Running on Empty – Guy Deacon in Conversation with Jenny Devitt

Running on Empty - Guy Deacon in Conversation with Jenny Devitt
WhenFriday 14th June 2024 at 19:00
WhereThe Exchange, Sturminster Newton
1 Old Market Hill
Sturminster Newton
DT10 1QU

Event TypeTalks
Also available at 1855, Market Cross, Sturminster Newton

Aged 60 and having lived with Parkinson’s disease for over 10 years, Guy Deacon CBE set out for one last adventure, to drive solo from his home in the UK to South Africa. This incredible journey, crossing Europe and the full length of Africa, would take the former army officer and father of two over 12 months, 18,000 miles, 25 countries, 9 breakdowns, an emergency evacuation and 3650 prescription pills. Quite simply an incredible feat for a man travelling alone with Stage 3 Parkinson’s.

With very little use of his hands, poor spatial awareness, and often appearing drunk to those who do not understand the disease, Guy would drive, live and sleep in his VW Transporter for 12 months, often camping in the jungle and remote spots hundreds of miles from the nearest village or town. Navigating himself through cities and towns without knowing the language, Guy would often get lost and ask for local directions after taking a wrong turn when network coverage killed his GPS or when the roads weren’t marked on the map. Not only would the journey be fulfilling a childhood dream to drive across Africa, but Guy’s mission was also to raise awareness of Parkinson’s Disease, which is heavily stigmatised in Africa, where it is often linked to witchcraft and black magic, leaving sufferers ostracised by their communities.

Guy Deacon

Guy Deacon CBE joined The British Army in 1985 after reading anthropology at Durham University. During his time as a student and in the early years of his career in The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, he travelled extensively throughout Africa.

His career has taken him all over the world, including 18 months in The Congo with the UN, after which he was awarded an OBE for his services in disarming and demobilising rebel forces. After a wide variety of roles, his later career was spent in managing careers of officers and soldiers and he ended up as Colonel of The Royal Armoured Corps where he was responsible for much of the strategic thinking on how The Royal Armoured Corps could best provide an armoured capability to UK Defence. For this work he was awarded a CBE. He retired in 2019.
Guy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010 on his return from The Congo. He carried on working until the age of 57. At that point he started planning his journey from the UK to South Africa which has occupied his time since.
As an ambassador for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and Parkinson’s Africa, Guy has visited 25 African countries and spotlighted the issues associated with Parkinson’s disease in Africa. He has appeared on local and national television and radio in most of the countries he visited reaching in the region of 500 million people. His message was clear: Parkinson’s is a straightforward neurological condition with no cause nor cure and certainly not a result of witchcraft; that it is not contagious and people with Parkinson’s should not be isolated. Any stigma associated with the disease should be rebutted.
Guy lives in Dorset with his wife and their dog. He has two grown up children. He continues to raise awareness of the issues of Parkinson’s as best he can, despite suffering from the condition himself.

Jenny Devitt is an experienced interviewer, radio presenter and producer, and an award-winning scriptwriter. She began her broadcasting career in the BBC, and has since worked for numerous radio and specialist natural history television programmes and publications, both in the U.K. and in France. Her work has taken her on recording trips from West Africa to Europe to the eastern Himalayas. She regularly hosts author events at the Yeovil Literary Festival, and produces and presents a bi-monthly factual magazine programme on two Dorset radio stations. She lives just over the border in Somerset!

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