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Durham musician inspired by the man who climbs a mountain every day - Northern Echo

An article first posted in the Northern Echo on 21st August 2018:

"A MUSICIAN has struck up a friendship with a man whose dementia battle inspired one of his songs. Sam Slatcher, from Durham, wrote the song after hearing the story of Cumbrian walker Sion Jair, who climbs the Old Man of Coniston every day in a bid to keep his dementia at bay.

The 28-year-old musician was listening to a podcast of Radio 4 programme Short Cuts, which featured Mr Jair’s story. He said: “It was just so captivating and there was something about the gentle nature and sincerity of Sion’s voice that just connected with me.” After writing the song, titled The Old Man of Coniston, he decided to contact the BBC to ask them to put him in touch with the 68-year-old, from Ulverston, in Cumbria. Mr Slatcher, who started writing songs when he was 13, added: “One day, completely out of the blue, he called me and we ended up chatting for about 40 minutes. It was very moving. “He told me he loved the song and that it was unusual for someone my age to write about dementia with such insight, which meant a lot.” The pair are now hoping to meet up to climb the 2,634-feet-high mountain together. Mr Slatcher, who has honed his song writing skills whilst working on community arts projects, also drew on the experience of having the father of one of his best friends die with the condition last October.

"He said: “I felt very humbled to be part of his life towards the end. I had grown very close to him and his wife, so I think that is one of the reasons Sion’s story really resonated with me.

Now Sion and I are planning to meet up. I’d love to walk the Old Man of Coniston with him.” Sion said: “I think Sam’s song is wonderful and I’m very humbled to have been the inspiration behind it.

“Hopefully we can meet up soon and walk The Old Man together – and I might even get Sam to play the song live for me.”

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, more than 8,000 of them in County Durham and Darlington. Alzheimer’s Society head of region Judith King said: “Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes. “It can devastate lives, but it is also possible to live well with the condition and Sion Jair’s story is an excellent example of that. It’s wonderful that this young musician felt inspired to write a song about him.”

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