The exclusive launch event to celebrate the publication of Paralysed with Fear, The Story of Polio, at St Stephen’s Church, Bristol on 26 June was also the stage for the official announcement that author Gareth Williams has agreed to become an Ambassador for The British Polio Fellowship.
Professor of Medicine at the University of Bristol, Gareth’s previous work on smallpox made him the perfect person to produce the first comprehensive history of Polio for over 40 years, while also kindly agreeing to out his knowledge and skills at the disposal of The British Polio Fellowship.
“I am honoured, humbled and delighted to accept the invitation from The British Polio Fellowship to become an ambassador for the charity,” said Professor Williams. “It’s a very flattering appointment and I am delighted the book has met with such a favourable response. British Polio Fellowship’s archivist Barry North was a great help for the research for the book, and I’m looking forward to working with the charity during British Polio Month in July-August.”
Paralysed with Fear is not just the history of Polio, but the story of the vaccine and a moving account of the stories of those who suffered the disease, masterly re-told and brought to life by Gareth, with significant help from the charity’s archivist. British Polio Fellowship’s Barry North enabled Gareth to utilise the charity’s resources to research the history of Polio in detail.
Williams uses the Polio story to address broader themes. One of these is the lure of alternative medicine when faced with a disease with no apparent cause or cure and also the legacy of Polio and how it has contributed towards disability rights and support. In a recent review, The Lancet says that Williams has successfully made the Poliovirus “a villain in a gripping multi-act play…his book should be read by anyone interested in an incredible story well told by a great storyteller.”
“It was a pleasure to meet Gareth at the launch and to officially welcome him as one of our growing family of valued Ambassadors,” said Ted Hill MBE, CEO of The British Polio Fellowship. “I am happy we were abe to play a smallpart in helping Gareth put this significant piece of work together, and wish him every success with what is a fascinating and moving account of Polio. We look forward to working with him both during British Polio Month and in the future.”
120,000 are living with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) in the UK today and several events have been organised for British Polio Month (July-August) to address not just a general lack of awareness, but to remind those living with Polio and PPS that they have not been forgotten – as both Gareth’s book and the ongoing work of The British Polio Fellowship demonstrate.
The first event during British Polio Month is taking place on 7 July when a host of celebrities, together with some of Britain’s Paralympian heroes will gather for the Team Splash event. Celebrities including ex-Palace and England footballers Geoff Thomas and John Salako, and Team GB Paralympians James Crisp and Anne Wafula Strike are due to support QVC presenter Julia Roberts in the July 7 event, which will be compered by Radio 5 Live correspondent Bob Ballard.
The event will take place at Trinity School at Shirley Park, Croydon, on Sunday 7 July from 11:00am – 1:30pm. Gareth Williams has also confirmed his attendance.