No prizes for guessing whom I’m referring to….. who else but our very own, home grown ‘VOICES OF HOPE ”Choir . On Monday , they were announced winners in the MUSIC category at the Arthur Guinness Projects in Dublin, so we most certainly have something to celebrate (see www.arthurguinnessprojects.com for more information about winning projects)
The Application Process
Three gruelling months have passed since we first put together a bid for funding a MUSIC project. In the initial stage, this was essentially a pen and paper exercise (21st century style on the ipad) which was eventually submitted for the judges’ scrutiny and the public vote.
The next stage was the vetting and deliberation process through a series of intensive interviews with a panel of experts who made sure that Mags and Move4Parkinson’s were indeed the owners of this innovative, creative and most importantly…achievable, social venture. After all, they were claiming not only to bring the Voices of Hope model to other parts of Ireland by the end of 2014, but also aiming in the same year to perform the largest ever concert by people with Parkinson’s in Ireland, singing to a packed National Concert Hall! If that wasn’t raising national awareness for Parkinson’s , what was?
Our ‘Voices of Hope’ Project was just one of nearly 700 other equally deserving projects. Ours having successfully got to the interview stage suggested to me that it must have (at least on paper) satisfied the judging criteria. It also meant the project was being given serious consideration by the panel and that had to be a good thing….well at least, that was my thinking at the time.
Late last Friday afternoon, I had an excited phone call from Mags telling me that our project had been one of those shortlisted for the Awards Ceremony taking place on Monday morning and she would like us to be there, although she couldn’t promise that we would win anything. It was just good publicity for M4P to have got that far. Feeling somewhat of a fraud, being a non-singing member of M4P, she had made me an offer I just couldn’t refuse.. …..So, Terry and myself agreed to accompany her and choir director Jen, little knowing what we had let ourselves in for …………. a taste of how nerve racking and at the same time how exciting fund raising can be.
A Train to Dublin
Of course for me, the whole business of what to wear, what the weather was going to be like and most importantly, how well I was going to be able to manage my PD all came rushing to the fore and by the time Monday arrived and I boarded the early morning train to Dublin, I was feeling like a wrung out rag but admittedly an excited one. Most of the weekend I had been psyching myself for what I assumed would be the inevitable ‘ gentle letdown’ but consoled myself with the thought that at the very least, we’d get some good publicity from the whole venture.
Mags was waiting for us at Brooks Hotel looking like a million dollars in the way that only Mags can and. we were soon joined by Jen who looked equally stunning . These two were were on a roll after all the publicity they had become accustomed to during their fantastic first year with the Voices of Hope Choir. Confidence oozed from both (not about winning an Award but just about who they were and what they stood for). I was to witness their ease in this environment first hand as events progressed.
Our Version of the Oscars
At the appointed hour we moved across the road to ‘Fade Street Social” a very ‘trendy/cool’ venue where the ,Awards Ceremony was being hosted by Diageo . The place was ‘buzzing ‘ with about 200 talented young people (20 to 30 year-olds!!) in anticipatory mood of the judges final decision on their projects. For me , the mood was the nearest I’ll ever get to the Oscars!. For Terry and myself it also brought home the age difference but having said that, we were made very welcome by everyone including the organisers who plied us with exotic (non alcoholic) drinks and nibbles so much so that I’m afraid I threw caution to the wind and broke one of my cardinal rules of not eating an hour before or after my medication. I told myself, this has to be a first and because I felt so nervous in the atmosphere and quite sure by then that we didn’t stand a chance of winning given the competition, I just wanted to distract myself with eating, drinking and talking to these delightful young people. Luck had it, my PD behaved….until I got home last night!
I was fine during that bit of the proceedings but once the ceremony proper began, my nerves got the better of me and I kept looking at Mags and asking her what she thought was going to happen. As always, Mags was cool,calm and collected and just said, she didn’t know, she could only hope!!! I felt sick to my stomach but didn’t want to let the side down so clung on to her arm each time a winner was announced. The Music Projects were the last to be called out of 14 possible winners so I was well aware of the very high standard that had been set and I was just wanting it all to be over so I could get back to reality when I heard something about an unusually ambitious project that had so impressed the judges…… and the next thing I heard was ”the award goes to …Voices of Hope” and I felt somewhat dazed as we were propelled through an applauding and highly appreciative audience towards the stage. It was quite surreal as the cameras flashed and people in all directions came to shake our hands.
Shock and Excitement
I can remember feeling my tremor return but I knew this was probably more due to shock and excitement rather than Parkinsons”. Interviews and photographs with the media followed rapidly and this was when the confidence, I alluded to earlier with Mags and Jan came into play. Terry carried on talking to people while I sat and carried on eating, drinking and texting family and friends with the amazing news . Mags and Jen continued to do what they did best…getting good publicity for Parkinsons. One thing I’ve learnt from all this is that to be successful in business you have to know how to network, handle the media and not be afraid to aim high.
Just the beginning…
On the journey back to Kilkenny, we reflected on the events of the day and on conversations we’d both had with perfect strangers every one of whom including reporters had someone in their family or knew somebody who had Parkinson’s . The consensus was that Parkinson’s left people feeling isolated and that this funding award would offer a means of expanding the ‘ Voices of Hope’ model across the island of Ireland opening up unknown opportunities to others managing the condition. This was just the beginning of a great adventure. Who knows where the journey will lead after Montreal………and the National Concert Hall?
About the Author:
Marie MorrisDiagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010 (Symptoms since 2005), Marie’s career is in Special Education.
Having Travelled extensively, Marie and husband Terence are now happily settled in Kilkenny to be near their grandchildren, two cats and one very spoiled dog.
While not part of their original plan for retirement, PD has placed its feet firmly under their table. Their decision to blog for M4P gives a glimpse into their world and the ways in which they are learning to deal with their uninvited guest.