Musician who shared a stage with The Beatles raising cash with memory walk

Gillian Bickley
Gillian Bickley

A former musician who once shared the stage with The Beatles and The Shadows is aiming to raise awareness of dementia.

Gillian Bickley was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago following admission to hospital for a severely broken leg after a fall.

The 76-year-old, from Boldon Colliery, had been struggling to retain information. and has over time been gradually getting worse.

However, her skills for playing the saxophone and piano remain undiminished, and she is often heard playing a tune on her favourite instruments.

Gillian Bickley, who went by stage name Gillian Dennis, was part of the Ivy Benson Band, who supported big names in the world of showbusiness including The Beatles and The Shadows.

The band also toured a number of countries, playing for the Armed Forces.

Her memory is limited short term, but she still remembers how to play and has some brilliant stories from years ago.

Fiona McCord

Now, with the help of her daughter Fiona McCord and her friends, she is throwing her support behind the Memory Walk taking place at the Bents Park next month to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society and awareness of the disease.

Fiona, 47, from Boldon, said: “My mam was diagnosed with dementia three years ago and has been gradually getting worse.

“Her memory is limited short term, but she still remembers how to play and has some brilliant stories from years ago.

“The memory walk is something my mam really wants to do to show our support to the charity and to raise awareness.

The Beatles at Sunderland Empire in 1963.

The Beatles at Sunderland Empire in 1963.

“There is a group of us taking part, and we’ll be pushing mam in the wheelchair. We’re all looking forward to taking part.”

Following her time in the band, Gillian settled down and started her family, and as well as daughter Fiona, she also has a son, Simon Young.

She was also known for her market stall at South Shields, where she sold seconds from Marks & Spencer. She went on to run Gill’s Seconds in Fowler Street, South Shields.

The memory walk, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, will take place on Saturday, October 6, at 10am.

It will start and finish at Bents Park, and people taking part can either completing a 1.5km or 7km walk along the seafront.

During the event, they will have the chance to leave a message on the Memory Tree about why they are taking part in the walk.

Taking part with Gillian and Fiona are will be Julia Young, Kim Jones, Beth Parker, Rachel Jones, Lily Young, Katherine Robinson and Sophie Jones.

Anyone who would like to sponsor Fiona and her team visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fiona-mccord