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By Debbie le Quesne

Richard Briers: Why his legacy must live on

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The news broke yesterday that British actor Richard Briers had died. An Alzheimer’s Society ambassador, the light comedy actor will be sadly missed not only by his wife and two daughters but also by campaigners who seek a better deal for sufferers of the memory-loss disease.

Richard, who found fame after his role in British sitcom The Good Life, was awarded an OBE and CBE for his contribution to the arts, with a career encompassing theatre, TV, film and radio.

But it’s his less-known work I wish to focus on for a little while. Richard became an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society charity in 2007, after his poignant role in the TV drama ‘Dad’ where he played the husband of a person with dementia.

The work was part of a 2005 Comic Relief campaign that raised the awareness of elder abuse.

Comic Relief collaborated with the BBC and Tightrope Pictures to produce a drama designed to bring the difficult subject of elder abuse to public attention.

Richard starred as Larry James, a cheery and independent man in his eighties who had been caring single-handedly for his beloved wife Jeannie (Jean Heywood), an Alzheimer’s patient.

When Larry falls and breaks an ankle, life with Jeannie changed abruptly and forever.

It was undoubtedly a powerful drama spotlighted contemporary issues in an uncompromising way.

Following the role, Richard lent his name and high profile support to a number of Society activities.

He fought for access to life-enhancing dementia drugs through the ’Hands off Dementia Drugs’ campaign, helped with a mobile phone recycling fundraising project, and also encouraged people to step out and join in with the Society’s annual flagship fundraiser, Memory Walk.

Richard’s last event as an ambassador was in March 2011 when he read at a special fundraising service at Windsor Castle.

 Reported in Care Industry News online, the Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive, Jeremy Hughes, commented: “Richard Briers was a keen and committed campaigner for Alzheimer’s Society. In his role as an ambassador Richard has used his high profile and wit to support other families facing their own battles with the condition.

“From lobbying MPs on the injustice of charging for life-enhancing dementia treatments to delivering some of the most entertaining after lunch speeches, Richard always sought to raise the profile of dementia whenever he could.”

 We can only hope that other ‘Richards’ will carry his torch for such a worthy cause.

I have fond memories of The Good Life but we really can never return to it. Comedy is now so much more edgy, the age of innocence passed and the 70s something most of us have forgotten.

The spirit of The Good Life was all about challenging values. And we need to keep on challenging to help such worthy causes as the Alzheimer’s Society create, perhaps not another ‘good life’ but certainly a hugely improved one.

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Written by debbielq

February 19, 2013 at 8:14 am

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