Sussex musician wins prestigious Dementia Hero Award

Sussex musician Paul Harvey has won a prestigious Dementia Hero Award in the category of outstanding achievement.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 8:05 am
Paul Harvey & Nick Harvey photo credit Music For Dementia

The winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by Alzheimer’s Society supporter TV presenter, writer and journalist Richard Madeley.

Former music teacher Paul, who taught in East Grinstead and lives in Buxted, and is living with dementia, was one of three finalists in the category outstanding achievement,” explains spokeswoman Eugenie Arrowsmith.

“This special accolade was open to nominations for individuals, groups or organisations that went above and beyond during the pandemic to improve the lives of people affected by dementia. The awards, which are sponsored by Tunstall Healthcare, took place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic and showcased the stories of people doing outstanding things during the pandemic – Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia heroes.

“Paul was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019 and was presented with the award for his piano improvisation Four Notes which received significant media attention in 2020 and was later recorded by The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

“The track entered the UK top 40 music charts with all the proceeds from the single sales going to Alzheimer’s Society and Music for Dementia. Composed using just four notes, it was viewed more than 2.1 million times on Twitter. Businessman, philanthropist and entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter was so moved by the improvisation that he made a donation of £1 million, split between Alzheimer’s Society and Music for Dementia.”

Paul, aged 81, said: “It’s such a great honour to have won this award. There were amazing finalists in the category who deserved to win. It was very moving to watch the ceremony and I was really quite shocked to win. I love music and I took my first exam when I was just four years old. When I was 15, I got the top marks in Britain for grade eight on the piano. When I was 18, I moved from Stoke-on-Trent to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music.”

Nick Harvey, Paul’s son, said: “Dad’s memory of the events of the past few months is patchy and he doesn’t remember being nominated for the award.

“In September last year I filmed dad playing the piano and posted it on social media. Within hours, it had gone viral. Before we knew it, we were being interviewed on Radio 4, BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Britain. Inspired by dad’s improvisation, Phillip Schofield even set dad the task of playing a piece of music using four different notes and dad then created a new piece of music live on This Morning that ended up making Holly Willoughby cry!”

Paul said: “Dementia is now on everyone’s lips and we’re talking about it more than ever. We never used to talk about dementia.”

Nick added: “The message is also out there – that the power of music is an astonishing, transformational force for good for people with dementia. The right music at the right time can be so powerful. Music is all around us and it’s free. It’s an incredible resource, not just for people with dementia but also for those who care for them. Music connects people.”

Jacqui Justice-Chrisp, area manager for Sussex at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Throughout the pandemic so many individuals, groups and organisations have gone above and beyond to support people affected by dementia. This year’s Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Hero Awards provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the achievements of these unsung heroes.

“It’s been so inspiring to hear the stories of those dedicated to caring for people with dementia, finding innovative solutions.”

in research, and the campaigners and media fighting for the rights of people living with dementia. They are all making difference.

“We are absolutely delighted that Paul has won the Outstanding Achievement award. What Paul has achieved over the last few months has been incredible.

“The past year has been tough for all of us. But imagine how much worse it would have been if you couldn’t understand why it was happening: why you no longer saw your loved ones; why your carers stopped visiting or why they wore masks. Tragically, this was the reality for tens of thousands of people living with dementia in the UK.

“Since the pandemic began, Alzheimer’s Society support services have been used 3.7 million times, showing that people affected by dementia need us now more than ever.”

For more details of the awards, including a full list of winners for the different award categories, visit alzheimers.org.uk.