Former clown from Leeds launches charity comedy event with friend after Parkinson's diagnosis during lockdown

A former clown from Leeds has launched a charity comedy event fundraiser for Parkinson's UK to raise awareness and deepen understanding of the condition.

By Daniel Sheridan
Monday, 28th February 2022, 4:45 pm

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Pete Turner, 63, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in November 2020 during the lockdown.

Parkinson's disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively more diseased.

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For Pete, the diagnosis came after a career in the circus industry as a professional clown.

The three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease are involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor), slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles although there are over thirty different other symptoms that can be caused by the disease.

For Pete, the diagnosis came after a career in the circus industry as a professional clown.

Not to be deterred by his diagnosis, Pete - and friend Jeremy Shires, who also has the condition - are launching a comedy night titled '[email protected]' to raise money for charity.

The idea for the night came about during a New Year's walk in Roundhay Park the two from Oakwood shared, having become mutual friends due to sharing the same condition.

Jeremy Shires

Now, thanks to Jeremy's former contacts at the University of Leeds from his time as a lecturer there, the event is set to be staged on March 31 at the Riley Smith Hall.

The evening will be hosted by local Leeds sketch writers Larry and Paul and headlined by Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip with a fantastic bill of musical, comedy and cabaret acts also performing including The Burner Band and Mestisa.

Pete and Jeremy were both diagnosed with the disease at relatively early ages – 63 and just 45.

Both recognised that although pharmaceutical drugs play an incredibly important part in moderating the symptoms of the disease, they strongly believe that other things have an important role to play in symptom relief.

For Pete, the diagnosis came after a career in the circus industry as a professional clown.

In particular, physical exercise, mindfulness, social contact, singing - and perhaps most importantly - having laughter in their lives.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jeremy said “laughter is "so important" in getting through the day.

"When you are struggling to navigate around the kitchen or feeling that your heart will explode with anxiety, the gift of a good laugh can be a life saver", he added.

Pete said when he was first diagnosed he was "very confused" by the condition.

For Pete, the diagnosis came after a career in the circus industry as a professional clown.

"I didn't really even know what Parkinson's was", Pete explained.

"When you look it up online you see people with the extreme symptoms and that was very worrying.

"I am in the early stages yet but I am learning more about it every day."

Pete worked for 35 years as Peanut the Clown, entertaining thousands of people in his time coordinating Leeds Children's Circus for much of that time.

He has now given up the career to concentrate on his health.

Pete hopes to raise more awareness of the disease by talking about it as much as possible and deepening the general public’s understanding of what it is.

He added: "It is nice to raise money [for Parkinson's UK] but the main thing is increasing the awareness.

"This is a condition which is fast growing, especially in younger adults. Over one million people either have Parkinson’s or are careering for someone who has it.

"Many people are left isolated and become defensive when they are first diagnosed and in addition many people suffer due to other people thinking they are drunk because they slur their words.

"Everyone goes on a different journey [with this condition]. In the end, it is just about understanding the disease and showing respect."

Events have moved quickly with the University of Leeds Student Union offering the 350 seat Riley Smith Hall for free.

"One of the great things to do about Parkinson's is to laugh at it", Pete added.

"We just thought, let's do a comedy event.

"Everyone in our circle is coming and the reaction has been brilliant."

Tickets are available here: https://leedsunionevents.com/whats-on/laugh-at-parkinsons-cabaret-evening/

Donations can also be made on their JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/laughing-at-parkinsons?newPage=True

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