ONE of the world's biggest rock stars has stunned a tiny dementia charity with an offer of support.

After learning about the Sporting Memories Network, which is based at Topcliffe, near Thirsk, AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson phoned the charity out of the blue and recollected stories from when he was raised in Dunston, Gateshead to help boost its work.

The charity uses sporting tales to engage older people, and in particular men, suffering depression and dementia, and involve them in groups which improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

On November 6, the social enterprise will be the only non-football club to challenge Liverpool and Chelsea's foundations for the best football community scheme at the national Football Business Awards, at Stamford Bridge.

Its director Tony Jameson-Allen said the Florida-based singer, whose father was a sergeant major of the Durham Light Infantry and a coal miner, explained that the band's founder and rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young, had recently been diagnosed with dementia and was in a nursing home.

To start his association with the charity, Mr Johnson shared his memories of being unable to afford to attend Newcastle United matches and walking three miles with his father's mining stool to catch a glimpse of the action at Gateshead.

He revealed how his father would also take him to the railway line at Low Fell, Gateshead, where Newcastle striker Hughie Gallacher died in 1957.

Former psychiatric nurse Mr Jameson-Allen said: "It's an absolutely amazing boost for a charity run by two people to receive a phone call from the singer of a group that has sold more than 200 million records worldwide."

He said despite receiving support from sporting legends including Sir Steve Redgrave and running 21 projects, some of the charity's projects were in jeopardy due to a lack of funding.

Mr Jameson-Allen said one such project was a joint initiative with the National Football Museum to collate memories of the 1966 World Cup, and is appealing to people with memories of the three matches held at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough.

He said: "The cost of dementia nationally is estimated at being £26bn a year and that figure will double by 2030, so I'm urging healthcare commissioners to give cost-effective Sporting Memories a real crack at making this work.

"Earlier this year, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt presented us with the Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative Award and the potential it could have in helping with the NHS funding gap is massive, but at the moment we are running on fresh air."

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