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Dementia campaigner ‘Tommy on Tour’ to speak at Abertay

5 February 2014

Former music industry mogul Tommy Whitelaw will visit Dundee on Thursday (February 6), to speak to mental health nursing students at Abertay University about his experiences of working as a full-time carer.

For 20 years Tommy worked in the music industry, running merchandising operations on international tours for artists including the Spice Girls, McFly, Kylie and U2.

However, his life changed dramatically in 2007 when he returned to Glasgow to care for his mother Joan, who had vascular dementia.

Tommy’s struggle through this difficult and isolating experience led to him becoming a tireless campaigner to raise awareness of the issues surrounding dementia and, in 2011, he began a campaign called Tommy on Tour.

This involved re-visiting the towns and cities he had been to whilst working in the music industry. This time, however, he went on foot rather than by tour bus, walking from town to town, meeting with other carers and collecting the letters they had written him, which detailed their own experiences of dementia.

Now, as Project Officer at the Dementia Carer Voices project, Tommy continues to travel the length and breadth of the country, sharing these stories with carer groups, health and social care professionals and students, as well as key decision-makers who have the power to make life better for carers and the people they support.‌

Speaking about why he does this, Tommy Whitelaw said:

“Caring for someone well is only really possible if you have compassion, understanding and kindness. I’d have done anything for my mum, because I loved her, and it’s important to get that message across because there’s been so much in the news recently about there being a lack of compassion in the care system.

“There are some excellent carers out there though, and the nursing students at Abertay are the next generation, so I want to help them make sense of what they’re learning about, put it in a real-life context, and help them be the best they can be.”

Robin Ion – Leader of the Mental Health Nursing Division at Abertay University – explains why Tommy’s work is so important for the nursing students:

“Dementia changes lives – not just the lives of those with the disease, but the lives of those who know the person, and must care for them as well.

“Not everyone who becomes a nurse will have had personal experience of what this disease is like, so it’s only through listening to the personal stories of people like Tommy that they will be able to get a real idea of the effect it has on people, and the type of help that they need.

“Being a nurse is all about compassion. When you first meet a patient you may know nothing about their past life, their interests, their family or the adventures they’ve had. But the key to compassion is being able to relate to the people you’re nursing, and being able to understand what it is that they need. Hearing Tommy’s personal story will be a great addition to our nursing students’ education. He’s a really positive example of someone who is committed to improving care for people with dementia, and I’m sure will inspire our nursing students to provide the best care they can.”


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

Abertay University specialises in Mental Health Nursing, and intends to develop a Centre for Excellence in Mental Health Nursing over the next few years.

For more information about Tommy Whitelaw, please visit his blog Tommy on Tour.

To find out more about Dementia Carer Voices, please click here.

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