKE OUR PILLS AGAIN, TO LISTEN PATIENTLY WHILST WE RATTLE ON ABOUT OUR LATEST ARTWORK. AND ALL THE TIME THEY ARE TRYING TO LIVE THEIR OWN LIVES.

SO WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT I DEDICATE MY PROJECT TO JANE. IT HAS BEEN GREAT FUN – INDEED AT ONE POINT SOMEONE SAID TO ME ‘’WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT IF YOU NO LONGER HAD PARKINSON’S AND WENT BACK TO WHAT YOU HAD BEFORE?’’ I SAID ‘’NO THANKS – I’M HAPPY WITH PARKINSON’S’’. AND I AM HAPPY, VERY HAPPY BUT WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT TO HAVE A CURE OR AT LEAST MORE EFFECTIVE MEDICATION? THAT IS ONE REASON WHY THESE AWARDS ARE SO IMPORTANT – THEY HELP RAISE AWARENESS OF THE DISEASE AND THE GREAT WORK BEING DONE BY PARKINSON’S UK INTO THE RESEARCH WHICH WILL ONE DAY PRODUCE BETTER MEDICATION AND MAYBE A CURE.

MY PROJECT IS NOW COMING TO AN END. HOWEVER, THE WONDERFUL WORK BY THE PHOTOGRAPHERS INCLUDING JANE, WHOM HERSELF TOOK ONE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS, CAN STILL BE SEEN AND INDEED IT IS ON THE SLIDESHOW OUTSIDE.

I SHALL SHUT UP NOW BEFORE I START TO CRY – BUT THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Tim, I was at the Awards last week, and was fascinated by your project - I've looked at the pictures since - some brilliant ones. I found your speech very moving - in fact the whole occasion was. If you want to see Eric Popplewell's digital art, follow this link;
    http://youtu.be/nOBxbEuOVic
    I was commended in the digital art category - follow this link:
    http://youtu.be/yD4IlwA_ryM
    All the best, Julie Clark

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