The successful Alzheimer’s Society fundraiser gig ‘Rock for Alzheimer’s’ will be making its way to Derry next year, bringing with it AD/DC tribute band ‘AC?DC’ and Belfast bands ‘The Arms of Venus de Milo’ and ‘The Foyer Incident’.
Since 2013, the annual event has called Belfast’s Empire Music Hall home, and to date they have raised an incredible £39k for the Alzheimer’s Society NI. In an attempt to hit the £50k mark, the event organisers have had the bright idea of performing an additional gig and bringing it to the North West, where they will take over the Nerve Centre on Saturday 8th February 2020.
Mark Bingham, the man behind the concept, explained how Rock for Alzheimer’s came about. “I had signed up in 2012 to climb Kilimanjaro as part of an expedition organised by the Alzheimers Society, to raise much needed funds. I had lost my father to Alzheimer’s a few years earlier and at the time my mother was living with dementia, so the cause was close to my heart” explained Mark.
“As part of the required fundraising I tried a few of the usual approaches, such as table quizzes etc, but I also played guitar in a rock cover band ‘Arms of Venus de Milo ‘ and in addition our drummer James and singer Ian also played in an AC/DC tribute band called AC?DC.
“This whole thing only happened because both bands were willing to stage a fundraiser gig in February 2013 without taking a penny and that commitment persists as we approach our 8th year. We were delighted that the Belfast Empire agreed to host the Belfast event, and so our first Rock for Alzheimer’s was born. I was only expecting us to sell a couple of hundred tickets but incredibly we sold out with almost 500 attendees” revealed Mark.
“There was such a good vibe as well; clearly this something that strikes a chord with many people who have parents or grandparents affected by the disease. It was a no brainer to repeat the event the following year and as we began to find our feet we secured the direct involvement of the Alzheimer’s Society NI for 2014. In addition, we invited our friends in The Foyer Incident (a three piece) to open the show that year, to maximise the entertainment for all those supporting the event” said Mark.
Fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society NI is something that Mark is obviously passionate about and is a cause that is very close to his heart. “Very much so” argreed Mark.
“I’ve lost both parents to Alzheimer’s as has our singer Ian. Sarah, who sings with The Foyer Incident, has lost her father. But in truth all of the band members in each band are totally committed to these events, there is a heartfelt passion from all involved, not only to sell out as we have every year, but to make the gig a night to remember for all. I think that’s acknowledged by those who come back each year and it’s worth mentioning that in 2017 the event won the Dementia Friendly fundraiser of the year award.”
The amount that has been raised by the annual gig is truly impressive and the commitment by those involved each year is evident. “It’s humbling really” reflected Mark.
“As I said we have sold out in Belfast every year. We work very hard behind the scenes to do that, not being complacent, being imaginative with promotion etc and getting a bit of exposure through the likes of Tim Wheeler from Ash who lost his father to Alzheimer’s. It’s fantastic, the previous seven events have raised £39,000 for Alzheimer’s Society NI.
“We wanted to see if we could hit the £50,000 mark in 2020 but the Empire as a venue works so well that we didn’t seriously consider looking for a larger Belfast venue; they have been so supportive and people love the atmosphere there.
“It was just an ah-ha moment that I thought why not do a second gig in another city and clearly Derry has got such an amazing music heritage that it was the clear first choice. It was a big ask to expect the bands to do another, but it came as no surprise that they loved the idea. The challenge was to get a suitable venue, but I was over the moon when Martin McGill, head of music at The Nerve Centre, was totally supportive. It’s a fantastic venue in which to put on a rock gig” said Mark.
And what can us Derry folk expect on the night? “In short, the audience will get about four hours of rock music, with a touch of Indie here and there. The atmosphere will be amazing as the audience will all be supporting the charity, it will have a great community vibe with a common purpose. The Foyer Incident do a cracking opening acoustic set to get everyone settled in and warmed up. The Arms of Venus de Milo will blow your socks off, or if we don’t it won’t be for lack of effort. We are very experienced as a five piece unit. I don’t want to give too much away, but don’t be surprised if you hear some Metallica or Sabbath along with Queen, Zeppelin, The Who, Bon Jovi, Van Halen and perhaps some Killers, U2 or Bowie to soften the edges.
“Then AC?DC will headline with all the classics from the Bon Scott era and half a dozen from the Brian Johnson period; they have played the Nerve Centre before so we are hoping they will be a big draw as they are not to be missed. I play in both bands now as do Ian and James as I mentioned earlier, so after over 3 hours on stage you can expect to see us pretty wrecked, but it will be worth it. The Alzheimer’s Society will also be there to provide people with information and are always happy to chat with people, until they get distracted by the music that is. Who knows, maybe we will get the Derry Girls to make an appearance” laughed Mark.
“We are really excited to have the opportunity to bring this event to the North West, nobody will go home disappointed.”
Rock for Alzheimer's will take place at the Nerve Centre on Saturday 8th February 2020, at 8PM. Tickets are priced at £10 and are on sale now. TICKETS