TWO friends of 40 years both diagnosed with life-changing illnesses have joined forces to organise a music festival to raise awareness of the diseases.

Bill Holdsworth, 67, and Jeff Cutting, 62, met in the 1970s socialising in the same pub in Ferryhill, where they both live.

Mr Holdsworth was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2012 and Mr Cutting was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in September 2016.

The pair have remained friends throughout the decades and decided to organise a joint fundraising event whilst taking part in a weekly pub quiz together.

Mr Cutting, who has worked as a quantity surveyor for Wharton Construction, in Darlington, for 29 years, first noticed symptoms of his illness when he began dropping things from his left hand.

“It started in my left arm, I didn’t think too much of it and put it down to age.” He said.

The father-of-two and grandfather-of-three then noticed he was having difficulty with his speech and was sent for and MRI scan which came back as inconclusive.

“I asked if I could have had some kind of mini stroke as I was having more symptoms so they did more tests which showed that it was MND.”

Motor Neurone Disease is a progressive and terminal illness that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

However, despite Mr Cutting’s diagnosis he is still working part-time as a quantity surveyor and has raised almost £20,000 for the MND association.

He added: “My family are incredibly supportive and this has probably made us even stronger.

“As far as I know there is only one other person living with MND in Ferryhill, so we hope this fundraising event will raise awareness of the disease.”

Mr Holdsworth, who has also raised £10,000 for Parkinson’s UK, was diagnosed with the life-changing disease five years ago after his GP referred him to a neurologist.

Parkinson’s is an incurable progressive neurological condition that affects around 127,000 people in the UK.

The grandfather and father-of-three said: “My life has changed drastically since I got the diagnosis. Parkinson’s doesn’t take your life, but it takes the enjoyment out of your life.

“The tremors are the most obvious symptom, but it also affects my speech and mobility. I take medication daily now and will for the rest of my life.

“I have good days and bad, good days are ok, but bad days are hard, its everyday activities that you take for granted that become difficult.”

The upcoming fundraising event will be held at Mainsforth Community Centre and funds will be split between Parkinson’s UK and the MND association.

Mr Holdsworth added: “The funds raised will go towards research in the hope that a cure can be found, both Parkinson’s and MND are incurable. But it’s not just about raising money, it’s also about raising awareness."

MusicFEST will feature live performances from Celestine, Russ Tippins, Bernie and The Bluenotes, George Shovlin and George Lamb and The Zoe Green Band.

The full day music event will take place on Sunday, November 26, from noon until late, with hot food and a fully licensed bar.

  • Tickets cost £10 and are available from Colin’s Fish Bar in Ferryhill Station or Etherington News in Cockton Hill or by calling 07923-832139.